The Hong Kong Filmography Volume IV covers all film productions in Hong Kong between 1953 and 1959. Because of the limitation of space, the synopsis and production details for each film is more concise than previous volumes.
A total of 1,694 films were produced during this period (an average of 242 per year), made up by 1,055 Cantonese films (an average of 150 per year), 402 Mandarin films (an average of 57 per year), 187 Amoy-dialect films (an average of 26 per year), 14 Chaozhou-dialect films (an average of 2 per year), 35 documentaries (an average of 5 per year) and an English film. Though not the most prolific period (the second in honour; the first goes to the 1960s), it was local cinema in its highest bloom, resulting in films of diversifying genres and themes, and giving birth to some of the best local productions.
Of the three local films listed in the French publication L'Encyclopedia du cinema, the Mandarin films Between Fire and Water/Shui Huo Zhi Jian (1955) and The True Story of Ah Q/A Q Zhengzhuan (1958) are made in this period, the third being The Dividing Wall/Yiban Zhige (1952) (see P 546, Vol III). Five local Mandarin films made in this period are also listed in the Best Hundred Chinese Films selected by Taiwanese critics Wang Ren and Duh Yuen-jy/Du Yunzhi. They are The 72 Martyrs of Canton/Bixue Huanghua (1954), Halfway Down/Ban Xialiu Shehui (1957), The Long Lane/Chang Xiang (1956), The Battle of Love/Qingchang Ru Zhanchang (1957), and The Kingdom and the Beauty/Jiangshan Meiren (1959).
Local Mandarin films of this period predominated the Asian Film Festival. Our Sister Hedy/Si Qianjin (1957) won the Best Film Award at the 5th Asian Film Festival, The Kingdom and the Beauty at the 6th and Back Door/Hou Men (1960) at the 7th. Their Cantonese contemporary Spring/Chun (1953) and Mandarin films The Dividing Wall (1952), The Peerless Beauty/Juedai Jiaren (1953) and Year In, Year Out/Yi Nian Zhi Ji (1955) were recipients of the Films of Excellence Award (1949-55) presented by the Ministry of Culture of the People's Republic of China.
Cantonese classics and masterpieces produced in this period include Family/Jia (1953, adapted from Ba Jin's novel of the same name), the inaugural production of The Union Film Enterprise Ltd, In the Face of Demolition/Weilou Chunxiao (1953, a realist and its theme of solidarity and mutual help made it the model of edification in the edutainment genre), Mutual Understanding/Jiajia Huhu (1954), Parents' Hearts/Fumu Xin (1955, classic of the family melodrama genre), and masterpieces of Cantonese opera adaptations such as Princess Cheung Ping/Dinü Hua (1959) and The Legend of Purple Hairpin/Zichai Ji (1959); airwave novel adaptations such as A Mother Remembers/Cimu Lei (1953) and The True Story of Siu Yuet-pak/Xiao Yuebai Zhengzhuan (in two parts, 1955); films made for fundraising such as Backyard Adventures/Hou Chuang (1955) and Feast of a Rich Family/Haomen Yeyan (1959, a comedy); martial arts film Story of the Vulture Conqueror/Shediao Yingxiong Zhuan (1958, the first adaptation of Jin Rong's martial arts novels) and the mystery The Rouge Tigress/Yanzhi Hu (1955, inaugural production of Kong Ngee Company, one of the big four Cantonese studios). They represent the best in Cantonese cinema. Not to be missed out is the 'Wong Fei-hung series', the world record holder in film series (close to 60 were filmed in his period, with 25 in 1956 alone).
It is worth pointing out that The Union spirit proclaimed in this period - putting personal fame and fortune behind group effort in the production of artistic, thought-provoking, edifying and entertaining films - steered local cinema to a new trend, which is a legacy that should be continued and developed.
Besides the above mentioned, fine Mandarin films produced in this period include also the realist family melodrama. Festival Moon/Zhongqiu Yue (1953, inaugural production of Feng Huang Motion Picture Co), musicals Mambo Girl/Manbo Nülang (1957) and Calendar Girl/Longxiang Fengwu (1959) by Motion Picture & General Investment Co Ltd, Chin Ping Mei/Jin Ping Mei (1955, the first local production released world wide), the comedies Aren't the Kids Lovely?/Ernü Jing (1953) and Teenage Romance/Qingdou Chu Kai (1958), not to forget Songs of the Peach Blossom River/Taohua Jiang (1956, Hsin Hwa Motion Picture Company) which started the Mandarin musical trend, Golden Lotus/Jin Lianhua (1957) which brought Linda Lin Dai her first Asian Film Festival Best Actress Award, and Her Tender Heart/Yunü Siqing (1959) with which Lucilla You Min was first crowned the Best Actress at the Asian Film Festival.
The period boasts quite a few firsts in local cinema: the first 3-D film - A woman's Revenge/Yunü Qingchou (1953, the film was released earlier than another 3-D feature film The Gold Hunt/Taojin Ji), the first Scope film - The Love of Susan/Xin Yu Tangchun (1954), the first Chaozhou-dialect film - The Story of Wang Jinlong/Wang Jinlong (1955), the first all English speaking film - The Mandarin Bowl /Tapingshan Xia (1956), and the first colour puppet film - Princess Hibiscus/Furong Xianzi (1957).
1958 was the year in which Amoy films first surpassed Mandarin films to become the second most prolific, after Cantonese films, in local productions (the position was again maintained in 1959). Local Amoy films became so popular in Taiwan that filmmakers there started to produce Taiwanese films (Taiwanese and Amoy are related dialects). Soon, the Amoy film market in Taiwan was taken over by Taiwanese films.
Local Chaozhou-dialect film production began to grow in 1959, and reached its bloom in the 1960s. They were most popular in Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia were also their main markets.
A total of 35 documentaries were made in this period, with Hong Kong Coronation Parade/Wulong Dahui (1953) being the one and only locally produced 3-D documentary. Home Thoughts from Abroad/ Yue Shi Guxiang Ming (1958), a documentary that recorded the various indigenous operas in Guangdong Province, also deserves a special mentioning.
The primary materials for Filmography Volume IV were sourced from newspapers of the 1950s that were published in Hong Kong, Macau, Guangzhou, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines (such as Wah Kiu Yat Po in Hong Kong and Sin Chew Jit Poh in Singapore), film magazines published in Hong Kong (such as Southern Screen and The Union Pictorial), and hundreds of film copies, videotapes, brochures and handbills. The sorting and proofreading were done with the help of my assistants Ms Janice Chow, Ms Angel Shing and Ms Melanie Lee, before they were handed over to the editorial section for compiling, translation, and editing.
Overseas newspapers (such as Sin Chew Jit Poh and Sing Sian Yit Pao) are the main sources for local Amoy and Chaozhou-dialect productions as well as Mandarin films that had not been released locally. However, available copies are far from complete, resulting in inadequacies in the materials listed. It is hoped that amendments could be made in future.