Directed By :Kuei Chih-hung
Starring: Chen Kuan Tai
Copyright© Shaw Brothers 1974 / Celestial Pictures 2003
Spring of Shaw Season Review – Film 10
The Teahouse – 1974
The Spring of Shaw season continues on site , but to stir things up a bit I thought we would delve deeper into the Shaw library .
Up to now we have concentrated on traditional Kung-Fu and Wuxia films from the studio. But of course they also made erotic,horror,opera,fantasy and modern day dramas.
So we decided that the next few films featured would be films from these other genre's . Now keeping it safe what we have here is a film starring Shaw leading man Chen Kuan Tai in a crime drama that really was the base for the many triad based features that followed and became very popular in Hong Kong , you can't view films like the Young and Dangerous series ,Requital or City on Fire without thinking that Shaw Classic ''The Teahouse '' was not a influence.
The Teahouse is a film that for the year was quite brutal and out of the window was the kung fu and in was the Machete's,Knives and bats.
After fleeing to Hong Kong to make a better life Wang Cheng (Chen Kuan Tai) sets up a Teahouse in a poorer part of Hong Kong. There he employs a army of staff who look up to Cheng as he has provided them a place to work within a family unit.
But things get out of hand when a young employee of his gets involved with thugs and ends up robbing people, disillusioned by the leniency offered by the judge ,Cheng suggests the youth should actually serve a year for his actions .
What follows is quite ludicrous in one way but serves as a comparison to the penalties imposed on people in Hong Kong at the time when you could go to jail for a month for spitting on the pavement but only get a suspended sentence for a robbery if it was your first offence.
Things don't get much better when local triads try and muscle in on the Teahouse ,but are forcefully told to be on their way.
This of course leaves the Teahouse open for revenge by the thugs ,with customers and workers being ambushed and robbed at Knife point. Thus making business suffer in the end.
With the Police offering little assistance and many in the pockets of the triads it seems the only way is to take matter into your own hands. By capturing three hoodlums who have robbed another patron they set about teaching them a lesson.
This of course sets of in motion a series of events which sees Wang Chen have to pretend to be some big boss triad and must protect his territory .
By playing the role of some big gangster ,Cheng may garner some respect but this also brings him enemies within the triad communities.
The Teahouse firmly confirmed that Chen Kuan Tai was not just a great Martial artist but a very good actor to boot. .
The films a violent look at inner city life on the streets in Hong Kong in the seventies. The action within the film is brutal and to the point ,no long fight scenes here, with scenes of robbery at knife point on the elderly , family tragedy when one man's family members are either killed or imprisoned.
The of course we have the clashing triads who all want to muscle in on each others action ,and the only way to do so is to get rid of the opposition. .
We have a another triad boss by the name of Hsu Ta-Fa who poses behind his so called legit business to make a fast buck, he's another obstacle Cheng must face.
But amongst all this Cheng is a peaceful man who cares for his family and friends, and it's this that Chen Kuan Tai expresses that comes across so well in the film.
There's no lavish sets here ,the whole film has very gritty look to it as if it where filmed in a real life restaurant like some reality TV show.
The only thing that maybe made the whole thing less realistic was one fight scene when the Teahouse is attacked and all hell breaks loose and tables and chairs are flying ,and people are picking up large pieces of furniture and whacking people with it , items that would be constructed of heavy timber or metal are breaking into pieces across peoples heads , you can see it breaking like polystyrene or foam .it's quite entertaining but of course it gets the job done ,but for a moment you leave the gritty realistic depressing world they live in ..
For Cheng the end result is not so clear as he tried to settle the mess he got in but the end result could never be what he could have imagined .
The Teahouse is gritty crime drama that makes you stop and say what the hell , it's a shame that the only Shaw films that get a Western release are the Kung Fu and Wuxia films . For there are many modern day films within their genre's that deserve to be seen.
For this review we reviewed the Celestial Pictures Region 3 release . It comes with Mandarin and Cantonese soundtracks and a anamorphic print with English subtitles as well as a range of kanji based subtitles to.
You get the original trailer ,a photo gallery and actor and director write ups . And it all came in a nice sleeved DVD box adding that extra bit of class to the proceedings.
Score out of Ten = 8
Reviewed Date June 10th 2014
Review by Sertes Nake
|Directed by||Kuei Chih-Hung|
|Produced by||Runme Shaw|
|Written by||On Szeto|
|Distributed by||Shaw Brothers|