That Lady from Peking

  • aka The Girl from Peking (working title only)

When a defecting Russian diplomat is murdered in Hong Kong, before he can tell his story to famous author Max Foster (Carl Betz), Foster attempts to get hold of the diplomat's diary.

This is supposed to contain explosive secrets which will reveal the truth about 'Red' China. But Foster isn't the only one in search of the diary, and his long-suffering secretary Shirley (Penny Sugg) is caught up in the intrigue. 

Sue Ten Chen (Nancy Kwan), a Chinese agent with a rough team, is also after it, as are unsavoury types from the Russian spy world, not to mention the C.I.A.

When Max eventually gets his hands on the diary, Natalia (Eva von Feilitz) offers him a dalliance a day if he hands over the diary a page at a time - 350 dalliances.

Bobby Rydell, who plays Max's younger brother Buddy, hangs around with Benny (Sid Melton) for most of the movie, lending a hand where he can, crooning a song or two, and turning up at the end to croon over the end credits...

Writers:
Exec producers:
Production Designers:
Art Directors:
Composers:
Editors:

Production Details

A United States/Australia joint venture

Production companies: Goldsworthy Productions (Aus)/Commonwealth United Corporations (USA)

Budget: n/a, low, probably no more than A$400,000. The US partner Sol was reported in the press as saying that the joint venture needed to get beyond $400,000 budgets and move towards $1million pictures. The previous two pictures in the joint venture's trilogy of mid-Pacific fare were A$330,000 or lower.

Locations: Sydney and surrounds, Luna Park, Hong Kong, interiors for Hong Kong shot in Sydney.

Filmed: began July 1969, some Hong Kong exteriors in August. The Age reported that filming had begun in a field near the Sydney suburb of Tempe on 7th July 1969 where Miss Kwan will gun down her first victim in the film.

Australian distributor: Regent

Theatrical release: Censor screened in August, and then released13th November 1975 as a support at the Village Twin Brisbane.

Rating: NSC, Not Suitable for Children

35mm            colour

Running time: 86 mins (Oxford Australian Film)

K & C Video VHS copy: 1'22"32

Box office: minimal.

The film wasn't released in Australia until 1975, and then opened as a support at the Village Twin Brisbane for a short run. It received scattered dates after that, but its main target was US television.

Opinion

Awards

None known.

Availability

The film was released on VHS in various territories around the world, but copies are now extremely rare.

However copies derived from a VHS source do circulate amongst collectors on DVD, quality contingent on source material.

This site's digitised copy, derived from an NTSC VHS it purchased on eBay, shows that relatively good copies can still be found - within the usual limits of VHS.

1. Source:

The film was the third and last of executive producer Reginald Goldsworthy's quickies destined for American television. (The other two were It Takes All Kinds and Color Me Dead).

Determined B-picture writer-director Eddie Davis again helmed the action, taking the credit for the screenplay, which was inspired by the current taste for spies and the cold war and James Bond romps.

2. Production: 

As usual, casting pandered to US tastes, with Carl Betz - Donna Reed's medic husband in The Donna Reed Show and defence attorney Clinton Judd in Judd for the Defense - as part of the television pitch.

The casting also featured comedy sidekick Sid Melton, who'd turned up in It Takes All Kinds, and Nancy Kwan as the exotic Asian element.

Bobby Rydell put in an appearance as performer and singer, which resulted in a few - largely irrelevant to core plot - nightclub scenes, on the unlikely basis that Rydell and Betz were brothers.

The film attracted attention in the press during the production as a result of Nancy Kwan's temperamental outbursts, and agitation by Communist newspapers in Hong Kong against the film being allowed to film there.

Kwan's role ironically isn't centre stage for much of the film, and much of the filming took place in Sydney, with extras to play Chinese guards recruited from Asian students studying in Sydney.

The film does provide cultist moments for Australian movie buffs.

It's possible to spot an early appearance by Jack Thompson playing a flunky in the background, and future film and television producer Robert Bruning appears as Karl, the head of a team of karate chopping women at Luna Park.

There are also sightings of the likes of Ruth Cracknell, doing a cameo as a Luna Park psychic, Kev Golsby as a butcher working for Nancy Kwan, Grahame Rouse as a dinkum Aussie Russian agent, and Sandra Gore, who bravely bares a little before being taken out by Don Reid.

Goldsworthy remained loyal to composer Bob Young and gave future producer Anthony Buckley another credit as editor. Assistant director Warwick Freeman would shortly go on to make the feature Demonstrator.

Goldsworthy also remained loyal to former TV weather girl Penny Sugg, who again played a secretary, as she did in Color Me Dead. 

She's given the Coffee Shop Man (Tom Oliver) at the end of the show, along with an apology from her boss Carl Betz, and a chance to tell Betz to go to hell.

(Sugg had described Eddie Davis as her director and Reg Goldsworthy as her manager in an advertisement for weight loss guru Pat Walker, suggesting she was seen as a team player).

For those interested in the way films interact with other sorts of entertainment, the production also imported Eva von Feilitz, who under the name of Eva Lynd was known as a cheesecake model for men's "adventure" magazines.

See the site MensPulpMags and its feature Eva Lynd vs. The Nazies (and various other bad guys) for more details - note, old fashioned adult content involved. Anyone who clicks on the link might encounter a Blogger content warning, but this is over-training and the Eva Lynd content is harmless to all but Andrea Dworkin followers.

What's even better is that the MensPulpMags site was contacted by Eva Lynd herself in March 2013!

There are a few sample stills of Lynd's work in the down under club, on this site, derived from this source, but in the film she plays it relatively straight, apart from donning a mini dress suited to the times. 

3. Release:

The film attracted little interest in its much-delayed release, which was as an extremely limited drive-in style supporting feature. Its themes and styles already looking dated after spending almost five years in the can.

The release of the film was hampered by the bankruptcy of Commonwealth United Corporation, and it wasn't until CUC's parent company National Telefilm Associates (NTA) decided to do something with it that it got its belated 1975 release. The film was never given a theatrical release in the United States, and instead went straight to television.

As a result, contemporary reviews of the film and publicity materials are almost non-existent.

This was the final film for director Eddie Davis, who had started life as an AD on low budget films in the early 1940s, and then shifted to directing for television in 1952.

Fans of ironies and coincidences will also note that the head of Commonwealth United Corporation, the US financing company, was Maurice Silverstein, who had left MGM as the film was being made, and who landed in Sydney in July 1969 to talk up the making of two $1 million films a year.

Silverstein had married Australian actress Betty Bryant, who appeared in only one Australian film, Forty Thousand Horsemen, before getting hitched to him. Shortly after he turned up in Australia CUC went broke.

4. Reginald Goldsworthy:

Reg Goldsworthy started off as a radio actor before turning to radio management and becoming an executive. He worked often in commercial radio, and this perhaps helps explain why he was attracted to genre (he had at one stage played detective Philip Marlowe on the radio). 

He also was one of the first genuine examples of an executive producer down under - some one who took seriously the business of raising the finance - and he succeeded in raising the money for three films in a row.

 Goldsworthy liked to boast that he was the first Australian producer in twenty years who'd managed to finance three films, which wasn't true, since Lee Robinson had more than matched the feat, but then when has a film producer let the facts get in the road of the story?

The bankruptcy of Goldsworthy's US partner - press reports put the debts at US$60 million - spelled the end of their joint venture.

Goldsworthy did have other projects in mind, and he talked up the prospect of a new joint venture with Apex, a US production and distribution company.

First film was to be called The Opal Merchants, set by the American script in Wagga Wagga, but wryly acknowledged by Goldsworthy as perhaps needing a change of locale to Lightning Ridge ... (Sydney Morning Herald 1st March 1971).

In that same interview, Goldsworthy did give an idea of his budgets, with perhaps four fifths coming from the US and one fifth from Australia: 

Films like the Goldsworthy B graders end up eventually on TV, where they may continue to be shown for 20 years. The Australian money which goes into them comes in small packages, from $10,000 to $50,000.

"It Takes All Kinds" cost $330,000 and has a projected income, over five years, of $2.2 million. 

Goldsworthy also talked up another project, Tilda, a story about two prostitutes set in Australia, with Raquel Welch in mind for the starring role, and more ambitious, in the sense that it would be more a feature film production for theatres, and less a low budget feature film designed mainly for television. 

"One has to aim for the market place - and that's America. Subsidies when we get them should go to the commercial film maker and you must be careful about the amateurs". (The Age, 18th August 1969)

He also announced plans to work with actor Robert Randell, claiming he was attracted to a number of Randell's projects. The actor blew into town, picked up some media and a role for television, and left again. 

Nothing came of the Randell connection and none of Goldsworthy's other plans worked out, and instead he launched an acting academy with actor Tony Ward in Sydney in 1971.

He did however provide an example and a path for later producers during the Australian film revival. Tony Ginnane, for one, would model his career on Goldsworthy, favouring hokey genre pictures with one or two international names for flavouring to interest US finance.

In that sense, Goldsworthy and his three films were pioneering stuff, not given sufficient credit at the time or since.