Shaw Brothers Saturdays: ‘Dead End’ is anything but. A compelling, rich drama about wild youth.
Directed by Chang Cheh
Written by Chiu Kang Chien
Hong Kong, 1969
The name Chang Cheh should be recognizable to any self ascribed Shaw Brothers fan. The man was a true legend within the studio system, directing movies at such a rapid rate that even Woody Allen would blush. With a whopping total of 95 films to his credit as a director, Chang Cheh was a machine, sometimes working on multiple films in quick succession. The are upsides and downsides to such a career. The obvious criticism is that not all of his movies were good. Some were rather petty in fact. That being said, such workmanship definitely helped him become a remarkably creative individual with a voice capable of sharing eclectic stories. Rarely was this more evident than in his 1969 effort, Dead End, which, despite its title suggesting a horror story, is actually a quaint yet emotionally gripping drama about young adult aimlessness.
Ti Lung plays Zhang Chun, a reasonably smart young professional working for a big company in the downtown area. It is a busy building, with many employees hammering away madly at their typewriters. At one point, in a effective silent slow motion shot (a hallmark of the Chang Cheh style of film making), Zhang lays back in his chair and yawns. There is a hint of carelessness in the act, indicative of the type of person he is. While he may earn a living with a respectable job at a respectable employer, he is never going to take such a job too seriously. It simply does not speak to him on a personal level. A greater clue comes in the next scene, wherein Zhang brings along his current girlfriend into the building complex at night, after all have gone home. They engage in comedic foreplay before making love on Zhang’s work desk, that is, until they are caught by the nightwatchman. Zhang is promptly fired, leaving back in a position he has been in more than once: jobless with nothing better to do than chase girls with his buddy David (David Chiang), with whom he shares one special girl, the beautiful Mary (Angela Yu Chien), the sort of pixie dream girl that really can only exist in the movies. One day, while driving outside the city, Zhang comes across Wen Rou (Li Chung), a shy if intelligent girl with whom the protagonist will share an ultimately destructive relationship.