Friday, April 12, 2013

Village memories 3 - old village cinema & old movies

When I was a wee laddie, my grandfather would occasionally take me to see rather dated Chinese movies at our village cinema. I vaguely recall that old cinema went by a number of names, presumably depending on who was then the owner.

sweetie Cheng Pei Pei in her most memorable role
as Golden Swallow in Come Drink With Me (1966)
with movie icon Yueh Hwa

sweetie Cheng Pei Pei again as Golden Swallow
in Golden Swallow (1968)
a spinoff from Come Drink with me
also starring
Wang Yu (more famed for his One-armed Swordsman role)
& (Indonesian Chinese) Lo Lieh

a young sweetie Cheng Pei Pei

Cheng Pei Pei
as the evil Jade Fox
in Crouching Tiger & Hidden Dragon (2000)

Each and every movie outing was a huge thrill for young kaytee, but inevitably the village cinemas like the one in Ayer Itam village succumbed to the advances of media and entertainment technologies such as television and VCR, let alone VCD and DVD.

The advent and easy affordable availability of these modern media technology rendered ramshackle village cinemas obsolete.

But the one in my village was great while it lasted. I recall it was located right at the beginning of Penang Hill Road (Jalan Bukit Bendera) just opposite the Chinese War (or Anti-War, as some call it) Memorial.

very old photo from British army source (Royal Signals), as evident by
the electric-driven City Council trams with their overhead electrical cables
Today's Ayer Itam roundabout is where the tram was

Chinese Antiwar Memorial is white obelisk
Buildings behind it with reddish brown roofs 
government medical clinic & quarters for nurses and staff

Penang Hill Road lies on right of Memorial
Now-vanished village cinema was on right of road
We can just see the old gate façade to cinema,
pin table arcade, abandoned playground & swimming pool
Road on left leads to Ayer Itam village

more contemporary photos at 
Penang Traveltips
its 3rd photo shows buildings where cinema was

I can't use Traveltips' photos which is copyright
& payment for use is mandatory
kaytee ta'ada wang lah for non-commercial blogging

According to the Penang Traveltips website:

The Chinese Anti-War Memorial, located at the Air Itam Roundabout in Air Itam, is a memorial to the Chinese people of Penang who died under the Japanese Occupation in World War II. The whitewashed obelisk especially commemorates the over 700 who were buried nearby. They consist of martyrs who joined the anti-Japanese resistance movement in China in the 1930s and 40s, mainly Chinese machinery workers from Penang, as well as victims of Japanese atrocities during the occupation.

The Chinese Anti-War Memorial [also?] commemorates the many who lost their lives under Japanese atrocities during the Second World War. Buried under the memorial are the remains of some 800 incomplete skeletons exhumed from various sites, among them Coombe Hill in Gelugor, Thean Teik Estate, Vale of Tempe and Batu Ferringhi. The remains were cremated and the ashes, in sixty-six bags, were then buried beneath the memorial.

Luguoqiao - Marco Polo Bridge

On 8 July 1937, at around 0500 hours the Japanese Army
without any provocation deliberately machine-gunned the Chinese at above

Japanese infantry backed by armoured vehicles then attacked the bridge
but Chinese troops retook the bridge. When the Chinese regained control of the bridge, the Japanese military & Foreign Services began negotiations with the Chinese Nationalist Government.

Some historians believe the Japanese staged the provocation
as a pretext to invade China

The Chinese Anti-War Memorial is in the form of a 45-foot-tall obelisk. There are 7 steps on each side of the base. This is to commemorate the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, which took place on the Lugou Bridge, also called Marco Polo Bridge, about 15 km outside Beijing, marking the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) on 7 July, 1937. The memorial was unveiled by Mr Lim Lean Teng*, who served as supervisory chairman of the China Relief Fund, at 11:00 am on 11 November, 1951. The date 11 November was chosen as it was the 33rd anniversary of the end of the First World War.

* Lim Lean Teng when alive was the patron and benefactor of the private Han Chiang School. He also donated the 33-acre land on which the school stands

Lim Lean Teng (centre)
He helped the Penang Teochew Association set up Han Chiang School
was he also a Teochew nang like kaytee? wakakaka

As kids we weren't aware that some war victims had been buried under the Memorial but it was a popular evening rendezvous point for village teenagers in my days, where I even managed to chat up a few sweeties, wakakaka.

If the sweetie liked you, then the next stage of the wooing would be to take her for a long but sweet stroll along Jalan Bukit Bendera up all the way to the bottom (Foothill) Hill Railway station and back - yes lah, that's all we 'innocents' wakakaka did in those village days.

Foothill Railway Station

Then, it was pretty safe to do so - besides, it wasn't a dark lonely stroll as the road was well lit and there were usually another 30 plus couples doing the same walkabout. We Ayer Itam people were friendly and romantic, wakakaka.

Okay, back to the village cinema - 1st Class were seats way back from the screen, while 2nd and 3rd were those right in front. But there was little difference in the quality or comfort of the wooden seats for different Classes. One paid extra just to have a better view of the movie being screened, which of course we kiddies couldn't afford.

sweetie Li Ching - 60s star

sweetie Li Ching
top actress at 17 years old but has a sad ending to her life
was supposed to marry a multimillionaire who alas 
died of heart attack before the marriage
'twas said she subsequently took to drugs and was heavily
in debts due to gambling and now almost destitute, 
just surviving day to day

However, we village imps were good at upgrading ourselves to 1st Class once the main feature (the movie) started. But after being caught, shouted at and warned by the ushers, we adopted commando tactics, of slipping down from our 3rd Class seats, remaining low under the cover of the seating, beneath the direct scrutiny of the ushers, to emerge in a less visible section of 1st Class, wakakaka.

Most of the ushers had a tolerant view towards such unauthorized upgrades provided they were done a wee bit after the main feature started (which meant we won't be usurping 1st Class ticket holders of their rightful seats) and that we were not disruptive. But one or two ushers took sadistic delight in hunting down the illegal 'migrants', wakakaka.

A Chinese movie classic - The Bride with White Hair (1993)
hot sweetie Brigitte Lin Chin Hsia & the late Leslie Chung

hot Brigitte Lin offscreen

 sweetie Brigitte Lin Chin Hsia in the classic Dragon Inn (1992)
a remake of Dragon Gate Inn (1966) starring gorgeous Hsu feng

gorgeous sweetie Hsu Feng
in kaytee's opinion, the most beautiful Chinese lady
she & sister Taiwanese Brigitte Lin always looks serious

Oh, the seats in the cinema! Colonies of bed bugs lurked among the wooden seats in every Class to ambush the movie audience's thighs or/and arms in a jolly vampire feast of sweet blood. Needless to say, the pesky mosquitoes were also present. But the lure of the celluloid was so great for a country bumpkin like me that I braved the itchy bites, sometimes scratching my bitten spots into bleeding sores.

Tribute to Hong Kong Legends (1960 - 1970)

But the torture would then start at home as granddad poured either iodine or a Chinese ointment called chnare ch'au eu (literally 'green grass oil', or herbal ointment) on my wounds.

I don't know which stung more but thankfully for kids, iodine became unpopular for a while because there was a claim it was more harmful than helpful, but god save us now as it has made a dramatic comeback.

gorgeous sweetie Joey Wong
famous for her Chinese Ghost Story I & II with Leslie Chung

severely traumatized by Leslie Chung's suicide, she retired from acting

Alas, the chnare ch'au eu wasn't subjected to the usual Western medical reviews and reassessments so I grew up pretty familiar with and dreadful of its powerful cauterizing sting.

As for buying the tickets, one had to be brave when a popular movie was showing. There was no queue, not even for 1st Class, and one had to plunge into or even on top of a mob, where everyone tried to thrust his hand with the ticket fees held tightly in a closed fist - imagine a dozen or so blokes trying at same time - through a hole about the size of 2 DVD to purchase the tickets.

sweetie Ching Li - 60s star

No sweetie dared to join in. The scalpers would usually get theirs without joining the mob, I suppose everyone knew the ticket sellers, usually middle-age women, would have been threatened or bribed by them.

sweetie Shih Szu
famous for her kungfu movies

The films we saw must have been shown more than a zillion times throughout the villages of Malaysia because we kept getting those annoying white intermittent flashes with black scars, stars of David, non-round rings, and of course those numerals which counted backwards to zero as if we were at Cape Kennedy. Eventually (and quite often) the poor old brave film would burnt out, usually at almost the ending climax of our movie session.

Even as a little kid, I joined in the booing when the interruption happened. The lights would come on in a futile manoeuvre to stop our angry outbursts.

Because the projector window was so big, we could see the projector operator calmly using probably his spit and whatnot to rejoin the film. There he was in his Ah Peh [daggy] singlet working away with both hands, even as he puffed away at his smelly cigar. My jeering in consort with the village audience in the cinema might have been what set me off on my course of growing left-wing political proclivity, wakakaka.

One favourite film which I saw several times (without Granddad once I grew up into a teenager) was an old kungfu film titled Temple of the Red Lotus.

The traditional title should have been The Burning of the Red Lotus Temple or in Penang Hokkien Hui Sio Ang Lian See. In Mandarin it would be a more snotty Huo shao Hong Lian Si [火燒紅蓮寺].

sweetie Ching Ping & legendary Wang Yu in
Temple of the Red Lotus

The Chinese word lian (lotus) is generally a symbol of Buddhism, which made the Red Lotus Temple a Buddhist one.

The story was from a very popular turn-of-last-century Chinese novel called The Peculiar Knight-Errant of the Jianghu (江湖奇侠), sometimes referred to as The Tale of the Extraordinary Swordsman. The author was Xiang Kairan whose pen-name was Pingjiang Buxiaosheng (平江不肖生); the novel was amazingly his maiden work.

sweetie Chin Ping

The first filming of the adaptation from said novel was in 1928 and titled The Burning of the Red Lotus Temple. At that time it was of course a silent movie. Apparently the adaptation of The Peculiar Knight-Errant of the Jianghu required 27 hours of filming to cover its script, and was released as a serial 18 feature-length parts between 1928 and 1931.

According to Japancinema, a site on movies, it's listed as No 3 on the Top 10 Lost Asian Movies, meaning it no longer exists, probably because of the war and Japanese occupation and destructions of many Chinese institutions. The site said:

nasties masquerading as monks in Red Lotus Temple

... it focuses on the rescue of a commander who is captive in a temple full of traps. It’s the longest movie I have ever heard of despite that fact no copies have survived. Plenty of pictures exist and as far as I can tell this is the most ambitious film probably ever made. I really want to see it but if no copies have come forward for 84 years, I don’t think we'll ever get to see this. Can you even imagine how long the film stock must have been?

sweetest of sweeties Chin Ping

However, the one I saw was filmed and released in 1965, and was of the standard movie length. But due to the good box office ratings of Temple of the Red Lotus, the producer Shaw Brothers decided on two sequels The Twin Swords (1966) and The Sword & The Lute (1967) to make the new adaptation a trilogy. Both sequels starred the two sweethearts, sweetie Chin Ping and Wang Yu.

The Twin Swords
sequel to Temple of the Red Lotus

The Sword & The Lute
3rd of Red Lotus Temple trilogy

sweetie Chin Ping
in sequels to 
Temple of the Red Lotus

The one granddad took me to was hardly silent as it had all sorts of swearing, curses and imprecations, where lecherous Buddhist monks (to be fair to our Buddhist readers, they were villainous masqueraders wakakaka) leered at half naked women who all had immaculate hairdo despite being ravished, grabbed at, assaulted and thrown around during the wushu fighting.

heroic couple Wang Yu & sweetie Chin Ping
blast, should be me comforting the sweet babe

It was of the usual Chinese sword fighting genre. In the story, the Red Lotus Temple was a notorious hive of scum and villains who masqueraded as monks, but who didn't reject their secular bawdy randy lifestyle of rape, pillage and orgies.

sweetie Chin Ping - she'd be 70 today

Since that day I entertained nasty suspicious impression of Chinese Buddhist monks, which, alas, very much distressed my late mum who was a very devout Buddhist.

As a kid I imagined temples having secret trapdoors and chambers, where within, a Chinese Salome with her diaphanous 7 veils, was undoubtedly belly-dancing away for the gratification of unshaven ogling clerics who guzzled rough wine in copious quantities and ripped away at greasy chicken thighs, while simultaneously fondling unfortunate village maidens.

she's pissed and looked like my Ex (when pissed)

Thus in May 2006, when I read in The Star about a Chief Monk of a Chinese Buddhist Temple in the Kinta Valley being found with a naked woman in his private chambers by a police team during their investigation of a separate criminal matter, I grinned at the vindication of my childhood suspicion of Buddhist monks, secret chambers in Chinese Buddhist temples and naked women - mind you, 'twas a suspicion spawned by seeing the movie Temple of the Red Lotus far too many times during my childhood days, wakakaka.

In loving memory of Angela Yu Chien
20 May 1942 to 10 April 2000

film actress extraordinaire - sweet lassie, kungfu warrior, sex kitten

The naked woman reported by The Star was just the unexpected bonus for the cops who were investigating the chief monk for criminal intimidation of members of the temple committee, wakakaka.

The Star reported that the chief monk was embroiled in a dispute with the temple committee over the alleged non-submission of financial accounts and his close association with the 30-year old woman, who he claimed was his god-daughter. Yeah, I bet!

sweetie Angela Mao Ying
nicknamed by her fans as Lady Whirlwind

trained in Hapkido, wushu & taekwondo
she was one of few female stars who really knew martial arts

despite her immense popularity she was grossly exploited
eg. she was paid only $100 for her role as Bruce Lee's sister
in Enter The Dragon

A bit of Shaolin then occurred when the monk was alleged to have threatened to kill the temple committee chairman for interfering in the temple’s financial matters. Hellooooo there, Buddhist clerics weren't supposed to kill or be involved in earthly mundane matters so why was the chief monk taking on the role of temple accountant? Just a mere rhetorical question because I am sure we all know the answer.

hot sweetie Nora Miao acted with Bruce Lee in '70s

Police also recovered pornographic materials, weapons and liquor from the monk’s chambers, probably training aids that he must have used to demonstrate what were sinful, wakakaka, but where were the greasy chicken thighs?

sweetie Wang Ping
famous for her kungfu movies

Following the discovery, the temple committee wanted to disrobe the chief monk, but before they could do that, the chief monk beat them to that act by disrobing his 'god-daughter', wakakaka.

Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan (1972)
probably the first Chinese movie on sex, let alone lesbianism
starred Lily Ho & Betty Pei Dee

I wish my dear granddad was still alive then because I would have loved to share the story of the Kinta Valley Red Lotus Temple. I bet the chief monk was unshaven too, wakakaka.

Lily Ho & Betty Pei Dee

sweetie Lily Ho


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the wonderful walk down memory lane. still remember ambassador theatre. what was its original name?

I left pg many years ago and hardly go back. my pg lingo also rusty.

Can u kindly dig up on political rallies during those good ole days.

remembered ong yi how, a fiery speaker during one dap rally. shocked when he joined mca and later committed suicide.

thanks and regards,
cheang in labuan

KTemoc said...

Hi Cheang, sorry, can't remember what were the other names of cinema.

By the by, I try to keep this blog free of political stuff, as far as I can manage. For politics, you may wish to refer to my other blog KTemoc Konsiders, just a click away on the Blog List here

JO said...

Thanks for the memories.

I remember what you did but in Great World Park.
The merry-go-round and ferris wheel etc.
Even cajoled "uncles" to gain entry to cinema Ha Ha.

KTemoc said...

Inside New World Park (a lane off Burmah Road) there is a cinema which has parts of the auditorium fenced off from the seating area. One could see the movie for free behind the fence but there is only standing room.

ah hock said...

Is that chongnam? I wondered

KTemoc said...

Sorry Hock, afraid I don't know