Friday, December 6, 2013
Operation Lipstick (Hong Kong, 1967)
The Shaw Brothers’ spy movies are almost a genre unto themselves, so distinctive is that studio’s house style. Though, paradoxically, part of that style involves how reliably these films serve up the internationally agreed upon ingredients of the 1960s spy thriller. Take Operation Lipstick. Does it feature a kidnapped scientist? A henchman with a metal hook for a hand? A coveted microfilm containing plans for some kind of doomsday weapon? Yes, yes, and yes. But Operation Lipstick also has a secret weapon of its own in the form of Cheng Pei Pei, who -- despite the presence of the Shaws’ answer to Sean Connery, Paul Chang Chung -- is our hero for the evening.
Hong Kong Nocturne and Hong Kong Rhapsody -- the former of which also starred Cheng -- he gives the star a singing and dancing introduction, emerging from a giant cake to regale a nightclub audience with the sung details of her previous life of crime. In fact, you could say that, in terms of tone and style, Operation Lipstick inhabits a middle ground between Inouye’s musicals and campy espionage adventures like The Brain Stealers, perhaps sitting snugly aside romantic capers like his later The Venus Tear Diamond.
Temptress of a Thousand Faces, poses as the widow of the wallet’s owner and, so she thinks, seduces Lee Peng into an alliance.