Saturday, September 5, 2015

Revenge of the Pink Panther - Peter Sellers (1978) - Un Chau Manon Godown Company, Kowloon

The finale of the film takes place in one of the dockyards that used to sit along the Yau Ma Tei/Tsim Sha Tsui harbour front. In the film it's called the Lee Kee Shipyard but in reality it was a waterfront godown area owned by the Un Chau Manon Godown Company Ltd - a real company that had ceased operations in 1976 - two years prior to filming, so I guess the area was empty and available for filming.

Unfortunately for me, this area of Kowloon has changed so significantly since filming that it is really difficult to relate film locations to current maps. However, some of the background clues (plus an old photo or two) indicate that the place was located at the western end of Austin Road just south of where a new development called "Grand Austin" is being built. The Grand Austin is being built on the site of what used to be the Canton Road Government Offices. Consisting of two blocks the former offices can be seen in the near background (behind the cylindrical storage silos) in the two pictures below. This block was the first one to be demolished when Austin Station was built and so disappeared quite some time ago. The remaining, larger, of the two blocks (it can't be seen here but would be off screen to the right, facing Canton Road) was still around until about 2011 when it was finally demolished. The following picture is embedded from Googlemaps because it looks as though Google have gone and done a sneaky thing and disabled my snipping tool for use within Maps...grrr!

Anyway, in the far background of the screencaps below you can also see the recognisable shapes of the various Man buildings of the Ferry Point Estate. These blocks are still around and because they were built in the 1960's often provide a nice reference marker for figuring out where things used to be.

Based on the angle and known position of where the Govt block used to stand, the best Streetview angle I can provide is below - it shows the southern end of Austin MTR Station which stands pretty much where the Govt block was. You can just make out the Ferry Point Estate in the distance.

Here's another shot (below) that shows the dock area from the sea looking inland. It shows the same bit of dock that Kato has just crashed off in his Dairy Farm Ice cream dispensing motorbike.

Take a good look at the background because you can just see a couple of buildings poking up behind the Un Chau Manon Godown Co Ltd. sign. Hey presto, all we need to do in Streetview is swivel to the right and you can see those buildings are still standing. The blue meshed building in front of them is the Grand Austin being erected on the site of the other Govt block.

These two buildings stand at the corner of Austin and Canton Road and are called the Wai Hang Building (built 1966) on the left and the Wai On Building (built 1962) on the right.

Our final image involves another turn to face the south, looking towards HK Island. You can see the various other dock areas that used to line the western side of the peninsula around Tsim Sha Tsui. All have been replaced by buildings such as China Hong Kong City, The Gateway etc

The view is slightly restricted in our Streetview image because there is still so much development going on in this part of Kowloon but at least you can still make out the matching ridge lines.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Revenge of the Pink Panther - Peter Sellers (1978) - Queen's Road West, Sheung Wan

The last of the shots from the HK-side of the car chase sees the cars zooming, quite fast, down a section of the road that is close to our initial car chase road bend.

The key identifier in this scene is the striking whitewashed shop house that stands on the corner of Queen's Road West and Bonham Strand. It's been taken over by the Circle-K in the meantime but it's an easy to recognise place. But the initial part of our shot shows us looking east back down the road as the cars approach the camera.

As you can see from the following Streetview, the shop houses at the back of the screencap have all been replaced - mainly by the Sheung Wan Municipal Services Building.

As the cars approach the camera we are given a very quick right to left pan, which unfortunately blurs out the entrance of Bonham Strand before settling down again with a view up the road facing west with the shop house on the right. At the end of the road is the sweeping bend that I mentioned as the first stretch of road we see at the very beginning of the car chase scene. It's now been replaced by a small park and tower 3 of Queen's Terrace - a large residential development (it's the pink and green thing at the end of the road in the Streetview picture below).

Revenge of the Pink Panther - Peter Sellers (1978) - Pottinger Street, Central

After crashing down Aberdeen Street and failing to make the turn onto Hollywood Road, Kato - astride the Dairy Farm motorcycle - somehow finds himself charging out of control down the slab steps of Pottinger Street which is actually a little further along Hollywood Road than the film would let you believe.

By pure luck he manages to catch up with the car at the bottom where Pottinger Street meets Wellington Street before continuing on down Wellington Street. You can see the red brickwork of the Central Police Station on Hollywood Road at the top of Pottinger Street.

The Streetview picture below shows same acute junction where Lyndhurst Terrace leads off to the left and Wellington Street continues on down the hill. Same same but different.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Revenge of the Pink Panther - Peter Sellers (1978) - Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan

The next part of our car/dairy farm ice cream vending motorbike/taxi chase scene sees the vehicles driving rather fast down Aberdeen Street and onto Hollywood Road where they turn east and head back towards Central. Thankfully, this place seems to have not aged a single bit and most of the buildings look to still be the same ones.

This is the current Streetview of the same corner.

On the right hand side of Aberdeen Street is the former Police Married Quarters - which have been 'revitalised' into a creative design centre called PMQ.

Revenge of the Pink Panther - Peter Sellers (1978) - Queen's Road West, Sheung Wan

The most interesting part of the film for me is the car chase that manages to cover a fair amount of space beginning with this first sequence as the cars zoom along a bend in the road.

The bend in question is along Queen's Road West just where it joins on with Queens St and - a bit further up) the end of Hollywood Road. Notice all the columns along the road when this part of Hong Kong was lined with shop houses. All of them have gone along this stretch of the road, sadly.

Since 1978, the road has also undergone a bit of widening - easy to do once you have removed all those columns - but there are a few remnants still around that can be seen at the other end of the road (above left of the white car in the Streetview grab below).

As the cars zoom past we get a brief glimpse of the other side of the bend. The empty spot to the left of the black car is now filled by a building called Lai Yan Lau, completed in 1980, two years after filming. Just to the right of the screen grab is the end of Queen's Street. Again, the road here has undergone a large amount of widening and a large portion of the buildings that would be behind camera and between the camera and Queen's St have been removed to make way for tower 3 of Queens Terrace. 

The block of buildings with the red/white signs just along from the car in the screencap are still around and can be seen in front of the blue lorry in the Streetview picture.

Revenge of the Pink Panther - Peter Sellers (1978) - The Excelsior (interior), Causeway Bay

As promised, following on from our earlier exterior post, here is some of the hotel interior as seen on film. I shall go out on a limb and say this looks like it was all done on location (rather than a studio recreation) but I'm always open to corrections. 

 The hotel foyer

 This looks like a first floor bar

The lifts

Now, I have never been inside the hotel other than to go to the basement bar many years ago with the various chaps over at Gwulo, and suffice to say I was sufficiently under the influence so as to not really remember much about it at all. So if anyone has any better memories to share, please feel free :-)

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires - Peter Cushing (1974) - Pak Shek Au, North District

I must admit to being stumped by this location for quite some time (years probably) and in my talks with various other people, such as Andi (who is much better at this than me), we came to the conclusion that the following area - one used by Shaw Bros on multiple occasions I hasten to add - must be somewhere up in the hills around Sai Kung and Movietown.

However, search as much as I could, I could just never find anything to match the ridge lines in the background.

It wasn't until just the other day that a particular ridge line struck a deeply buried memory in my brain and I eventually managed to finally place the filming location in Pak Shek Au - a small hilly area located between the Lok Ma Chau border area and Castle Peak Road, just down the road from Ho Sheung Heung.

Ho Sheung Heung and its neighbouring hill, Tai Shek Mo, you may remember as being the location of the filming of the fight scene between Sammo Hung and Bruce Lee at the beginning of Enter the Dragon, and it turns out that Tai Shek Mo was also instrumental in me being able to identify this location to. That's it at the back right, seen from the west, in the first picture below.

Now, these days this whole area has greened a lot but has also suffered from the sort of unchecked illegal development that blights much of the New Territories - basically a mish-mash of concreted parking areas, container storage, light industrial workshops, plant hire and other various blots on the landscape. This is a big shame when you see how empty and open it was back in the 1970's.

Now, we already know from some of the great spotting Andi has done that nearby Ho Sheung Heung has been featured in multiple films, including many Shaws productions, and seeing that this place is very close then it's easy to imagine it being a popular spot for filming here. I need to check but I believe there are many Shaws films that feature these same hills and dirt tracks (I'm pretty sure Come Drink With Me is one of these considering the last but one picture Andi has put in this post that shows Tai Shek Mo and its military insignia).

Anyway, mystery solved. Here are some more grabs. The first one shows a hill in the background that I've actually been to the top of without realising it's the same place, it's Ki Lun Shan. Somewhere hidden between there and the actors is the 1970's version of the Castle Peak Road (a much smaller version of the current one, but still a main thoroughfare at the time).

Ki Lun Shan in the background

Finally to finish, a shot taken as the actors walk closer along a dirt road towards Tai Shek Mo. The are you see is now filled with the aforementioned ad hoc industrial workshops previously mentioned. Incidentally, the HK Govt currently has plans to turn this whole area - or at least the nearby part called Kwu Tung - into a New Town. There's lots of opposition but it could be the industrial blight will be replaced by something even worse...

Revenge of the Pink Panther - Peter Sellers (1978) - The Excelsior Hotel (exterior), Causeway Bay

Much of the action in Hong Kong uses this famous hotel as its centrepoint, including a rather funny scene (this is the child in me coming to the fore) where Kato wears a pair of ridiculously thick spectacles as a disguise and proceeds to bump into everyone and anything as he charges around the hotel.

Anyway, here is the outside of the hotel, I'll show some shots from the interior in the next post so as not to crowd this post too much.

I did hear a rumour on a Facebook group that the film crew installed the revolving door specifically for the film and then uninstalled it again once filming ended. If anyone can confirm it would be an interesting little tidbit - especially as the revolving door is only really involved in one or two on screen gags. Anyway, looking at this Streetview grab below you can see that buildings next door to the hotel are the same as they were back in 1978 but the Caltex petrol station has gone (though I don't know when).

Incidentally, there was a recent newspaper report that the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group (that owns the Excelsior and is itself part of the huge massive Jardine Matheson Group) had recently had the hotel valued in a view to redevelopment. It caused rather a panic because this hotel is a very famous and familiar part of the HK harbourfront but the company denied it had any intention of selling the land. All is calm at the moment but in HK these days there doesn't seem to be any smoke without fire. Time will tell.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Revenge of the Pink Panther - Peter Sellers (1978) - Kai Tak Airport, Kowloon

Peter Sellers and Burt Kwouk in top form pursuing gangsters across the globe and arriving in Hong Kong to some - still - highly recognisable locations starting with the required 'plane landing at Kai Tak Airport sequence' to establish our locale.

Actually, there are two separate scenes, the top one I guess is supposed to be Clouseau's plane landing and then later the second close up scene as Herbert Lom's character, Dreyfus, also arrives. The hazy mountain scenery in the background of the lower shot surprises me because I figured haze such as that was only a modern characteristic of Hong Kong's currently over-polluted nature. I guess more things are at play than I realised.