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Issue #163 HOME E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com BACK ISSUES June 9th, 2003

The Lizard
(1972; Shaw Brothers)

A Masterpiece
Highly Recommended
Very Good
Marginal Recommendation
Not Recommended
Definitely Not Recommended

Cantonese: Bik fu
Mandarin: Bi hu
English: Gecko

A Chinese Robin Hood operating in Shanghai, The Lizard preys upon the rich and corrupt, gives the spoils to the poor, and leaves his symbol at the scene of every crime. Local police chief Chen Can (Lo Lieh, at his oily best) is in league with Japanese forces and also controls all of the area's vice, so this righteous super thief represents a particular annoyance for him. Little does Chen know it but the culprit is right under his nose. Viewed by everyone as a stammering simpleton, Officer Cheng Long (Yueh Hua) actually possesses amazing athletic and sensory abilities, and is able to win a small fortune from his boss' casino simply by "hearing" what the dice will read. Xiao Ju (Connie Chen Po-chu, in her final role prior to retirement) is obsessed with this most congenial criminal and, naturally, never would have guessed in a million years that her clumsy friend is really the man behind the black mask. However, when The Lizard gets overly ambitious and tries to steal a diamond necklace right in the middle of a high society party, she must come to his rescue by creating a diversion. Trouble arises when Chen takes a liking to Xiao Ju and demands that she become his wife. The girl's grandfather comes up with a spur of the moment excuse to put a stop to this but unexpected repercussions occur.

While less substantial than some of the other Chor Yuen efforts issued on disc thus far, THE LIZARD is an engaging, unpretentious adventure that gradually transforms from light and romantic to dark and violent (the extended climactic fight results in quite a few bodies). The action (complete with trampoline enhanced leaps) is well choreographed by Yuen Cheung-yan and, although Yueh Hua plays the central character, Connie Chen gets ample opportunity to kick and pummel the opposition (she also dons The Lizard's mask herself at one point, allowing the film to reference Chor's popular heroine films from the 1960s, like THE BLACK ROSE). The 1930s setting means that the victims here are either foreigners (gweilos, Japanese) or the decadent Chinese who collaborate with them but the template is, otherwise, pretty much the same as these stories go. Like Lois Lane, the heroine spends ample time with the hero (also having grown up with him, in this case) and yet still takes a heck of a long time to put two and two together. Of course, one should not be sweating such details in a fanciful concoction like this and it is to Chor's credit that the narrative shortcomings really only come to mind after the final fade. The opening minutes feature a brief sex scene, apparently included for no reason other than to give the local audience a naked blonde to ogle. The bit seems amusingly innocuous nowadays and viewers will likely be more enthraled by the dollops of 1970s-style eyeshadow the actress sports than her well-displayed physical charms. Fung Hark-on and Yuen Woo-ping can be glimpsed amidst Lo's flunkies, and Wu Ma, Lydia Shum Tin-ha, Yuen Shun-yee, and Ho Pak-kwong also put in appearances.

Cover art courtesy Intercontinental .

Back cover art courtesy Intercontinental .
Intercontinental #612381 (Hong Kong label)

Dolby Digital 5.1

Post-synced Mandarin Language

Optional Subtitles in English, Traditional Chinese, Malaysian, and Indonesian

12 Chapters Illustrated in the Menu With Clips

Enhanced for 16:9 Displays

Letterboxed (2.35:1)

Coded for Region 3 Only

NTSC Format

101 Minutes

Contains moderate violence, torture, nudity, mild sexual content, and brief language

DVD menu courtesy Intercontinental .

Ontario: PG
Singapore: PG [Passed With Cuts]

The anamorphic presentation is clear and colorful but, as with THE 36TH CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN (issue #162), the image is softer than it should be, suggesting that this might be a converted 4:3 letterbox master. The limitations of the original audio source are occasionally apparent but the track is quite acceptable, even with the usual 5.1 "improvements." Thankfully, Celestial does not appear to be changing any of the music, so the soundtrack still includes the unauthorized use of "One of These Days" from Pink Floyd’s 1971 album, "Meddle," which is heard during some of the action sequences. The disc offers the standard extras: original theatrical trailer (which tries to make the identity of The Lizard a mystery even though we learn it in the opening seconds of the movie!), video promo spots, poster and stills, and abbreviated bios/filmographies.

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