So I picked up a few new posters for my collection the other day. These come from Thailand, they're smaller than the standard U.S. One-Sheets. These measure in at approximately 31" x 21". I can't wait to get these into frames! Too bad I don't really have any space to display them!
The first one is from the 1982 Shaw Brothers production "Buddha's Palm." I actually just watched this one for the first time the other day, and I loved it. It's a colorful action-packed kung fu/wuxia fantasy with over the top special effects, and interesting characters with names like "Flaming Cloud Devil," "Foot Monster," (played by Sek Kin, Mr. Han of "Enter the Dragon" fame) and "BI GU OF EAST ISLAND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" who always enters his scenes to hilarious fanfare! Well anyway, here's the poster:
Next up we have the poster for "Taoism Drunkard," which was a wacky kung fu magic/taoism/comedy romp from 1984 featuring the action direction of the Yuen Clan. Again, we have some interesting characters such as "Old Devil," "Mountain Dog," "Starry Devil," and "the Watermelon Monster." This, and a few other films in this vein are some of those that you just have to see to believe.
And finally, I picked up the poster for "Kung Fu of 8 Drunkards" which was released in 1980, a couple years after Jackie Chan and Simon Yuen popularized the drunken fighting style in "Drunken Master." This one features Mang Fei and Chan Sing.
Three pretty cool posters, eh? Thanks for checking them out. Hopefully I'll find time to get some more reviews in soon. I have been quite busy lately, starting a new job, and I am also getting married in less than a month! After things calm down hopefully this place will get a little more lively!
"Challenge of the Masters" is the story of young Wong Fei-Hung (Gordon Liu, in his first starring role). Wong Fei-Hung is a brash young man who wants nothing more than to learn kung fu. His father, Wong Chi-Ying, runs a kung fu school but will not train Wong Fei-Hung because he feels his son is too hasty and not yet mature enough. Of course this makes Wong Fei-Hung angry, as he feels he's ready and able. He spends his time practicing his own shoddy kung fu in his father's courtyard, which embarrasses him.
Officer Yuan Ching (Lau Kar-Wing) comes into town seeking to arrest Ho Fu (Lau Kar-Leung), a wanted killer. Ho Fu has been holed up at the rival school of Master Pang, although they are unaware that he is a killer. Yuan Ching arrives at the school of Master Lu Ah Tsai (Chen Kwan-Tai) and sees Wong Fei-Hung outside, mistaking him as a student, which of course annoys him and he runs off to town. All the while, the killer Ho Fu has been trailing Officer Yuan to see what he's up to. As Yuan Ching enters Master Lu's school, Ho Fu follows Wong Fei-Hung to town. While this is going on, Officer Yuan asks if Master Lu has any info on Ho Fu, and also mentions that he saw a lot of potential in the young man he saw out front (Wong Fei-Hung). In town, Ho Fu confronts Wong Fei-Hung and asks him why Officer Yuan was talking to him. Wong Fei-Hung, still agitated, tells him to go to hell, and Ho Fu tries to beat it out of him. The fight is broken up by the townspeople, Ho Fu heads off, and Wong Fei-Hung returns home more determined than ever to teach himself kung fu!
Now at the school of Wong Chi-Ying, Officer Yuan meets Wong Fei-Hung's father (who had the same master, Lu Ah Tsai) to catch up on old times. During this time he sees Wong Fei-Hung wildly swinging around and knocking things over, as some form of training, and asks his father who he is. Wong Chi-Ying, embarrassed, explains that it is his son. Officer Yuan again mentions the potential he sees in Wong Fei-Hung, surprising his father!
Next up is the yearly Pao Competition, where all the local schools compete to see who is the best. Wong Fei-Hung sneaks into the competition, and is partly responsible for his father's school losing to Master Pang's school. By the way, Ho Fu has been training Master Pang's students to use uncouth tactics to win the event! Wong Fei-Hung, angry because of the loss, finally has had enough, and goes to Lu Ah Tsai's school where he runs into Officer Yuan. Yuan takes him inside and convinces Master Lu to train him! "That's good! Father and son, both learning from the same teacher! That should make history!" says Officer Yuan. Wong Fei-Hung also tells Officer Yuan about his run in with Ho Fu. Yuan then goes after Ho Fu and they duel it out in the forest. Ho Fu wins the duel, killing Officer Yuan with his Death Kick technique.
Master Lu and Wong Fei-Hung are now isolated out on the countryside, beginning training. Three months pass before Master Lu informs Wong Fei-Hung that Officer Yuan has been killed. Wong Fei-Hung, saddened at the death of his friend, vows revenge and kicks his training into overdrive! Wong Fei-Hung trains with Master Lu for over 2 years and becomes proficient in kung fu and the use of the Shaolin Long Pole weapon. He is also taught the importance of discipline, forgiveness, humility, and kindness...
Wong Fei-Hung then returns to town to seek out Ho Fu. They meet in the same bamboo grove where Ho Fu previously defeated Officer Yuan. This time Wong Fei-Hung is the victor, but instead of killing Ho Fu, he remembers Master Lu's teachings of forgiveness, and spares his life, but does get him sent to jail.
There is also another Pao Competition coming up, and this time Master Pang instructs his students to illegally use hidden iron bars as weapons to gain the upper hand in the Competition. The day of the Competition comes, and Master Pang's school is cheating to win. Wong Fei-Hung has the competition won, but shows mercy on one of Pang's students, displaying the kindness and discipline taught to him by Lu Ah Tsai. The rest of the competitors take hold of the lesson shown by Wong Fei-Hung, and call a truce, making the Pao Competition a draw, and they all celebrate together. The next day, Master Pang and his students meet Wong Chi-Ying and his students at Chi-Ying's school. Master Pang shows humility and admits that he instructed his students to break the rules of the Pao Competition. Pang decides he must punish himself, but just as he's about to strike himself with one of the illegal iron bars, Wong Fei-Hung jumps in and stops him, FREEZE FRAME, THE END!
This movie falls into the category I like to call the "Classic Kung Fu Story." It's not chock full of violence, blood, and action, but what fights it does have are quality. The stand out fights are Officer Yuan vs. Ho Fu (great sword vs. spear & hand to hand) and then Wong Fei-Hung vs. Ho Fu (Pole vs. spear). The training sequences with Lu Ah Tsai and Wong Fei-Hung are excellent. While getting revenge is part of the story, the main point of this movie is the moral of having discipline, forgiveness, and humility. It is summed up best by these lines, spoken by Master Lu Ah Tsai: "Forgive and forebear, Wong Fei-Hung, never forget... humility and kindness." and "When you fight and beat your opponent, you've only won a physical match. But then, if you can show kindness, that man may surrender his heart to you. Wong Fei-Hung, don't you ever forget that." So, if you're looking for a great old school "Classic Kung Fu Story," look no further than "Challenge of the Masters."
There was once a time when you could open the newspaper to check the local movie listings, and instead of finding just a boring box of text listing of the movies like now days, you could find a bunch of admats with artwork, taglines, review snippets, and other things to really grab your attention. It's definitely a lost art that you don't see much anymore, which is unfortunate. Well here in the Faces of Fu Kung Fu Time Capsule, I'll occasionally bring you a glimpse of these blasts from the past. Today I bring to you an admat for "Master of the Flying Guillotine," starring Jimmy Wang Yu which happens to be one of my most favorite Fu flicks of all time.
You can see the similarites to my original one-sheet.
Here's some close-ups of the cool captions...
(click to enlarge)
Now doesn't an ad like that make a movie seem more interesting than just...
Master of Flying Guillotine [R] .......... 8pm
You bet it does! Keep an eye out for more admats in the future!
Whether you're a fan of hard training bald headed Shaolin monks, or evil white haired kung fu villains, you've probably seen this next Face of Fu, Carter Wong. Carter was definitely a familiar face in films of the 70's and early 80's. Before becoming an actor, Carter trained in the martial art of Goju Kai Karate. His Black Belt skills got him a job as the head martial arts instructor of the Hong Kong police force. A student of Carter's knew director Huang Feng, and suggested he check out Carter for a potential kung fu actor. Huang sat in on one of Carter's classes and was immediately impressed by his youth and martial arts prowess. Huang decided to cast Carter alongside his other 'discoveries' Sammo Hung & Angela Mao in the Golden Harvest film "Hapkido." This movie was filmed concurrently at an adjacent soundstage as Bruce Lee's "Enter the Dragon," and Bruce once visited Carter's set and demonstrated some martial arts for him!
Carter's film career continued as he did other Golden Harvest films such as "When Taekwondo Strikes," "The Tournament," and "The Skyhawk." In 1975, after Carter's contract with Golden Harvest expired, he went on to act in Chang Cheh's Shaw Brothers production "Marco Polo" alongside such genre greats as Alexander Fu Sheng, Gordon Liu, Kuo Chui, and... Beardy! After that he continued to act in many independent productions in Hong Kong and Taiwan throughout the late 70's and early 80's. After 1982, Carter's acting career slowed down, but in 1986 he played the role of "Thunder" in John Carpenter's "Big Trouble In Little China."
Today, Carter still occasionally pops up in movies, but spends most of his time spreading the word about a new Tai Chi training system he has developed. He has worked alongside some of the genre's greatest actors and left behind a legacy of classic kung fu films. So... the next time you're in the mood for some old school action, grab a Carter Wong film and enjoy the work of this legendary Face of Fu!
When Taekwondo Strikes (1973)
18 Bronzemen (1976)
Shaolin Kung Fu Mystagogue (1976)
Born Invincible (1978)
Tai Chi Master is the story of Junbao (Jet Li) and Tienbao (Chin Siu-Ho), two young friends growing up together in a Shaolin temple. Junbao is at peace and content with the life of a monk, whereas Tienbao is always looking for excitement and causing trouble for both of them. During a competition between Tienbao and another fellow student, Tienbao gets cheated and loses his cool, taking his anger out on his opponent. When the opponents Sifu steps in, Tienbao uses the Sifu's own Iron Palm technique (which he learned by spying) against him. Junbao tries to defend his best friend, but both end up expelled from the temple.
They go on their way, settling in a nearby village. In town, they meet Qiushie (Michelle Yeoh), who leads a group of rebels against the corrupt and powerful Eunuch Jin, the provincial governor. One day, Junbao & Tienbao are in the village trying to make money to survive, when Jin's army comes and demands all their earnings for taxation. Junbao resists, but Tienbao is intrigued by the power and money of the army and gives them all that they earned. The two remain friends but go their separate ways, Junbao joining the rebels and Tienbao joining the army.
Junbao & Tienbao remain in contact and eventually Tienbao, ambitious to rise through the ranks of the army, tricks Junbao and the rebels into thinking he'll help them. This betrayal leads to an ambush in which most of the rebel forces are slaughtered. Junbao, deeply saddened by the betrayal of his best friend, loses his mind. Qiushie and the Taoist Priest Ling attempt to bring Junbao back to reality with little success. Junbao is eventually enlightened by the forces of nature and learns the style of Tai Chi. This leads to the final conflict of Junbao vs. Tienbao, good vs. evil, yin vs yang.
This is a movie with a good story filled with action packed fights. The choreography by Yuen Wo-Ping is incredible, aside from a few hokey things here and there. Kung fu purists take note, being an early 90's film, this is full of wire work (much of the wires visible), but don't let that stop you from seeing it. There's tons of excellent martial arts besides the wire work. Some of the stand-out fights are Junbao & Tienbao fighting the other students in the temple, Qiushie's battle against her ex-husband's new mistress, and of course the final fight. Jet Li is incredible as Junbao, Chin Siu-Ho makes an excellent power hungry villain as Tienbao, and Michelle Yeoh, although underused, adds to the mix. In the middle of the movie, during the point where Junbao loses his mind, there is also some comedy thrown in. I feel that this helps lighten things a little bit, and keeps things from getting too dark and depressing. Overall, this is a great movie, and I would strongly recommend it to anyone who has not seen it, even if they are not a big fan of the genre. So what are you waiting for? See Tai Chi Master!
Sometimes the language barrier is harder to break than a stack of boards, and they say English is the hardest language of all to learn. Literal translations of cliches and sayings common to a particular language can be quite comical. I came across the following list while cruising the web. It is a list of English subtitles taken from various Asian kung fu and action films. Whether they are true or fictional I do not know, but some of them are damn funny! Enjoy!
I am damn unsatisfied to be killed in this way.
Fatty, you with your thick face have hurt my instep.
Gun wounds again?
Same old rules: no eyes, no groin.
A normal person wouldn't steal pituitaries.
Damn, I'll burn you into a BBQ chicken!
Take my advice, or I'll spank you without pants.
Who gave you the nerve to get killed here?
Quiet or I'll blow your throat up.
You always use violence. I should've ordered glutinous rice chicken.
I'll fire aimlessly if you don't come out!
You daring lousy guy.
Beat him out of recognizable shape!
I have been scared like a mouse too much lately.
I got knife scars more than the number of your leg's hair!
Beware! Your bones are going to be disconnected.
The bullets inside are very hot. Why do I feel so cold?
How can you use my intestines as a gift?
This will be of fine service for you, you bag of the scum. I am sure you will not mind that I remove your manhoods and leave them out on the dessert flour for your aunts to eat.
Hwang Jang-Lee, also known as the "Silver Fox," is one of the most recognizable kung fu villains of the genre. He was born in Japan in 1944, and his family soon left for Korea. Around the age of 14, Jang-Lee took an interest in Taekwondo. After a few years, and becoming proficient in the art, he joined the Korean Army as a Taekwondo instructor. After leaving the army he began acting in Korean cinema, where he was noticed by famed Hong Kong producer/director Ng See-Yuen. In 1976, Hwang Jang-Lee was invited back to Hong Kong by Ng See-Yuen to make films for his new independent Seasonal Films Corporation. That year Hwang Jang-Lee would cement his villainous image in "The Secret Rivals," in which he played the evil Silver Fox, earning him his nickname. Hwang Jang-Lee's trademark fast, hard-kicking style has also garnered him the nickname "King of the Leg Fighters." It is said that while in the Korean Army, Hwang once unintentionally killed a man with one of his lethal kicks. Apparently, the man challenged Jang-Lee with a knife. Hwang refused to fight, but the man lunged at him with the knife. Attempting to only subdue the man, Hwang Jang-Lee underestimated the strength of his own kick, and instantly killed the man in self defense with a shot to the temple. Definitely not a man to be messed with!
Hwang Jang-Lee made many great films from the mid-70's through the early 90's. He left acting in 1991 and returned to South Korea to concentrate on personal business ventures, most notably running a hotel, a bodyguard agency, and manufacturing golf tees. In 2003, Hwang Jang-Lee earned his 9th degree black belt in Taekwondo, achieving the title of Grandmaster.
Although no longer acting, Hwang Jang-Lee's legacy remains in some of the greatest kung fu films of the late 70's and early 80's. If you're ever in the mood to see some classic ass-kicking (literally!) kung fu bad guy action, just pop in a Hwang Jang-Lee flick, and you're sure to get your fix!
The Secret Rivals 1 & 2 (1976/1977)
The Invincible Armor (1977)
The Snuff Bottle Connection (1977)
Drunken Master (1978)
The Hell's Windstaff (1979)
Kung Fu vs. Yoga is a fun flick full of fights and foolishness. The movie follows the adventures of "kung fu brothers" Tiger (Chin Yuet-Sang) and Wu Shing (Alan Hsu). It starts out with a great fight sequence between Tiger & Wu Shing practicing their kung fu, using various weapons including spear, dual swords, and bola (a rope with weights at each end, swung and released to ensnare the opponent). Just as it seems like Wu Shing will defeat Tiger using his "Hen's Claw" technique, we see that Tiger is actually dreaming all this, as he jumps up out of bed, smashing his head through the top bunk, waking his father up in the process. Tiger, dumbfounded after being beaten by the inferior Wu Shing in his dream, gets up to look for his kung fu manual. Meanwhile, his father groggily climbs down from the bunk to see what the commotion is all about. Tiger finds the manual stashed away in a pot, hastily pulls it out, and smacks his father in the head knocking him unconscious. Tiger, in an attempt to revive his fallen father, cannot find any water, so he dumps a piss pot on his father's face to wake him up. You can already see what kind of humor this one will be filled with! Anyway, his father, pissed off after being pissed on, has had enough of Tiger's shenanigans, and sends him off to live in the city with his Uncle Pang. Tiger packs up his things and leaves, running into Wu Shing outside. Wu Shing challenges Tiger and Tiger easily outduels him. Wu Shing then begs Tiger to let him accompany him to the city to learn kung fu, and off they go...
After they arrive at Uncle Pangs, we'll jump ahead about 15 minutes (during which they have a comical fight against a blind monk). Wu Shing runs into the Uncle's shop and grabs Tiger, and they run off. It seems that Wu Shing has entered a kung fu contest against the town's three best martial artists at the town square. Well, having lackluster skills, he gets taken out rather easily. Tiger decides to jump into the contest on behalf of Wu Shing, and with his impressive kung fu, he takes them all out in three short but sweet fights involving some nice weapon play. A fourth, masked female opponent jumps onto the stage and challenges Tiger. He defeats and unmasks her, revealing a beautiful woman. Her father, who apparently arranged the contest, stands up and reveals that for winning, Tiger has won her (Lady Ting) hand in marriage! Needless to say, Tiger is surprised, and Ting is appalled at having to marry such a poor fellow like Tiger, but the father says they must go through with it, and they do. Cut to wedding night, and Tiger is anxious to consummate the marriage! Lady Ting says before that will happen, Tiger has to complete three tasks, and she doesn't want to see him until they are. Naturally, she believes them to be impossible. Well let's find out, shall we?
The first task is to head to the temple and steal a kung fu manual from an ornery monk. They get to the temple, and find the monk sleeping (with his eyes open) on a big stack of small pots. They figure the manual is in one of the pots under him, so they begin poking and prodding him to get him to move off certain pots so they can open them. They wake him up before finding the manual and he beats on them a little demanding to know what they are doing. They give him a B.S. story and leave to formulate a new plan of attack. They come back later and this time he's lying in wait. The monk jumps up with the kung fu manual in hand saying "Is this what you're looking for?!" and begins to attack them. This movie has terrible dubbing, and during this fight we hear the following:
Tiger: "Why don't you quit while we're still feeling kind? You never know, you might drop... down dead!" Monk: "Balls... BALLS! I shall beat you both!"
Eventually, after a long dragged out fight, Wu Shing grabs the manual out of the monk's robe while Tiger has him distracted. They then beg for mercy, and the monk lets them go. After they are gone he realizes the manual is gone, and jumps into the air in rage. This is the perfect opportunity for a classic KFC¹: The Freeze Frame. Wu Shing delivers the monk's manual to Ting, and comes back exhausted (hmmm...) and falls asleep...
Next they set off for the second task. This task requires them to go to a brothel and retrieve the pieces of jade that a certain prostitute wears. They get to the whorehouse, and tell the madame they are looking for the girl named "Di." "Ah, I know the one!" she says, and has them take a number. Tiger's number is called, and he makes the least expensive incense purchase. Apparently, the length of time his incense burns is the amount of time he gets to spend with the girl. He gets to her room, and lights the incense. Of course it burns out quicker than a firecracker fuse, and he's out of there before he can get his shirt off. Next it's Wu Shing's turn. Tiger has him buy the biggest incense, and up the stairs he goes. Well he rock's Di's world, but finds no jade. Downstairs, Tiger finds out there's another "Di" and they go upstairs to find her. Wu Shing follows her into a room for round two, and finds out that she is actually a HE! This leads to the fight for HIS jade. They fight for a while, and Tiger & Wu Shing end up tearing off Di's clothes to get the jade pieces (ending in The Freeze Frame, of course!). After they leave, they have the following conversation...
Wu Shing: "Hey Tiger, how will he get home without his clothes?" Tiger: "Damn, I don't care! Couldn't give a fish's tit!"
...and Wu Shing this time
delivers the jade to Ting, since she won't see Tiger until the tasks are completed. Once again, Wu Shing comes back exhausted (HMMMM...) and falls asleep!
On to the last task. This time they have to steal the ruby from a yoga master's turban. Finally, here comes the Kung Fu vs. Yoga that the title refers to! And boy is it worth the wait. It takes Tiger & Wu Shing three attempts before they can finally outsmart to yoga master, but they finally get the ruby. These fights are amazing! The yoga master's flexibility and extreme contortionism make this the most innovative fight sequence I've ever seen. I'm not even going to try to explain the fights because words can't do them justice. I will post a YouTube video of the fight since it is a MUST SEE. So, mission accomplished! Off to tell wifey!
They get back, and walk up some stairs to Ting's house. Tiger is all sorts of excited to finally see her again! He calls for her as they walk to the house, and what... she comes out holding the hand of a young child, and also pregnant! Apparently the timeline of the story was over a couple years even though it seemed like a few days! Ting tells the child to say hello to father. Tiger, finally realizing that the children are Wu Shing's (hence his exhaustion after delivering the monk's manual and the prostitutes jade!), delivers a strong punch to Wu Shing, leading to.... you guessed it... The Freeze Frame! THE END.
This was a fairly mediocre film leading up to the superb finale. It had a lot of fights, most of which were entertaining. Like I said before, the final fight is a must see. It is worth watching the whole movie just to see that fight alone. The humor was pretty off the mark, mainly due to the subpar dubbing, which took a bit away from the film for me. Also the ending was not a surprise at all, as it was quite obvious how things were going to pan out at the end when they dropped the first hint. Overall, I enjoyed the film, but if I ever pop the DVD in again it will most likely be to rewatch the final fight scene.
RATING: 2½ out of 5 Venoms
¹KUNG FU CLICHES:Horrible dubbing, the Freeze Frame, potty humor. Yoga Master Battle(From French dub)
Chiang Sheng, affectionately referred to as "Cutie Pie" by his fans, is primarily known for his work in the Shaw Brothers "Venoms" films. He was born into a large family in 1951, and due to the size of his family, they were unable to give him the proper care and attention he needed. Therefore, he was sent off to Fu Sheng Opera School in Taipei, Taiwan where he learned martial arts and acrobatics. Upon his departure from Opera School, Chiang Sheng worked as a stuntman in Taiwan.
In 1974, director Chang Cheh formed his own production company and went to Taiwan to scout for talent. There he met Chiang Sheng. Impressed by his abilities, he invited him to go to mainland China to work. In 1976, he joined Shaw Brothers and got his first big role in Chang Cheh's "Shaolin Temple." Two years later, he landed his first starring role in the classic "The Five Venoms." This led to the formation of the "Venom Mob" (Chiang Sheng, Lo Meng, Kuo Chui, Sun Chien, Lu Feng, and occasionally Wai Pak) who would go on to star in a string of majorly successful martial arts films for Shaw Brothers Studios. These films were action packed with excellent hand-to-hand fighting, weapons, acrobatics, blood and violence!
In the Venom films, Chiang Sheng primarily played a supporting hero role, usually acting as comic relief. Don't let the comedy fool you though, as his skills were top notch! Being smaller and lithe, his acrobatic skills were uncanny, and a major focal point of many of his characters. His weapons work was also amazing, especially working with dual weapons such as swords or blades. Kuo Chui once stated in an interview that he & Chiang Sheng could perform fighting routines that contained over 200 moves! That's a fitting testament to Chiang Sheng's skills & abilities. Not only was Chiang Sheng active in front of the camera, but he played a big role behind the scenes as well. Besides performing in the Venoms films, Chiang Sheng acted as Chang Cheh's Assistant Director AND Action Director in many of them as well!
After the Venom Mob disbanded in 1982, Chiang Sheng left Shaw Brothers and returned to Taiwan. After appearing in a few more films, he became disheartened as it became harder for him to find work. He drowned his sorrows with alcohol, which took a toll on his body and led to his divorce. Sadly, in 1991, Chiang Sheng died from a heart attack. His memory lives on to this day in his unforgetable films.
The Five Venoms (1978)
Invincible Shaolin (1978)
Crippled Avengers (1978)
Shaolin Rescuers (1979)
Ninja In the Deadly Trap (1985)
Here's my first review. It's a little long winded, since I've been pretty excited to get The Faces of Fu up and running! Enjoy! - KFM
Shaolin Master & the Kid (AKA One Man Army) is a Taiwanese production that borrows heavily from the Lone Wolf & Cub series. It starts out rather confusing with some quick cut scenes that make it hard to tell what's going on. From what I could gather, a criminal is raping and pillaging, with some flash scenes of a government official ordering his arrest, guys banging on drums, and some boobies thrown in for good measure. In jumps Nan Kung Sao, some type of government officer bad-ass, whom will be referred to from now on as "The Hero." The Hero kicks the crap out of the criminal, and hauls him in. The official orders the criminal to be executed, and off comes his head. This all happens in about two minutes or less.
Next, The Hero returns home to find out that an evil warlord has had his mother and brother killed in retalliation for the execution of his criminal. Upon leaving the residence, The Hero finds his quite young nephew Sao Chu hiding in a well, scared and crying in a gratingly annoying female dubbed voice, and learns that the child's mother was kidnapped by the killers. He embraces the child, cries a solitary tear, and vows revenge. Cue sappy music. The next morning, The Hero sets a trap by leaving the child alone to mourn at the graves of his father & grandmother as he hides nearby. On cue, four assassins flip onto the scene, seemingly from out of nowhere, to finish their dirty work...
Killer - "Hmmm... Well it seems that the little fish escaped!"
Hero - "The big fish is over here!"
The assassins then run over to where our Hero is hiding, and proceed to get their asses handed to them like it's nobody's business. The whole while The Hero nonchalantly has a piece of grass hanging out of his mouth. He picks up one of the assassins in a Torture Rack (executed much better than Lex Luger I might add) and gets him to admit who sent them to do the killing of his family. And off we go...
The Hero, now decked out in a white outfit and coolie hat, drops off his nephew with "Uncle To" and asks him to watch the kid while he's off getting revenge. Uncle To agrees, and walks outside with The Hero to see him off. When he comes back in five seconds later, the kid has already run away! Our Hero continues on to the next town and stops at an inn for a rest. Meanwhile, outside, Sao Chu comes into town (damn that kid is fast!) and steals some buns from a street vendor. Some local brats see him and chase him into the inn and attempt to put the beat-down on him. Our Hero saves him, and takes him back to Uncle To's, where he instructs To to lock the kid in a closet for three days, which he does. The Hero continues on to the village to find the man that ordered the murder of his family. He finds his home, enters the courtyard, and proceeds to easily take out four unarmed thugs, two spearmen, and two swordsmen while the man he's looking for is watching. He then enters the home and finds the man in a room with his wife and baby. The man grabs a sword and attempts to attack The Hero to no avail. The Hero disarms the man and finds out he was just a middleman obeying orders to have the family murdered, and will not reveal the true mastermind of the plot. Meanwhile, his wife takes a pin from her hair and attempts to stab The Hero. He dodges the attack and she ends up killing her husband! In a fit of rage, she picks up her husband's sword and tries attacking The Hero. No dice. He takes control with the sword at her throat, but just as he's about to filet her larynx, the baby starts crying and our Hero flashes back to his embrace with Sao Chu at the well (Cue sappy music again). He spares her and sets off back to get his nephew. On the road again...
The Hero & Sau Cho set off together. Of course after 20 seconds of walking, the nephew starts whining about his hurting feet, so our Hero begins pulling him in a wagon. (Not nearly as cool as Lone Wolf's baby cart!) So night falls, and we cut to three assassins sitting around a fire waiting for The Hero to arrive. One assassin hears something in the woods, and the other two go to check it out. Well, they end up dead by an unseen assailant. This prompts the following conversation...
Assassin #3: "Who are you?..."
Assailant: "Heh heh heh... I'm the devil's envoy and I've come to take your life!"
...and take his life he does.
But it's not our Hero... so who is it? We'll find out soon enough. Well it turns out these three assassins were hired by a henchman of the previously mentioned evil warlord to take out The Hero. Word gets back to the henchman that someone has killed the assassins. He believes they were killed by our Hero, and immediately puts a bounty of 1,000 gold taels on his head. Needless to say, the news spreads quickly, and now EVERYONE is after The Hero...
Next we see The Hero and his nephew strolling into another town. A table of four thugs (one is in blackface, and another is in whiteface make up!) see them, and they're ready to throw down for the gold. Of course The Hero disposes of the attackers with no problem whatsoever. During this segment, we are introduced to two new characters. The first we'll call "Thunder Palm," a young fighter who has also just learned about the bounty. He just kind of sits back and watches what happens here. The other character, we'll call "The Man In Black," played by Phillip Ko Fei. He actually saves Sao Chu from one of the four thugs while our Hero is busy beating the crap out of the other three. He is ALSO the killer of the three assassins in the forest! Is he on the side of The Hero???
After The Hero & kid leave town, we learn a little bit more about Thunder Palm. He is in love with his girlfriend, whom we will refer to from now on as "Girlfriend," and wants to claim the 1,000 taels of gold to give to her mother for Girlfriend's hand in marriage. (Which is stupid since the mother only wants 20 taels of silver!) He makes a promise to the mother, and then excitedly runs to his cabin in the woods (all the while doing flips and jumping in & out of 25 foot trees) and digs up his chest of Thunder Palm grenades (hence his name!). In comes Girlfriend, swinging in tarzan style (I kid you not...). Apparently Thunder Palm had burried his grenades after promising Girlfriend he would leave his old lifestyle of killing behind. Here comes the drama, and the sappy music, this time the theme from The Young & the Restless! And it pops up like five more times throughout the rest of the movie! Girlfriend once again begs Thunder Palm to never fight again, and he says he will not... She then takes his grenades down to the river and throws them in the water, unaware of the fact that Thunder Palm is spying on her so he can retrieve them later! This scene then cuts to Sao Chu and a bunch of other naked kids playing in the river, shown in slow motion I might add, while The Hero lays on the hill watching them with a big smile on his face. Talk about creepy...
All of a sudden arrows start flying from all sides towards our Hero! Some killers with crossbows try to collect the bounty, but once again, The Hero smears them. This scene has some hilariously bad wire work, and very entertaining use of dummies! After TCB'in, our Hero has his first actual face to face with The Man In Black. Great music plays whenever TMIB shows up, sounds like spacey Alan Parsons Project or some shit. They have a minor confrontation, which REALLY looks like Spy vs. Spy from MAD Magazine. TMIB is basically trying to find out how tough our Hero is. The fight ends with our Hero sustaining a minor injury, and this snippet of dialog...
TMIB: "You're the very first man.... who could withstand me."
Hero: "You're the only one... til now... who could hurt me."
...and TMIB walks off into the sunset.
So, to make an already too long story short, TMIB meets with the warlord's henchman and says he will kill The Hero, but such a difficult task will cost 10,000 gold taels. The henchman agrees, but only if TMIB kills the nephew also. TMIB agrees, and goes to take care of his only real threat to the bounty, Thunder Palm. They have a confrontation, and Thunder Palm drives him away with some grenades. The next day we see our Hero & Sao Chu continuing on in the woods, and out jumps Thunder Palm looking to collect the gold. The Hero overpowers Thunder Palm, and is about to slay him, but Girlfriend and Sao Chu beg for him to be spared. Cue Young & the Restless Theme again. The Hero spares Thunder Palm's life, but not before cutting off two of his fingers, leading to this unintentionally funny line:
Hero: "You've lost two fingers, but you can still use a hoe."
The Hero and his nephew continue on the journey and we cut to Thunder Palm & Girlfriend. Thunder Palm has once again promised to never fight again and they decide it's time to get married. After the Young & the Restless theme AGAIN, in comes TMIB to poop on their plans, and thinking that Thunder Palm is still a threat to the gold, carves him open like a turkey. He then rapes Girlfriend as Thunder Palm dies watching. Now Girlfriend vows to avenge her man's death. Next we see our Hero out on the trail, carrying Sao Chu in a basket on his back. TMIB catches up to them ready to fight. The Hero throws Sao Chu about 50 feet up into a tree for safety, and the fight is on. After a great Spy vs Spy fight, they come to an even lock up, TMIB confident he will emerge victorious. TMIB tells The Hero the mastermind behind the whole plot and then says...
TMIB: "I promise you that you will soon have a fine quality coffin!"
...and of course The Hero parries TMIB's secret weapon and defeats him. But what's this? Somehow, fifty feet up in the tree, the henchman appears and kidnaps Sao Chu. Also, Girlfriend once again swings in on a vine like Tarzan, and sees TMIB has been killed and she now owes our Hero a debt. He continues after the mastermind warlord and arrives at his humble abode. After getting attacked by an eagle (and plucking it clean in mid-air with his sword), he finds a note from the warlord telling him where to save Sao Chu. Off he goes. Along the way he paddles a boat half way across an exploding river (yes), and jumps the rest of the way across (about 100 feet) jumping off the surface of the water not once, but twice as a springboard. At the top of a hill, he finds Sao Chu, guarded by none other than Beardy! Oh, and about 20 archers. While busy with Beardy, two things happen. The evil warlord (Chan Sing) shows up and carries off Sao Chu, and a group of soldiers show up and take out the archers. Who the hell were they and where did they come from??? Anyway, our Hero kills Beardy, and makes his way to the hilltop where he gets blindfolded, his hands tied behind his back, and strung up from a tree. Out comes the warlord and we find out the criminal that was executed at the beginning of the film was his only relative, so now there is no one left to carry on the legacy of nasty evil warlord type stuff. He's got The Hero right where he wants him, and says...
Warlord: "How I hate you! I'll kill you! I'll drink your blood,
and eat your flesh! Every drop, every morsel!"
...and begins to slice & dice him.
Well guess who shows up when things look grim for our Hero? It's Girlfriend, and she's back to repay her debt. She throws a couple Thunder Palm Grenades, releases The Hero from warlord's kinky bondage, and promptly gets skewered. After a nice fight, our Hero defeats the warlord's Eagle Claw by hanging him. I mean come on, he wouldn't have been "The Hero" if he didn't live, right? He then rescues Sao Chu, they bury Girlfriend, and head off into the sunset, this time little Sao Chu pulling The Hero in the wagon! THE END. (What became of Sao Chu's mother!?)
This was a good movie. It had lots of classic KFC's¹ and the story was entertaining. The fights were good, The Hero was a very likable character, TMIB was a great villain, and also a there's cameo by Beardy! It would make excellent Saturday afternoon viewing, and I recommend it!
RATING: 3 ½ out of 5 Venoms
¹KUNG FU CLICHES:Classic dubbing, superhuman feats, hokey wire-work, insane dialog, stolen soundtrack, dummy abuse, plot left hanging, and more.
For my first featured Face of Fu (how's THAT for alliteration!), I have chosen my favorite kung fu actor, Leung Kar-Yan. Leung Kar Yan (or Beardy, his nickname) started his acting career in the early/mid 70's. He had been a fan of director Chang Cheh's films, as well as Bruce Lee's movies. As his interest in kung fu movies progressed, he decided to visit a movie set to see how films were made. At the time, Chang Cheh was looking for talent, and Leung Kar-Yan decided to try his luck. Even though he had no prior acting experience, Leung Kar-Yan had his first acting job just a few days after his interview! His first film was Chang Cheh's "Shaolin Martial Arts" in 1974, and the rest is history!
While he started his career doing films for Chang Cheh that were distributed by Shaw Brothers, it wasn't until a few years later when he broke out and earned some bigger roles. In 1978 he hooked up with Sammo Hung for the film "Warriors Two" at Golden Harvest Studios. Some other excellent films he did around this time under the helm of Sammo Hung were "Enter the Fat Dragon," "Knockabout," and "The Victim." While displaying wonderful fighting in these films, Leung Kar-Yan also showed a flair for slapstick comedy, especially in the latter two. Some of his other popular movies during the end of the 70's and beginning of the 80's were "Sleeping Fist," "Thundering Mantis," and "Postman Strikes Back" co-starring a young Chow Yun-Fat. "Thundering Mantis" has one of my favorite ending scenes of all time. The normally happy-go-lucky Leung Kar-Yan gets pushed to his wits end.... and it just has to be seen to be believed!
During the mid-80's, Leung Kar-Yan decided to try his hand at directing films. In 1984, he directed his first movie, "Profile In Anger." Between 1990 and 2003 Leung Kar-Yan directed a few other movies. He had some success with his own films, but not as much as he saw earlier in his acting career. In 1997, Beardy once again teamed up with Sammo Hung, this time as his Assistant Director, on the set of Mr. Nice Guy, starring Jackie Chan. That film grossed over $45M in Hong Kong alone! Leung Kar-Yan continues to act in various action and comedy movies to this day.
Many attributes have cemented his position at the top of my list. Firstly, his seemingly effortless command of the martial arts is amazing. His forms are very fluid and graceful, whether it be his Mantis style in "Thundering Mantis" or his Wing Chun in "Warriors Two." I was amazed when I found out that he actually had NO formal martial arts or Peking Opera training! He basically just learned by mimicking the moves shown to him by his co-stars and action directors. ...And he learned from some of the best martial arts action directors in history, including Liu Chia-Liang, Sammo Hung, and Yuen Wo-Ping!Secondly, I find his acting to be great, especially considering he jumped right into the industry with no experience what-so-ever. Serious, slapstick, he can do it all. Be it a no nonsense villain, a bumbling two-timing crook, or an out of control fighter seeking revenge, he knew exactly what the role needed to make it entertaining. Finally, his trademark beard... Normally the beard signified a kung fu villain, but Beardy could sport it as a hero and still make it work. It makes him instantly recognizable, and even casual kung fu fans will usually remember Beardy!
Shaolin Martial Arts (1974)
Warriors Two (1978)
The Victim (1980)
Thundering Mantis (1980)
Here's the ending battle from "Thundering Mantis."