Kid, The
Hong Kong 1950
Directed by Fung Fung.


A 10-year-old Bruce Lee stars as Kid Cheung, an orphan boy who sells comics in a little stall in the slums to survive. He takes care of two still younger kids, and the three are looked after in turn by his Uncle Ho (Yee Chau-Shiu), a teacher. When the wealthy Hung Pak-ho enters the slums to survey the site of a school for orphans which he promised but never intends to build, he is robbed by the vicious Blade Lee (Fung Fung) and his gang. Ah Cheung helps Flash Blade Lee get away, and so earns his friendship, enabling Uncle Ho to return the gold necklace Lee stole from the rich man's daughter, thus ingratiating Ho to the rich man and landing him a job as his private secretary.

Ah Cheung gets enrolled in a school, but is shortly expelled for beating up bullies, and takes an apprenticeship at Hung Pak-ho's factory. Hung's son, Chiu, is an arrogant brat who steals from his father and flirts with the girls at the factory shamelessly. When the workers decide to strike for better working conditions, he conspires with gangsters to tear the place apart and blame it on the workers, getting rid of all of them at once.

THE KID is quite simply a tale of the rich vs. the poor. Quite simply the poor are tough, thuggish, and desperate, but they have honor, while the rich have everything but. The poor, by sticking together, can achieve their goals, while the rich and greedy fall by their own schemes. Also contrasted is the rich emotional interconnectedness of the poor as compared to the emotionally empovershed rich, who fire people at the drop of a hat, have children who throw tantrums and wives who have affairs. Thankfully the conditions of poverty are nevertheless depicted as quite dire and never really appealing. Poverty is not a badge of honor for these characters, it is simply where they are in life, all of them aspiring to something a bit better.

THE KID is based on a popular comic strip from the fourties and fifties called Kiddy Cheung, by Yuen Po-Wan, who also appears in the film as the spoiled son of the rich man. The strip ran in daily newspapers and focused on class issues and societal injustice from the point of view of young Cheung. A couple frames of this comic are reprinted in Hong Kong Comics by Wendy Siuyi Wong (on pp. 58-59). It is crudely drawn, but touched on topics of great interest to many Hong Kong people of the time.

Bruce Lee, at 10, is readily identifiable; when he pretends to be a teacher to make the other kids laugh, he juts out his lower jaw in exactly the way he would do in his films 20 years later to intimidate his opponents. While obviously still a kid and prone to overacting (come to think of it, the latter might be a trait he never quite got rid of), he is an entertaining figure. His real-life father, Lee Hoi-cheun, plays the rich tightwad Hung.

Perhaps the most charismatic figure in THE KID is Flash Blade Lee, played by the director himself, a veteran of the Cantonese opera stage. He is dangerous, but also generous with his friends and kind to women and children. A more thug like and self-interested version of the Robin Hood archetype, he does end up putting the needs of society over himself.

The movie as a whole is satisfying, though the ending seems rather definitive for a movie based on such a long comic strip -- the protagonists head to the countryside after scaring up some cash, to start farming and escape the slums. I can only imagine how hard it would be to go against the tide coming in the other direction. Perhaps this ending was meant to appeal to recent immigrants from the mainland, in that it depicts the farming life as really the most desirable one, not living in a slum nor being a wealthy factory owner.

The VCD version I watched of THE KID, titled MY SON, A-CHANG, out by Pearl City, seems to have a reel (or at least a couple scenes) missing in the middle, though this does not make the film impossible to follow, there are a couple moments of complete confusion that occur. (Wait a minute -- I thought they killed someone, and she was kidnapped? Now he's alive and she's at the factory?) Could just be bad editing, but I'm willing to bet the whole film might not have survived.

A great example of early Cantonese cinema, a showcase of a little boy who grows up to become a huge star, THE KID is a movie not to be missed.

Rating: Recommended (Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on July 11, 2005.


Comments

Hi Peter,

Does an English subtitled version of this film exist? I notice you mention Pearl City. I'm from Hawaii too, but living in L.A.

Let me know.

tony young

Posted by: Tony Young at July 10, 2007 07:35 PM

Yes indeed -- click on the very tiny [VCD] link on the upper-left hand side of the page, it will take you to yesasia.com where they sell the Pearl City VCD. Or at least, they did; clicking on the link now takes you to a page showing the title is currently out of stock. This is the only subtitled version of the film that I am aware of.

Posted by: PTN at July 11, 2007 09:30 AM
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