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DragonClaws

June 2017 Mutual Review Thread

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2 hours ago, DragonClaws said:

Hope to squeeze in another review by the end of the week, anyone else have more reveiws planned before the end of the month?.

I might contribute a Mainland Chinese movie review before the month's end, which will be yet another sub-genre that appeared in the 80s:

1. Girls n' Guns;

2. Ninjasploitation & Cut n' Splice-sploitation;

3. Mainland Kung Fu.

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Man, it's been a while. I still plan on reviewing Tiger on the Beat and Martial Arts of Shaolin before the end of the month. School just ended for me and I'm on Summer vacation so hopefully I'll be a bit more active on the forum (at least for the next few months).

On 6/18/2017 at 10:21 PM, Writ said:

Thanks! I've really wanted to get into reviewing movies, and having this obligation to the monthly review thread is great for getting me to do so.

Yeah, I also felt the same way - just wanting to complete Lau's entire oeuvre. I haven't even finished seeing all of Lau's "good" films yet, but I really wanted to get some of the weaker ones out of the way. Lau really was one of the great directors of the 70s and 80s, but his commitment to only doing martial arts films means he was generally overlooked as another one of those exploitative trash directors. It's a shame really, but I think in the next few years, especially with the recent average improvement in film literacy throughout the mainstream, his films (especially his best ones) might finally get more respect as perfect expressions of a unique auteur.

There's no denying Lau Kar Leung's talent. A lot of my all time favorite martial arts movie were directed by him. Heck, the two movies I plan to review this month were directed by him. I'm definitely looking forward to that.

Also it's really a shame that MA movies get a bad rep for their crappy English dubs, cheesy sound effects, etc. There are many incredible MA movies that transcend into high quality cinema. And as you mentioned, these films seem to be getting more respect over the years.

On 6/21/2017 at 8:00 AM, DrNgor said:

I might contribute a Mainland Chinese movie review before the month's end, which will be yet another sub-genre that appeared in the 80s:

1. Girls n' Guns;

2. Ninjasploitation & Cut n' Splice-sploitation;

3. Mainland Kung Fu.

Man, this could describe a number of films. I'm definitely looking forward to more of your contributions this month.

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                                                 mug5wCkgIlx3Hrdsa6m5WnihgSXZpSAGIP2dDg9K

 

 Iron Neck Li(1981) Review

Starring: Chi Kuan Chun, Wong Hon, Hsiao Hou-Tao, Wang Shui

Director:  Cheung Yan-Git

Action Directors:  So Kwok-Leung, Lin Kuang-Yung

 Summary:  ‘Iron Neck’ Li Yung(Chi Kuan Chun) earned his nickname by using his fists to stand up for the weak and persecuted.  LI Yung becomes the bodyguard of young Emperor Chien Lung after His Majesty stands up for him when he was wrongly accused of killing a man.  The pair set out on an adventure across Taiwan with Wang Fa(Wang Shui), the Emperor’s eunuch.  The trio run into some interesting circumstances, love  and nefarious characters on their adventure.

 This is one of my nonShaw Brothers films starring one of my top 3 favorites Chi Kuan Chun.  I liked this movie because Chi Kuan Chun doesn’t play his normal stoic and wise character as he was stereotyped during his Shaw Brothers days.  Iron Neck Li allows him to show his range as actor.  Li Yung is brave and strong but also shy around women and has a fight now and ask questions later kind of attitude.  He is a martial force to be reckoned with as he takes on many enemies throughout their travels.

 One of my favorite scenes is where Li picks up a pair of wedding shoes and lucky red envelope of money.  The father comes out of the house and greets Li Yung as his son-in-law.  Li runs for his life back to where the Emperor and Wang Fa are waiting.  The sheer look of terror, which is not a normal look, on Chi Kuan Chun’s face made me giggle a little.  In this movie, we are able to see many different expressions/emotions from Chi Kuan Chun that we are not used to seeing in his Shaw Brothers films.

 The other actors also did a great job in this film, especially Wang Shui as the eunuch, Wang Fa.  He provided some funny moments in the movie.  Wang seems to get them in a bit of trouble in a brothel and serenades a young lady while she is picking tea.  The action wasn’t anything spectacular as most of it was hand to hand combat.  The sequences are basic and not flashy which fits in with the story of the movie.  Don’t get me wrong, the action is good but don’t expect flipping and many different types of weapons being used. All in all, this is a good film if you are looking to discover a different side of Chi Kuan Chun.  I liked everything about the movie except the ending.  I wish it had a different ending

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On 28/05/2017 at 11:43 PM, DragonClaws said:

2. No length requirement for your reviews, but at least 2 paragraphs will be nice.

21 hours ago, lungfei said:

10/10 for horseback shapes :D

At least two paragraphs dude, not words.:tongueout

(Plus a flick from 1979 doesn't really qualify for a thread dedicated to the 80's)

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22 hours ago, lungfei said:

here's my review of the movie big rascal

10/10 for horseback shapes :D 

Appreciaite the contribution @lungfei but it would be cool to hear your thoughts on any 1980's MA movie. Just a few paragraphs is enough to qualify, none of us are Shakespeare, when it comes to words, and it always nice to here other members thoughts on movies.

 

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7 hours ago, One Armed Boxer said:

At least two paragraphs dude, not words.:tongueout

(Plus a flick from 1979 doesn't really qualify for a thread dedicated to the 80's)

no worries ill find a 80s movie and write out a proper review dude. :P

3 minutes ago, DragonClaws said:

Appreciaite the contribution @lungfei but it would be cool to hear your thoughts on any 1980's MA movie. Just a few paragraphs is enough to qualify, none of us are Shakespeare, when it comes to words, and it always nice to here other members thoughts on movies.

 

thanks bro ill polish up my writing skills and have a review ready by the end of the month. :P 

Edited by lungfei

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On 6/8/2017 at 5:57 AM, DragonClaws said:

Five Pattern Dragon Claws    (1983)

a.k.a Five Pattern Dragon Claw, Fist Of Lightening, Thunder Fist

Fight Choreographer- Baek Hwang-Ki

Director- Kim Si-Hyeon

Starring- Hwang Jang Lee, Dragon Lee, Baek Hwang-Ki, Kim Ki-Bum, Choi Hui-Jeong, Kim Ki-Hong, Mun Jong-Geum, Jang Hyo-Seon.

I got through watching this one last night having read your review @DragonClaws, and loved it!  Just gone back to read your review again having now seen it, and I found myself laughing from start to finish (good job I was reading it at home and not in the office), you really nailed the many oddities that 'Five Pattern Dragon Claws' throws at the viewer.

On 6/8/2017 at 5:57 AM, DragonClaws said:

We first see him performing some speedy kicks, on what looks like three boxing training aids. This being a Korean Filmark movie, every time Hwang hits the training aids, we get an odd sound effect on the soundtrack. I'm not 100% sure, but it sounds like they’ve sampled some of the lasers blast sounds from the 1980's BattleStar Galatica series?.

I though these were made out of the usual punching bag material due to the sound effects (& no doubt the ridiculously grainy print), so was surprised when Dragon Lee unleashes on them prior to the finale, and it turns out they're actually ceramic jars!

On 6/8/2017 at 5:57 AM, DragonClaws said:

One of the best sections for me, see's Wong perform flip kicks on Kam. He repeatedly somersaults on the spot, while hitting the super villain under the chin. I lost count after the seventh somersault hit.

This was indeed awesome, and kudos also to whoever decided to give Lee a kind of high pitched whine whenever he gets hit or launches into a flying kick, I was literally keeled over with laughter whenever I heard it, but somehow it didn't detract from the intensity of the fight.

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Miracles    (1989)

a.k.a Mr Canton & Lady Rose, The Canton Godfather

Fight Choreographer- Jackie Chan and the JC Stunt Association.

Directed by- Jackie Chan

Starring- Jackie Chan, Anita Mui, Gua Ah-Leh, O Chung-Hung, Richard Ng, Wu Ma, Gloria Yip, Bill Tung, Lo Lieh, Tien Feng, Billy Chow, Ken Lo.

Plot Synopsis- Country bumpkin Kuo Cheng-Wah(Jackie Chan), heads to Hong Kong in search of a better life. Within minutes of arriving he's cheated out of his money and possesions. Cheng-Wah's luck begins to change, after he purchases a rose from a poor lady(Gua Ah-Leh), who is selling flowers on the busy streets. His fortunes begin to change, and it’s not long before he's the leader of one of Hong Kong most powerful criminal gangs. However, things become complicated for the Canton Godfather, when he tries to help the poor street vendor who's rose brought him so much good fortune.

"Canton kid, you fight really well"

 

In late 1988 one of Asia biggest stars, began production on a brand new interpretation of a Hollywood classic. The inspiration behind Miracles, was Frank Capras 1961 Pocketful Of Miracles, which was also a re-make of Capras earlier Lady For A Day(1933). Jackie Chans version could be classed as the third re-make, with a peppering of added Martial Arts mayhem. The star had reached even greater heights of fame and success throughout the 1980's. I see Miracles as perhaps his zenith?, a point in Chans career when he would be allowed to take a risk on a big budget epic like this one. While bringing together all, of the many skills and knowledge, he had learned from the film business over the past eighteen years. At the same time, the company in which Chan was working for Golden Harvest, were really on a big role, having become Hong Kong's number one studio during the course of the 1980's. There's no way they would normally have allowed their biggest star, to make an expensive movie, which strayed from his usual fare. Not that Miracles is that much different from some of his other projects of the era, a longer run time and slightly less action may have been viewed as a big risk at the time?.

You can see that Golden Harvest spared no expense with this lavish and elaborate looking production. Right from the opening frame, its apparent that Jackie and his crew were aiming to raise the bar for Hong Kong cinema. It's such a shame to see what comes out of mainland China and Hong Kong now, when compared to a quality film such as Miracles. It's nearly thirty years old, and yet there’s not been too many films from Hong Kong that can beat its technical credentials. I don't think its lack of new talent, but perhaps the environment that’s changed in Asia?, it’s not allowing directors and actors to go out and do their own thing like Jackie Chan did here. That’s a whole other discussion in itself, which I'll save for another time.

There might be fewer fights with the action taking a back seat to the story and comedy. Yet Miracles still features some of greatest Martial Arts action displays ever put on celluloid, curtesy of the Jackie Chan stunt team. There's a spectacular car crash sequence, where a gangster’s vehicle takes a plunge down some stairs. The first very brief fight of the film takes place in Macua. Like many of the period films of the time, they used Macua as a stand in for 1930's Hong Kong. Ku Cheng-Wah checks the wreckage to see if he can help anyone, little does he know the car belongs to a Hong Kong crime boss. Before he can blink, he’s dodging bullit’s and fists from the rival gang who’s in hot pursuit. Its classic Chan, with the innocent but brave country bumpkin, picking up the injured crime boss and running off, with the rival gang in hot pursuit. The dying crime lord names Chan as his successor, much to the disgruntlement of the other long term members, including Fie, played by Shaw Brothers screen legend Lo Lieh.

When Cheng-Wah is introduced to the rest of the gang, who are like a who's who of legendary Hong Kong stuntmen. The fellow gang members are not impressed, even when Chan beats their strongest man Tung(Michael Chow) at arm wrestling. He must prove himself as a fighter, up steps another gang member played by John Chang(Writing Kung Fu, Dragon The Bruce Lee Story). Theres a short round of fisticuffs with some sweet closing hits and bumps, it’s an expertly choreographed and filmed fight. Taking things a stage further, is one of the films stand out action sequences, staged in a beautiful Tea House set. Chan crams so much into its short two minute duration, as he fights Tiger Lo's lackeys. You could write half a review just analysing this one scene alone. Whats even more impressive, is its all done with pure physical talent, without a drop of CGI to be seen. At one point a guy takes a bump down some stairs while doing the splits.

It's the perfect advert for Chans style of choreography, and the gutsy and gifted stuntmen who make it all look so great. It would have been great to see this kind of action in the The Big Brawl(1980), which is another Chan movie with a 1930s setting. Though I'm not sure it would have happened, even if Hollywood had given him a free reign at the time. The style of stunt filled action in Miracles didn’t happen over-night, but was developed over the decade leading up to the movie. Something I must highlight, is the excellent retro Jazz influenced score, composed by Su Cong(Forbidden Imperial Tales) and Michael Lai Siu-Tin(Duel To The Death). It's not often a soundtrack to a Martial Arts movie, is a memorable or fitting as this one. It compliments the action perfectly, and to use of it during the tea house brawl is a great example of Cong and Siu-Tin's brilliant work.

You can see why this movie may not have been, as highly praised by some fans when it was released. It does become a bit action bare during the middle, with the focus shifting towards Cheng-Wah and Yan Luming(Anita Mui) helping rose seller Gua Ah-Leh. However, fans are greatly rewarded when Tiger Lo and his loyal lackeys come back into the story. The films finale is teeming with action and some very inventive use of a rick saw. Tigers men finally catch up with our hero in the bustling Hong Kong streets. What follows is one of the best examples of Chans trade mark of using his environment, to counter his challengers attacks. Despite his efforts, and the fact he survives a very hairy raising run away rick saw ride, Tigers men catch him.

Filmed on the old Golden Harvest backlot, in one of the few tin roofed warehouses they had there. The rope factory scuffle is the epitome of Hong Kong action cinema at its very best. The score, the set, the cast and most of all the content of this five minute throw down are all perfect. Chan and his stunt team, fight in, on and around giant spindles of rope and the various factory implements. Watching this sequence again, made me think that Tsui Hark may have been inspired by this scene?, when he was coming up with the finale of Once Upon A Time In China. Especially when you see the creative use of the high bamboo ladders. The action here is a lot more grounded of course, with less emphasis on super human leaps and moves. That said, Jackie Chan and his Stuntmen still-remain the closest thing to being super human, without the use of special effects.

Unlike some of Chans other 80's work, he doesn’t face one opponent for an extended amount of time. Instead he fight's a whole gang of factory workers led by super kicker Billy Chow.(Pedicab Driver). The former Kickboxer gets to briefly show of his fighting skills, before the rest of the workers attack. While this might not be one of Chows best action displays(Check out Eastern Condors), he's still a nice addition to the finale. One of the more comedic stunts, see's Chan skipping on two wooden beams high in the air. The instrumental music suddenly changes to a fiddle heavy American country tune. Chen-Wah is then seen skipping while balancing on one beam, then two beams. At one point, he's performing what can only be described as all fours skipping, with both hands and feet on different beams as he leaps to dodge the rope. It's a spectacular set piece that never outstays its welcome.

I can’t believe I've got this far in without really talking about the talented lead actress, the late Anita Mui. She plays singer Yang Luming, who plays in Chen-Wahs club in order to pay off her father’s debts. There's a wonderful montage, that shows the Canton godfathers rise to power and success that heavily features Anita. This also allowed the former real-life singer to show of her vocal talents. Her relationship with Chen-Wah is a comedic one as you might expect, but the pair had some genuine chemistry on screen. It's her feisty character that finally makes the crooks she works for, see the errors of their ways. Causing them to help the poor rose seller, who is too proud to admit to her daughter, that she’s fallen on hard times.

The movie was shortened by about fifteen minutes for its original international release. The shorter version removed some of Anita Mui's scenes, and, also edited out more footage featuring comedic acting legend Richard Ng and Bill Tung. Ng is on top form as always, playing the inept scheming chief of police who's a little accident prone. The film is laden with cameos, I could only spot Yuen Biao as a beggar, Ken Lo, Louise Roth, Mars, Lee Hoi Sang and former Hong Kong pop star Anders Nelson(Way Of The Dragon). There's also a great turn by veteran actor and director Wu Ma as Uncle Hoi. I could go on and on just talking about the impressive cast alone. Special mention should go to O Chung-Hung, with his amusing portrayal of the greedy gang leader Tiger Lo.

Miracles features a great romanticised version of organised crime life, with a selection of distinctive characters. Despite filming having to stop, due to a typhoon that hit Hong Kong at the time. The finished product is one of the best Hong Kong movies of the 1980's, with some of the nicest looking camera work I've ever seen. Thanks to a team of six very gifted cinematographers, we are treated to some great shots. Also loved the on-going theme of Kuo Chen-Wah having inventive ways to put on and take off his hat. Aided by taping coins to the rim of the hats. One last thing I'd also like to mention, is the Billy Lau as Ah Tung, who is constantly told to go clean the car when he's not wanted around. A movie that seems to grow on me the more I watch it. Miracles is a must see for fans of Jackie Chan and Hong Kong cinema. The print I watched, was the extended widescreen subtitled print, released by Hong Kong Legends, with dubbed option.

(Additional facts and information from Bey Logans Miracles Audio Commentary, and the Hong Kong Movie Database)

 

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15 hours ago, DragonClaws said:

Miracles    (1989)

a.k.a Mr Canton & Lady Rose, The Canton Godfather

Fight Choreographer- Jackie Chan and the JC Stunt Association.

Directed by- Jackie Chan

Fantastic review @DragonClaws!

16 hours ago, DragonClaws said:

I can’t believe I've got this far in without really talking about the talented lead actress, the late Anita Mui. She plays singer Yang Luming, who plays in Chen-Wahs club in order to pay off her father’s debts. There's a wonderful montage, that shows the Canton godfathers rise to power and success that heavily features Anita. This also allowed the former real-life singer to show of her vocal talents. Her relationship with Chen-Wah is a comedic one as you might expect, but the pair had some genuine chemistry on screen. It's her feisty character that finally makes the crooks she works for, see the errors of their ways. Causing them to help the poor rose seller, who is too proud to admit to her daughter, that she’s fallen on hard times.

I'm a big fan of Anita Mui.  Part of the reason why I enjoy the much derided 'A Better Tomorrow 3' so much, is because it gives a chance to see two of my favourite performers sharing the screen together, were she co-stars with Chow Yun Fat.

Always found it funny that from playing Chan's love interest in 'Miracles', just 5 years later she'd change to playing his mother in 'Drunken Master 2'!

16 hours ago, DragonClaws said:

The movie was shortened by about fifteen minutes for its original international release. The shorter version removed some of Anita Mui's scenes, and, also edited out more footage featuring comedic acting legend Richard Ng and Bill Tung. Ng is on top form as always, playing the inept scheming chief of police who's a little accident prone.

It'll never stop bugging me the way this almost exclusively happens to Asian cinema.  It's like taking an old Hollywood musical and saying "We'll chop out these talky bits so the musical numbers come a bit more frequently."  The fact that it's still happening even today with movies like 'Wu Xia' and 'The Grandmaster' is just baffling.  What bugs me even more though, is that there are actually fans out there (admittedly, I've only ever heard this come from Americans, read into that what you will) that say they don't mind if an Asian movie has had parts cut out of it, as long as it's not the action.  Cue face palm.

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On 28/06/2017 at 4:56 AM, One Armed Boxer said:

I got through watching this one last night having read your review @DragonClaws, and loved it!  Just gone back to read your review again having now seen it, and I found myself laughing from start to finish (good job I was reading it at home and not in the office), you really nailed the many oddities that 'Five Pattern Dragon Claws' throws at the viewer.

Your comments/feedback are much appreciated @One Armed Boxer, this was the first Dragon Lee movie I ever watched.

Another film I'd love to see in its original form, if there is such a thing?.

5 hours ago, One Armed Boxer said:

It'll never stop bugging me the way this almost exclusively happens to Asian cinema.  It's like taking an old Hollywood musical and saying "We'll chop out these talky bits so the musical numbers come a bit more frequently."  The fact that it's still happening even today with movies like 'Wu Xia' and 'The Grandmaster' is just baffling.  What bugs me even more though, is that there are actually fans out there (admittedly, I've only ever heard this come from Americans, read into that what you will) that say they don't mind if an Asian movie has had parts cut out of it, as long as it's not the action.  Cue face palm.

It's happened with Italian movies in the past, The Good The Bad And The Ugly being a prime example.

Recall Jacie Chan himself saying in an interview, how he hates the fact they often makes changes to his movies for the U.S market.

One of the few big Asian releases they left alone is Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon(2001), as far as I know??.

5 hours ago, One Armed Boxer said:

Always found it funny that from playing Chan's love interest in 'Miracles', just 5 years later she'd change to playing his mother in 'Drunken Master 2'!

Yeah thats some contrast, and she doesnt even appear to look that much older than him in DM 2.

 

5 hours ago, One Armed Boxer said:

I'm a big fan of Anita Mui.  Part of the reason why I enjoy the much derided 'A Better Tomorrow 3' so much, is because it gives a chance to see two of my favourite performers sharing the screen together, were she co-stars with Chow Yun Fat.

Yet to watch Part 3, its one of those films that I'd forgotten about until you mentioned it.

Glad you enjoyed the Miracles review.

My last review will be of Revenge Of The Ninja(1983), looking forward to next months theme too.

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1 hour ago, DragonClaws said:

Another film I'd love to see in its original form, if there is such a thing?.

The Korean Film Archive has the original version on a duplicate negative, which is about as close as we'll ever get to it I think, unless an old Korean VHS is floating around somewhere - 

http://www.kmdb.or.kr/eng/vod/vod_basic.asp?nation=K&p_dataid=03700

DPK012172_01.jpg

 

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Alright, this time for a quick review. I actually watched this film a week ago, but I couldn't think of anything to say. I still can't really think of much, but here are a few thoughts.

The Rebel Intruders (1980)

Directed by Chang Cheh

I really do like Chang Cheh as a director - he elevated bog standard material to the realms of watchability and occasionally near greatness. It's really sad then that every time I want to review one of his films, there really isn't much to say about them. Apart from some overarching themes in his work (brotherhood, honour, all that usual heroic bloodshed stuff), there is very little to talk about with regards to his films. Did I have fun watching this? Yeah, definitely. Are the fights good? It's as good as it gets with the Venoms brand of athletic and energetic choreography. Thing is, Chang always had other things on his mind when directing a film. He didn't care about an interesting or unique story. He didn't care about compelling characters. He didn't care for his female characters a good majority of the time. He was more about showing off the male form in spectacularly choreographed combat. It generally works, but it also makes his films very difficult to analyse or call a favourite because they're so interchangeable with the repeated themes and attitude towards everything but the usual heroic bloodshed cliches.

With that said, I don't think I even need to get into the story here. It is worth mentioning that Chang knows his audience and there are a few surprise plot twists because of how well we know his films and his actors, but in so doing, he also wastes some of his actors. There's some potentially interesting material here such as the mistreatment of refugees and the poor and corruption in the higher ranks of the army, but that isn't explored beyond giving our heroes motivation to fight back. And yes, there is heaps of action. The action is definitely top notch with all five of the Venoms showing off their skills in a variety of situations. Some of the costumes are pretty weird, but the simple colour scheme makes it very easy for us to know who is who in the big scraps that this film also has a quite a number of.

That said, if you're a fan of Chang, it's definitely worth the watch because it is a very fun film. But as usual, don't expect much more than that to latch onto. It's more simplistic than even a lot of his other films because this one doesn't even seem to care about the characters all that much. But hey, if there's good fights, what more can we ask for in our martial arts films?

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1 hour ago, Writ said:

The Rebel Intruders (1980)

Directed by Chang Cheh

Good write up @Writ, I guess Cheh had run out out of stea a little by 1980?.

1 hour ago, Writ said:

Alright, this time for a quick review. I actually watched this film a week ago, but I couldn't think of anything to say. I still can't really think of much, but here are a few thoughts.

Sometimes, even when I've really enjoyed a film I just cant think of much to say.

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Revenge Of The Ninja    (1983)

a.k.a N/A

Fight Choreographer- Sho Kosugi

Directed By- Sam Firstenberg

Starring- Sho Kousgi, Arthur Roberts, Ashely Ferrare, Kane Kosugi, Mario Gallo, Virgil Fyre, Keith Vitali,

Plot Synopsis- After the vicious slaughter of his family by ninja, stoic and unstoppable Cho Osaki(Sho Kosugi) avenges them, and then swears he'll never draw his sword again. He moves to America with his only remaining son and his mother. There he opens a Japanese antique doll shop, with his friend Braden(Arthur Roberts). Only not everything is as it seems, and it's not long until Cho must use his ninja skills again.

"This is no job for the police, it's something I must do, only a ninja can stop a ninja"

 

Sharpen your shuriken’s, it’s time for some early 80s style ninja action. Polish director Sam Firstenberg followed up his directorial debut One More Chance(1983), with this classic Cannon produced ninja actioner. Filmed at the height of the ninja craze, which itself had been started by Cannons very own Enter The Ninja(1980). Filmed entirely in Salt Lake City Utah, with the, exception of the film’s opening/flashback sequence, which was filmed in L.A at one of the Cannon members houses. The film features an odd mix of campyness, low budget charm, and unintentional humour, along with some nicely staged and violent ninja related encounters. The film’s opening sequence, was added after they had finished shooting. Cannon co-owner Menahem Golan was not impressed, by the film, and stated it made little sense, so he came up with adding the films now opening sequence. Not that it really makes the movies paper thin story line any more logical.

Cho Osaki comes home one day to find his family killed by renegade ninja. Before he has any time to take it all in, the stealthy assassins attack him. Appearing from behind stone pogodas and leaping out from bamboo trees. Osaki unleashes his deadly blade and deals out the death strikes and blows like confetti. The action has a rhythm, very much like the old 1950's Japanese Samurai films. Director Sam Firstenberg, said he didn’t want to follow in the steps of Hong Kong movies. He also mentioned that he was more aware of the Japanese samurai movies, than Asian Martial Arts flicks. While Ninjitsu expert Sho Kosugi directed the fight scenes, I'm not sure how much influence Fistenberg had on the way they were captured?. You can see some clear nods to the samurai genre in this action-packed opening. The movie is hardly five minutes into its runtime, and we've already seen Cho and his friend take out a gang of heavily armed ninja.

We then cut to the present, with Cho's only son now old enough to defend himself. His real, life son Kane, also made his high kicking big screen debut here. A gang of bully’s in a park, decide they want to cause some trouble with the pint sized martial arts dynamo. Soon there all getting knocked around by the ninjas son. Later in the movie, he brandishes a pair of nunchaku and repeatedly wallops a tatooed thug with them. Kane Kosugi has gone onto form his own career in both Martial Arts and the entertainment world, and is a great talent in his own right.

Cho's American business partner, a shady deviant man known simply as Braden. He's a closet ninja, who makes his living from importing heroin from Japan to the states, inside the antique dolls his friend Cho sells. It's best to let go of any logical reasoning when watching this movie, while its not as wild as some of Godfrey Ho's ninja related work, it still has its moments. Like when Sho Kousgis fights a hatchet wielding Native American, more on that later. Braden even carry’s all his ninja related weapons in a nice expensive brown leather suitcase. Where else would an American ninja/drug dealer/business man keep his ninja weapons?. He even has a stainless steel oriental demon mask, which he must polish on a regular basis, to keep it so shiny.

Martial Arts champion Keith Vitali(No Retreat No Surrender 3) has a small role playing rookie cop Dave Hatcher. When he and Cho go to question some random thugs in a park, the villains are dressed up like some odd Village People tribute band, minus the hatchet wielding Indian. The two heroes make easy work of the wannabe tough guys, with Kosugi displaying some really nice kicks. At one point he kicks one thug in the head, then performs a nice flying kick. He doesn’t take that much of a run up, before the kick either. The whole encounter takes place on an adventure playground, perhaps it influenced Jackie Chan when he got round to making Police Story 2?. Or this might be the reason, so many IFD Godfrey Ho ninja productions, heavily feature climbing frames and kids play grounds?. While Vitali doesn’t get too much screen time, there is a nice sequence where he and Kosugis character are sparring in a dojo.

The axe brandishing native American I mentioned earlier, trys to rob Cho's store with the help of some fellow goons. He's sent by Mafia boss Caifano, played superbly by character actor Mario Gallo. Caifano is at odds with Braden, and decides to take the drug filled dolls for himself. He just didn’t plan on the store owner being a stand-up guy and a ninja. Our hero catches them loading a van at the back of the store, and all hell breaks loose. After a brief fight, in which Cho gets a wooden crate broken over his head. The van takes off, and soon Cho's in hot pursuit, flipping over fencers and leaping great heights without effort. It's free running, before there was even a term for it. He ends up on the roof of the van, kicks his way inside through the windshield, yes you read that right, through the windshield while the vehicle is still moving. When it finally comes to a halt, everyone takes a tumble out of the front window. He then proceeds to brutalize the light fingered thief’s, in a style, that would make even Steven Seagal break a smile.

Eventually the time comes for Braden to finally face off against Cho. Not before the pair have gone through some of the Mafia foot soldiers, armed with automatic weapons. A variety of ninja weapons are employed, as the pair separately fight their way up a tower block. When the two ninja, come face to face, it's on a volley ball court. The perfect setting for any ninja grudge match. The high wire fencing of the court is not enough to contain this fight. The pair pretty much play a game of chase, with Braden evading Cho's attacks as they run across the tower block roof. This sequence apparently tookthem two weeks to film, due to the many technical demands behind the scenes. They actually-give you the impression that the evil ninja is just as skilled as the hero. The finale is certainly more about weapons use and ninja gadgets. Such as a flame thrower that’s concealed up someone’s sleeve, which must be handy when you can’t get your barbeque to work. While a lot of the early fights feature Karate and Judo based moves thrown in too. Like all the top action stars of the 1980's, Kosugi had his own distinctive fighting style on-screen.

Veteran actor Arthur Roberts, puts on a entertaining and straight face performance as the evil ninja. I'm not sure who doubled him for the fight scenes?, Keith Vitali perhaps?. Actress Ashely Ferrare as Cathy, gets very little to do other than bare some flesh. There's a cameo from action film regular, the hulking Proffesor Toru Tanaka, sadly they don't make the most of his presence here. While T.V and film actor Mario Gallo(Raging Bull) nearly steals the film as the short tempered mob boss. Revenge Of The Ninja packs a brutal punch, its good dumb entertainment for fans American action cinema. According to director Sam Firsternbergs comments on the movies Blu-Ray commentary, the first cut was originally thirty minutes longer. Now some violence was trimmed before the film’s release, but that cannot account for all the missing scenes. Did the two cops played by Virgil Fyre and Mel Hampton have more scenes?. Hard to say how this effected the finished product?. For ninja and Sho Kosugi fans, this is a must see.

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Martial Arts of Shaolin (1986)

Martial Arts of Shaolin is the third and final film in the Shaolin Temple trilogy starring Jet Li. Real quick, I’m gonna go over my thoughts on the first two films: Shaolin Temple (Jet Li’s acting debut) is a great martial arts movie. Beautiful cinematography and extraordinary fight scenes are pluses while the lack of a compelling story and the presence of some really brutal moments bring it down a bit. Kids From Shaolin is much more light-hearted and still has some incredible martial arts on display. Unfortunately, again, there’s no story. A majority of the film is made up of the hijinks of the kids which are amusing but not terribly engrossing as far as a story is concerned.

Martial Arts of Shaolin stars Jet Li as Lin Zhi-Ming, a proud disciple of the Northern Shaolin temple. When he learns that the powerful ruler who killed his parents is having a birthday party, he escapes the temple and sets out to assassinate him. Two other students from Southern Shaolin have the same plan (Woo Gin-Keung and Wong Chau-Yin), but they all fail and become the targets of the ruler’s soldiers. A subplot involving an arranged marriage only complicates matters.

I would get more into the story, however, if you’ve seen the other films in the Shaolin Temple trilogy, you already know they don’t really have a story. Much like the other films in the trilogy, Martial Arts of Shaolin is essentially just a really nice-looking fight-fest. Again, beautiful cinematography and breathtaking martial arts are the highlights. This film displays a terrific martial arts showcase, full of different styles and weapons. The agility and skill of the martial artists (mostly the cast of the first two) just blow me away. Considering this movie is 75% kung fu fight/training scenes, I expected the film to get tiresome after a while. And to be fair, it does a little bit. With films like The Raid, I eventually became numbed to the action, but the variety of the weapons and styles used and the sheer talent of these martial artists prevent this movie from becoming flat-out boring.

There are too many action highlights to count in this movie. They’re so long and so frequent that choosing a favorite is a difficult task (though not impossible). The “writing game” towards the beginning of the film has some unbelievable choreography. There are so many set-pieces with a lot of variety which make up for the lack of an in-depth story. The extraordinary finale alone is worth the price of admission and all of these fight scenes build up to an immensely satisfying ending. With Lau Kar-Leung helming these fight scenes, is it really a surprise that they’re amazing? Kung fu fans and martial arts enthusiasts should have nothing to complain about.

Unsurprisingly, our three main leads (Jet Li, Woo Gin-Keung, and Wong Chau-Yin) have some exceptional performances as the revenge-thirsty but fun-loving disciples. They all get to show their incredible fighting prowess and are allowed to demonstrate all sorts of styles, weapons, and acrobatics. Besides those three, Yue Hoi returns as the strict abbot. There’s also Yu Cheng-Hui as the evil overlord (as usual). Besides these five, it’s hard to think of any other memorable characters, but they are somehow easily able to support this movie on their own.

As mentioned earlier, this movie is gorgeous to look at. The amazing landscapes and calming music create a refreshingly upbeat atmosphere throughout. Clearly, a lot of effort was put into this production. Technically speaking, this is probably the best film in the trilogy. The first two, though beautiful still, kinda have a low budget and quickly-made vibe. This film is definitely more polished. I’ve heard people complain about the music in this movie, saying it’s annoying to listen to. But I actually quite like it. It’s really hard to explain, but it’s kinda a mix of traditional Chinese music with more modern, bubbly 80’s music. I feel the music gives this movie a unique atmosphere and adds to the upbeat tone of the film.

However, much like the first two films, this movie could’ve benefited greatly from a good story. If excellent action scenes are all you care about, then this is the film for you. The amount of variety makes the almost non-stop action easy to watch, but the lack of a story is the main reason why this film isn’t as good as it could’ve been. With such excellent action and absolutely beautiful cinematography, it’s almost hard to complain though. As far as other Shaolin-based movies from the 80’s from Mainland China, this is definitely one of the better ones.

 

Notes:

  • In 2014, I got to see Woo Gin-Keung at a screening of the first Shaolin Temple movie in Chinatown, Los Angeles. His students were doing a martial arts demonstration followed by a screening of the film. I didn’t get to meet him because he looked very busy, but it was a fun experience nonetheless.
  • Much like the first film, Martial Arts of Shaolin still isn’t PETA-friendly. However, it’s nowhere near as disturbing as the animal abuse in the original.

 

On 6/26/2017 at 0:17 PM, LuFengLover said:

                                                

 Iron Neck Li(1981) Review

Lovely revie @LuFengLover. Very short and sweet. This movie has always had my interest (mainly due to the title and star) but I haven't gotten around to it.

On 6/28/2017 at 5:47 AM, DragonClaws said:

Miracles    (1989)

"Canton kid, you fight really well"

Miracles features a great romanticised version of organised crime life, with a selection of distinctive characters. Despite filming having to stop, due to a typhoon that hit Hong Kong at the time. The finished product is one of the best Hong Kong movies of the 1980's, with some of the nicest looking camera work I've ever seen. Thanks to a team of six very gifted cinematographers, we are treated to some great shots. Also loved the on-going theme of Kuo Chen-Wah having inventive ways to put on and take off his hat. Aided by taping coins to the rim of the hats. One last thing I'd also like to mention, is the Billy Lau as Ah Tung, who is constantly told to go clean the car when he's not wanted around. A movie that seems to grow on me the more I watch it. Miracles is a must see for fans of Jackie Chan and Hong Kong cinema. The print I watched, was the extended widescreen subtitled print, released by Hong Kong Legends, with dubbed option.

Fantastic review @DragonClaws. As you mentioned, it's kinda a mystery how this movie even got made. It's really long, has very little fighting, and was so expensive that it'd be insane to think you'd actually get your money back from the box office. And Golden Harvest made it anyway. Just to retread what you talked about in your review, I love the action scenes and the music really fits the movie. And it looks amazing. Easily Jackie's best film, at least on a technical level. It does such a spot-on job emulating the sets and costumes and music and cinematography. Really a great movie.

I do have some issues with the story though since it is really convoluted. I had to watch this movie 4 or 5 times before I fully grasped the story. And I would argue that this movie is way too long. Something about the pacing in this movie kinda gripes me. But it does have a whole lot of high points that make up for it. I love this movie still.

On 6/29/2017 at 6:40 AM, Writ said:

The Rebel Intruders (1980)

That said, if you're a fan of Chang, it's definitely worth the watch because it is a very fun film. But as usual, don't expect much more than that to latch onto. It's more simplistic than even a lot of his other films because this one doesn't even seem to care about the characters all that much. But hey, if there's good fights, what more can we ask for in our martial arts films?

Great review. I can definitely see what you mean when you say Chang Cheh kinda makes the same movies. Especially later in his career, they did become somewhat repetitive. Using the same music in every film doesn't help matter much. However, in his defense, certain elements would typically make each film unique. Kid With the Golden Arm almost has a comic book style, Invincible Shaolin has exceptional training sequences, and Masked Avengers is a damn good mystery, just to name a few examples. And regardless of how repetitive they may get, the kinds of films he makes are really damn enjoyable anyway. I really like that kind of aesthetic anyway so I'm not too bothered by each film having the same themes/tone.

On 6/29/2017 at 9:38 AM, DragonClaws said:

Revenge Of The Ninja    (1983)

"This is no job for the police, it's something I must do, only a ninja can stop a ninja"

Another great review. I've always been meaning to dive into Sho Kosugi's filmography but never have so far. I'll definitely check them out someday.

2 hours ago, DragonClaws said:

There's still time for any last minute reviews:smile before next months high kicking theme starts.

I'm not sure if I'm gonna still review Tiger on the Beat. I started writing my review but realized I didn't much have much to say that hasn't already been said about that movie. I might get around to finishing my review before the end of the day, but if not, Martial Arts of Shaolin will be my final review.

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On 6/29/2017 at 11:40 PM, Writ said:

The Rebel Intruders (1980)

Directed by Chang Cheh

I really do like Chang Cheh as a director - he elevated bog standard material to the realms of watchability and occasionally near greatness. It's really sad then that every time I want to review one of his films, there really isn't much to say about them.

You're definitely not alone when it comes to this issue.  I'm a huge Chang Cheh fan as well, however in the 3+ years I've been writing for cityonfire, considering he directed close to 100 movies I've only reviewed 3 of them (2 of which he made in his post-Shaw Brothers era).  I think especially with his Venom's flicks, more than any other performers he worked with, it was these guys were his movies became pretty much interchangeable.  Yeah the stories and settings may vary, but essentially, you watch them to see Lu Feng and co. in action, and from that perspective there's never much to say outside of what's been repeated hundreds of times before.  Great review though, you hit the nail on the head about this one.

On 6/30/2017 at 2:38 AM, DragonClaws said:

Revenge Of The Ninja    (1983)

a.k.a N/A

Fight Choreographer- Sho Kosugi

Directed By- Sam Firstenberg

You know the only Sho Kosugi movie I've seen is 'Ninja Assassin', and technically that's not even a Sho Kosugi movie.  For some reason these American set ninja flicks have just never appealed, and I've never been able to put my finger on why.  Thoroughly enjoyed reading the review though!

17 hours ago, KenHashibe said:

Martial Arts of Shaolin (1986)

  • Much like the first film, Martial Arts of Shaolin still isn’t PETA-friendly. However, it’s nowhere near as disturbing as the animal abuse in the original.

Great review @KenHashibe!  I recently picked this up as part of a cheap 10-pack martial arts set while I was in Korea, not having seen it since first checking it out back when I was first getting into the genre back in '99.  I've already re-watched the first one, and have to confess the scene of animal cruelty came as quite a shock to me, leading me to believe I'm sure it must have been cut out of the original UK Eastern Heroes VHS that I first watched it on.  Those sheep really get it the toughest out of anyone in the whole movie.

I'll skip re-watching the 2nd one, but your review has definitely ensured number 3 will be getting a whirl in the player some time soon!

On 6/5/2017 at 1:22 PM, One Armed Boxer said:

Put me down for one more this month as well:

Buddhist Fist & Tiger Claws (1981) - Han Yong-cheol's last screen appearance, in which he co-stars with a guy that started out as a nameless lackey in his movies - Hwang Jang Lee.

Time has been the enemy this month, and with a bunch of new movies hitting the screen to review, I'll have to give this one a miss for June.  But with July dedicated to boot masters, I still plan to get it written and posted for the next monthly theme.

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My Mainland Chinese movie ended up being made in 1990 (said film doesn't even have an entry in the HKMDB), so my third entry will go into another thread.

17 hours ago, KenHashibe said:

Martial Arts of Shaolin is the third and final film in the Shaolin Temple trilogy starring Jet Li. Real quick, I’m gonna go over my thoughts on the first two films: Shaolin Temple (Jet Li’s acting debut) is a great martial arts movie. Beautiful cinematography and extraordinary fight scenes are pluses while the lack of a compelling story and the presence of some really brutal moments bring it down a bit. Kids From Shaolin is much more light-hearted and still has some incredible martial arts on display. Unfortunately, again, there’s no story. A majority of the film is made up of the hijinks of the kids which are amusing but not terribly engrossing as far as a story is concerned.

 

I owned a crappy DVD-r version of the film that used to be available on Amazon.com. I liked it, even though the subtitles were invisible for almost 2/3 of the film. That said, this is exhibit B in how the fight choreography of a Mainland Film would improve by 300% whenever a Hong Kong veteran was behind the camera (see South Shaolin Master; Holy Robe of Shaolin and Young Hero of Shaolin 2 for other examples). The finale is pheonomenal, although I'm less enthusiastic about the other fights because Jet Li has to share his fighting time with other performers (the problem with ensemble pics). But at the end, Jet Li busts out the weapons, the mantis and baguazhang, while Lau Kar-Leung gives us another less in the power of Hung Gar iron forearm techniques. Great stuff.

 

On 29/06/2017 at 1:38 PM, DragonClaws said:

Revenge Of The Ninja    (1983)

 

a.k.a N/A

 

Fight Choreographer- Sho Kosugi

 

Directed By- Sam Firstenberg

This was my first ninja movie. I saw it at my cousin's house when I was in the third grade, at about the same time they showed me the original Robocop. I still remember being scared by Braden's random kills during the first half, especially the shuriken to the eye and the couple having sex in the jacuzzi being killed with the blowgun ("You'd need a jackhammer to pull those two apart."). When I revisited the film later, I was amazed at the lengthy fight between Sho, Keith and the random thugs and how the film almost completely stopped for that scene. A great example of the American ninja movie and a good review to accompany.

 

On 29/06/2017 at 10:40 AM, Writ said:

The Rebel Intruders (1980)

 

Good insight into the difficulties of reviewing Chang's films: they're always good in just about the same ways (I know another reviewer who commented on that while reviewing his early David Chiang/Ti Lung wuxia films). That said, you might have even saved this review for July's bootmaster month and analyzed Sun Chien's brief performance and then that of Chui Shing-Chan. Just a thought. :)

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16 hours ago, One Armed Boxer said:

Great review @KenHashibe!  I recently picked this up as part of a cheap 10-pack martial arts set while I was in Korea, not having seen it since first checking it out back when I was first getting into the genre back in '99.  I've already re-watched the first one, and have to confess the scene of animal cruelty came as quite a shock to me, leading me to believe I'm sure it must have been cut out of the original UK Eastern Heroes VHS that I first watched it on.  Those sheep really get it the toughest out of anyone in the whole movie.

I'll skip re-watching the 2nd one, but your review has definitely ensured number 3 will be getting a whirl in the player some time soon!

Thanks! I hope you enjoy your re-watch.

I think I had the same experience watching Shaolin Temple. I remember seeing a version without the sheep scene though I don't remember where. Definitely not a fun scene to watch.

15 hours ago, DrNgor said:

I owned a crappy DVD-r version of the film that used to be available on Amazon.com. I liked it, even though the subtitles were invisible for almost 2/3 of the film. That said, this is exhibit B in how the fight choreography of a Mainland Film would improve by 300% whenever a Hong Kong veteran was behind the camera (see South Shaolin Master; Holy Robe of Shaolin and Young Hero of Shaolin 2 for other examples). The finale is pheonomenal, although I'm less enthusiastic about the other fights because Jet Li has to share his fighting time with other performers (the problem with ensemble pics). But at the end, Jet Li busts out the weapons, the mantis and baguazhang, while Lau Kar-Leung gives us another less in the power of Hung Gar iron forearm techniques. Great stuff.

The Hong Kong veterans definitely know how to choreograph a fight. Out of the movies you named, I've only seen South Shaolin Master and Holy Robe of Shaolin, and both are fantastic. Excellent fight choreography and they look amazing, especially Holy Robe. And of course, Martial Arts of Shaolin benefits from having Lau Kar Leung in the director's chair.

Edited by KenHashibe

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20 hours ago, DrNgor said:

This was my first ninja movie. I saw it at my cousin's house when I was in the third grade, at about the same time they showed me the original Robocop. I still remember being scared by Braden's random kills during the first half, especially the shuriken to the eye and the couple having sex in the jacuzzi being killed with the blowgun ("You'd need a jackhammer to pull those two apart."). When I revisited the film later, I was amazed at the lengthy fight between Sho, Keith and the random thugs and how the film almost completely stopped for that scene. A great example of the American ninja movie and a good review to accompany.

Cannon clearly just wanted to throw in some random nudity, so theycame up with the jacuzzi scene. The scene where Braden is hanging around in a mens public toilet, dressed in full ninja garb is amusing.

Did you get time to read my rview of Miracles @DrNgor.

I'll post a recap of the movies people have covered, later on today.

 

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Thank you to @One Armed Boxer, @DrNgor, @Writ, @ShaOW!linDude, @KenHashibe, @LuFengLover, who gave up their time to write/contribute to this months, 1980's inspired reviews theme.

There have been many great reviews from various members of the Kung Fu Fandom writers gang. Just to let people know, these threads are open to all, anyone can post here as long as they meet the critieria listed in the eachs months first post. This months theme has already been announced, so keep yours eyes open for some super kicker themed reviews, this July.

 

Summary

One Armed Boxer- Aces Go Places V, South Shaolin VS North Shaolin

DrNgor- Angel 3, Ninja Terminator

Writ- Pedicab Driver, Cat VS Rat, The Rebl Intruders

ShaOW!linDude- The Protector

DragonClaws- Five Pattern Dragons Claws, Miracles, Revenge Of The Ninja

KenHashibe- Police Story 2, Martial Arts Of Shaolin

LuFengLover- Crazy Horse-Intelligent Monkey, Iron Neck Li

 

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