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Issue #170a HOME E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com BACK ISSUES July 28th, 2003

Stage Door Johnny
(1990; Golden Harvest/Golden Way Films/Paragon Films)

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

Cantonese: Mo toi ji mui
Mandarin: Wu tai jie mei
English: Stage Sisterhood

The all-female Hsiao Ho Chun opera company suffers from both declining audiences for their art form and turmoil within the troupe. Differences in opinion about the content of future productions and the addition of conceited diva Yen-hsieh (Kara Hui Ying-hung) only churns the waters further. Yen-hsieh is known for her performances in martial plays and declares that none of the other actresses is worthy of appearing on-stage with her. This leads to much in-fighting and ego-bruising but of greater urgency is local triad leader Chang’s preoccupation with Hsiao-hsuen (Lai Yin-san). When Chang (Lau Siu-ming) tries to have his way with her, Lu Tung-tang (who has been undermining the gangster's opium operation in an attempt to help his fellow countrymen remain strong) tries to intercede and a fight breaks out. Perturbed over this loss of face and threat to his empire, Chang targets Lu (Waise Lee Chi-hung) and his men, and this creates potentially dangerous consequences for the troupe as some of the members have grown close to this valiant group of reformers.

Jackie Chan produced the picture utilizing settings originally constructed for his period mega-production MIRACLES. Unfortunately, STAGE DOOR JOHNNY (a title that makes no sense in context) plays like it was conceived at breakneck speed for no other reason than to take advantage of these opulent backdrops. The screenplay tries to cram in far too much, resulting in a surplus of hollow melodrama: Yen-hsieh's character is pregnant and she agonizes over whether to abort the child, Lam Ching-ying's musician is terminally ill with TB, years of drinking is taking its toll on Ann Mui Oi-fong's actress, etc. In an attempt to save Mui, a supporting player sacrifices his life in a gesture that rings false because insufficient time has been devoted to him beforehand. In trying to develop so many characters in just 94 minutes (Idy Chan Yuk-lin and Wong Yuk-wan also have their own subplots), while also hoping to satisfy the action crowd (Chan's stunt team handles the acrobatics), the film plays more like a collection of highlights than a cohesive narrative. It is an attractive production (the Peking Opera costumes look dazzling) and the performers are committed, but this issue and a very weak finale make it a difficult movie to recommend. Wu Ma (who also directed), Ken Lo Wai-kwong, Chung Fat, Feng Sing (aka Mars), and Lam Chung are among the supporting cast.

Cover art courtesy Deltamac.

Kara Hui. Image courtesy Deltamac.

Idy Chan. Image courtesy Deltamac.
Deltamac #DVD78117 (Hong Kong label)

Dolby Digital 2.0

Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks (both post-synced)

Optional Subtitles in English and Chinese (Traditional or Simplified)

6 Chapters Illustrated in the Menu With Video Grabs

Letterboxed (1.91:1)

Coded for ALL Regions

NTSC Format

94 Minutes

Contains moderate violence

DVD menu courtesy Deltamac.

Australia: M 15+ (Occasional Violence)
British Columbia: MATURE (Some Violence)
Hong Kong: II
Ontario: AA
Singapore: PG [Passed With Cuts]


The 4:3 letterbox transfer is very colorful and pleasing to the eye, with little wear on the print, and the sound is fine. The only extra is a promo spot for the Star Movies channel. Thanks to a labelling error, some copies in Deltamac's first pressing of STAGE DOOR JOHNNY actually contained FOREVER YOUNG, one of Nat Chan Pak-cheung's "Chasing Girls" films. Alas, there does not seem to be a way of telling the corrected version from the earlier release, outside of purchasing the disc.

is available at Poker Industries.

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