The Singing Thief (1969)

Directed by
An anomaly in Chang Cheh's career
Reviewed by Simon on 2024-07-08

After spending five years in prison, a notorious jewel thief establishes himself as a nightclub singer, with his act playing on his love for diamonds and theft (and beautiful women). The police naturally look to him when a thief leaves his signature calling card - a red carnation - at the scene, and he resolves to catch the imposter himself to clear his name.

This film is a curveball in the early career of Chang Cheh, best known for his period martial arts films and his particular vision of masculinity. It swerves into another popular genre of the time, the socialite thief, that was in turn influenced by contemporary spy films.

The style is luridly 1960's, full of the outrageous fashions and wide-eyed optimism of 60's pop culture. Its glamorous stars are living the high society life and thumbing their beautiful noses at keystone cops and societal conventions, or whatever. It's hard to view it as anything other than pastiche from this remove.

It's a lightweight film but towards the end things start to get darker, and it begins to feel like Chang Cheh is exerting more of himself over the script. The finale even takes place in a movie studio, amongst the sets and stages on which Shaw Brothers shot their period films, suggesting that the director really couldn't wait to get back to them.