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Five Golden Dragons (1967) | Girls, gold and intrigue await in the comic retro adventure

Five Golden Dragons

American playboy Bob Mitchell (Robert Cummings) arrives in Hong Kong, where he is given a message, found on the body of a dead man. The message reads: ‘Five Golden Dragons’. It is Bob’s introduction to an illicit gold-trafficking operation, run by a secretive global crime syndicate who plan to sell out to the Mafia to the tune of $50million.

When stewardess Ingrid (Maria Rohm) is kidnapped by gangsters out to get their hands on the cash, Bob is forced to impersonate one of the five Dragons in order to steal the money and save the girl. But the gang are unaware that Bob is also working with District Commissioner Sanders (Rupert Davies), who is out to nab the lot of them…

Five Golden Dragons

This 1967 adaptation of one of Edgar Wallace’s District Commissioner Sanders stories is a breezy comic affair from director Jeremy Summers and legendary B-movie producer Harry Alan Towers, who together made also The Vengeance of Fu Manchu (with Christopher Lee) and House of a 1000 Dolls (with Vincent Price) the same year.

Robert Cummings is perfectly cast as the joker playboy, even though he’s past his prime here. If this weren’t a Bond-esque spoof then he’d come off as rather sleazy trying to pick up the likes of Maria Perschy, Maria Rohm and Margaret Lee with his corny pick-up lines and dodgy dance moves (check out his Chinese Watsui). But he plays the hapless humorist with his tongue firmly in his cheek.

And as for the rest of the cast, well Rupert Davies’s Sanders is a Shakespeare-quoting buffoon with chronic indigestion, and Roy Chiao, who’d go on to appear opposite Bruce Lee in Game of Death (1978), does his best to flesh out his character, as Sanders’ much more capable assistant Inspector Chiao. As sadistic hitman Gert, Klaus Kinski gets to do very little except look über cool, while the film’s big name stars, George Raft, Christopher Lee and Brain Donlevy who, together with Dan Dureya, make up four of the five Golden Dragons, only get two scenes together. But, then again, they probably only agreed to appear in the film so they could head for the greens at Hong Kong Golf Club or in Donlevy’s case the nearest bar.

Christopher Lee in Five Golden Dragons

Shot entirely in Hong Kong, the film makes great use of the locations (before the skyscraper boom), with its chase scenes taking place in the harbour on a flotilla of Chinese junks, a pagoda and the brand new Hilton (which was demolished in 1995).

The film’s interiors, however, which were all shot at the Shaw Brother’s Hong Kong studio, look like they were borrowed from TV’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E or Batman, two shows that were big business at the time of the film’s release. There’s even a powder pink dressing room with a secret passage like the one that Barbara Gordon uses to hide her Batgirl outfit. In another Batman connection, and again in 1967, George Raft also popped up in the Tallulah Bankhead episode, Black Widow Strikes Again

Five Golden Dragons

But the highlight of this comic retro adventure is the music. Malcolm Lockyer’s score is a jazzy cocktail of bongos, brass and Hammond organ served up with an oriental twist, while Margaret Lee gets to sing the catchy theme song and famed Japanese actress/singer Yukari Itô guests with a song that will have you searching for her on YouTube.

The Network Distributing DVD presents the film in a brand-new transfer from original elements, in its as-exhibited theatrical aspect ratio, and includes an hour-long audio interview from 2001 with director Jeremy Summers, trailer and gallery.

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