You are currently displaying English
貓頭鷹與小飛象 (1984)
The Owl vs Bumbo

Reviewed by: Masterofoneinchpunch
Date: 05/11/2009
Summary: Hung Vs. Lam

Sammo Hung's most sagacious period in his oeuvre for both local and transnational success was his string of comedic martial art infused fare in the 80s. Though comparing this to Prodigal Son is like comparing a Hyperion to a satyr (Hamlet anyone?). Up until this film I didn't think he had a bad/mediocre 80s film. But this film was an audience smash though making over 21 million Hong Kong dollars made after his previous success Wheels on Meals that same year. No matter what I think of this film Sammo was in tune with his audience.

Many Hong Kong films mix genres haphazardly. Sometimes it will be broad comedy with brutal violence like From Beijing with Love or drama with out-of-place action scenes like Heart of Dragon. This film does something a bit different: it interjects the broad martial arts comedy with societal message that is more akin to certain western fare (On Deadly Ground or The Great Dictator) with long harangues of dramatic passages that feel so out of place that you wonder what is trying to be accomplished. There were also uneven in tone: one actually was quite good of a kid explaining the difficulties of being a son of a prostitute and one was tedious as a female teenage prostitute brings Michelle's character to tears in a most annoying didactic speech.

There is also the problem that many Hong Kong films do during this era -- stealing scores from other films. Some of this musical soundtrack is from Phantasm and Escape From New York.

Owl is the sophisticated George Lam Chi-cheung (first time I have even seen this singer act but his acting is quite natural even in bizarre situations; he also was nominated for a Hong Kong award for Best Original Song from this film) and Bombo is the unrefined Sammo Hung (aka Dumbo or Bumbo depending on which translation is used; I think there was just some issue or fear with the legality of using the Disney's character name outside of Hong Kong) two ex-thieves who are being blackmailed by an ex-cop Fung (Stanley Fung: Winners and Sinners) to do two jobs or else have there past paraded to cops for potential life employment in the big house. Their first job is to help troubled kids at a youth center. Why? I have no idea. I have read one review stating that it is to see if they work together so they can pull off the second job, but nothing in what I saw (and several other reviews I have read have had the same problem) shows that. Plus the second job happens quite quickly and is really just there to set up the ending with Au Gun (James Tien: Fearless Hyena) once again playing a cigar chomping bad guy.

There is also a romantic sub-plot that is thrown in between Owl and Ms. Yeung and Bumbo and Joyce Leung (Deannie Yip: Pom Pom) who is the superintendent of the school. The owl relationship seems too contrived, but the one between Sammo and Deannie works out decently (of course Sammo is the director).

However, there are some great scenes in this film. Sammo Hung has a great scene as a tights wearing aerobic instructor and throughout the film he shows despite his rotund exterior he can flip, fight and astound me with his physical virtuosity. In fact one scene (out of nowhere) he puts on a montage of Fred Astaire dance moves (or Fred Astaire inspired; I recognize a few but not all the routines Sammo does) that is quite good and ends with a nice little duet with Deannie. There is another homage to From Soup To Nuts (1928), a short with Laurel and Hardy though Anita Garvin does the gag in that movie, dealing with an errant cherry and a spoon. The fighting is quite good even if you recognize that George Lam is doubled constantly, and the abuse of stuntmen is prevalent in those scenes. Though I think fans of Sammo Hung would probably want more comedy and more action than what you find in this film.

This is Michelle Yeoh's first film (I do not think she knew Cantonese that well at this point though) and she does no fighting and seems a bit out-of-place though it does make sense if you know that she would later marry the founder of the production company behind this film D & B's Dickson Poon (and later divorce him). She has even stated this film was an impetus for her to get into action since "…I saw the men having all the fun doing the action scenes and I wanted to do that too." (City on Fire Stokes/Hoover)

And way at the bottom of this review I will state that there is a great esoteric in-joke with Fung Ging-man (an elderly man who has acted in hundreds of Hong Kong films) and his clothing attire that cannot be explained unless you know what I am talking about.

The Universe R0 DVD I own is an OK DVD though out-of-print. The print quality is decent. The English subtitles are many times quite hilarious with their grammatical errors and bizarre use of the language. However, both Mandarin and Cantonese audios are on here. It has a trailer for this film as well as a non-subtitled "Where's Officer Tuba (1986)" also starring Sammo Hung. There are currently no R1 DVDs of this film.

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: cal42
Date: 09/26/2006
Summary: The Kids Are Alright

Two retired thieves (George Lam as “The Owl” and Sammo Hung as “Dumbo”) are blackmailed into teaching at a local Youth Probation Centre by ex-cop Chung (Fung Shui-Fan). There, they teach the youngsters the value of self-respect. But their criminal past is never far behind…

This is more commonly called “Owl Vs Bumbo” or even “Owl Vs Bombo” due to problems translating this title into English. It’s also one of the lesser-known Sammo Hung films from the 80’s, being made by D & B films and not Golden Harvest (Sammo would later do another film for them – the excellent WHERE’S OFFICER TUBA?)

Although it veers into ultra-corny territory on occasions, OWL VS DUMBO is not a bad film – but it hasn’t aged terribly well. There seems to have been an emphasis on wrenching dramatic performances from the characters, which jars with the action elements of the film a bit. It’s all due to these troubled kids in the Youth Probation Centre – who predictably start off as uncontrollable louts, but later are well on the way to becoming fine upstanding citizens thanks to the work of Miss Yeung (Michelle Yeoh in her first role) and “Mr Wong” (George Lam – who actually seems to be able to act quite convincingly). There are a few speeches along the way by these terrible teens (and we switch to live sound in one of the more dramatic ones – give that kid an award!) and it’s purely a matter of taste as to whether you’re going to like this or not. Me, I find melodrama’s such a drag, man.

Given all the furious acting and the warm fuzzy message, it’s easy to forget that there’s also a typical 80’s style actioner in there as well. Here, the film does please. On the bad guy side, we have veteran thugs like Tai Bo and Dick Wei who both get to show their stuff. The lead bad guy is of course James Tien, although his role is strictly confined to laughing evilly and wearing sharp suits. The action is swift and quite brutal (well, it IS a Sammo Hung film!) but pretty sparse.

No review of OWL VS DUMBO is complete without mentioning the dance routine that Sammo pulls off halfway through the film. For a few minutes, the film takes on a kind of SINGING IN THE RAIN persona, culminating in a tap-dancing finale. It sounds bizarre (hell, it IS!) but it’s surprisingly great and worth watching the film for this sequence alone.

There are also a few nice touches on the camerawork too (love that tracking shot going between the ladies’ legs in the gym!) that show that some thought has gone into the production.

Cautiously recommended.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: dandan
Date: 03/08/2006
Summary: best ever title for a film?

well, it's a 1984 film directed by and starring sammo hung, it was bound to be good. throw in george lam and michelle yeoh, in her motion picture debut (?), and it just gets better, even if she's not involved in any of the action...

the owl - george - and bumbo - sammo - are two crooks who get blackmailed into helping out at a youth probation centre. it's kinda like 'kindergarden cop'...

well, not really...

it's a pretty funny film, there's a great dance section performed by sammo, there's some solid melodrama thrown in and some pretty good action sequences. some of the fights are over a little too quickly, but they're of a pretty good standard.

all in all, a very enjoyable watch.

Reviewed by: Frank Lakatos
Date: 02/10/2006
Summary: Technically, cinematically, this is Sammo Hung's best modern day movie..

After reading the innacurate and error filled Asian Trash Cinema books, I only heard gripes about this movie. Well, as usual, I disagree with the authors, because this is one funny movie, that is well written, with well placed comedic and dramatic elements, and the action is back breaking and edgy as Sammo Hung's modern movies were during the golden age of Hong Kong cinema in the early 80's. The dramatic elemnts in the reform school are so well done, that i haven't seen any HK movie attempt to recreate this storyline in such a way, or successfully. The actors and actresses act beautifully in those scenes, as the talented and classy George Lam brings out the talent of the actors in those scenes. Sammo Hung's scenes with Deannie Yip are hilarious, and speaking of Michelle Yeoh, who is young and as beautiful as ever, does beautiful dramatic work playing the young reform school teacher, who is constantly verbally abused by her disfunctional students. I wonder why she was never awarded for that role. Loaded with cameos from old Hong Kong greats, who play the mob bosses, and exciting, frenetic and high impact fight scenes, this is an excellent modern day HK action comedy, made in the Golden Age of HK cinema, in the early 80's. Sammo Hung shows an incredible amount of dancing and acrobatic talents, as Hung does a tribute to Fred Astaire in a spectacular and funny vaudville dancing act that adds to the greatness of the movie. Technically, cinematically, this is Sammo Hung's best modern day movie, as well as George Lam's best work, but it's Lam who really holds the movie together, because of the dramatic scenes. Hilarious, yet intensly dramatic and human. A quality balance. Highly recommended. 5/5

Reviewed by: mpongpun
Date: 12/27/2003

How can Sammo Hung go from starting his career as playing mostly brute bad guys to corny characters like “Bumbo” in this one? I could never have imagined Sammo in a flick doing a tap dance number or trying to scoop up a cherry like an idiot. This flick is a rather tamed action comedy about a couple former thieves named Owl (George Lam) and Bumbo (Sammo Hung) who are both blackmailed by a sullen cop named Chung (Stanley Fung Shui Fan) who is tired of police corruption in regards to gangster named Au Gan (James Tien) that he has been trying to bring down for ages. In order to gain Owl and Bumbo’s cooperation to help him bring down Au Gan, Chung uses their past crimes as a way of taming them—the twosome need to follow Chung’s orders or risk him spilling the beans to the authorities. Anyways, for the life of me, I can’t figure why Chung would assign Owl and Dumbo to some Probation center to help out some juvenile delinquents. Maybe it’s some social message for the viewers? Next, Chung assigns Owl and Dumbo to jack up the bid price of a lot of land at an auction that Au Gan is also bidding for. Unfortunately, Owl and Bumbo screw this up and now has Au Gan on their backs. In the meantime, the kids at the probation center are busting their asses and finding out what it takes to succeed in the real world. Nevertheless, Au Gan has plans to get back at Owl and Bumbo and uses the kids at the probation center as a way to strike back. Check out the ending, if you’ve seen the ending, it is very similar to Liu Chia Liang’s LADY IS THE BOSS where the kids ride around on bikes duking it out with the bad guys.

Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 01/13/2002

Brillent comedy starring 2 kings of comedy, Sammo Hung and George Lam. Very funny all the way through. Deannie Yip gets annoying though at times. This is also one of Michelle Yeohs first movies, and plays a shy school teacher.

Very good.

Rating: 4/5

(This rating is based on the year & genre, so don't think it's based as a comparison on new releases etc.)

Reviewed by: Cissi
Date: 06/26/2001
Summary: 7/10-Quite entertaining

Another good comedy-martial arts film from Sammo Hung. At the time Michelle Yeoh was just starting out, and her partner, owner of D&B, wanted to promote her. Her role in the film, however, is pretty limited as a gentle teacher trying to teach a group of disinterested young people.

Since there is no synopsis here, I'll provide one :) Sammo Hung and George Lam are two robbers who, after a major robbery decide to go clean. However, they are forced to work together for a volunteer association, run by a weird sounding Deanne Yip, when a policeman, Stanley Fung, sends a letter to them each threatening to expose their roles in the robbery.

A pleasant surprise was Season Ma, who makes an appearance in this as a morose, black-clad young woman. She gives a searing, emotional speech half-way through the film. What a talented actress, shame she didn't do more films!

Typical of Hung's films, there are great fight scenes, like the impressive end ones. An interesting fight scene was Stanley Fung vs Sammo Hung, with Fung showing he's not bad with a broom stick. I didn't find this film particularly funny, save for a part where Wu Ma makes a pretty amusing cameo in the cafeteria.
A scene I found was hilarious was the BMX Calvary, complete with bugle!

Overall, it's pretty entertaining, with Hung and Lam working well together. But if you want to see Michelle Yeoh fight, then you'll have to watch something else :)

Reviewed by: Spot
Date: 01/02/2001

I heard this movie was only worth watching if you HAVE TO see everything Michelle Yeoh has done! Ok, That's me!
So I bought the DVD & it sat around for a long time before I finally watched it!
This movie was great! Entertaining from beginning to end! There's more comedy than action, but it's very funny & alot of fun! Try it!