2 July 2008 | BrianDanaCamp
YOUNG PEOPLE Kung fu stars go to college
YOUNG PEOPLE (1972) is easily the most unusual film I've yet seen from either Chang Cheh or the Shaw Bros. studio. It features three of the studio's top kung fu stars, David Chiang, Ti Lung and Chen Kuan Tai (who would all team up again with Chang Cheh the following year for the swordplay classic, BLOOD BROTHERS), yet it's set at a contemporary Hong Kong college campus and details the activities of a large group of students as they prepare for a set of competitions and 10th Anniversary festivals. One group, led by David Chiang, prepares some musical entertainment. One group, led by Ti Lung, plays basketball. And the third group, led by Chen Kuan Tai, practices kung fu. In the midst of it all, the three stars decide to participate in a go-kart race.
There isn't much in the way of plot. The basketball game takes up 20 minutes of the first 45 minutes. The go-kart race takes up 20 minutes of the last half-hour. At least there's kung fu in the middle portion. Chen Kuan Tai has a few good scenes of fighting competition, including a grueling bout with Wang Ching, a regular villain and frequent opponent of Chen in the studio's actual kung fu films.
I was actually most interested in the musical numbers. David Chiang plays the drums throughout the opening credits and leads a drum ensemble in the final number. In between, there are three songs performed in English by a teenage singer named Agnes Chan, billed as Agnes Chen Mei-ling. First is a cover of Joni Mitchell's "The Circle Game" and later she does Carole King's "You've Got a Friend." Both songs are sung in their entirety. At the closing festival, she sings a song that was unfamiliar to me, but sounded similar, a little TOO similar perhaps, to the Burt Bacharach/Hal David song, "What the World Needs Now is Love."
Agnes's actual older sister, Irene Chen I Ling, plays the leading flirt on campus, Princess, who throws herself at whatever guy has won the latest event. She's initially Chen Kuan Tai's girl, but moves over to Ti Lung after he wins the basketball game. She then goes back to Chen after he wins the kung fu championship. Finally, she tries to move in on David after he wins the go-kart race, but she's in for a rude shock there. Aside from her fickle behavior, though, she's actually quite charming. Her back-and-forth with the guys is pretty much the only thing in the film that might get classified as plot.
The basketball team consists of other regular kung fu players at the studio, including Wang Chung, Billy Tang, Wong Kwong Yue, and muscular Yang Sze (aka "Bolo" Yeung, best known for his fight with Bruce Lee in ENTER THE DRAGON). Shaw Bros. regular Wu Ma is one of the musicians who works with David.
Agnes Chan turns out to have been a popular recording star in Hong Kong and Japan in the 1970s. The version we hear of "The Circle Game" was actually a hit recording she made before the film was produced. She also turns up the following year in another Chang Cheh youth drama, the counterculture romance, GENERATION GAP, also reviewed on this site, in which she sings a bunch of different songs, all in English as well. At least that one had a plot.