You are currently displaying English
鶯歌燕舞 (1963)
Mad About Music

Reviewed by: Stephe
Date: 04/27/2011

In Mad About Music (1963), a female performing duo played by
Maria Ye Kwong (aka Yi Guang) and Julie Yeh Feng witness a murder
at the nightclub where they are employed. The murderer, played by
Zhu Mu, chases them in their dressing room, and the pair escape
through a window and run down the street, whereupon they happen
upon freshmen students at a music school and decide to help them
learn while hiding among them. If the setup sounds reminiscent of
Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot (1959), you're right, but the
similarity pretty much ends there, as neither of the two lead
characters constructs an alternate identity: they merely wear a
hat with eyeholes or oversized glasses every time they have to
appear in public, where they pretend to be music students. Also,
neither woman has a romantic interest in the entire running time
of the film. Uncharacteristically, Tin Ching, of all people, has
a girlfriend in this film. Those familiar with MP & GI films will
recognize that his characters tend not to be successful with the
ladies. Exceptions that come to mind are Our Sister Hedy (1957),
where he plays an airline pilot who marries Dolly So Fung, and
For Better, For Worse (1959), where he becomes engaged to Dolly
So Fung who plays Li Mei's sister. Annette Chang, who played
Julie Yeh Feng's musically-talented assistant in It's Always
Spring (1962), here plays one of the four main music students,
and Tin Ching -- who played a guitarist and bandleader in June
Bride (1960) -- plays their leader.

With the help of Maria Ye Kwong and Julie Yeh Feng, the students
put on a show at a beach, but they are arrested for not having a
public performance licence. The school principal, played by Chan
Yau-San, gives most of the participants a demerit, but threatens
to expel all four of the organizers (Tin Ching, Annette Chang,
Jean Li Chih-An, and Hung Yeung). Their teacher, played by Wang
Lai, sticks up for them, though. Their instruments confiscated,
they put on a show with improvised, repurposed objects, and the
principal is impressed. The first "instrument" depicted onscreen
is an abacus (used in place of a gourd shaker), which one
imagines could be interpreted as a subversive dig at the music
industry. Artistic integrity becomes an issue when the principal
doesn't believe that two students (Annette Chang and Jean Li
Chih-An) executed the dance numbers (which Maria Ye Kwong and
Julie Yeh Feng performed for them) during the improvised set.

Mad About Music was released on DVD in 2010 as part of We're 75:
1935-2010, aka the Cathay 75th Anniversary Collector's DVD Set, a
6-disc commemorative box set comprised of 3 Mandarin films and 3
Malay films, released by Two Stones Entertainment (not by
Panorama nor Hoker Records) only in Singapore, with no Hong Kong
counterpart. None of the musical numbers are subitled in English
(although they are subtitled in Chinese). Instead, songs with
lyrics are demarcated by titles that read "~ song starts ~" and
"~ song ends ~". All the dialog is subtitled in English, but
since this is a musical with a dozen numbers, it is disappointing
not to be able to know what the lyrics to the songs are. (This is
not unprecendented, though: I have the Hong Kong IVL VCD of the
1961 Shaw Brothers film, Les Belles, starring Linda Lin Dai and
Peter Chen Ho, and none of the many musical numbers therein are
subtitled in English -- or even in Chinese.) Mad About Music runs
a scant 78 minutes and occasionally has audible artifacts on the
soundtrack which can last around five minutes at a time. The
image is very clean except for at one reel change. People appear
a little on the orange side, though.

Li Mei was originally supposed to be Maria Ye Kwong's co-star in
Mad About Music. According to the Hong Kong Film Archive, she got
sick, and was replaced by Julie Yeh Feng, whereupon the film
which had originally been scheduled to be in black and white,
became a color musical, instead. Maria Ye Kwong appeared in less
than a dozen films, and she had originally found fame as a beauty
queen in Taiwan. She has considerable screen presence and more
than holds her own when contrasted with Julie Yeh Feng, bringing
to mind Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer
Blondes (1953). Maria Ye Kwong is on the cover of issues 86, 93
and 98 of International Screen, Cathay's counterpart to Shaw
Brothers' Southern Screen. Her beauty and figure are more like
that of Li Mei than Julie Yeh Feng, so the original casting of
the film is understandable.

Reviewer Score: 4