Director: Ding Sin Saai
Producer: Raymond Chow
Cast: Jimmy Wang Yu, Angela Mao, George Lazenby, Ko Chun Hsiung, Tien Ni, Charles Heung, Cheung Pooi Saan, Dean Shek, Bolo Yeung, Peter Chan, Cheung Ging Boh, Chu Tiet Wo, Han Ying Chieh, Hon Yee Sang, Kok Lee Yan, Helen Poon
Running Time: 93 min.
By Jeff Bona
Three years after the passing of Bruce Lee, Hong Kong’s Golden Harvest Studios was still running around like a headless chicken in search of someone who could fill the shoes of their most bankable asset. This period – between 1973 and 1977 – was a time of trial and error for the once flourishing film company that used to have the biggest star in the palm of their hand. It was a situation that can only be compared to… let’s say… The Beatles losing John Lennon and Paul McCartney at the height of Beatlemania.
To adapt to this challenge, Raymond Chow, head of Golden Harvest, turned to names, old and new, like Ko Chun Hsiung (The Devil’s Treasure), Don Wong Tao (Yellow Faced Tiger), Chan Wai Man (The Handcuff), Jimmy Wang Yu (A Man Called Tiger), Dorian Tan Tao Liang (Hand of Death) and Yue Bing Lung (The Association) to lead some of the studio’s most high concept projects. Heck, they even nabbed one-time Bond, George Lazenby (Stoner), to gain some much needed, world-wide momentum.
Despite some minor hits, none of these guys were able to truly capture the electrifying charisma, intense energy, and most importantly, the enormous box office return that Lee delivered. It wasn’t until a year or two later that Sammo Hung (not as a bad guy or a choreographer, but as a leading man) and Jackie Chan came on board to make Golden Harvest the powerhouse that it once was in the early 70s; but before this was to happen, Golden Harvest took one last stab at creating magic by bundling up some of the aforementioned names into an ensemble project titled A Queen’s Ransom.
In A Queen’s Ransom, a terrorist from Ireland (George Lazenby) leads a group of deadly mercenaries to assassinate the Queen of England. Each of the men have their own special skill: Miyamoto (Cheung Pooi Saan), a Japanese explosives expert; Ram (Bolo Yeung), a Thai boxing champion; Chen Lung (Peter Chan), a Filipino sniper; and Shark (Jimmy Wang Yu), a Viet Cong guerilla warfare expert.
With the help of a bar girl (Tien Ni), Hong Kong police officials (headed by Ko Chun Hsiung and Charles Heung Wah Keung) must race against time and intercept the bad guys before they get to the Queen; little do they know, the bad guys have other sneaky plans up their sleeve.
A Queen’s Ransom definitely starts off on a high note, but goes nowhere but downhill after the first 30 minutes. With its cool title, promising plot and a diverse, all-star cast – including Angela Mao (Stoner), Dean Shek (Drunken Master) and exploitation favorite, Judith Brown (of The Big Doll House fame) – you would think the film would be full of wall-to-wall mayhem, but nope, 85% of it is nothing but dialogue.
Normally, I’m more concerned with the overall pacing of a film, so I don’t need a lot of killings and beat ’em ups to hold my attention; but with A Queens Ransom, you have all these stars that are associated with some of the most memorable action movies of all time, so naturally, I found myself wanting, waiting and begging for some kind of notable fight or action sequence to happen. Eventually, it does happen, but when it arrives, it’s sloppy, sluggish and easily forgettable.
Unlike Stoner and Man from Hong Kong, the absence of Sammo Hung’s choreography is brutally evident. The difference between what Lazenby was physically capable of in Stoner, and what he does in A Queen’s Ransom, is night and day. It’s no wonder Sammo’s name was associated with just about every Golden Harvest actioner of the 70s. He made people, no matter what skill level, look convincing. Instead of Sammo, Lu Tsun handles the choreography, which is crude in every sense of the word. The fact that we’ve never heard of this guy shouldn’t be a big surprise.
I suppose I’d be thinking differently if the non-action scenes were done with more quality in mind, but then again, this is a 70s Golden Harvest flick, and not a well-written episode of Mission: Impossible or The Man from U.N.C.L.E. As it stands, A Queen’s Ransom is filled with a rushed screenplay, careless plot holes and haphazard directing.
A Queen’s Ransom is the third and final film Lazenby would appear in for Golden Harvest studios. After trying to squeeze whatever star power was left in Lazenby with Stoner and Man from Hong Kong, it’s apparent the studio no longer knew what to do with him; so A Queen’s Ransom was produced, which resulted in Lazenby looking like a wooden bad guy with limited screen time.
If you’re wondering if the actual Queen Elizabeth II makes an appearance, she certainly does. However, her “role” is nothing but stock footage (mostly filmed from a distance) during her 1975 visit to Hong Kong, which was spliced into the actual film (a la Bruce Lee’s funeral footage in Game of Death).
At the end of the day, I’d be a fool not to recommend A Queen’s Ransom. Despite being a job to sit through, you can’t deny the film’s dodgy charm and historical spot in the Golden Harvest catalogue. Just be warned, there’s a reason A Queen’s Ransom remains obscure, despite its international star power.
Jeff Bona‘s Rating: 5/10