Hong Kong has appeared in its fair share of films since World War II. Its vibrant cityscapes and idyllic countryside pop up in numerous big-budget Hollywood epics and Hong Kong feature films alike. Some of the most famous celebrities of their eras have visited our villages and walked in our lovely landscapes, including international movie stars Steve McQueen, Peter Cushing and Jack Palance and local heroes Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao and Chow Yun-fat. “In the 1970s and 80s, Hong Kong film studios didn’t have huge backlots,” says film producer, martial artist and actor Bey Logan. “So they would often shoot scenes in the rural New Territories.” Here are 10 of the most memorable movies made in your backyard.
The Sand Pebbles (1966)
Starring Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborough and Candice Bergen
Locations: Pyramid Hill and High Island Reservoir
Steve McQueen was nominated for this war drama and location scouting took more than a year. It was directed by legendary filmmaker Robert Wise who agreed to make a “fill-in” project for 20th Century Fox. The scouts found the perfect location in Sai Kung and the most recognisable location is Pyramid Hill, which appears in the background of several scenes with Ma On Shan to the right. The poster shows McQueen on a boat on a body of water that is now part of High Island Reservoir.
Project A (1983)
Starring Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao
Locations: Kau Sai Chau, High Island, Muk Min sea cave. Project A is a martial-arts action comedy and the first starring Jackie Chan in the style we have come to know and love. Set in 1800s Hong Kong, it blends exaggerated stunts and slapstick comedy reminiscent of Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd, right down to a recreation of Lloyd’s famous stunt in which he hangs off the hands of a clock. Chan plays Marine Police Sergeant Dragon Ma who must take on a gang of pirates. The film makes extensive use of Rocky Harbour and Kau Sai Chau, which is now home to the territory’s only public golf course.
The Prodigal Son (1981)
Starring Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung
Locations: Yim Tin Tsai, Tai Tung Wo Liu
Yuen Biao plays a kung-fu fighter whose father has been secretly paying his opponents to lose, and who must convince an expert to train him properly. This classic features scenes shot around Tai Tung Wo Liu, off Sai Sha Road, and Yim Tin Tsai island. In one scene, Sammo Hung races along the pier at Yim Tin Tsai in a likely homage to actor and filmmaker Danny Lee, who ran along the same pier eight years earlier in his first starring role, in River of Fury. Yim Tin Tsai no longer has a permanent population. It is home to abandoned salt fields, derelict houses and a Romanesque chapel that is occasionally used for weddings. It can be reached by private ferry from Sai Kung public pier.
Dragons Forever (1988)
Starring Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao
Location: Hong Kong Marina
This 1988 action comedy marks the last time Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao appeared in a film together, and this time as three lawyers working for a dubious company. The opening fight scene was filmed on the dockside at Hong Kong Marina on Che Keng Tuk Road. Hung enjoyed the locale so much that he used it again for a fight scene on the marina’s terrace in 1991’s Touch and Go. The terrace is part of the Hong Kong Marina restaurant, which accepts cash and is open to the public during the week (members only at weekends and holidays).
The Killer (1989)
Starring Chow Yun-fat and Danny Lee
Locations: Sai Kung waterfront, Yi Chun Street
Directed by John Woo and starring Chow Yun-fat and Danny Lee, The Killer is arguably Hong Kong cinema’s finest gangster movie. Its balletic if violent choreography brought Woo to the attention of Hollywood and its dialogue was even sampled in early hip hop tracks. It revolve around a disillusioned assassin who takes on one last hit to pay for an operation to restore the sight of a nightclub singer (Sally Yeh) who he blinds in an early scene. One scene is set during the dragon-boat festival on Sai Kung waterfront and Yi Chun Street, possibly the area’s most famous location, beloved of tourists, seafood fans and dog walkers.
Forced Vengeance (1982)
Starring Chuck Norris
Locations: Nam Shan Sun Tsuen Road and Hiram’s Highway
American martial-arts star Chuck Norris rose to fame in 1972, when he appeared opposite Bruce Lee in Way of the Dragon. After a decade in Hollywood, Norris returned to Hong Kong for this 1982 action movie about a casino security guard who seeks revenge when triads threaten his friends. Shot throughout the territory, prominent Sai Kung locations include the Nam Shan home of his on-screen nemesis. The house still stands behind a gate on a long and winding path on Nam Shan San Tsuen Road. The opening scene in which Norris takes a cab from Kai Tak airport to a casino in Tuen Mun, was actually filmed on Hiram’s Highway.
Starring Jackie Chan
Location: Shaw’s Movietown
Hong Kong film-production company Shaw Brothers’ Studio enjoyed great success in the 1970s-80s. It was based in Clearwater Bay, where it built a flexible backlot dubbed Movietown. By 1988 Shaws had largely moved away from films and the huge backlot at the old studios was leased out to others wishing to take advantage of the remote studio backlot.” Movietown was leased by rival film company Golden Harvest to shoot Miracles and was adapted to resemble 1930s Macau. The movie made extensive use of a verandah overlooking Port Shelter, which also appears in romantic scenes in a number of other films. The studio has since moved to new premises near Tseung Kwan O.
Fist of Unicorn (1972)
Starring Unicorn Chan and Bruce Lee
Location: Pak Tam Chung
A vehicle for martial artist Unicorn Chan, Fist of Unicorn was released amid controversy and acrimony. Already a major international star, Bruce Lee worked on the film as a fight choreographer as a favour to Chan. However, the camera crew surreptitiously filmed Lee working near a bridge in Pak Tam Chung, edited the footage into the film without his permission and subsequently marketed it as a Chan/Lee joint film. Lee was unhappy with the deceit. The bridge that features prominently in the movie is now a popular spot for wedding photographs, picnics and dog walks. It is next to Fat Kee café about 500m beyond the Sai Kung Country Park gate at Pak Tam Chung.
Kill a Dragon (1967)
Starring Jack Palance
Location: Ma Nam Wat
Academy Award winner and three-time nominee Jack Palance stars as a mercenary hired by villagers along with his team of karate-kicking henchmen to rid them of a gangster played by Fernando Lamas. It was shot on locations across Hong Kong, including Shek O beach, Stanley and Ma Nam Wat village, near Trio Beach. Much of the village is now abandoned, but it remains a popular hiking location and is easily reached by a well-worn path from the end of Che Keng Tuk Road or by sampan from Pak Sha Wan pier.
The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires (1974)
Starring Peter Cushing
Location: Silverstrand Bay
Famed for playing the commander of the Death Star, Grand Moff Tarkin, in Star Wars, Peter Cushing spent much of his career making B-movie horror flicks for Hammer Studios alongside Sir Christopher Lee and Vincent Price. A collaboration between Hammer and Shaw Brothers’ Studio, this 1974 film was a Chinese folklore-inspired tale about vampires, Dracula and Van Helsing (Cushing). Parts of the film were shot on location in Hong Kong, with Shaw Brothers’ Movietown seeing much of the action. One scene, however, takes place on a ridge behind the backlot overlooking Silverstrand Bay. The beach at Silverstrand is deservedly popular on sunny weekends