Friday, February 5, 2010

Review: Unbeaten 28 (1980)

After watching "Delightful Forest, I decided pick a flick that was a little less polished and less serious in tone. "Ahhh... "Unbeaten 28." Now this is the kind of fu flick that brings back the childhood memories. Full screen, scratchy print, old school dubbing, that boomy echoing narrator telling the lead-in story... and a lot of pure goofy fun.

"Unbeaten 28," written, produced, and directed by Joseph Kuo, stars Mang Fei as Tiger, and features Jack & Mark Long in supporting roles. The narrator tells us that the evil warlord Yen Chan Tin (Mark Long) has ordered and carried out the slaughter of a family and their entire clan. Only a baby survived, and was taken to safety to the nearby Abbot. Meanwhile we see a duel between Yen Chan Tin and a brave man who's hellbent on putting an end to Yen Chan Tin and his reign of tyranny. Needless to say, Yen Chan Tin stomps the hell out of the guy, killing him in a wonderful freeze frame shot while yelling "May you rot in hell!" Who did you THINK would win? We wouldn't have much of a story if the bad guy died in the first five minutes, now would we??

Next we find that the Abbot has taken the aforementioned baby (Tiger) to Master Yung (Jack Long), a respected kung fu instructor, to teach him the art of fighting to eventually avenge the death of his family. Master Yung takes Tiger to Lin Wan Mountain and starts his training at 1 year old with "a special diet of tiger's milk and wild herbs." In a scene I found particularly funny, we see Tiger sitting in a giant wok over a fire as Master Yung rubs hot sand on him to "temper the muscles and give the body power." "His hands were hardened in hot sand until his fingers had the strength of tensile steel!" Gotta love that narrator! Meanwhile, while Master Yung is busy training Tiger at Lin Wan Mountain, Yen Chan Tin strikes again, this time killing Master Yung's wife and all his students. Now is Tiger not only training to avenge his own family's death, but the slaughter of Master Yung's clan also!

After 18 years of constant training, Tiger is now ready to go to the Tai Shin Temple to test his skills against the 18 obstacles and be awarded the secret kung fu manual. Tiger enters the temple and must use his skills to deal with heavy bronze doors, a giggling stone man that slaps him around, fighting statues, and the effeminate 'spirit' of Tai Shin Temple that fights in various animal styles, ox, snake, and monkey included. Tiger is unsuccessful in his first attempts to complete all the obstacles, and during this time Master Yung is slain by Yen Chan Tin in a too short duel in the forest. This gives the motivation Tiger needs to complete the temple challenges, obtain the Tai Shin Kung Fu Manual, and face off in the final fight against Yen Chan Tin, which includes flying hats, a bunch of giant styrofoam rocks and fire breathing statue. Tiger emerges victorious, and we are to assume he goes on to rebuild his clan.

I found this to be a slightly better than mediocre Joseph Kuo effort. While it wasn't filled with wall to wall fights like, say, "The 7 Grandmasters," or a genre classic like "18 Bronzemen," or even up to the par of "Born Invincible," it did have enough entertaining training sequences and charming wackiness in the Tai Shin Temple and KFC's¹ to keep my interest. Meng Fei was good as Tiger, and Mark Long made an excellent villain as Yen Chen Tin. And even though he didn't really get a chance to show off much of his kung fu skill, Jack Long was quite captivating as Master Yung. Actually the one thing that disappointed me was the very short and uneventful duel between Master Yung and Yen Chen Tin. With the supreme skills of Mark & Jack Long at his disposal, Joseph Kuo really dropped the ball by not showcasing their talents and making that a longer, more dramatic battle. Altogether though, "Unbeaten 28" is certainly worth checking out, so what are you waiting for? (PS. - I still haven't figured out what the 28 were, as they only refer to the "18" obstacles of the Tai Shin Temple.... oh well, I guess that's all part of the goofy charm!)

3 out of 5 Venoms

¹KUNG FU CLICHES: Classic dubbing, cheap props, freeze frame, confusing genders, flying hats, animal abuse, and more.

Unbeaten 28 trailer

"May you rot in hell!!!"


venoms5 said...

I remember renting the old MPI tape years ago. I often wondered about the actual 'Unbeaten 28' of the title. I figured maybe I had missed something. Maybe it's a translation error? Who knows. The fights are awesome and the sets are quite nice, especially to this Shaw Brothers fan who appreciates some fine interiors.

FuSubs said...

Nice work

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