The Legend of the Purple Hairpin

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 January, 2011, 12:00am

An adaptation of Tong Tik-sang's now-legendary Cantonese Opera piece - which premiered at the now-defunct Lee Theatre in 1957 - The Legend of the Purple Hairpin boasts a star-studded cast. Directed by Lee Tit, the film features divas Yam Kim-fai and Pak Suet-sin (left with Yam), who play the story's lead lovers, and Lan Chi Pak, the sinister official who tries to break up the relationship. Leung Sing-po plays the pair's friend as well as the mysterious 'man in yellow' who exposes plans to separate the couple.

By 1957, Tong had proved his ability to move beyond the stage and work for the screen - he wrote and directed the Mysterious Murder diptych (1951) and the opera adaptation The Dream Encounter Between Emperor Wu of Han and Lady Wai (1954) - but Purple Hairpin was his most famous work. After its release in February 1959 - seven months before Tong died from a cerebral haemorrhage at the age of 42 - the film became the benchmark by which Cantonese-language musicals were measured.

There have since been other screen adaptations, but none to rival the power of the original. Jan 8, 7pm, Feb 5, 4.30pm, HK Film Archive (Cantonese with English subtitles).