Eastern Condors (1987)

Reviewed by Karlos
December 20, 2014


Sammo Hung • Yuen Biao • Joyce Godenzi • Lam Ching-Ying • Charlie Chin Chiang-Lin • Yuen Wo-Ping • Hsiao Ho
Sammo Hung
Yuen Wah • Corey Yuen Kwai • LamChing-Ying • Yuen Biao • Sammo Hung • Hsiao Ho
Version reviewed was widescreen, original language.
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After the creative divorce of Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan, both camps would go on to do some of the most interesting work of their respective careers. Jackie went off to make films such as PROJECT A II and MIRACLES and Sammo embarked on a host of films in a relatively short space of time, some arguably outdoing his former compadre – including this one.

EASTERN CONDORS sent a clear message to Chan, intentionally or not: Sammo was in full force, utilizing a who’s who of the martial world’s crème de la crème, the old school being represented as much as the (then) new wave: including Yuen Biao (Sammo got custody of him after the split), Yuen Wah, Yuen “Insert Matrix Trilogy reference HERE” Woo-Ping, Hsiao Hao, Yasuaki Kurata, Dick Wei, Dr Haing S Ngor, Lam Ching Ying, Charlie Chin, Joyce Godenzi, and many more.

Jackie got the house, but Sammo clearly kept the friends.

CONDORS is not shy about employing elements from other war films: THE DIRTY DOZEN, THE WILD GEESE, APOCALYPSE NOW, THE DEER HUNTER, RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II, YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (really), and FULL METAL JACKET*, their DNA is all in there, mixed in and shot through with Sammo’s incredible action direction and fight choreography.

Although the influences were many, the story is kept drum tight: A group of Chinese convicts, facing long sentences, are given a shot at freedom. All they have to do is parachute into post-war Vietnam and destroy a huge weapons cache the US military left deep in the jungle. Immediately, all appears doomed, with one of the team killed and the mission itself aborted. But Sammo don’t quit. He’s clearly too legit.

And so it begins, with Sammo and crew carrying out the mission regardless, taking on everyone they encounter, in an incredible fusion of firepower, feet and fists. Every single set piece delivers – every one – and culminates in a finale that brings the house down. Literally.

Now, most, if not all, of the people here will have seen this already. Cool. Go watch it again. If you haven’t seen it, put this at the top of your list. It has aged not one day since it came out back in 1987, remaining every bit as badass and brilliant now as it was then.

The very best way to see this is the German DVD, released under the Eyecatcher label. It’s currently out of print, but can be found. (The same company also did an astonishing job on another ’80s Sammo masterpiece, MILLIONAIRE’S EXPRESS).

Avoid the Scam & Conjob – I mean, Kam & Ronson – HK Blu-ray at all costs.

* Editor’s Note: Although EASTERN CONDORS was released on July 9, 1987, and FULL METAL JACKET on July 10, 1987, it’s been reported that Sammo (perhaps via an advanced screening) got the idea for the female guerrilla fighters after seeing the female sniper in Kubrick’s film. Source: Hong Kong Action Cinema by Bey Logan, 1995.