About a week ago I was pleasantly surprised to come across this post about legendary Hong Kong film comedian Stephen Chow over on Edwin Mak’s Faster Than Instant Noodles, which is one of the more entertaining blogs I’ve discovered recently. Just to give you an idea of his unique take on Chinese film, this particular post is part of a recurring series on, um… noodlemania, but features two clips from Wong Jing’s madcap God of Gamblers II and its equally zany sequel God of Gamblers III: Back to Shanghai. Aside from a ridiculous time travel plot, a cell phone that can place calls from 1937 Shanghai to present-day Hong Kong and the seeming stunt-casting of Gong Li as twin sisters (one of whom possesses the mental faculties of a 5 year-old), GoG III features the joyfully absurd musical number above, extolling the virtues of cha siu bao, or steamed pork buns. It was fun to watch this clip again as it’s been a while since I popped it in the DVD player, and it’s a great example of Chow at the absolute height of the mo lei tau period of his career.
I was even more pleasantly surprised when I came across this post on Durian Dave’s Soft Film: Vintage Chinese Cinema blog, which is where I learned that the steamed pork bun song was actually adapted from a version originally sung by Diana Chang Chung-wen in her 1957 film debut Three Sisters. Keep in mind my supposedly encyclopedic knowledge of Hong Kong cinema is woefully inadequate when it comes to names and titles prior to the sixties, so I had no idea that Stephen Chow’s song was itself a reference to an earlier work that would be well known to local audiences. Further proof that great comedy operates on multiple levels, so enjoyment is not dependent on getting every single element.
If you want to go even further down the rabbit hole, the Diana Chang version is itself a reworked version of the Rosemary Clooney song “Mambo Italiano,” which composer Bob Merrill supposedly adapted from an Italian folk song, etc etc etc… but I’m sure you have other things to do.