Year of release: 1973

Genre: comedy

Director: Chor Yuen

Stars: Ho Sau San, Lydia Shum, Nam Hung, Hu Chin, Tin Ching, Yueh Hua, Cheng Li, Danny Lee, Ricky Hui

Rated IIA for language

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The House of 72 Tenants


The House of 72 Tenants, though not well-known by western viewers, is one of the most important works in the history of the Hong Kong film industry. The movie's star-studded cast would provide the template for the "event" movies that come out every Lunar New Year. The heavy use of Cantonese slang and use of uniquely Hong Kong locales would provide the base of the Hui brothers films, and then later the "moy len tau" (nonsense comedy) works of Stephen Chow, whose box-office smash Kung Fu Hustle drew heavily on this picture for inspiration. Finally, it showed that Hong Kong film companies could make something other than costume dramas and martial arts movies. The House of 72 Tenants took in nearly double the box office of Bruce Lee's Enter the Dragon and pulled the Hong Kong studios out of a depression; this led to a resurgence in local film-making, which would later fuel the "new wave" of Hong Kong directors like Tsui Hark and John Woo, which of course led to what many people consider the "golden age" of Hong Kong movies in the mid-1980's.


All of this is very well and good, but how does The House of 72 Tenants hold up, especially for western viewers? It's hard to say. I certainly enjoyed the movie. Director Chor Yuen does an excellent job of managing the large cast and keeping the film moving forward. And while it's not gut-bustingly funny, there are several clever sequences. Still, I think I enjoyed The House of 72 Tenants more as a historical piece, and I doubt many viewers (both western and Asian), who have been weaned on computer fu or Triad dramas starring pretty young pop stars, will find much of interest here. And that's a shame, because The House of 72 Tenants harkens back to a time where performances and story, not neat special effects, were the basis for successful film-making.