Hong Kong’s mighty Shaw Brothers studio lent a new sheen to the territory’s musicals in the mid-1960s when it brought in director Umetsugu Inoue from Japan. A standout among Inoue’s seventeen productions for Shaw is Hong Kong Nocturne, a lavish song, dance, and drama confection that reworked his earlier Japanese film Tonight We’ll Dance against new backdrops.
Cheng Pei-pei, Lily Ho, and Chin Ping star as the Chia sisters, the backup troupe for their musician father (Jiang Guang-chao) on Hong Kong’s nightclub circuit. When they become fed up with Dad siphoning away their salaries, the girls leave home to pursue ballet, screen stardom, or marriage. The trio eventually overcome personal obstacles, band together, and aim to hit the big time in the televised Hong Kong Music Lovers a-go-go stage show.
Melodrama piles on thick and fast when a show-must-go-on plot takes root, but the Chia sisters and their friends remain happy to step out with spontaneous song. Wild flights of fantasy appear in one sister’s dreams, and the girls’ partnership with a budding composer (Peter Chen Hou) brings a local theme to their ultimate production, a widescreen musical extravaganza on expansive, Broadway-style sets. Though the lead actresses didn’t lend their voices to the movie’s soundtrack—a job left to pros like singer Tsin Ting—the three display ample dancefloor talents and remain a joy to follow as they struggle to fulfill their dreams of the spotlight. Description adapted from Tim Youngs in Asia Sings! A Survey of Asian Musical Films. (Dir.: Umetsugu Inoue, Hong Kong, 1967, 128 min., Digibeta, Mandarin with English subtitles)