Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Review: Shaolin Master & the Kid (1980)

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!

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.

"Buddha bless you..."


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