Posted in Music, Reviews

Classic Review: Flower Drum Song

Flower Drum Song (1961)
directed by Henry Foster, written by Joseph Fields based on the novel of the same name by C. Y. Lee
starring Nancy Kwan (The World of Suzie Wong), James Shigeta (The Crimson Kimono, Die Hard, The People I’ve Slept With), Jack Soo (Barney Miller), Miyoshi Umeki (Sayonara)

Can’t say I’m a fan of musicals but I found this classic to be quite entertaining.  I liked the music and dancing but I didn’t like some of the singing.  Chop Suey in particular I found awkward and the singing in I like being girl sounded like the wrong vowels or word were being emphasized.  The set locations were vibrant and colouful which I really appreciated.  One set and dance sequence reminded me a bit of Alice in Wonderland.

There’s a good amount of humour to be found to my surprise.  The actor who plays the father of James Shigeta’s character has some of the best punchlines.  The story is surprisingly not totally predictable and touches upon various Asian and Asian American issues without emphasizing or dwelling on them.  The dialogue obviously sounds a bit stilted today but it’s fun hearing that manner of talking that existed at the time.  Jack Soo’s character sounds like an old school gangster which is believable but funny in itself.  My only complaint is that the love interests seem to flip flop almost instantaneously.  Still it’s amazing that such a film with non-stereotypical, fully realized Asian & Asian American characters was made at that time.

Video quality is as good as can be expected for an old movie although you’ll notice some sudden brightness changes during the I love being a girl dance sequence where nancy kwan is in front of the three mirrors but with each mirror reflecting her wearing and doing something differentg.  I’m surprised they could pull off  such an effect way back then.  The dvd does have 5.1 dolby digital although I didn’t notice it that much.

If you like musicals, I think you’ll find much to enjoy from this movie.  I haven’t checked out the special features yet but there’s some interesting stuff there.  I’ll update the review when I get around to watching them.  You can order the dvd at any major dvd or online retailer.

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Author:

Longtime fan of East Asian films. Former "movie reporter" on the music radio show / podcast "Beats From The East" broadcasted on Concordia University's CJLO 1690AM radio station in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

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