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Plot: good girls go to heaven, Valeria goes everywhere…

Silvio Amadio was a promising director that helmed two interesting giallos with Amuck (1972) and Death Smiles On A Murderer (1973) that saw him working with some of Italy's finest leading ladies Rosalba Neri, Barbara Bouchet and Ewa Aulin. Compared to them Gloria Guida was but a starlet, willing and able to shed fabric if required, of questionable acting talent. Obviously Amadio’s best days were truly well behind him and not even Guida’s ascent in the commedia sexy all’Italiana could pull him from the morass of mediocrity. Amadio would work with Guida on another three occassions with So Young, So Lovely, So Vicious... (1975), That Malicious Age (1975), and Il Medico... La Studentessa (1976) but suffice to say no amount of Guida in the buff can mask how routinous and daft these are. The Minor was the last hurrah of a director well above this kind of daft melodramatic swill. There’s only so many ways for Gloria Guida to undress until that grows stale too.

The Minor was only glorious Gloria's second feature and the follow-up to the rather innocuous Monika (1974). Guida was a year removed from Blue Jeans (1975), the feature that would launch her legendary derrière to Eurocult superstardom, and her role as everybody's favorite promiscuous Catholic schoolgirl or la liceale in Michele Massimo Tarantini’s La Liceale (1975). That Gloria couldn't really act was manifest in her debut outing but at least she's given something to work with here. In her scenes with veteran actor Corrado Pani he does most of the heavy lifting for her. Guida's non-acting is charming at first but tends to grow tedious the farther one progresses into her filmography. While it stands to reason that la Guida did more than just taking her clothes off in Blue Jeans (1975), and That Malicious Age (1975), it wouldn't be until To Be Twenty (1978) a few years later that she proved that she could actually act. It's true that Gloria Guida was handed terrible scripts banking heavily on her willingness to shed clothes, but even with a good screenplay she wasn't exactly an Edwige Fenech, Barbara Bouchet, or Femi Benussi. Let alone that she was able to match ubiquitous bedroom farce queen Laura Antonelli. 

To its credit at least The Minor attempts to do things a little differently in its opening 15 minutes. Just like Mario Imperoli’s Monika (1974) and Blue Jeans (1975), The Minor opens with a pair of legs in the shortest blue skirt imaginable. The skirt and the legs in them, of course, belong to everybody’s favorite raunchy comedy darling Gloria Guida. From there it takes a page from the Christina Lindberg romp Exponerad (1971) as she’s chased, surrounded and then raped by a gang of bikers. We learn that Guida is Valeria Sanna and she’s summoned to the doctor’s office for a medical check-up. Right when the doctor is about to get naughty with her, her class mates burst in, wearing colorful corsets, and Valeria punishes the medic with castration. By this time sister Angela (Nicoletta Amadio) has found the schoolgirls in the woods and Valeria attempts to corrupt the good sister with some sapphic seduction. In her next flight of fancy Valeria finds herself topless and crucified by evil men and women of the cloth until a band of schoolgirls and nuns come to her rescue. She’s brought before the court of the headmaster (Giulio Donnini) and is instructed to return home for the summer and spent time with her dysfunctional family.

Things take a turn towards well-charted and rather daft commedia sexy all’Italiana and melodramatic territory when Valeria returns home. Her absentee father (Marco Guglielmi) has an office affair with his secretary. Her young and attractive mother (Rosemary Dexter) has an affair with wealthy entrepreneur Carlo Savi (Giacomo Rossi Stuart, as Giacomo Rossi-Stuart) while their in-house maid Carlotta (Gabriella Lepori) is in a tryst with Valeria’s constantly horny brother Lorenzo (Luciano Roffi). Valeria herself is the object of everybody’s attention as she can’t sunbathe topless without being spied on from nearby boats and no less than twice do a gang of schoolboys break-and-enter into her house to watch her undress. One day while wandering the beach she makes her acquaintance with Spartaco (Corrado Pani), a middle-aged sculptor living in a shack. An unlikely bond develops between the two and soon Valeria finds herself torn between interest in boys of her own age and her growing affection towards the cultured and worldly social pariah Spartaco. In a scene towards the end Giacomo Rossi-Stuart’s Carlo has Valeria dressing up as a internment camp prisoner while he poses as a Nazi officer and tries to lure Valeria in bed. At that point her mother enters the room and she’s none too pleased with her lover. It is then that Valeria realizes that she’s no longer interested in the adolescent boys that cause her so much grief, but in old Spartaco instead.

There are far and few Gloria Guida commedia sexy all’Italiana that are truly mandatory. The Minor is too routine and by-the-numbers to warrant recommendation outside of the opening 15 minutes that have Gloria partaking in various of daydreams. The Minor offers ample opportunity for Guida to shine as she’s put in (and out of) various alluring garments; be it the schoolgirl outfit with a skimpiest blue skirt and diaphanous knee-high socks, miniscule see-through lingerie and the blue bikini that features in most of the beach scenes. Seeing Guida is always a delight but no amount of bare skin can mask just how hideously banal The Minor truly is. Guida never shied away from nudity and The Minor has enough of Gloria in the buff to satisfy anyone’s cravings, the plot however is as trite as many of these comedies were wont to be. Gloria Guida might not have been the most gifted of actresses, but her shapely derrière and her willingness to shed clothes allowed her a steady career in bawdy commedia sexy all’Italiana. Obviously not all of her comedies and melodramas were created equal, but at the very least most were enjoyable in the basest sense of the word.

Granted, Gloria Guida was no Barbara Bouchet, Femi Benussi or even Evelyn Kraft. If The Minor proves anything it is that even Guida was too good to waste on mediocre swill like this. The creativity that it manifests and the goodwill that it generates in the first 15 minutes is too easily squandered as The Minor is yet another coming-of-age melodrama that banks entirely on miss Guida’s willingness to generously disrobe in front of the camera. The screenplay by Piero Regnoli has nothing significant to add to the genre – and not even the on-screen romance between Guida and Corrado Pani was all that novel by this point. Guida had been romancing men old enough to be her father before and after in Mario Imperoli’s Monika (1974) and Blue Jeans (1975). That The Minor plays out almost exactly like the earlier Scandinavian Exponerad (1971) proves just how moot the entire exercise was, even if it’s livelier than its Swedish predecessor. The opening 15 minutes alone manifest more creativity than the remainder of the feature can ever be bothered to muster. The Minor is far from director Silvio Amadio’s best, but it more than signifies that his best days were very well behind him now. While Guida’s ass was at least as famous as Benussi’s, Femi possessed a kind of vibrant versatility that Gloria never quite got a hold of.

Whether one can stomach the average Gloria Guida commedia sexy all’Italiana is entirely dependent on one's tolerance for Benny Hill slapstick shenanigans from buffoons as Lino Banfi and Alvaro Vitali as well as the usual amount of tragedy that was obligatory in these features. Nobody in the right mind watches these things for the story and the reason why everybody is here is to see Gloria Guida in the buff. The Minor is slightly more creative than the usual fare that Guida found herself in, but it is never able to consolidate that initial and early promise. Each and every excuse is still good enough to have glorious Gloria undress but it hardly guarantees an engaging, let alone compelling experience. Thankfully Gloria would be soon become a superstar with her role as the luscious la liceale in Michele Massimo Tarantini’s La Liceale (1975) (released in North America as The Teasers) and the controversial satire To Be Twenty (1978) with Lilli Carati. The Minor isn’t necessarily terrible – but it’s not good enough to warrant recommendation either. It’s a commedia sexy all’Italiana on auto-pilot, and it shows.

Plot: reclusive gambler is forced out of retirement when a rival kills his wife

When Jing Wong puts his mind to things and gets it right, he does so with flying colors. In the half decade between God Of Gambers (1989) and this sequel a number of spin-offs and sub-franchises kept the burgeoning gambling genre alive. Chow Yun-Fat, now a veritable HK action star thanks to his work with John Woo, returned to his iconic role as Ko Chun. God Of Gamblers Return is everything that the first movie was but bigger in every sense of the word. Tightly directed, beautifully photographed and with a cast including, among others, Tony Leung, Chingmy Yau, Elvis Tsui and Ng Sin-Lin God Of Gamblers Return is one of those rare sequels that is actually better than the original film. The action is hard-hitting, the jokes work, and the women are uniformly beautiful. In God Of Gamblers Return everthing works and it’s free of Wong’s more annoying tendencies. No wonder it passed the HK$ 50 million (HK52,541,028) mark at the HK box office.

God Of Gamblers (1989) established gambling as a genre of its own. An official sequel not immediately forthcoming Jing Wong (and others) capitalized on the movie’s box office success with All For the Winner (1990) and Casino Tycoon (1992). All For the Winner spoofed God Of Gambers but was succesfull enough to become its own franchise. God Of Gamblers II (1990) acted both a sequel to the Chow Yun-Fat original and as a pseudo-sequel to the earlier All For the Winner (1990). All For the Winner (1990) was headlined by rising star Stephen Chow and The Top Bet (1991) installed Carol Cheng Yu-Ling and Anita Mui as the star gamblers. For maximum possible confusion Cheng Yu-Ling starred in The Queen of Gamble (1991). God of Gamblers III: Back to Shanghai (1991) took an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach and is probably the craziest of the Stephen Chow sub-franchise. It wasn’t until 1994 that Wong produced an official sequel to his earlier smash hit. Evidently God Of Gamblers Return was worth the wait.

It has been 5 long years since Ko Chun, the God Of Gambers (Chow Yun-Fat) has made any public appearances. In his absence his apprentice Little Knife has since become a reputable gambler of great renown. For four years Chun has lived in great anonimity in France where he picked up painting. Since a year he’s back at home and living a quiet life on his opulent estate with his pregnant second wife Wan Yau (Sharla Cheung, as Man Cheung), a spitting image of his first spouse. His friend Lung Ng (Charles Heung Wah-Keung) comes over for a visit and the two engage in a friendly shooting match in the gardens of the estate. Suddenly a convoy of black limos arrive at the estate disgorging the number one contender to Ko Chun’s title, Chau Siu Chue (Wu Hsing-Guo). Ko Chun’s wife Wan Yau is brutally shot, gutted and his unborn son is torn from the womb and kept in a jar. All mere preamble to coerce Ko Chun into a gambling duel in Taiwan. Yau forbids Chun to gamble and reveal his identity for a year as to not plunge him into an impulsive act of retribution. As Yau passes away in his arms Ko Chun promises to honor her dying wish. For the next 11 months Chun travels the world as a shadow, avoiding most human contact and never having his picture taken.

He arrives in Mainland China where dazzling beautiful young girl Hoi Tong (Chingmy Yau Suk-Ching) catches his eye when taking a picture. Before long he’s making his acquaintance with her precocious little brother Hoi Yuen (Xie Miao) and their gangster father Hoi On (Blacky Ko Sau-Leung, as Blackie Ko). A power struggle within the criminal organisation that Hoi On works for has ambitious underling Tao Kwun (Ken Lo Wai-Kwong) violently attacking the boat on Qingdao lake that Ko Chun and his new friends are on. In his dying breath Hoi On entrusts Ko Chun with the care of his children. As they wash ashore in Mainland China they are immediately arrested and detained by the communist People's Armed Police under command of Capt. Kok Ching Chung (Elvis Tsui Kam-Kong) and his high-maintenance wife (Bonnie Fu Yuk-Jing). Thanks to some quick thinking Ko Chun and Hoi Yuen escape imprisonment, but their daring escape leads to a massive hard-target manhunt of the two fugitive felons. The duo seek shelter in a nearby low-rent motel where they meet grifter sibling duo Siu Fong-Fong or Little Trumpet (Tony Leung Ka-Fai) and his younger sister Siu Yiu-Yiu, or Little Guitar (Ng Sin-Lin, as Chien-Lien Wu) who is terrible as a hostess and even worse as a waitress but harbors a crush on the God Of Gamblers, of whom she possesses a picture.

The People's Armed Police eventually surround the motel where Hoi Yuen has defeated the grifters at Black Jack. The police assault to building razing it to the ground in the process and the gang gets away by pretending to be police officers and taking commander Bo hostage. The four charter a boat to Tainam, Taiwan as command of the police forces is taken over by Cheung Po Sing (Wong Kam-Kong), a mentalist who refers to himself as the Treasure of Mainland. The gang arrive in Taiwan with only three days to spare. En route to the Taiwanese casino Ko Chun and the gang reconnect with Hoi Tong, who makes a spectacular entrance in the establishment. Bound to keep his identity secret Ko Chun pretends to be Little Knife, the apprentice of the God Of Gamblers with Little Trumpet taking on Ko Chun’s identity. Chan Gam Sing (Bau Hon-Lam), Cho’s opponent from the first film, warns the God Of Gamblers that Chau Siu Chue will stop at nothing to defeat him. Chau Siu Chue’s forces storm the casino and in the ensuing fracas Little Guitar takes a bullet but not before realizing that she spent her dying moments (and the days before) in company of her biggest idol. Sworn to avenge the slayings of Little Guitar and his wife Wan Yau, Ko Chun faces off against Chau Siu Chue, the self-proclaimed Devil Of Gamblers, in a match of Chinese poker.

There couldn’t be a bigger difference between this movie and the first. God Of Gamblers for the most part was a situational – and slapstick comedy bookended by high-stake gambling segments from whence it derived its name. God Of Gamblers Return on the other hand makes full use of Yun-Fat’s new status as HK action star. The many bullet ballet action scenes are redolent of John Woo, be it that they only miss the characteristic long trenchcoats and cool sunglasses. The comedy now is merely limited to moments in between dramatic character scenes, violent shoot-outs, and the thing everybody’s here for: the gambling matches. Chow Yun-Fat obviously relished in returning to one of his most famous characters, and whether he’s playing the suave, worldly gambler or the scruffy looking every guy in his civilian identity Yun-Fat shines. Tony Leung’s Little Trumpet is an obvious substitute for Andy Lau’s Little Knife (who starred in his own gambling franchise with All For the Winner) and the chemistry between Yun-Fat, Leung and Ng Sin-Lin is one of the movie’s greatest accomplishments.

Jing Wong never hid his adoration for Chingmy Yau, and who in the right mind could possibly blame him? In 1994 Yau was a HK superstar thanks to her appearances in Naked Killer (1992), Future Cops (1993), the wuxia spoof Legend of the Liquid Sword (1993), the failed franchise launcher Kung Fu Cult Master (1993) with Jet Li and City Hunter (1993) with Jackie Chan and Joey Wong. It’s common knowledge that Wong and Yau had an affair for many years prior to Chingmy’s marriage in 1999. No other woman in the cast, not even the considerably higher profile Sharla Cheung, gets as many flattering shots and the most beautiful dresses to wear as Yau gets here. The scene where Hoi Tong makes her entrance in the Taiwan casino and cuts the cards for the goons is legendary for all the right reasons. Yau gets to show some leg and partake in an impressive bout wire-fu stuntwork in a sequence that borrows equally from his earlier Naked Killer (1992) and Future Cops (1993), respectively. No matter what role Wong cast Yau in she always was sure to steam up whatever scenes she was in even if the movie itself was a dud.

God Of Gamblers Return is in all ways superior to the 1989 original. Chow Yun-Fat was a handful of years away from conquering the western world with the period costume wuxia Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000). God Of Gamblers Return makes full usage of Yun-Fat’s status as a HK action star and the aspect is played up more than before. Some two decades later Xie Miao would star in Tsui Hark's The Thousand Faces Of Dunjia (2017). Jing Wong’s juvenile humor is kept an absolute minimum. Obviously God Of Gamblers Return was a prestige project for Wong as no expenses were spared making it bigger and better than the original. Wong puts greater emphasis on the characters and the arc that each goes through as the movie progresses. Of course God Of Gamblers Return is a popcorn flick at heart and even though it will occassionally pull some sentimental strings it makes no pretense of being a drama or character study. Jing Wong will never be a Tsui Hark but when a philistine like him gets things right fireworks do tend to follow…