Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Bruce Lee The Invincible (1978, HK)

Starring: Bruce Li (as Ho Chung Dao), Chen Sing, Chan Wai-Man, Nick Cheung. Directed by: Law Kei

This is a movie for the hardcore Bruce Li (aka Ho Chung Tao) fans! While by no means a superb kung fu movie, it's a very good, entertaining kung fu movie and something fun to watch when you're bored and stuck at home on the weekends.

In "Bruce Lee....", Chan Lee Kung (Chan, in a sinister role), a Shaolin student in China, betrays his school and vows to do penance by going into exile in Malaysia. Three years later, Chan has become the feared, ruthless leader of a criminal empire which has set up its base of operations in a small Malaysian village. Since Chan is well-trained in Shaolin kung fu and he has an army of men at his disposal, there's nothing the local authorities can do to stop him.

Meanwhile back in China, one of Shaolin's students named Shu San (Cheung) is going to Malaysia to visit his family and quietly scout around for any info about Chan to report back to Shaolin. When he arrives at his family's village, it doesn't take long for him to discover that this is also Chan's base of operations. To make matters even more complicated, both Chan and Shu San are both in love with Wai Sin, Shu San's cousin.

One day Chan and his men take Wai Sin by force after she rejects him and when Shu San comes to her rescue, they give him a very bad beating. Fortunately he managed to send a telegram back to Shaolin and help soon comes when Master Fok Yuen Gap (Chen) and his best student Yu Fong (Li) come to town to take down Chan.

Can they overcome Chan and his men and accomplish their mission? Watch and find out!

"Bruce Lee...." does have a few holes in its storyline and the kung fu gorilla scene might be a little on the cheesy side, but this is actually a very good kung fu movie. The vast bulk of the storyline is well-written and easy to figure out, the kung fu (which was choreographed by Nick Cheung) scenes are very good, and there is also a very interesting reenactment of the story of the Indian monk Da Mo, who discovered the Eighteen Lohan Fists and taught them to Shaolin monks in the 6th century AD.

For those of you who are curious, Bruce Li does a good job in his role with only a bare minimum of Bruce Lee mannerisms toward the end!

Also in this movie are cameos by Bolo Yeung as the master with long hair and Mars as the teacher wearing as mask.

If you're looking for some good kung fu escapism or are a fan of Bruce Li, look no further than this movie! It's sure to fit the bill for you!

Also known as: Nan yang tang ren jie (original Mandarin title-HK), Bruce Li the Invincible (original English title-HK), Bruce Lee the Invincible (English video title-HK), Bruce Li the Invincible Chinatown Connection (international English title), The Invincible (alternate HK English title), Wei zhen tian nan (Mandarin video title-HK), Die gelben Augen des Gorillas (West Germany), Sygrousi giganton tou karate (Greece), Game of the Dragon (unknown English title)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Two Great Cavaliers (1978, Taiwan/HK)

Starring: Angela Mao, John Liu, Chen Sing. Directed by: Yeung Ching Chen

In the West, this movie is commonly known by three titles: "Two Great Cavaliers", "Blade of Fury", and "Deadly Duo", which is also the name of a Shaw Bros. movie.

No matter what name you may find this movie under, it's a kung fu movie that stars two of '70s kung fu cinema's greatest: Angela Mao and John Liu!

In this movie, Chen Sing plays Kuan Yu Chung, a fief in a Chinese province who has sworn his loyalty to the Manchu (Qing) Dynasty who are starting to establish their rule across China. Angela Mao plays Hsiao Mei, the leader of a group of anti-Qing rebels who are all members of the Fung Wan kung fu clan. The clan has been entrusted with the task of defeating Kuan and delivering a list of names of other anti-Qing rebels to the resistance leaders. Naturally, Kuan wants to crush the resistance in his province and he wants this list very badly.

In order to deliver the list and defeat Kuan and his men, the rebels are going to need the help of their best fighter Ou Yang Chun (Liu). Unfortunately for the rebels, Chun has met the woman of his dreams and decided to leave the Fung Wan clan, settle down, and make a quiet life for himself. If his brothers and sisters in Fung Wan want his help, they must get a little persuasive, especially where Chun's fiancee (who Hsiao Mei is extremely jealous of) is concerned......

The storyline of this movie can be a little confusing to understand as there are many characters who have their own swerving loyalties and motivations. However, we get to see Angela Mao and John Liu perform some of their greatest fighting scenes in "Two Great Cavaliers" and that alone is worth watching the movie in its entirety! Both perform some awesome legwork that makes Chuck Norris look like child's play throughout this movie! The end fight scene in particular is amazing and both are at their best in the final showdown.

Also in this movie are Leung Kar-Yan as brother-in-arms Sung Hua and Man Kong-Lung as the mysterious Pai Lung Hsing, who joins the rebels. Both have some very good fight scenes that are also worth watching. Chiang Kam also makes an appearance in this movie, but only as an extra baddie.

If you think you can keep track of all the characters and want to see some good Angela Mao and John Liu action, be sure to check this movie out! There's some awesome kung fu that's waiting for you to watch!

Also known as: Ci xiong shuang sha (original Mandarin title-Taiwan), Two Great Cavaliers (English title-HK), Blade of Fury (international English title), Deadly Duo (international English DVD title), The Two Great Cavaliers (international English title), Wang Yu - Härter als Granit (West Germany), Les 2 cavaliers de Shaolin (France)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Ninja Avenger (1982, Taiwan)

Starring: Elsa Yang Hui San, Yun Chang-yueh, Don Wong, Yasuaki Kurata, Yuka Mizuno. Directed by: Gam Ming (Tommy Lee)
This movie seems to be a forerunner to the femme fatale genre of movies that started with the 1989 French megahit "La Femme Nikita", and the storyline bears a striking resemblance to the storyline of the 2000 Wong Jing movie "Naked Killer".

In "The Ninja Avenger", Yang Hui San (a popular actress in Taiwan during the 1970s-80s who made appearances in many a kung fu/martial arts movie) plays Mo Ling, a Japanese woman who was saved from a gang of rapists in Tokyo by the female Triad boss Chao (Mizuno). Chao trains Mo in the ninjutsu arts and transforms her into a deadly assasin. Chao puts Mo Ling to use against her rivals with great effect.

But when Mo starts to fall for Chao's younger brother Wei Li, things get complicated. And when the police start tracking Mo down and Chao decides Mo is a major threat that needs to be eliminated, things get even more complicated.

Mo must elude Chao's hitmen and the police and do whatever she can to survive. As for Wei Li, he must do whatever he can to protect the woman he loves. But can they succeed against overwhelming odds and stay together?

"The Ninja Avenger" seems to have been filmed on a fairly low budget, but despite this it has some very good action scenes. We get to watch Mo Ling fly across the (presumably) Taipei skyline on a body kite and kill her target with a poisoned dart, scale up buildings, and more...just as you would expect from one of the "Nikita"-type movie or TV shows that have come out over the past 20+ years. Also, the fight scenes are very good and Yasuaki Kurata's fight scenes toward the end of the movie are good to watch as always, but it's too bad he didn't have more in this movie!

As is the case for many Asian movies up until recent times, the English-dubbed version muddles this movie a little. The characters are all given English names and much of the emotion is lost, particularly the romance between Mo Ling and Wei Li. If you can find an original Chinese version of this movie, consider yourself lucky!

"The Ninja Avenger" is a very good ninja/kung fu movie that was directed by Gam Ming (alias Tommy Lee), who is the action director for many kung fu classics such as "Shaolin Wooden Men", "Butcher Wing", and "Tiger vs. Dragon". It seems to be a bridge between the kung fu movies of the 1970s and the modern action movies that have come out in Hong Kong and Taiwan since the 1980s that incorporate martial arts into the storyline. If you're a fan of "Nikita"-style femme fatale movies or martial arts movies with a female lead, this movie is one you won't want to miss!

Also known as: Fei yan zou bi (original Mandarin title-Taiwan), Impossible Woman (original English title-Taiwan), The Ninja Avenger (English title-HK, international English title, poster title-Netherlands), Fly Sky Run Wall (literal English title), Ninja - Die Kampfmaschine (West Germany), Ninja Apocalypse (VHS title-USA). Also released in Hong Kong in 1983???

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Rivals of the Silver Fox (1979, HK/South Korea)

Starring: Casanova Wong, Phillip Ko, Chan Siu-Pang, Chin Chi Chu (as Gam Kei Chu). Directed by: Chan Siu-Pang

From the director of "Choy Lee Fat Kung Fu" Chan Siu-Pang (who also co-stars as the Invisible Thief) comes this Hong Kong-South Korean co-production.

In "Rivals...", a kung fu master is out to avenge the death of his wife at the hands of the evil kung fu master Ma Tien Chang, who wants some "secret medicinal documents" that were in the possession of her father. This master must raise his baby alone and take it with him as he searches for the evil master.

Unfortunately for our hero, taking on Ma is no easy task as he is holed up in the formidable Death Valley with an army of Shaolin bronzemen! Fortunately he has some help along the way in the form of the Invisible Thief (who he rescues from the thugs of a local lord he robbed), a woman (Wong) who helps him take care of his baby, another kung fu master who wants to take on Ma, and the priest Wu Kuo (Ko) who teaches him the kung fu skills he will need to take on the army of bronzemen.

This movie was obviously made on a shoestring budget and the storyline is just a little complicated, but it's much more complex and emotional than it seems. This can be an emotionally involving movie if you make the effort to understand our hero's motivations and all the pain he's feeling as he tries to avenge his wife, protect his baby, and ultimately, protect Casanova Wong's character, who he obviously has feelings for. Also, this is a very unusual movie where the storyline involves a baby and all the good guys, despite whatever motivations they may have, take care of and take up for each other. Of course the kung fu scenes are very good, but it's too bad Casanova didn't get as many fighting scenes in this movie!

Also, the Korean countryside used in this movie is gorgeous! It gives this movie a very tranquil atmosphere and blends into the storyline well.

This is a relatively unknown kung fu movie, but one worth checking out if you're into unusual storylines, or are a fan of Phillip Ko, Casanova Wong, or Chan Siu-Pang.

Also known as: 오대관문/Odae Gwan Mun (original Korean title), The Five Barriers (original English title-South Korea), 決戰銀狐/Jue zhan yin hu (original Mandarin title-HK), Mei hua tang lang (Taiwan)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Fistful of Talons (1983, HK)

Starring: Billy Chong, Whang Ing-Sik, Liu Hao-yi, Pai Ying. Directed by: Sun Chung

This movie is perhaps one of Billy Chong's most popular movies, and a very good early 1980s independent production from Shaw Bros. director Sun Chung.

"A Fist Full...." takes place in the early 20th century, just after the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty and the establishment of the Republic of China in 1912. A group of Qing loyalists are in a small Chinese town plotting to overthrow the Republic and restore the Qing to power.

Billy plays Ching I Ming, a young man who works at a tavern run by his uncle and spends his free time harassing the Qing loyalists and cutting their ponytails (a sign of loyalty to the Qing Dynasty) off. Pai Ying plays Ding Wei Chung, a mysterious stranger staying at the tavern who turns out to be a high-ranking Qing defector and one who is highly wanted by the Qings because he has in his possession a number of valuable documents and the Imperial seal, which is the symbol of authority.

After giving the Qings a good butt-kicking in his own town, I Ming gets a little restless and decides to go to a neighboring town, where he catches some more Qings and turns them in. He gets a job with the local constabulary...and is "encouraged" by the local constable to marry his daughter (Liu), who he claims can't get married because "she is too fierce."

Very soon I Ming and Ding cross paths again purely by accident, and trouble soon follows....both in terms of the Qing and the soon-to-be bride who is hunting for I Ming!

Can Ching I Ming and Ding Wei Chung get the documents and seal to Sun Yat-sen's government? Also, can they take on the head of the Qing loyalists Nai Sin (Whang), who is a very skilled kung fu master with a powerful kick?

All in all this is a good kung fu movie from the early '80s that has a very coherent storyline (that's even more understandable if you know a little about Chinese history), good directing, and very good production qualities. The actors and actresses in this movie do a very good job and Billy Chong's performance is sort of a combination of Jackie Chan and Alexander Fu Sheng rolled into one. His kung fu skills are amazing and they really show off in this movie. Pai Ying does a good job as Ding Wei Chung and Liu Hao-yi not only has her own fight scenes but is an eagle trainer in this movie. And of course, Whang Ing-Sik does a very good job as Nai Sin.

A word of warning to animal lovers though: You may not like the very last scene of this movie.

Don't miss this movie if you're a fan of Billy Chong or just want to see a good Jackie Chan-style kung fu movie!

Also known as: 風林火山/Foo ying (original Cantonese title-HK), Guo lu ke (original Mandarin title-HK; original script title), Feng lin huo shan (Taiwanese Mandarin title), Wind, Forest, Fire, Mountain (literal English title-Taiwan), A Fist Full of Talons (original English title-HK), A Fistful of Talons (English title-HK)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Killer Meteors (1976, HK/Taiwan)

Starring: Jimmy Wang Yu, Jackie Chan, Lan Liu-li. Directed by: Lo Wei

"The Killer Meteors" is a movie that has, in the various Western video and DVD releases, been marketed as a movie with Jackie Chan as the main star. This is not exactly true. Jimmy Wang Yu is actually the star of this movie and Jackie was given a secondary role since Wang Yu was one of the big martial arts movie stars in Hong Kong at the time and "Jacky" (as he was known at the time) was still struggling to get his career going.

In "The Killer Meteors", Wang Yu plays the Killer Meteor Mei Sin Her, who is a master of both kung fu and the Killer Meteor, which is a weapon well-known and feared all over China. Master Mei is so feared that men get down on their knees, cut their fingers off, and beg for mercy just so he will spare their lives!

Jackie (in a rare villainous role) plays the Immortal Meteor Wa Wu-bin who believes his wife has poisoned him. He needs the antidote which, unfortunately for him, is in the hands of his scheming wife. Getting the antidote from his wife is going to be no easy matter because she has four kung fu masters serving as her bodyguards and the Immortal Meteor is in no condition to take them on. Therefore, he must get a little help from the Killer Meteor......

This movie is the big-screen adaptation of a novel from famed wuxia novelist Ku Feng, who is also credited for writing the screenplay for the movie. As is the case for the novel, there are many plot twists and turns and get ready for those before watching this movie! In fact you'll want to pay very close attention, especially at the end.

Also in a supporting role in this movie are Phillip Ko as Go Yuen So and Sit Hon as the Lightning Swordsman Wan Fong.

All in all this is an excellent old school kung fu/wuxia movie....as long as you keep in mind that it's a Wang Yu movie and not (quite) one starring Jackie Chan. As a matter of fact, Jackie only has one fight scene in the whole movie! Apart from this, the cast pulls the movie off very well and Wang Yu is in his prime as the Killer Meteor, who can kill his opponents (and "friends") with no mercy and do a bit of womanizing afterwards! This is a must-see if you are a fan of Wang Yu or Jackie Chan!

Also known as:風雨雙流星/Feng yu shuang liu xing (original Mandarin title-HK), Fung yu seung lau sing (original Cantonese title-HK), Wind, Rain, Two Meteors (literal English title-HK), Jackie Chan Versus Wang Wu (VCD title-Thailand), Tiger der Todesarena (West Germany), Anikitos aetos tou karate/Oi ongolithoi tou kung fu (Greek VHS and DVD titles respectively), Meteoro inmortal (Spain), Karate Death Squad (bootleg title-US)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Holy Robe of the Shaolin Temple (1985, HK/China)

Starring: Yu Rongguang, Chui Heung-Wing, Lam Chau-Ping. Directed by: Tsui Siu-Ming

This is a movie that has been incorrectly released in the West as the sequel to the 1984 Gordon Liu blockbuster hit "Shaolin and Wu Tang". In actuality it has nothing at all to do with the latter movie, but it's a very good martial arts flick nonetheless.

In "The Holy Robe..." Qi Tian Yuan, an ex-Wu Tang monk (Yu), has been dispatched by the government to kill the abbot of Shaolin Temple and take over Shaolin, which he cannot do until he has the ultimate symbol of honor and authority: the Holy Robe of Shaolin.

When Qi and a brigade of Royal Guards storm Shaolin and try to kill the abbot, a group of monks escape with the wounded abbot and the precious robe. Naturally Qi and the soldiers set off in hot pursuit of the fugitive monks, who have fled into a nearby village and onto the steppes of Inner Mongolia.

Also hiding out in Inner Mongolia is a hidden ace up Shaolin's sleeve: a monk by the name of Hui Neng (Chui). When all of Shaolin's best monks have been slaughtered, the task of saving Shaolin and defeating Qi falls on his shoulders. Fortunately for Hui Neng, he has some help from a very talented female fighter named Miss Lin Ying (Lam). But the task at hand becomes a little more complicated when the two start falling in love with each other.....

Can Shaolin be saved and can the Holy Robe be kept off Qi Tian Yuan's shoulders? Can the traditional enemies of Shaolin and Wu Tang work together to defeat Qi and the government forces? And furthermore, can Hui Neng and Ms. Lin set their feelings for each other aside to accomplish the tasks at hand?

This is a very good Hong Kong/China co-production with some excellent, well-choreographed kung fu scenes and a well-written, dramatic storyline. This movie is also the first movie for Yu Rongguang, who would go on to play the villain in the 1993 box office smash hit "Iron Monkey" and in the 1995 Jet Li hit "My Father is a Hero" (aka "The Enforcer").

Also, if you are learning Mandarin Chinese, you might want to check this movie out because it's one mainland Chinese movie where the subtitles, while a little iffy English-wise, seem to have been translated almost verbatim from the original Chinese track. I personally noticed this while watching the movie and understood portions of the dialogue very well.

This movie is a must-see if you're a fan of Shaolin and/or Wu Tang movies or want to watch a good Jet Li-style movie. All in all it's highly recommended!

Also known as: Mu mien jia sha (original Mandarin title-China/HK), Shaolin and Wu Tang 2: Wu Tang Invasion (US video and DVD title), A Saolin templom szent köntöse (Hungary), Shaolin Vs. Wutang 2: Holy Robe of Shaolin Temple/Holy Robes of Shaolin (unknown English titles)