“Made In Chinatown” Finding Love, Culture And Heritage
Black Belt|August/September 2021
Question: What’s crazier than sending your horse to audition for The Godfather, wackier than two parrots saying, “Are you talking to me?” and wilder than the Scarecrow introducing Toto to the Wizard of Oz by stating, “Say hello to my little friend,” and thereafter referring to himself as the Scar-crow?
By Dr. Craig D. Reid

Answer: Jay Kwon starring as wishful wise guy Vinny Chow, a man who walks the fine Canal Street line between Chinatown Triads and Little Italy mobsters to win over an Italian girl in the insanely absurd comedy Made in Chinatown.

Co-directed by Robert Samuels, Made in Chinatown, like any bizarre-yet-engaging satire, is smartly cheeky — and perhaps wittily upsetting and prohibitively challenging for some. Many visuals and lines of dialogue are blatantly or wryly armed with backdoor humor, inside jokes and in-your-face puns, and they’re all balanced or unbalanced by guilt, gaslighting and the occasional attempt to toss your emotions under the bus.

As a lad, Samuels was tossed out of public school in third grade and Catholic school in fourth. Consequently, he was sent to a military academy to finish his primary education. “At 10, my aunt took me to see Lo Lieh in Five Fingers of Death,” Samuels recalled. “At that moment, I knew I wanted to learn kung fu, do kung fu movies and work with all the Shaw Brothers guys.

“I [soon] met Maurice Tunstall in Philadelphia. He said doing Bruce Lee imitations wasn’t real kung fu and offered to teach me hung gar. As I started watching kung fu films, I realized I was doing kung fu and have never stopped.”

When Samuels came of age, he pursued his film passion by getting a job at US Airways so he could fly back and forth to Hong Kong for free. The gamble paid off. He hooked up with hung gar specialist Chiu Chi Ling, who became his manager. Samuels’ first booked film, appropriately titled The Gambling Ghost, was released in 1991. It starred the great Sammo Hung and …

“A dream come true — Lo Lieh was in the film,” Samuels exclaimed.

The American then faced the biggest decision of his life. The movie finished a week ahead of schedule, and Samuels was owed $5,000. The producers asked him to forgo his fee. Samuels insisted on talking to Hung. “We weren’t close,” Samuels recalled, “yet I told him I’d forfeit the money on one condition: I [could] work with him again in the future. He said, ‘You’re willing to forfeit $5,000 to work with me again?’ I said, ‘In a heartbeat.’ He replied, ‘Deal.’”

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“Made In Chinatown” Finding Love, Culture And Heritage

Question: What’s crazier than sending your horse to audition for The Godfather, wackier than two parrots saying, “Are you talking to me?” and wilder than the Scarecrow introducing Toto to the Wizard of Oz by stating, “Say hello to my little friend,” and thereafter referring to himself as the Scar-crow?

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