"Temptress of a Thousand Faces'" fast-paced obscurity mixes James Bondian intrigue, martial arts, a dash of '60s Pop Art style and as much tongue-in-cheek camp as one can achieve without actual drag queens. In the vein of Japanese psychedelic relics from the same era, fun item could score some Western rep-house dates before home-format release.

One title in the huge library of vintage Shaw Brothers titles being restored for commercial revival by Hong Kong-based Celestial Pictures — the 1968 H.K./Korea coproduction “Temptress of a Thousand Faces” — has a chance of breaking out of the pack. This fast-paced obscurity mixes James Bondian intrigue, martial arts, a dash of ’60s Pop Art style and as much tongue-in-cheek camp as one can achieve without actual drag queens. In the vein of Japanese psychedelic relics from the same era, “Black Lizard” and “Mansion of the Black Rose,” fun item could score some Western rep-house dates before home-format release.

Hong Kong is being terrorized by “The Temptress,” a jewel thief able to masquerade as any high-ranking citizen, male or female. Determined to unmask the perp is TV reporter Chi (Tina Chin Fei), who for her trouble is kidnapped thrice by the mysterious villainess’s flunkies. Each time, she endures ridiculous “tortures” before using her considerable karate skills to escape.

Posing as Chi, the ruthless lady not only seduces the heroine’s police detective b.f. (Chen Liang), but to his eye-rubbing bewilderment fights her rival in an amusingly staged identical-twin faceoff. Eventually the Temptress turns out to be a fellow female journalist (Pat Ting Hung) wreaking revenge on society for her past as a “plaything for men.”

Temptress’s transformations are finagled as in the original “Mission Impossible” TV series — the cheap “effect” has other actors playing her alleged impersonations, then cut to Hung pulling some latex off her face.

Particularly entertaining are scenes inside Mrs. T.’s underground HQ, where scantily clad ladies-in-waiting recall such ’50s camp-fests as “Catwomen of the Moon.” A highlight in the breathless action is the sight of Chi shimmying down a entire skyscraper by its drainpipe.

Garish color, lively use of locations, outlandish action, racy humor, a swingin’ soundtrack, and jaw-dropping politically incorrect fadeout are among retro attractions in this slick production.

Temptress of a Thousand Faces

Hong Kong - Korea

Production

A Celestian Pictures presentation of a Shaw Bros. production. Produced by Runme Shaw. Directed by Cheng Chang-ho. Screenplay, Shon Chin.

Crew

Camera (color), Yoshio Mamiga; editor, Chiang Hsing-loong; music, Wang Fook-ling; production designer, Yasuhiro Otsuru; sound, Wang Yung-hua; assistant directors, Chang Chin Yuen, Chang Ching-po. Reviewed at San Francisco Film Festival, April 17, 2004. Running time: 83 MIN.

With

Pat Ting Hung, Tina Chin Fei, Chen Liang, Liu Liang-hua, yang Chi-ching, Wang Hsaio-yin, Fan Mei-sheng, Liu Chun.
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