Fu Sheng, Chi Kun Kuan, Gordon Liu, Leung Kar Yan, Wang Lung Wei. MA
by many to be a classic, the early Lau Kar Leung-choreographed performances
here are, by modern standards, quite dull and quite slow. Most of
the good guys (FS, CKK, GL) perform hung gar (elements from tiger-crane,
lau gar kune and kung gee fook foo). Fu Sheng performs the tiger-crane
form repeatedly. GL gets eagle claw training (but it faintly resembles
the real thing). LKY and WLL play villains with iron bodies (so they
don't have to move much). CKK supposedly learns wing chun, but the
wing chun training consists entirely of body-piercing one-inch finger
strikes (not really wing chun).
CKK's sifu is guy who plays the fat Japanese villain from "Chinese
Connection". This film is for the bored, and for avid Shaw Brothers
Bruce Lee, Bruce Lee imitators, Dan Inosanto, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Chi
Hon Choi, Bob Wall. MA rating: 4
the cheesiness of the Bruce Lee imitators and special effects
meant to hide the unconvicing appearance of these players (sunglasses,
back of the head camera angles), this is a fun romp that captures
some aura of Lee, some atmosphere of Hong Kong of the late 1970s,
and a story that (if you accept the campiness) is enjoyable.
Hung does a nice job choreographing the imitators in Lee-isms (although
he does a much better job himself; see "Enter the Fat Dragon"),
a few of whom are decent tae kwon do-style kickers. Sammo has a cameo
and lets himself get beaten by an over the hill Bob Wall.
last ten minutes of pure Lee is worth the wait. This film is a far
cry from Lee's original concept for the film. What remains of it,
the finale, is enlightening and contains some JKD that is less filtered
than in other Lee films.
Inosanto (the escrima and nunchaku expert), Lee disarms with a bamboo
cane (unfortunately, we don't get Lee doing escrima) to battle with
nunchakus. Against Chi Hon Choi (hapkido), Lee employs clever distance-closing/direct
and indirect attacks, and a variety of throws (not seen in any other
Lee films). Against Jabbar, Lee uses his surroundings (sunlight, stairway),
and ends the duel with groundfighting and chokeholds.
OF THE WHITE LOTUS
Lau Kar Fei (Liu Chia Hui), Lo Lieh, Wai Ying Hung. MA rating: 5
kung fu movie with one of those great stories that is technique- inspired.
After Lau pursues White Lotus (chi kung) master Lo Lieh with hung gar
(tiger crane, done skillfully), he goes away to train in new variations
of tiger crane. He also turns to Wai Ying Hung (one of the great kung
fu movie women ever), who teaches him a soft woman's style of kung fu
(a mu lan/wu shu variation), and a doctor who shows him how to attack
acu-points. As with so many Lau Kar Leung-choreographed films, this
one is full of martial arts lessons about intentionality, sensitivity,
and hard vs. soft technique. This is one of Lo Lieh's absolute finest
performances. A superb classic.
KUNG FU OF SHAOLIN
unknowns from mainland China. MA rating: 4.5
80s mainland production that has similar feel as Shaolin Assassin and
also features unknown but very good wu shu performers. The hero of this
one reminds of Don Wong (Wang Tao) in his prime, with similar Shaolin-based
moves (not wu shu; something more practical). But this guy is faster
and more skilled. Plenty of temple training sequences early on. Shot
on location in the Kaifeng/Loyang/Shaolin temple area of China.
many punks and Donnie Yen. MA rating: 2
attempt to cash in on the 'Young & Dangerous' wave, this ensemble
caper about a bunch of teenage/young adult idiots and smartass toddlers
("Ho wah! Ho wah! Tee hee!") is worthless. Donnie has a minor
role and throws his
usual moves, but as usual, there is not nearly enough of him. (He must
needed the cash.)
WILL FINALLY KNOCK YOU DOWN, DAD
Chin Siu Ho, Ko Fei, Chen Kuan Tai. MA rating: 5
the goofy title, and this is a gem. Done in the early 1980s, this comedy
introduced a young Chin Siu Ho as a Yuen Biao-type comedy fighter. Indeed,
Chin's acting and kung fu here are VERY similar to Yuen's early work
(probably because Shaw Brothers wanted to compete with their cross Hong
Kong rivals). So is the story, reminiscent of "Prodigal Son".
Chin, Ko Fei and (surprisingly) Chen Kuan Tai show off very crisp, acrobatic,
intricately-choreographed old school kung fu that is satisfying. Highly
entertaining. It is too bad Chin Siu Ho never followed this performance
with more pure martial arts films.
Leung Kar Yan, Chow Yun Fat, Eddie Ko Hung, Yuen Yat Chor. MA rating:
by Ronny Yu and choreographed by Yuen Wo-Ping, this tale about a
bunch of bandit-fighting couriers (mailmen) during the early days of
Chinese republic is a listless bore. The cast literally wanders through
countryside, and the bandit finale is predictable and boring. The film
demonstrates the ugly truth that Chow Yun Fat knows how to leer, smoke,
scarves and act cocky, but he lacks the physical skills for MA movies.
naked without his guns, pigeon flocks and slow motion. Thankfully, his
character gets what he deserves---a whipping. The other cast members
brief scenes but they are roughly choreographed (simple, uninteresting).
Stars: Tung Wei, Yam Sai Koon, Roy Chiao. MA rating: 3.5
film that doesn't know what it wants to be. Part bumpkin/gambling
comedy, part whodunit. Except for a few good Tung Wei sequences (he
is very acrobatic, as he was in "Incredible Kung Fu Master"),
not much MA until the end, which is bloody and sloppy.
Stars: Ti Lung, Tam Tao Liang, Hsu Feng. MA rating: 3.5
and confusing Taiwanese production in which Ti Lung plays two parts,
father as well as son. Cheesy special effects (smoke, explosions, etc.)
way too many robed characters (plus a few obligatory "drunken"
coming out of the woodwork. But if you can stay awake, there are some
interesting MA sequences. The last ten minutes is one long battle. This
weapons/swordplay heavy movie, thus you get Ti Lung with a variety of
swords and spears, and one empty hands scene. Compared to his other
films, this is mid-grade Ti Lung. He faces a villain in the end who
does a nice job with a three section staff. Tam has a bit part and throws
a few wheel kicks and gets killed.
Stars: Fan Siu Wong, Yakuri Oshima. MA rating: 0
on the Japanese comic book "Rikki O", this is one bizarre
prison' gore-fest (enviscerations, eyeball pop-outs, etc.) that has
scarcely any MA. Fan Siu Wong is a MA god, and Oshima does a few kicks,
but it's primarily humorous special effects B.S..
IN THE PALACE
Stars: unknowns from mainland China MA rating: 4
Chinese kung fu films have often been better than those from HK or
Taiwan simply because the attitude is different. Stories are serious
on Chinese literature).There are no preening 'movie stars', and those
star are typically serious wu shu players. This very old and appropriately
dusty-feeling picture (at least ten years old?) distributed by SMO
the bill. Based on an novel about a Sung dynasty patriot who infiltrates
Kam (barbarian) clan to retrieve a statue, it feels somewhat like
some of the
very early Shaw pictures. Kung fu is early wu shu (think pre-Jet Li;
basic and not as fancy). Lots of swordplay. Some overuse of slow-mo
players somersaulting over things, but I had fun with this adventure.
? MA rating: quantity-1, quality-4
nicely-done epic about a eunuch in the dying years of the Ching dynasty
is not a kung fu movie. However, there are two excellent kung fu scenes.
has the imperial guards performing a hsing-i form at the Forbidden
other is a fight in a brothel. Worth a look.
Stars: Jet Li, Lam Ching Hsia. MA rating: 0
go-lucky Jet Li flies around, goofs around and does...no martial arts
per se. Imagine the flirting and SPFX scenes from "Kung Fu Cult
two hours. This movie is preposterous, and all about annoying smug
Hsia. A waste of time and talent.
OF FONG SAI YUK
Stars: Meng Fei, Yasuki Kurata, Tam Tao Liang. MA rating: 3
late 90s reissue is actually a compilation that jams together an edited
version of the first ever "Fong Sai Yuk" movie (early 1970s)
starring a very
young Meng Fei and Kurata (as the evil villain), and a later installment
starring a mature Meng Fei and TTL. Part one is the classic and a
favorite. Although the martial arts are crude and brutal (as early
sockys" tend to be), the story of Fong's obsessive training for
home. The second installment has Meng Fei taking the character more
Sheng's version (I'm not sure who came up with the funny/cocky riff
He is a Shaolin agent infiltrating the household of a Shaolin traitor,
disguised as a servant. Non descript martial arts, slightly updated.
shows up to throw his trademark wheel kicks.
Yuen brothers, Mung Hoi, Hwang Jang Lee. MA rating: 5
enjoyable late 1970s classic featuring typically complex choreography
(no identifiable styles), great kicks from HJL and lots of acrobatics
wires). Belongs in the same category as "Knockabout", "Drunken
Comedy that gets somewhat serious with training and revenge. Highly
KING OF KUNG FU
Bruce Le, Hwang Jang Lee. MA rating: unrated
martial arts, there is only a long haired HJL, who (as usual) kicks
great. That's it. But for 1970s campiness, this is a high achievement.
Bruce clone pursues a syndicate in Hong Kong, Paris and Rome (where,
course, he MUST have a duel in the Coliseum). Chugging wah-wah guitars,
bottom jeans, stereotyped Italian mobsters with cigars, bad dubbing,
Bruce Lee imitation from Bruce Le (big sunglasses, making out with
girls, woooo aaahhh!, etc.) Coliseum finale is embarrassing (HJL is
superior, natch.) I have not laughed this hard in months.
Stars: Chik Kun Kwan, Lo Lieh. MA rating: 1
one of the staples of Chang Cheh's Shaw Brothers crew, is one of the
worst actors without a doubt. He struck out on his own after he left
Shaw, and made some horrible films like this sleep-inducing court intrigue.
Chik is slow, not fluid and when nothing else works, he tiger claws
the air (a bit of hung gar), then resumes the bad choreography. Nothing
else to say, except Wu Ma directed it.
Stars: Lam Ching Ying, Tung Wei, Sammo Hung stuntman association. MA
love martial arts movies that feature excellent Peking/Cantonese
opera, this one will satisfy. Although generally lumped into the "horror/ghost"
category, this mid-1980s production from Sammo Hung's crew is a period
opera/martial arts comedy first and a ghost/possession movie second.
Almost all of the "supernatural" stunts are stuntwork (acrobatics
not special effects). You will recognize many of the players from other
Golden Harvest/Sammo films of the era. Fight scenes galore, including
one of the last truly MA-oriented performances by Lam Ching Ying, and
Tung Wei (who plays the Yuen Biao-type cocky young guy).
Stars: Jack Long (Lung Kun Kung), Lee I Min. MA rating: 5
classic directed by Joseph Kuo. An aging pak mei (white eyebrow style)
master played by Jack Long wants to retire as the master of seven provinces,
but receives a final challenge on retirement day. To be sure he has
earned the title, he revisits and rechallenges various masters. The
first half is extremely enjoyable, with Long involved in duel after
duel. Second half is less interesting, as Long's character becomes "ill",
but accepts a new student, Lee I Min (who is actually being set up by
an old foe of Long's to kill Long, using lost pak mei techniques). The
MA is excellently choreographed, but moves do not resemble any real
pak mei I have seen. Lee I Min is annoying as an actor (and his prominence
over the superior Long in the second half is irritating) but it is hard
to deny his agility and speed. A great deal of duels, training sequences.
KISS AND KILL
Stars: Lee I Min, Lung Fei. MA rating: 3
Min and a guy who looks exactly like him (an actor who would later play
Jet Li's buddy in "My Father is A Hero") play a pair of "cocky"
Fu Sheng/Jackie types. A lot of dumb boy-girl "humor". Finale
has the boys fighting Lung Fei, who uses (ridiculously fake) 'crab'
techniques. Acrobatic, flowery old school kung fu movie fighting, with
no identifiable styles to speak of. THe most physically impressive player
is Lung Fei.
Stars: familiar but unknown faces. MA rating: 4.
the title, this is NOT a ghost movie. Rather it is 95% martial arts
comedy, and 5% "wizardry" (a villain who mixes wizardly spells
with MA). This Taiwanese film is directed by Sammo Hung (who hides behind
the pseudonym "Gum Bo" in the credits). Synopsis: a wacky/nuts
expatriate Shaolin monk trains five fighters in various "styles"
of kung fu including flying, gymnastics (precursor to 'Gymkata'), etc.
One of the heroes may be a young Alexander Lo. This guy has moves, including
great kicks. Same for the white-haired villain. Although plenty of action,
film suffers from a little too much silliness and not quite enough serious
Stars: Leung Siu Lung (Bruce Liang), Yasuki Kurata. MA rating: 5
by Ng See Yuen, this is a tour de force for the two stars. Certainly
one of the best performances of Leung's career (which was marred by
one too many Bruce Lee imitation attempts and bad scripts). In this
one, he is not a Lee-alike, but a Robin Hood-type character who goes
up against a corrupt town and a Japanese heavy (Kurata). Very fast and
explosive kicks from both stars. Highlights: Leung's great chain kicking,
jumping/spinning, big jumping
spinning crescent kick. Simple fast hands (not old Chinese style).Tonfa
vs. nunchaku. Long fight scenes.
BLOWS OF THE DRAGON (WATER MARGIN)
Stars: David Chiang, Guk Fung, Ti Lung, and many other Shaw Bros. ensemble.
MA rating: no rating
early Chang Cheh epic. I recommend this film more as an adaptation of
the famous Chinese adventure novel than as a MA film. The MA is restricted
primarily to weapons, and the techniques used are on the crude side
was produced before very stylized and acrobatic MA was the vogue).
Interesting to see the huge cast of Shaw Bros. players before they were
VIRGIN VS. EVIL DEAD
Stars: Donnie Yen, Mak Tat Law, Ken Lo
MA rating: 4
Try to look past the lightweight supernatural/spooky aspects of this
it is a cop movie which features three of the early '90's best modern
fighters. Although not a whole lot of MA, enough to show off the kickboxing
skills of all three.
TAE KWON DO CRUSH (CHINESE TAE KWON DO)
Stars: Pai Piao. MA rating: 2
two early 1970s "chop sockeys" were probably shot at the
because the locations are identical. Both feature Pai Piao as a skilled
Chinese fighter visiting Korea, and helping Korean freedom fighters
dastardly Japanese soldiers. Pai Piao looks tough, but his form here
crude (he would later do much better stuff for Shaw Brothers). Some
fights are sloppy and last forever (a common problem in pre-Bruce
films). The most interesting aspect: some of the Korean players were
stylists and good kickers. Although not up to the choreography standards
post-Bruce Lee era, you can see some proper TKD form. One Korean cast
that is recognizable later appeared in many Taiwanese kung fu movies.
BROTHERS OF SHAOLIN
Stars: Wong Tao, Chang Yi. MA rating: 3
typical mid-1970s Taiwanese production with typical Ming/Shaolin
rebels clashing with Ching generals and soliders. Many, many "treks
the countryside", ambushes, etc. Shaolin techniques consist of
basic hung gar
(southern siu lum). Chang Yi (as usual) does mantis.
Stars: Donnie Yen, Yu Rong Guang. MA rating: no rating
was Donnie Yen's directoral debut, with a story written by Bey Logan
martial artist, martial arts film author and MA film fighter). Thought
unsuccessful at the box office and critically not favored, I enjoyed
immensely. Yes, it suffers from Donnie trying too hard for "modern
with too many weird camera angles, too many closeups, people in sunglasses
against darkly green backgrounds, odd pacing, etc. It succeeds, however,
brooding, very dark, intense and violent story about a lone hitman
tortured soul. Unlike, say, Jet Li's "Hitman", there is no
brightness here---no humorous sidekicks or Simon Yam cameos to mess
up the mood. Perhaps the HK critics couldn't take it. Lots of guns,
occasional flashes of MA by Donnie amidst the gunplay (kicks, breaks,
joint locks), but it's primarily a
character study. If you like Donnie, and you're in a pissed off mood,