Five Golden Dragons (1967)
I know Robert Cummings is the star of this Harry Alan Towers production but let’s be honest here, my main interest in this film are the four guest stars who just might be members of the film’s title fraternity.
and Brian Donlevy
Now throw in a dubbed Klaus Kinski and that pretty much makes it a must see.
Cummings gives it the old Bob Hope effort as a rather bumbling character caught up in espionage on location in Hong Kong. He’s playing Bob Mitchell though I distinctly heard him on two occasions introduce himself as Bob Mitchum. Through no fault of his own, he seems to be caught up in a series of murders orchestrated by Kinski and wanted for questioning by police chief Rupert Davies.
On the plus side, he’s sitting pool side with the likes of Maria Rohm and Maria Perschy. His run ins with the police will be severely compounded when one of the ladies turns up dead in his bedroom. He’s off and running now to stay one step ahead of the police and find out just who the five Golden Dragons are that he is continually questioned about. He’s starting to believe they are not the title of rock band but something more sinister in tone.
Countless chases ensue as ninja types are trailing Cummings in comedic fashion played strictly for lame laughs. Eventually Bob (as he is billed) will work his way to a nightclub where another beauty enters his life played by Margaret Lee. She’s the star attraction in the club and quickly begins flirting with our aging hero. Eventually some of the plot points will start to come together when Davies on the police force introduces us to the quartet of big name cameos who have traveled to Hong Kong and The Shaw Brothers Studios to film the final stanza of this murder mystery thriller played lightly.
Chris Lee was a regular in the cinematic world of producer Towers having done the Fu Manchu series and the non Hammer Count Dracula so to see him in here isn’t much of a surprise. Thankfully he looks as menacing as ever and rightly so. Towers also regularly employed the volatile Klaus Kinski. It’s the other three names that are a bit of a surprise though Donlevy had by this time done a number of lower profile exploitation titles such as the Curse of the Fly.
I’d love to have heard what George Raft may have offered when the script called for him to sit at a table with a paper mache dragon head sitting atop his own. As film fans it’s hard not imagine it would have been a great opportunity to sit back on the set and watch the four men converse when the camera wasn’t running.
Sure Bob is going to figure the whole mystery out by the end with help from Davies and though the film looks good it’s really a minor footnote in the career of all the star players. But there is something more important within. It gives film fans a chance to see a noteworthy group of actors play a scene together. I’ve often said that from our vantage point looking back, it isn’t always a case of a film being great, average or just plain bad. It’s the fact that the famed players did share a scene together that makes it special.
Dan Duryea and Christopher Lee in a scene together? That’s extra special. Just remember we never got to see the likes of Gary Cooper trading quips with John Wayne on screen.
This turned out to be the final theatrical film of Robert Cummings and he handles it in the light comedic vein he was known for in his heyday. The film actually seems better suited to a 1940’s mystery with a younger Cummings in the lead role.
A little trivia time. Exploitation specialist and producer, Towers wrote the screenplay under his customary alias Peter Welbeck and was married to leading lady Rohm from 1964 up until his death in 2009.
I did see this film ages ago during my years of late night TV discoveries but until recently I hadn’t seen it surface. Thanks to a new blu ray release from Blue Undergound it has once again seen the light of day and looks fabulous.