Jump to content

I would like to thank everyone who was able to make a donation for the purpose of obtaining new features for the forum. The donation goal was met rather quickly and we here at Kung Fu Fandom can not thank you enough for the support. The plan is once the new site is up and running, the focus will then turn to the forum on updating and adding these new features and we will continue to strive to make your time spent here on the forum as enjoyable as possible. _/|\_

Sign in to follow this  
masterofoneinchpunch

February 2017 Mutual Review Thread

Recommended Posts

Let us bring Halloween a little bit earlier this year, but with a slight twist. I want to read your takes on the Asian Supernatural  film.  No serial killers, human buns, crazy taxi drivers, psychological thrillers unless there is a supernatural bent.  While martial arts will be a nice addition to your choice it is not a must.

Bring us your ghouls, hopping vampires, Lam Ching-ying with his mono-brow, Taoist priests, ghosts, demons, jigoku, black magic, Dean Shek, incantations, zombies, inner senses (especially your left eye), occult, and their sequels. Since kaiju are a genre on themselves (and are real) we will not consider those.

As usual:

 1. Let us try to avoid overlap with reviews. But if you want to reply with a respectful riposte review like a dueling Taoist priest please feel free.

 2. There is no length requirement short or long, although a minimum of two paragraphs would be nice when explaining your spooky encounters.

 3. If you are afraid someone might take your choice, you can post here declaring the film you wish to review and/or put a hex on those who might take your choice.

 4. Do not wait too long or rigor mortis might set it.

 5. Have fun and always remember to bring sticky rice and chicken blood!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Put me down initially for Pearl Chang Ling's "conceptual trilogy" of Wolf Woman/Phoenix Ninja films: WOLF DEVIL WOMAN; MATCHING ESCORT; and MIRACULOUS FLOWER. If I have time, I'll complement it with something more modern.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This should prove to be some interesting reading, but these sorts of films are not my forte and I rarely care to watch them. Unless I get a wild hair later in the month, I'm going to take a pass for now.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 minutes ago, ShaOW!linDude said:

This should prove to be some interesting reading, but these sorts of films are not my forte and I rarely care to watch them. Unless I get a wild hair later in the month, I'm going to take a pass for now.

Originally I was going to make it more difficult and strictly go on hopping vampire films :D.  Really no Spooky Encounters (either), Mr. Vampire (any of them), Miracle Fighters (any of them), Legendary Weapons of China :D?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 minutes ago, masterofoneinchpunch said:

 Really no Spooky Encounters (either), Mr. Vampire (any of them), Miracle Fighters (any of them), Legendary Weapons of China :D?

If I did any of them, it'd be Spooky Encounters, and that solely for the fights. I don't remember anything supernatural about LWoC but I've not watched it in a while. As far as the others go, I'm just a fan of the Taoist magic/comedy theme. 

Doesn't The Kid From Tibet have a supernatural element to it?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 minutes ago, ShaOW!linDude said:

If I did any of them, it'd be Spooky Encounters, and that solely for the fights. I don't remember anything supernatural about LWoC but I've not watched it in a while. As far as the others go, I'm just a fan of the Taoist magic/comedy theme. 

Doesn't The Kid From Tibet have a supernatural element to it?

You don't remember the doll? :D  Lau Kar-leung has a few films that might fit.

It would be great to see you write on Spooky Encounters.  Heck, I challenge you to write at least one review for this month.  I have a review on here of it, a bit musty and smells but still some decent comments.

Yes. A Kid From Tibet would count.  Have you seen Mr. Vampire?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 minutes ago, masterofoneinchpunch said:

Yes. A Kid From Tibet would count.  Have you seen Mr. Vampire?

Okay, AKFT might be a possibility...and SE.

I've never seen any of the Mr. Vampire films. The clips I've seen from some of them just didn't elicit any interest in me to watch them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'll kick things off with a review I wrote last year - 

Evil Hits Evil (1983)

Originally posted here - http://cityonfire.com/evil-hits-evil-aka-three-dark-spirits-1983-review-5/

If you’re going to watch a horror movie, then one which credits its director as Lucifer Lai Wen-Hsiang is as good a place to start as any. In what appears to be his first and last time in the director’s chair, Wen-Hsiang unleashed this Taiwanese and Korean co-production onto unsuspecting audiences in the wake of the kung fu horror genres revival in Hong Kong. Thanks largely to Sammo Hung’s productions such as 'Encounters of the Spooky Kind' and 'The Dead and the Deadly' (which was made the year prior), movies which feature as much Taoist magic as they did toe-to-toe showdowns had become a popular trend in the early 80’s. While Taiwanese and Korean productions of the same elk were always considered a tier below their Hong Kong counterparts, that certainly never made them any less fun.

'Evil Hits Evil' brings together an eclectic cast of talent. I’m not sure if there’s another movie out that that features the likes of Kwan Yung-moon, Chan Sing, Robert Tai, and Doris Lung all sharing the screen together, however Wen-Hsiang appears to have used his devilish ways to make it happen. What’s perhaps more surprising though, is that he decides for the majority of the runtime to keep it a straight faced horror movie, with very little kung fu action on display. While some would, understandably, cry foul at having such talents share the screen and not fully utilise their physicality, it’s certainly not the first instance of kung fu stars branching out into horror territory. Shaw Brothers stars Ti Lung and Lo Lieh famously paired up for 'Black Magic' and its sequel, and Philip Ko found himself front and center of the madness that is 'The Boxer’s Omen', made the same year as 'Evil Hits Evil'.

The plot opens with Kwan Yung-moon arriving home to find his parents murdered by a group of six assassins, which includes an axe wielding strongman with a mohawk, and a crossdresser. The assassins have been sent by a respected government official played by Chan Sing, who couldn’t tolerate Yung-moon’s lowly woodcutter harbouring a crush towards his daughter, played by Doris Lung. Yung-moon also ends up being beaten and left for dead, however once he dies his spirit is unable to rest and returns to seek vengeance, which he does via possessing the body of another woodcutter played by Alan Lau, a mainstay of many 70’s and 80’s Taiwanese movies.

All of this takes place in the opening few minutes, after which Lau becomes the plots main focus, with Yung-moon not appearing again until we get 50 minutes in. While fans of the Mad Korean will no doubt be disappointed by his prompt exit, his presence continues to be felt via Lau’s possessions, and when he does reappear it’s certainly worth it. As I mentioned, Wen-Hsiang chooses to focus on the horror element for most of the run-time, which actually serve to make 'Evil Hits Evil' a refreshing piece of old-school Asian spookiness. Lau looks genuinely tormented whenever Yung-moon possesses his body, as he scratches his head wildly and the camera distorts the image onscreen. The fact that almost the whole movie takes place at night also adds to the supernatural atmosphere.

What’s perhaps most interesting though is the treatment of those spirits looking to seek vengeance. Essentially once Yung-moon returns as a spirit, he’s treated as much as a bad guy as Chan Sing’s murderous government official. As a spirit harassing the lives of the living, it quickly becomes apparent that he’ll do anything to ensure he gets revenge, and pays little regard to those that get in his way. As an innocent everyman that gets murdered, it’s an interesting tonal shift that suddenly sees him become a bad guy on equal footing with the character that had him murdered, and one that it appears as an audience we’re supposed to willingly accept. Such a turn in events is also likely the origin of the movies English title, 'Evil Hits Evil'.

The arrival on the scene of a Taoist master, played with an energetic gusto by Robert Tai, leads to a series of Taoist rituals being conducted to try and remove Yung-moon’s spirit from Lau’s body, one which allows us the pleasure of briefly enjoying a Yung-moon vs. Tai face off. Unfortunately the introduction of a fake Taoist master trying to make a quick buck (think Richard Ng in 'Mr. Vampire Part 3'), leads to a jarring comedic shift which threatens to derail the whole production. The scene involving the fake master and his assistant is overly long and a torturous affair to get through, but thankfully it doesn’t last, and the characters exit the movie as quickly as they entered it.

There are a couple of other comedic scenes thrown into mix, almost as if there was a comedy quota that had to be fulfilled, which stick out like a sore thumb amongst the darkness of the rest of the plot (both literally and figuratively). In one scene a pair of bandits attempt to mug a passer-by, one of them brandishing a pair of nunchucks, and the other tasked with keeping their pet Pug on a leash. Yes, before Pugs became the subject of countless Instagram accounts, one of them played a pet to a pair of bandits in a 1983 horror movie. The bandits ultimately end up being chased by a much bigger dog, which amusingly bites the arm of one of them. He then proceeds to try and get the dog to unlock its jaws by spinning in circles, but only ends up swinging it around by its teeth, like a canine version of an Olympic hammer throw. Dog lovers will likely not be impressed.

I would argue that these scenes could well have been filmed separately by Nam Gi-nam in Korea, who’s listed as the director on the Korean Movie Database. Gi-nam acted as a co-director on many Korean co-productions throughout his career, including the likes of 'New Fist of Fury', 'The Clones of Bruce Lee', and 'Ninja in the Dragons Den', so this kind of arrangement was certainly one that wouldn’t be new to him. The character that really steals the show could also be Korean, as frustratingly she’s not listed on any of the usual online movie databases. Later in the movie a female Taoist master shows up, dreadlocked, heavily tattooed, and wearing what can best be described as a fur leotard. Whoever she is, her character certainly leaves a lasting impression, especially in one particular scene in which she proceeds to do the splits while levitating above the ground.

It’s this mysterious female master who eventually coaxes Yung-moon to show himself, which leads to an entertaining showdown that involves him kicking someone’s head off (for the second time in his career, the first attempt belonging to 'Kung Fu Zombie'), as well as witnessing him chewing the glass of a fluorescent light stick. Don’t ask how a fluorescent light stick ended up in a movie set during this era, but I have a feeling it was included for the simple reason to see Yung-moon eating it. During his martial arts demonstrations, Yung-moon would often smash a pair of fluorescent light sticks over his head, and then proceed to eat the glass of the smashed stubs like they were chicken legs. He wasn’t called the Mad Korean for nothing.

Yung-moon also gets to finally unleash some of his trademark kicks during the showdown, ensuring that those that have clocked in purely for his presence can leave feeling satisfied. Often in 'Evil Hits Evil' though it’s the smaller details leave a lingering impression. The inclusion of a black crow, that follows Lau around whenever he’s possessed, pre-dates the same concept that was used in Brandon Lee’s fateful final movie by a whole decade, and who wouldn’t be entertained by watching steam come out of Robert Tai’s head? Throw in re-animated zombies, grizzly makeup transformations, and some worthy death scenes (the final scene with Yung-moon is a killer, pun intended), and while 'Evil Hits Evil' is far from the best horror Asia has to offer, it’s still a whole lot of fun.

LK3001520.jpg

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Put me down for The Spiritual Boxer(1975) directed by Lau Kar Leung, if that fits the criteria?. Some years since I watched this one, so not sure if its suitable enough for this moths theme?.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wolf Devil Woman (1982)

Starring: Pearl Chang Ling, Sek Fung, Wang Hsieh, Wan Siu-Man, Ho Hing-Nam

Director: Pearl Chang Ling

Action Director: ???

Pearl Chang Ling is an interesting figure in the history of the Jade Screen, as she seems to have been a particularly ambitious woman in the Taiwanese film industry. While women like Hsu Feng and Sharon Yeung Pan Pan turned to producing when their respective genres (70s wuxia and Girls n' Guns) had more or less run their course, Pearl had only appeared in a handful of movies before she appeared in a series of of vanity projects that she herself wrote, produced, directed and starred in. While her initial movies look like pretty typical genre fare for the 70s, these later projects appear to be among the most bonkers movies being made at the time. Three of those movies form what Thomas Weisser refers to as a "conceptual trilogy," partly due to the fact that they were released in some territories as the Wolf Devil Woman series, while two of the movies were released in other places as the Phoenix the Ninja series. All three of them were Chang Ling's pet projects, and deal with her avenging the death of her parents in one way or another.

The story for Wolf Devil Woman is inspired by the same tale that gave rise to The Bride With White Hair and Li Bingbing's character in The Forbidden Kingdom. There's a evil cult led by a man in a golden wizard costume, complete with a cone-shaped Merlin hat with a red skull-and-crossbones that I think Pearl's young nephew cut out of construction paper. The sorcerer is known as the Devil (who is dubbed by a man with a strong Texas drawl), and when we meet him, he is crucifying and torturing some random victim via voodoo/Maoshan magic, in which he sticks pins in a doll and even places the doll's head in boiling water. Two of the Devil's followers, a swordsman and his wife, get fed up with their master's antics and take to the hills with their newborn child to find a better life. They are tracked down by one of the Devil's generals, who looks to be wearing a Halloween mask of Bela Lugosi-by-way-of-a-fanged-gorilla, and his army of ninja. Outnumbered, the two escapees stab themselves, covering the baby in their blood (meant to keep the child warm), and then ram their heads into a wall of ice until an avalanche occurs. The baby is rescued from a snowy grave by a pack of wolves, who proceed to raise her in whatever way a pack of wolves could raise a human.

Twenty years later, the baby has grown into a wolf woman, meaning that she growls, kills small rabbits with her mouth and devours them raw, and can perform wire stunts as needed. She also has a curvature of the spine from walking around on all fours for most of her life. Meanwhile, elsewhere on the snowy mountain where she lives, a young swordsman named Rudolph (yes, that's how he's named in the credits) and his annoying sidekick Rudy (I swear I'm not making this up) is looking for a plant called 1000-year-old ginseng. This special ginseng is the key to surving the Devil's freezing spells (very similar to the Jinxes freezing attack in Jet Li's Kung Fu Cult Master), which is important, since in the past 20 years, the Devil and his armies have been on a killing spree, massacring any kung fu master who doesn't agree to join him. Rudolph and Rudy meet the wolf girl, whom the former names "Snow Hibiscus." He teaches her language and uses his kung fu chiropractor skills to correct her spine. She eventually informs Rudolph that she herself ate the Thousand-Year Ginseng when she was a little girl, which is bad news for everybody back home. Rudolph does perk Snow Hibiscus's interest in his quest by revealing a chamber in her snow cave where the frozen corpse of her (human) mother is.

Long story short: Rudolph is kidnapped by the Devil's men, who subject him to the hypnosis skills of the Devil's female witch companion. He becomes the Red Devil, a servant to the our faux Merlin. After some fish-out-of-water scenes involving Snow Hibiscus, she learns the truth of her parentage and swears revenge against the Devil and his army of ninja.

This is one of those movies that looks totally awesome when reading a plot synopsis of it, but the actually movie falls a little short of one's expectations. I mean, Thomas Weisser gave the movie a four-star rating in Asian Cult Cinema and Keith Allison of Teleport City said, "With a decent helping of comedy, tons of martial action (most of it average but enjoyable swordplay), and Cheung Ling in a little wolf outfit, you simply can't go wrong with this film. After all, it has all those things in spades." I didn't quite feel the same way. After the first 10 minutes or so, the movie sort of drags until the final 20 minutes, which are admittedly extremely entertaining. But too much time is spent with the "domestication" and integration of Snow Hibiscus that I found myself busying myself with other things while waiting for the action to kick in again.

And then you get to those glorious final moments, where Hibiscus puts on a nice white dress (I can only assume Rudy paid for it) and whips out her signature weapon, a long, fur-covered cord with dessicated animal claws at each end. She tracks the evil ninja through forests, deserts and other terrain, hacking every last one of them to pieces with her weapon. Sometimes she wraps the cord around a poor sucker's neck and yanks his head off. There's one doomed sap whom Hibiscus literally tears limb from limb with her bare hands. All of this is filmed with wires and quick cuts, much like the way that Ching Siu-Tung filmed his wuxia films during the 90s. Purists should indeed beware, but people who simply like "weird fu" will certainly get a kick out of all this.

She finally storms the Devil's lair, who unleashes his army of zombies (which hop around like guanxi). The idea is that the Devil collected dozens of kung fu masters from his raids and imprisoned them. He then placed golden needles inside Maoshan-enchanted dolls, which paralyzed them. I assume that being the one to place the golden needle in them also meant that if he removed the needles, they would become zombies. That's what happens. So you have this final showdown where Snow Hibiscus is ripping these hopping zombies to shreds with her claw weapon while Rudolph, now on our side again, is flying around on wires shooting golden arrows (as in arrows made of gold, which he just happened to have on hand near the convenient forge) at the zombies, which is also their weakness. The Devil also keeps part of his lifeforce inside of a doll, which results in the tragic lesson of "if you're going to make a Chinese equivalent to a horcrux to house your soul, don't keep it in plain sight of everybody."

So there's a lot of weirdness and bizarre supernatural shtuff on display, plus some animal dismemberment for [bad] measure, but I wish it was spread out a lot more uniformly through the film, instead of clumped together during the first and last 20 minutes of the movie.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
21 hours ago, DrNgor said:

Wolf Devil Woman (1982)

Starring: Pearl Chang Ling, Sek Fung, Wang Hsieh, Wan Siu-Man, Ho Hing-Nam

Director: Pearl Chang Ling

Action Director: ???

Superb review DrNgor, it's going to be interesting to hear your take on the other two bonkers movies in the series. You and @One Armed Boxer have set the bar prettty high, with your first reviews.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, DragonClaws said:

Superb review DrNgor, it's going to be interesting to hear your take on the other two bonkers movies in the series. You and @One Armed Boxer have set the bar prettty high, with your first reviews.

Thanks, DragonClaws. I just reviewed the second movie (I'm on vacation from work, so I have more time to watch and write). It didn't fit the criteria, so it got its own thread.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My second choice of movie for this months theme is the 2009 Korean production Woochi:Demon Slayer. From the description on the Cine-Asia DVD cover it looks very appropreiate for this months super natural theme.

Edited by DragonClaws

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
22 hours ago, DragonClaws said:

My second choice of movie for this months theme is the 2009 Korean production Woochi:Demon Slayer.

Nice choice DC!  Ironically, this is the only one of Choi Dong-hoon's movies that I haven't seen or own, precisely because the subject matter didn't really appeal to me at the time it came out.  Having watched all of his movies since though, all of which never fail to make it into my yearly top ten, I should really go back and check this out, so will be looking forward to reading your review!

I'll bring things a little more up to date - 

Keeper of Darkness (2015)

Originally posted here - http://cityonfire.com/keeper-of-darkness-2015-review/

Nick Cheung has been a presence within the Hong Kong movie industry for over 25 years, but it’s his recent collaborations with director Dante Lam that really brought him to the fore. With scene stealing turns in 'Beast Stalker', 'Stool Pigeon', 'Unbeatable', and 'That Demon Within', Cheung showed a range and screen presence which hadn’t previously been witnessed. His charismatic turn’s saw plenty of offers coming in, and since playing a conflicted child kidnapper in 2008’s 'Beast Stalker', by the end of 2015 he’d featured in over 20 productions.

One of those productions happened to mark his directorial debut, with 2014’s 'Hungry Ghost Ritual'. A new Hong Kong horror movie is always welcomed, and just a year prior another long-time HK thespian, Simon Yam, also tried his hand at directing, with the similarly horror themed 'Stolen Goods' segment in the 'Tales from the Dark 1' anthology. Much like Yam’s effort though, 'Hungry Ghost Ritual' was met with a luke-warm response, and many considered it to be a missed opportunity to recapture the atmosphere of HK horror flicks from yesteryear.

However as the expression goes, if at first you don’t succeed, try try again, and 2015 saw Cheung return to the director’s chair for his sophomore feature, again staying within the horror genre for 'Keeper of Darkness'. As with 'Hungry Ghost Ritual', Cheung again casts himself as the main character, but this time he’s playing what could best be described as a modern day incarnation of Lam Ching Ying’s Taoist priest from the 'Mr. Vampire' series. Tattooed, tanned, with bleached white hair, Cheung has a unique way of dealing with the spirits and demons who lurk in the Hong Kong shadows – rather than performing any type of fancy Taoist ritual, he sits down and negotiates with them.

It’s a novel concept, but one which works surprisingly well onscreen, as we’re introduced to him having a heated discussion with a possessed woman in an apartment kitchen while her husband watches on. Unbeknownst to Cheung though, the whole encounter has been filmed, and once it’s uploaded onto social media it quickly goes viral, leading to a reporter, played by Sisley Choi, constantly pestering him for an interview. He soon has bigger concerns to worry about though with the appearance of a vengeful spirit, who’s rampaging around killing other masters of the supernatural, due to unjustly perishing in a fire with his young daughter. Oh, and it should also be mentioned that Cheung lives with a ghost, played by Amber Kuo, who thanks to dying in a bathtub leaves a trail of water wherever she goes, resulting in Cheung having to constantly mop his apartment floor.

If that plot description doesn’t seem entirely coherent, it’s because it’s not. This is both the biggest strength and weakness of 'Keeper of Darkness', in that it successfully recaptures the ‘everything and the kitchen sink’ feel of those older HK movies that we know and love so well. What’s especially charming is that Cheung has recaptured it without even intending to, with the end result coming about more as a by-product of his energetic direction. Of course back then there was no internet to dissect and nit-pick every minute detail of a production, and it’s easy to argue that had there been, many of the movies we consider as classics would probably be passed off as incoherent messes in today’s world. However with 'Keeper of Darkness', Cheung successfully shows that incoherent messes can still be a lot of fun.

From the outset Cheung seems set to give us a scare filled tale of a vengeful spirit with dark intentions, one which he laces with some quirky black humor to offset the ghastly happenings. Indeed the opening 30 minutes contain at least one effective jump scare, an unsettlingly tense locked in a room with a ghost scene, and a laugh out loud sight gag. However by the time the narrative settles down to allow us some time to know Cheung’s character a little better, the middle of the movie begins to feel more like a supernatural romance, as he rides around Hong Kong with Kuo hovering on the back of his bike, and they pantomime table tennis to each other in the apartment. By the time the focus turns back to the main plot of finding out why the vengeful spirit and his daughter died the way they did, the tone has shifted completely away from the creeping dread of the opening scenes, and goes the route of an action horror flick, complete with chickens being randomly thrown into saunas, and a restaurant brawl with a possessed exorcist.

But are these jarring tonal shifts really a negative? In the context of the way 'Keeper of Darkness' plays out, I’d argue no. Cheung’s movie may be all over the place, but it still feels controlled, and while the events playing out onscreen do pull the viewer in a variety of different directions, asking us to feel horrified, excited, amused, and all fuzzy inside from one minute to the next, a sense of purpose is maintained. The vengeful spirit himself ultimately earns a get-out-of-jail free card thanks to the jarring shifts. An imposingly tall blue spectre, with an oblong like head, the first couple of scenes he appears in deliver a suitable impact of foreboding terror. However the more he appears onscreen, the more anyone familiar with HK cinema will likely begin asking themselves, “Isn’t that Xing Yu’s face squashed and imposed onto the spirits head?” And indeed they’d be right, it is Xing Yu that plays the nemesis of the piece, and once you recognize him, suddenly the spirit just isn’t scary anymore.

Thankfully by the time this recognition takes place, his appearances are no longer expected to make you jump in your seat, as he becomes just another of the many apparitions that populate the world Cheung has created. Which brings us to the effects. All of the ghosts and demons are created with CGI, and look convincing enough to be a part of the environment in which they appear in. There’ll no doubt be purists out there who’ll cry foul that any supernatural movie with CGI shouldn’t be compared to the likes of 'Mr. Vampire' etc., but I’d happily argue that good CGI is better than lazy practical effects. I mean, can anyone really say the vampires in movies like 'Mr. Vampire 2' spent more than 5 minutes in the make-up room?

It’s not completely perfect, and a scene which requires Cheung to visit the underworld is the only time when the effects stumble, as both the environment and demons become 100% computer generated. The scene is brief and far from awful, however the inclusion of a couple of demons, who seem to have their movements set on a playback loop, damage the integrity, immediately taking the viewer out of the movie. But this is really a minor gripe, with the rest of the run-time more than compensating for the visual discrepancy. By far the biggest strength of 'Keeper of Darkness' is that it looks and feels like a Hong Kong horror movie, complete with all the randomness that they come saddled with. Kuo, a Mainland actress, is even dubbed into Cantonese, which is nothing short of a miracle in today’s climate, which often has Cantonese actors and actresses being dubbed into Mandarin.

While even the briefest amount of time contemplating the events that take place in 'Keeper of Darkness' will likely bring up an endless amount of questions – such as why, if the video of Cheung’s exorcism has become so popular, is a single female reporter seemingly the only person with any interest in him? And why, when Amber Kuo’s ghost character is involved in a car crash, does gravity affect her exactly the same way it affects the other (very much alive) passengers? Far from being a detractor though, these gaps in logic add to the quirkiness of the production, indicating a playful feel that’s reflective of Cheung’s real life personality.

Throw in a bunch of familiar faces from the Hong Kong movie industry, including Karena Lam, Shawn Yu, and perhaps the biggest crowd pleaser of all, Chin Kar Lok as a fellow exorcist master, and the feeling of nostalgia is one that permeates throughout Cheung’s second feature. The final scene in 'Keeper of Darkness' involves a cameo from one of the biggest names in the HK film industry, as a mysterious black suited spirit viewed from afar, hopefully indicating that we’ll be seeing more of Cheung’s exorcist master in a second installment. As a potential 'Mr. Vampire' series for the 2010’s, if we do get a sequel, you can count me in.

keeper-of-Darkness_poster_goldposter_com

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, One Armed Boxer said:

Nice choice DC!  Ironically, this is the only one of Choi Dong-hoon's movies that I haven't seen or own, precisely because the subject matter didn't really appeal to me at the time it came out.  Having watched all of his movies since though, all of which never fail to make it into my yearly top ten, I should really go back and check this out, so will be looking forward to reading your review!

Thanks One Armed Boxer, it will be first Choi Dong-Hoon movie I've ever watched. Got a review of Spiritual Boxer to write up first, so I'll probably cover Woochi:Demon Hunter later this month.

Edited by DragonClaws

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Spiritual Boxer    (1975)

a.k.a Naked Fists Of Terror, Fists From The Spirit World

Directed By- Liu Chia-Liang

Fight Choreographer- Liu Chia-Liang

Starring- Wong Yu, Lin Cehn-Chi, Shut Chung-Tin, Kong Yueng, Fung Hak-On, Lee Hoi-San, Ng Hong-Sang.

Plot Synopsis- A pair of fake Jitong specialists (Spiritual healers) Hsiao Chien(Wong Yu) & Master Chi-Keung(Kong Yeung). Spend their time swindling small villagers out of money and food, in return for their non-existent skills. When the pair get separated, Hsiao Chien is forced to change his way of thinking. He ends up in a small village, where the locals are being extorted by gangster Liu Deruei(Chung Shut-Tin). He decides to use his con artist skills, to help the locals fight back.

“My name is Wong Yun Chan, and I fight for justice, I can’t bare to watch your crimes”

 

Liu Chia-Liangs directorial debut is claimed to be the first Kung Fu comedy. While there's plenty of comedic elements, it’s hard to say if it was the first real Kung Fu comedy?. The film dabbles with the super natural, in this case a pair of con artists who claim to have super natural powers. Unlike some of the other movies covered in this month’s mutual review theme, the occult elements are not taken seriously. It's simply there to make the audience laugh and get our characters into various comedic situations. The film is also light on Martial Arts action, for a Liu Chia Liang movie that is. Unlike his later efforts, which were far more action orientated. That said, there's still some very nicely staged fight scenes on display in parts.

The movie opens with an occultist played by Wilson Tong, performing a ritual on two boxers, Ti Lung and Chen Kuen Tai in cameo roles. A voiceover tells us that in the late Ching Dynasty, the Emperor of China had heard about fighters becoming immune to weapons of any kind. He requested a demonstration, and this is what takes place at the start of the movie. None of the actors appear again in the film, and it gives you the impression the movie is going to be much more sombre and serious. There's plenty of incense/candle burning along with the usual chanting and burning of scriptures. This allows the two boxers to become immune to their attacker’s weapons. Ti Lung attains a chest of steel, when Wilson Tong paints some calligraphy on his back, in thick red paint. Lung then shows that he's impervious to a multiple spear attack. Before flexing his chest muscles, causing the weapons to shatter. If that wasn’t enough, the two boxers and their master even withstand being shot by musket fire.

While it’s an entertaining opening sequence, it's very different to what follows. It would have been nice to see Wilson Tong's character, feature in the rest of the production. The story really starts when we see Hsiao Chien, and his Master Chi-Keung walk into a small village in the hills. Like so many old-school Masters, Chi Keung has a big love of wine. Soon his knocking back the shots with some locals. While Hsiao Chien prepares for some up-coming ritual, where they plan to fleece the locals. It soon becomes clear that the master has consumed too much of the demon alcohol, and it’s down to Chien to perform the ritual instead.

Hsiao Chien is played by Shaw Brothers star Wong Yu, who spent most of his career with the studio. We first get to see Wong's physical skills during his fake spirit possession. Where his character is supposed to be channelling the spirit of the Monkey King. Mumbling some phony incantations to connect him with the spirit world. His does a great job of aping the mischievous mythical Chinese legend. Leaping around onto tables and scaring the local villagers. All except one guy, who’s not taking the bait. Luckily Chien's fake iron armour exhibition with a rigged knife, saves him from a beating.

While running from some disgruntled thugs later in the film, he gets away with the help of Jin Lian(Lin Chen-Chi). Like so many Asian productions of the time, our hero thinks that his helper is a boy. Which is kind of understandable at first, as Jin Lian is dressed in loose fitting clothes complete with short hair. However even her lighter voice fails to show Chien her real gender. There was a lot gender switching themes in 1970's Hong Kong cinema. While I'm not going to go into detail about it here. I can only guess it stems from the old theatre/opera days, when men would often play female parts. Chen Chi puts on a fine performance as Chien girlfriend and accomplice. She eventually has a more positive effect on him, making him change his swindling/con artist ways. Not before the pair getting involved in a phony exorcism first.

The pair are asked to rid a mansion of an evil spirit, who has taken up residence there. Like any of the super natural elements in this movie, the ghost is not what it appears to be. It's seems Hsiao Chien is not the only con-artist in the area. The actor who plays the ghost, I’ve never seen before and if anyone can I.D him I'd be most grateful. They eventually team up together and trick the rich family out of some money. Burning more incense, and making someone’s head produce flames. This film makes a big point about people being exploited. Especially the much poorer and uneducated members of the rural villagers. Very similar-to how the brave fighters of the Boxer Rebellion, were led to believe they were immune to weapons. Like I mentioned earlier, the films hero eventually see's the errors of his ways.

Gangster Liu Deruei's orders his men to bring one of his debtors to him. He orders them to torture the man, with a hot branding iron. Watch out for a young Fung Hak-On playing one of Derueis right hand men. Meanwhile Chien is looking on, when he can’t take anymore he leaps over a wall. Lucky for him, his local reputation as man with super human ability plays in his favour. Giving him a psychological edge on his opponents. If that wasn't enough, he picks up a hot coal from a fire, and proceeds to chew on it like his favourite sweet. Saving the man from being hurt, he becomes a local hero to the people. Breaking the negative influence that the gangsters had over the people.

The peace doesn’t last long, when two of Deruei's friends Shum(Lee Hoi San) and Jiu(Ng Hong Sang) turn up in town. The pair of killers are highly skilled fighters who see straight through the young hero’s tricks. Soon there's a mass brawl involving the crooks and the villagers. With a small cameo from the director himself Liu Chia-Liang, who performs a neat little number f moves on a couple of lackeys. It's a well-staged group fight sequence, as you would expect from a man like Liu-Chi-Liang. The only drawback is the comedy routines out number the fights, in this one. Which is a real shame when you consider some of the talent in the movie. Not to mention some of the names who just appear as extras, such as San Kuai, Lam Ching Ying, Eric Tsang, and Danny Chow to name just a few.

Lee Hoi-San(Magnificent Butcher) and Ng Hong-Sang(Dirty Ho) make a great team of villains, and the par are on top form here. It would have been great to see them showcase their skills more in this production. With their fight with Wong Yu in the finale being one of the movies big high lights. There’s some nice animal displays from Wong Yu, Leopard, Snake, and Eagles Claw. Only it’s a little on the short side, for final fight. Especially when compared with some of the other big finales we see in Shaw Brothers productions.

The Spiritual Boxer is an unusual entry in the director/choreographer’s filmography. You can’t deny the talent on display on screen and behind it. Yet it doesn’t quite reach the same levels as Liu Chi-Liang's later efforts, such as 36th Chamber Of Shaolin and Dirty Ho. With this being his first project as director, he was clearly still finding his own style. A stronger story and better pacing, with more focus on the Martial Arts action would have been an improvement. That said, it was nice to see a change of pace in terms of the story and action. It's an entertaining movie, but it’s not quite up there with the other Shaw Brothers classics we associate with Liu-Ci-Liang. It felt like it just scraped into this month’s theme, it would have been interesting to see a more serious version of the story.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, DragonClaws said:

Liu Chia-Liangs directorial debut is claimed to be the first Kung Fu comedy. While there's plenty of comedic elements, it’s hard to say if it was the first real Kung Fu comedy?.

That's a very debatable question, especially after watching Win Them All last month.

4 hours ago, DragonClaws said:

A voiceover tells us that in the late Ching Dynasty, the Emperor of China had heard about fighters becoming immune to weapons of any kind. He requested a demonstration, and this is what takes place at the start of the movie. None of the actors appear again in the film, and it gives you the impression the movie is going to be much more sombre and serious

That's very similar to the opening of Lion vs. Lion, which has a fight in which a queue-less Han Chinese fighter beats a Manchu fighter by manipulating his queue, which results in the Qing Emperor giving the queue edict. That scene, while informative, is not ever mentioned in the movie itself.

 

4 hours ago, DragonClaws said:

Very similar-to how the brave fighters of the Boxer Rebellion, were led to believe they were immune to weapons.

You probably already know this, but the same themes were presente in Legendary Weapons of China and Once Upon a Time in China 2.

Good review over all!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
21 hours ago, DrNgor said:

That's a very debatable question, especially after watching Win Them All last month.

It a tough one, thre also some comedy in Bruce Lee's Way Of The Dragon thanks to Gam Dai's character. Lee Kwan also provides comic relief in The Big Boss. Not to mentionthe other comedic roles in earl to mid-70s Kung Fu movies.

21 hours ago, DrNgor said:

Good review over all!

Thanks Doc, I think my next film will be a lot more suited to this months theme.

 

21 hours ago, DrNgor said:

That's very similar to the opening of Lion vs. Lion, which has a fight in which a queue-less Han Chinese fighter beats a Manchu fighter by manipulating his queue, which results in the Qing Emperor giving the queue edict. That scene, while informative, is not ever mentioned in the movie itself.

I haven't watched Lion VS Lion yet, appreciate the comparison. It's was almost like they had started making a film, then decided to abandon it but re-use the fotage in another production. Which you would expect from a Godfrey Ho production, but not from a Shaw Borthers movie.

Edited by DragonClaws

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The reviews so far are good, and I'm liking the variety. I was sad to see @DrNgor that your movie didn't live up to the expectations the synopsis make for. ?

Like @ShaOW!linDudethis isn't really my cup of tea, although I do enjoy these films occasionally. Anyway, I'll repost a couple of old reviews. 

First one from a past monthly review thread:

Black Magic with the Buddha

 

http://hkmdb.com/db/movies/view.mhtml?id=6483&complete_credits=1&display_set=eng

 

Disclaimer: The quality of this was very bad, the subtitles were cut off, hard to read, and sometimes non existent.. So my grasp of the plot isn't great, but luckily there isn't a whole lot to it.

 

This movie was...interesting. One of the handful of films Lo Lieh directed. Chen Kuan Tai is Ben, a down on his luck man with in laws that don't like him. He travels to some jungle that seems to be far away, where he and another man (who is some kind of voodoo guy) dig up some brain that is said to grant any wish. The man warns Ben that he must return the brain after ten days, or else bad things will happen. We soon learn that Ben is kind of a scum bag, and every wish he makes is completely self centered. Being the self centered scum bag he is, he of course doesn't heed voodoo mans warning, and does not return the brain. The brain gets pissed and starts harming he and his loved ones. Shortly afterward, Ben runs into a crazy old man (Lo Lieh), who tells Ben he feels the devil in him, and knows he will come to see him soon. Ben and his wife take to worshipping the God of Four Faces to help fend off the evil brain devil, which leads them to a Witch Doctor guy for help, who is of course, Lo Lieh... HOW WILL THEY STOP THE BRAIN DEMON?!

 

The first hour of the film is pretty normal. The "horror" aspect is mainly just the brain making dead animals appear around Ben and his wife to show its displeasure with him, and typical poltergeist style shenanigans. Seeing CKT pray to a pulsating brain that makes breathing sounds is pretty funny every time its shown though. Somehow I wasn't bored, probably because the movie is well acted, particularly Chen Kuan Tai and Lo Lieh. I don't think I could watch the first hour again though. Once Ben keeps the brain past its due date, the movie takes a turn to crazy hong kong stuff, and it gets pretty awesome. There is a pretty cool scene that seems to take place in Lo Liehs mind, where he and a few different "gods" have a little discussion, it was pretty cool..  The brain demon "possesses" Ben, turning him into some weird brain man. At this point it becomes a mix of a slasher film, and Mr. Vampire style stuff from Lo Liehs character. What better way to counter brainman possessed by brain demon, than let the righteous God of 4 Faces take over your own body! So Lo Lieh does that, then a battle of bad effects ensues, and it is pretty entertaining. The commentary between Lo Lieh and his God is also pretty funny, and it seemed intentional.

 

If it wasn't for the last half an hour of whacked out HK awesomeness, and Lo Lieh, and Chen Kuan Tais performances, this would have been pretty poor.. But these things did make it a worthwhile watch for me, and I'd probably check out the last bits again. Lo Liehs character is very entertaining, as a careless old whacked out voodoo man. It is interesting to see Chen Kuan Tai play a weak scum bag, because he didn't do that much....but he shows his acting chops well here. Somehow most of the movie manages to feel a lot less exploitative than the Shaw Bros flicks that inspire it.. I'd watch Boxers Omen over this for sure but probably not Black Magic.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

For my other repost, a good companion piece for @DragonClaws review, the sequel, "The Shadow Boxing." A movie I was pleasantly surprised by. Although it seems I didn't touch on our theme much in that review, the movie certainly fits in the category. Bare in mind I like Wong Yue much more than the majority of the forum. ?

 

The Shadow Boxing

 

I really enjoyed this movie. There isn't much action, but solid acting, decent comedy, beautiful sets and locations, and a great dark atmosphere keep it entertaining. Wong Yue and Cecilia Wong had great chemistry here, and I'll be checking I see if they did anything else together. Lau Kar Wings character was cool, and Lee Hoi San and Wilson Tong were decent as LKLs reliable go-to villains. Gordon Liu stole the show here for me though. He was hilarious in the vampire scenes, and put on a solid fighting performance as well. 

 

The story was ok, but what mainly carried the movie was good acting performances and a great dark atmosphere. The mystery surrounding some characters was fun, and I enjoyed the bit of character background that unfolded as the movie went on. The ending was basically a bad joke, but I liked it in that it was a happy ending, and it was something other than the usual freeze frame of the victory leap after the last fight. The use of fog and dark "creepy" feeling sets and locations was great, an aided by generic "spooky" sounding music. I really enjoyed the sets in this, and many of them are darker than I usually see in Shaw films, or Lau Kar Leung films at the very least. The comedy was hit or miss, and my reaction ranged from a blank stare to laugh out loud. Wong Yue and LKWs vampire fists was funny, and Gordon Liu had me laughing a good deal. 

 

While there wasn't a ton of action scenes, the few are good and seem long. The choreography is good but not great from LKL, and some of that has to do with the fact that much of it is using the comical "vampire fist", which I did get a kick out of. Gordon Liu and Lee Hoi San looked really good in the action scenes, and everyone else at least played their part. It's a shame LKW didn't get to do more, because he's a favorite of mine, and I have yet to be less than astounded by his fighting performances. One last note on the action, it seemed a little in characteristic of Lau Kar Leung, but maybe I just haven't noticed it before. There was a lot of use of different camera angles, closer angles, and moving shots with the action. 

 

That brings me to another point. Many things in this movie feel a little uncharacteristic of LKL. Such as the overall dark feel of it, and the sex scene, as LKLs films tend to be more upbeat and family friendly IMO, at least compared to other directors of the time at Shaw. But still, we have a cast of Lau family members and LKL movie regulars, and it's clear he choreographed the action, even if some of the camera styles seemed different to me.(which I may be wrong about anyway!)

 

Good movie. I came in with low expectations due to reading negativity from others on here, and I ended up being surprised in a good way.

Edited by paimeifist

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
29 minutes ago, DrNgor said:

Great work, @paimeifist. You should also repost your Godz of Wutang review. I'm very glad to see you posting once more.

I'm glad you mentioned it! I kept thinking of scenes from this movie when I saw the months theme, but couldn't remember what movie they were from. It's a good one.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sifu vs. Vampire (2014)

Originally posted here - http://cityonfire.com/sifu-vs-vampire-2014-review/

It’s a sad reflection of audiences expectations from Hong Kong cinema when news of a new hopping vampire (or geung si as they’re often referred) movie, starring kung fu legend Yuen Biao, was met with a mostly muted reaction. In the 80’s the hopping vampire movie was a hugely popular sub-genre of Hong Kong action cinema, kicked off by Sammo Hung’s 'Encounters of the Spooky Kind', the movie that really started the ball rolling was 'Mr. Vampire', which spawned a number of sequels and copy cats. One of the stars of 'Mr. Vampire', Chin Siu Ho, starred in a recent revival of the genre, Juno Mak’s 'Rigor Mortis', which decided to play things straight to chilling effect. Biao himself got in on the action for the first sequel to the 'Mr. Vampire' series in 1985, so to see him also returning to the genre almost 30 years later, it should have been a cause of excitement.

It could well be argued that part of the blame for such a muted reaction was down to the news that 'Sifu vs. Vampire' was going to be directed by Daniel Chan. Chan was once sited for big things, thanks to a screenplay he’d written called 'Cross'. Not only was it selected as one of the top 50 screenplays of the 2008 American Screenwriting Competition, but it also won the NAFF Jury Award at the 14th Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival. Sadly though, the production became an epic mess. Chan ended up leaving, and finally the movie limped onto screens in 2012 with credits that included four different directors, and three different actors playing one role. The fact that Chan’s name was attached to it in any shape of form was bad news.

That being said, outside of the 'Cross' fiasco Chan hasn’t fared much better. The two other movies he’s solely responsible for directing are the lackluster 2012 triad movie, imaginatively titled 'Triad', and the epic fail of 2013, the rebooted 'Young and Dangerous: Reloaded'. All the signs seem to indicate that perhaps Chan would be best returning to his roots of writing screenplays, however with 'Sifu vs. Vampire', it looks like he’s yet to notice them. Instead, the master of lowest denominator filmmaking Wong Jing is onboard not only as writer, but producer as well. When Jing wants to entertain, he can, however the history of movies which feature him in some sort of capacity other than director isn’t a pretty one.

Like many of Wong Jing’s screenplays, the story is ridiculously convoluted. Ronald Cheng, known for his comedic roles, plays a low level gangster with a single follower, wannabe martial arts leading man Philip Ng, who bizarrely sports a huge black afro with yellow dots. Cheng is somehow connected to a more powerful gangster played by Kelvin Kwan, who has all the screen presence of a wet leaf. Kwan gets his power from his grandfather’s burial site, which has good Feng Shui, but the time has come when for him to maintain his power, he needs to re-locate the burial site. Enter Taoist master Yuen Biao and his protégé, wannabe martial arts leading lady Jiang Luxia. Biao of course refuses to help based on principle, but becomes connected to Cheng and Ng because Cheng is being stalked by the spirit of a beautiful woman, played by Michele Hu. Hu died at the hands of an evil Taoist master played by Ricky Yi, that Cheng witnessed, who is now keeping her ashes so she can’t cross over into the next world. As it happens, with Biao refusing, Kwan enlists the help of Yi to help him find a new burial site instead.

Got all that? Well, it hardly matters, it’s all inconsequential. The main thing to remember is that if Kwan’s grandfather isn’t moved to a new burial site in time, he’ll become a super powerful vampire that will put an end to the world. Or something like that. Like all things Wong Jing, even though it looks long winded on paper, onscreen it all just becomes an excuse for inane comedy hijinks. 'Sifu vs. Vampire' actually starts off strong, although not necessarily in the way you’d expect it to. A scene involving an exorcism being performed on a sex obsessed demon, in the middle of providing lip service to a poor victims crown jewels, is so outrageous that it’s genuinely hilarious. In fact the initial 15 minutes are little more than an endless barrage of sex jokes, so for all intents and purposes it appears that we’re going to be getting a kind of geung si version of 'Vulgaria'.

Yuen Biao also makes a worthwhile entrance, as possibly the coolest looking Taoist master to have graced the screen so far. Decked out in a sharp black suit and sporting a goatee beard, when this guys deals with demons, he looks good doing it. Jiang Luxia looks equally sharp, here finding herself in yet another geung si movie after 2010’s 'Vampire Warriors'. However the wit and high energy of the first 15 minutes quickly dissipates, and what’s left feels like an endless procession of mind numbing extended ‘comedy’ sequences, none of which come close to generating a laugh. If an actress who begins to turn into a vampire attempting to file her nails to lose the claws she’s growing sounds like good comedy to you, then perhaps you’ll be of a different opinion, or how about a vampire detecting someone because they fart? What’s worse is that the movie even recycles its own jokes, with characters getting impaled in the ass with a sword on two separate occasions. The problem is it wasn’t that funny the first time.

The vampires themselves aren’t clearly defined either. For a start, none of them actually hop, which for fans of the genre is sacrilegious in itself. The all powerful grandfather vampire is dressed in traditional Chinese attire, however he’s mostly obscured by CGI black swirls which surround him, obviously stolen from the same technique that was used in 'Rigor Mortis'. He also moves like a superhero, all ridiculously fast CGI flying from here to there, so much so that he barely registers as an actual character. Others who end up as vampires, such as Kwan and a bunch of extras, seem to turn into either a western style vampire, with a desire to bite attractive female necks, or just boring arm waving zombies.

Despite Ng pulling double duty as action director, assisted by Yuen Cheung Yan, what action is there is hardly worth writing about. Biao barely gets to do anything, instead left to play it straight faced and stoic throughout, with Luxia only given a few brief moments to shine. When things finally start to look up, and Biao summons the Rebel Prince and Monkey King to possess Luxia and Ng’s bodies respectively to take on a corridor full of zombies, it’s frustratingly filmed through a distorted fish eye filter, so it’s not even clear what’s going on.

'Sifu vs. Vampire' does have a couple of decent ideas, the concept of wearing a gas mask and oxygen tank so that the vampires can’t detect human presence is clever (in Chinese mythology vampires are blind and can only detect people via their breath), and not something I’ve seen before. Also, Biao’s decision to cast Taoist spells on the bullets being loaded into a shotgun leads to a cool scene that has him decked out in his suit, pumping rounds from a shotgun into the vampire. It kind of reminded me of the way Chow Yun Fat decides to deal with things in the finale of 'The Seventh Curse'. But despite how good it sounds on paper, just like the comedy, the CGI, and everything else, onscreen it’s executed terribly. The title may be 'Sifu vs. Vampire', but in any case, the only loser in this battle is the audience.

Sifu-vs-Vampire-Poster.jpg

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×