DADDY, FATHER & PAPA
(Hong Kong 1991)
Original Title: Lao Dou Wu Pa Duo 老豆唔怕多
Directed by Clifton Ko Produced by Raymond Wong, Clifton Ko, Simon Yip Action by Chris Lee Kin Sang Starring: Sammo Hung, Raymond Wong, Gabriel Wong, Teresa Mo, Liu Wai Hung, Tommy Wong Kwong Leung, Bin Bin, Paul Wong, Simon Yip, Teddy Yip, Vincent Kok, James Tien Reviewing: Fortune Star/Joy Sales HK VCD Release Genres: Comedy / Action / Drama
Rating - 3.3 / 5
VCD Synopsis: A seven-year-old Ben takes delight in getting into mischief. One day, his naughty ways lead him into serious trouble. A list of triad members has fallen into his hands and he is kidnapped by the notorious gangsters. Treating as one of his usual pranks, his dad is undisturbed by Ben's sudden disappearance and makes no attempts to trace his whereabouts. However, Ben is in hot pursuit of a policeman and a reporter, as they both believe Ben is their son. An amusing chase by the rescue party then begins... (98 Mins)
Views: This Hong Kong remake of Les Comperes is rarely talked about today by fans of the jaded screen, although not for any reason in particular. The film opens with cute child-actor Bin Bin, from classics such as Magic Crystal and A Book Of Heroes, in school and making a mockery of a bully classmate. Although often spoiled by his mother, he's an only-child that just wants to be loved by his over-powering father and often feels very lonely. He finds a bit of friendship with Pierre, a very flamboyant neighbour that likes to invent and work with robotic toys. After a bad report card comes home, Bin Bin is locked in his room by his dick of a dad, but soon escapes to find solace in a nearby park. While relaxing on a bench, Bin Bin witnesses some gangsters chasing down a man who, before taking his last breath, throws the kid a roll of film and tells him to run! As the victim is choked to death, Bin Bin escapes on his bike with the gangsters hot on his tail. During the chase, Bin Bin disposes of the roll by throwing it through Pierre's window before returning home to the wrath of his father and the gangsters hiding in his bedroom. With his room ransacked and Bin Bin gone, his mum decides to do whatever she can to get him back, including telling two previous boyfriends (one a policeman, one a reporter) that Bin Bin just might be theirs. As the rescue mission begins, things get a little out of hand that leads to many hilarious antics and fight-action in an attempt to get Bin Bin home safely!
The first thing that attracts you to Daddy, Father & Papa is it's fantastic cast. And while it may have a powerhouse martial artist like Sammo Hung headlining the film, this 1991 production does tend to focus more-so on the comedy side of things as oppose to the action. Sammo plays Hung (and why not), who has been convinced that he may be the father of Bin Bin due to a relationship he had with the child's mother many years ago. I've always loved Sammo in comedy roles as I think he pulls it off perfectly, and here he proves why over the course of many different situations. Ever popular comedy-actor and all-round film-maker, Raymond Wong, plays the other possible father to Bin Bin and a reporter with a crazy stroke of bad luck. Both characters are introduced back into her life via very different flashbacks (which is hilarious in itself) before they set out in search of their son. The woman in question is played by the fantastic Teresa Mo, who I just adore. From All's Well That Ends Well to Hard Boiled, Legend Of The Dragon to An Inspector Calls, Teresa never fails to entertain and continues to prove her worth as a comedy actress here. The hilarious Gabriel Wong stars as Pierre, the gay toymaker with high-blood pressure and trademark large glasses who always finds himself in the middle of their trouble. Liu Wai Hung plays Bin Bin's real father who is an abusive and loud-mouthed man that just cares about money. It's only when he realises that his role is questioned and his son is actually missing, do we start to see a change in his ways. Daddy, Father & Papa would prove to be Bin Bin's final role as a child actor, disappearing from the scene altogether for over 20 years before returning in 2015 for one final role in Sorry, Baby – a Chinese mainland comedy that also starred his own son, Little Bin. Kung-fu star and popular gangster actor James Tien plays Brother Ho, the triad boss who wants his negatives back no matter what. He is backed by the great Tommy Wong Kwong Leung and Paul Wong, who do the most of his dirty work – with Paul taking a liking to the young captive over the course of the story, and defecting from his boss in order to help Bin Bin.
Written by no less than 5 screenwriters, including Joe Ma and Vincent Kok, Daddy, Father & Papa is hardly the greatest film in the world but it does prove to be quite entertaining. Directed by Hong Kong film veteran and actor Clifton Ko, the man behind hits such as Happy Ghost, Chicken & Duck Talk, Gambling Ghost, and Esprit D'Amour, the film doesn't lag for a second but it certainly doesn't benefit from having so many writers behind it. The final 30 minutes sees things take a turn as the gangsters start to get a little more heavy handed with Bin Bin taken hostage once again, along with his real dad – and eventually, everyone else. It's here we get to see a bit more stunt work introduced that leads to a brief shoot-out, explosions, and exchange of punches underwater. It's hardly a career-defining moment for an action-legend such as Sammo Hung, but it fits with the overall tone of the film at the end of the day. I did find it strange however that while it may be shy of the hardcore martial arts we would have expected from a Hong Kong movie of this era (especially with Hung in the cast), those in charge would secure the services of someone like Chris Lee as their action-director. For anyone that doesn't know, Lee was one of the Jackie Chan Stunt Team members that ended up in a coma after the incredible double-decker bus stunt went wrong in Police Story. Apart from starring in many classics such as Project A, Eastern Condors, Miracles, In The Line Of Duty 3, and Full Contact, Lee was also behind the action in My Flying Wife, Burning Paradise, Project A 2, and Twin Dragons. He also took the reins of director on hits such as Queens High with Cynthia Khan,and Crystal Fortune Run with Cheung Man, who he would work with once again on Back For Your Life. But in Daddy, Father & Papa, he really didn't have much to do and the action could have quite easily been handled by Hung himself. Regardless, it still makes for an entertaining film that (while far from perfect) has plenty of funny moments that's backed by a great cast, who I always enjoy watching...
Overall: A feel good movie that may lack action, but still offers plenty of laughs and fun moments!
(Hong Kong 1980)
Original Title: Kong Shou Ru Bai Ren 空手入白刃
Directed by Wilson Tong, Cheung Sum Produced by Alex Gouw Action by Wilson Tong Starring: Wilson Tong, Meng Yuen Man, Lily Li, Peter Chan Lung, Cheng Kang Yeh, Alan Chui, Wong Yat Fei, Sai Gwa Pau, Cheung Sum, Yeung Wah, Billy Chan Reviewing: Amazon Prime UK Release Genres: Traditional Kung Fu / Drama
Rating - 4 / 5
Synopsis: Ching (Meng Yuen Man) is determined to become a kung-fu expert, yet each time he begins to train with a new master, they are mysteriously assassinated. Killer Bah (Wilson Tong) is a professional assassin whose use of the secret daggers makes him an unbeatable killing machine. Ching swears to avenge all his master's deaths and prepares by developing his skills to perfection.
Views: From Goldig Films and the fantastic Wilson Tong, comes Daggers 8 – a movie inspired by the likes of Drunken Master and Snake In The Eagles Shadow (like many before it), and packed with great moves and kung-fu battles, funny comedy, and a decent cast. The highly enjoyable Meng Yuen Man plays Ching, cheeky rich boy with great kung-fu. It's a role akin to that of Jackie's in Dragon Lord, with Ching even having a house assistant that tries to help him trick his grandfather with his studies. Ching's grandfather despises the fact that his youngest grandson only cares about kung-fu, and after his older brother turns up dead due to a fight, resorts to locking Ching up. It doesn't take long for Ching to escape and start his journey in finding a kung-fu master that will teach him...
The first comes in the shape of Peter Chan Lung, a restaurant owner who helps Ching when he gets into some bother protecting a girl from some horny men – one of which is Dragon Lord co-star, Cheng Kang Yeh. In a nearby village, assassin Wilson Tong turns up at a book store where he is pointed to a particular book that holds the contract for his next hit, which happens to be Ching's new master. Chan Lung soon meets his end when Tong arrives at the restaurant and attacks him. Later in the day, Ching arrives back to find his master murdered, and without knowing how or why continues on his journey. The happy-go-lucky fighter soon runs into a couple of bandits on the road who attack and try to rob him. While he holds his own against them, Ching soon finds help from a new kung-fu master that helps put a stop to things. This new master is Alan Chui, who takes offense to Ching calling him teacher but quickly buckles and agrees to take Ching as a student. Of course, after some time has passed, Chiu soon finds himself up against the deadly Tong and is soon killed like Chan Lung before him. Moving on once again, Ching runs into the wonderful Lily Li – a pretty girl with fantastic moves who kicks his ass a couple of times before agreeing to take him on as a student. As with the rest, she soon comes face-to-face with Tong in one of the film's highlight moments. A final twist leaves Ching's grandfather dead, though not before he confesses his secrets to the young fighter that all leads to an incredible showdown between Tong and Ching, with both stars delivering some great moves and Meng finally letting loose!
While he didn't star in many films over the course of his career, in comparison to many other kung-fu actors of that era, Meng Yuen Man still made quite the impression. Getting in with Shaw Brothers from an early age, Meng would go on to kick-ass and entertain in titles like The Dragon Missile, Hell's Windstaff, The Fighting Fool, and The Master Strikes with famed director and choreographer, Tony Ching Siu Tung. He continues to impress here, both with his comedy and kung-fu skills, getting to show some incredible moves for the majority of the films running time. Co-director and fight-choreographer Wilson Tong offers some of his best stuff, both as a co-star and director while giving everyone the chance to shine as much as he does himself. Daggers 8 would be his third feature as a director after the fantastic Kung-Fu Genius, and Snake Deadly Act, and is joined behind the camera by Cheung Sum who also plays Ching's grandfather. As always, it's great to see the likes of Peter Chan Lung, Alan Chiu, and Lily Li in any film, and interesting to note that Miss Li would also deliver an equally fantastic role in Jackie Chan's Young Master, shot the same year. She's an incredible kung-fu starlet that rarely fails to deliver, and gets to show off some incredible moves here – right down to her deadly fight with Wilson Tong. Popular Hong Kong actor and comedy star, Wong yat Fei, more internationally known for his role in Shaolin Soccer, stars as Ching's house assistant, with appearances from regular faces such as Cheng Kang Yeh, Billy Chan, and prolific actor Sai Gwa Pau – who has an incredible 800+ titles to his name.
While Daggers 8 may just seem like another kung-fu comedy, it is one of the better copy-cat films of that time offering neat direction and decent camerawork. It also wins with such a great cast and Wilson Tong's choreography, which is always a joy to watch. Like most titles from Goldig Films, Daggers 8 is worth the watch and quite enjoyable – even if it's a case of having seen it all before. One of the forgotten stars of the infamous Seven Little Fortunes troupe with Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, and Yuen Biao, Daggers 8 would be one of three Meng Yuen Man films produced in 1980, before he would retire from the business in 1982 after suffering a heart attack...
Overall: Great kung-fu and decent comedy add to a top cast that makes Daggers 8 worth the watch!
DANCE OF DEATH
(Hong Kong 1979)
Original Title: Wu Quan 舞拳 (aka) The Eternal Conflict
Directed by Chen Chi Hwa Produced by Yen Wu Tong Action by Jackie Chan, Peng Kang Starring: Angela Mao Ying, Paul Chun, Dean Shek, Hsu Pu Liao, Chia Kai, Sun Jung Chi, Yu Sung Chao, Chi Fu Chiang, Hsiao Yao, Lui Wang Biu, Wang Tai Lang, Ko Pao, Chen Chi Hwa Reviewing: Wu Tang Clan/Ground Zero US DVD Release Genres: Traditional Kung-Fu / Comedy
Rating - 4 / 5
DVD Synopsis: Superstar Jackie Chan action directs this kung fu classic, starring Lady Kung Fu herself, Angela Mao Ying. The Long Braid Mantis King is out to destroy the Beggar Clan once and for all. It's up to the Beggar Queen to stop the kung fu holocaust from happening! Jackie Chan was at the top of his game when he took on this epic project. Top flight hand techniques and skills are the trademark of this classic. Do not miss this!! (90 Mins)
Views: After opening with a display of kung-fu from the wonderful Angela Mao Ying in an obligatory red-room sequence, we find the scruffy looking orphan-boy (yes, she is playing a boy here) stumble upon a fight in an old temple. The two fighting men, Hu and Madman, are kung-fu masters who meet for a duel every 5 years – and always end in a draw. After a friend is killed by some fighters of the evil Bird Gang, Ying convinces the two bumbling masters to teach her some new styles so that she can take revenge. They eventually agree and teach her the 5 Forms Technique, along with a new one called the Dance Style. Once brought together, Mao Ying will have perfected the moves needed to defeat her enemies!
I first saw (and bought) Dance Of Death way back in 2003 on a trip to New York. I remember it being quite enjoyable back then, but I don't think I've ever watched it again until now – and I have to wonder why. It's still such a fun film, bursting with the same style of mad-cap kung-fu comedy as Jackie Chan's classic Spiritual Kung-Fu, Drunken Master, and Half A Loaf Of Kung Fu, from just a couple years before. Saying that, I find it is very similar in tone to Fearless Hyena which was shot the same year, but I'm not too sure what came first. Of course, the two major reasons behind this would be that Jackie Chan himself was behind the fight choreography (more on that in a bit), brought in by his close friend and director Chen Chi Hwa who had already directed the martial-arts-legend in the likes of Lo Wei's Shaolin Wooden Men, Snake And Crane Arts Of Shaolin, and the aforementioned Half A Loaf Of Kung Fu. Jackie had already lent his services to Chen in helping choreograph some of the action in 36 Crazy Fists, but in Dance Of Death, it seems he was a bit more hands-on overall. As the tables turned for both directors, it would be Chen Chi Hwa who would go on to work for Jackie soon after, working as a co-director on many of his biggest hits such as Young Master, Police Story 1 & 2, Project A 2, Miracles, Drunken Master 2, and Armour Of God 2: Operation Condor – where he also cameoed as the weedy little adventurer who had been forced to marry the native in the films opening scenes...
Aside from some great kung-fu and funny comedy – typical of its time – Dance Of Death boasts a great cast with the always incredible Angela Mao Ying in the lead. Although playing a male role, her beauty and feminine characteristics shine through which makes you forget about the gender swap after a while. Of course, that all comes secondary when you see Mao Ying in action as she delivers a host of incredible moves, great forms, and impressive acrobatics. I can honestly say I probably haven't seen the femme-fatale move quite as well in any other production. Jackie's choreography makes it feel like the man himself is in the role (or at least, could easily have been), as he puts Mao Ying through her paces and no doubt demanded the best of what she could possibly do on a physical level. Prolific actor Paul Chun Pui, brother to superstars David Chiang and Derek Yee, stars as Ku Cheng Yuan – Ying's new friend who gets killed by the Bird Clan and the reason for her seeking revenge. I've always enjoyed seeing Paul on-screen in films such as Peking Opera Blues, Legend Of The Owl, The Adventurers, and many more as well as his stint in Chen's very own 36 Crazy Fists. The ever-energetic Dean Shek reprises his typical role of wacky assistant to the big villain, complete with wiry moustache, cheeky looks, and slapstick kung-fu. Although he has starred in many classics as this character, I never tire of seeing him and always enjoy his silliness.
Angela's masters are played by two of the odder actors from this era with the first being Hsu Pu Liao, the crazy character actor from Fantasy Mission Force. Known as the Chinese Chaplin, Hsu managed to star in over 60 films in only 10 years, before passing away at 34 due to alcohol-induced hepatitis and, ultimately, heart failure. While his kung-fu was never anything to write home about, Hsu won fans with his crazed comedy characters and was usually fun to watch. Her second master is played by Wang Tai Lang, a familiar face that starred in films such as One Armed Boxer Vs. The Flying Guillotine, Secret Of The Shaolin Poles, Militant Eagle, and played one of the ghosts in Jackie's own Spiritual Kung-Fu. Apart from a cameo the following year, Dance Of Death would prove to be his last major role. While other popular faces appear through-out, including a cameo from the director himself, the last major actor I'd like to mention is Chia Kai who plays the main villain of the film, Mu Fa Shan. Although only working over the course of a decade from the mid 70s to the mid 80s, Kai starred in many classics such as 10 Brothers Of Shaolin, Kung Fu Of Seven Steps, Mars Villa and Mantis Under Falcon Claws – of which he was also the action-director for. While most of his moves are saved for the awesome closing battle, he was definitely a great addition to the cast!
Behind the camera, and fresh off his success from Snake In The Eagles Shadow and Drunken Master, Jackie Chan was brought in as the fight-director for Dance Of Death – and it shows. Joining him is Peng Kang, an actor and choreographer that had worked with the star on Spiritual Kung-Fu, Half A Loaf Of Kung-Fu, Fearless Hyena, and Dragon Fist. Beyond that, Peng got in on titles such as Snake Deadly Act, Ninja In The Dragons Den, Matching Escort, and A Life Of Ninja. Between them, the duo pack Dance Of Death with some fantastic fight scenes while allowing Angela Mao Ying to display some of her best moves ever, with the choreography presenting her as the female Jackie Chan of which she pulls-off perfectly. From fights in the village to extensive and highly impressive finale, I can only imagine how much more of a hit this film would have been had Jackie himself been in the role. While Dance Of Death may not offer fans anything fresh in regards to its story – something very typical of this era – Chen Chi Hwa makes sure the focus is on the fights, something of which is brings plenty of. The comedy isn't as daft as a lot of other titles from this period and does offer a few chuckles through-out, and I must admit it was refreshing to see Mao Ying in such a role. I only wish she had had the chance to do more like this, as well as had been directed by Jackie a bit more often when it came to the action. Although it is often missed on peoples lists of kung-fu favourites, Dance Of Death may not be perfect, but it certainly entertains on many levels – especially with its fight scenes. Now if someone like 88 Films would give us a cleaned-up restoration of the film in its original language, I'm sure it would gain a lot of new fans and let the world see just how amazing Angela Mao Ying really was, in 4K...
Overall: Fast paced, with a great cast and fantastic kung-fu fights, Dance Of Death is well worth the watch and one of Mao Ying's finest hours!
DVD Extras: Trailers, Bonus Fights, Fighting Technique Demonstration, Music Video
DANCE OF THE DRUNK MANTIS
(Hong Kong 1979)
Original Title: Nan Bei Zui Quan 南北醉拳 (aka) Drunken Master Part 2; South North Drunk Fist
Directed by Yuen Woo Ping Produced by Ng See Yuen Action by The Yuen Clan, Corey Yuen Kwai Starring: Simon Yuen, Yuen Shun Yee, Hwang Jang Lee, Linda Lin Jing, Yen Shi Kwan, Dean Shek, Corey Yuen Kwai, Lee Fat Yuen, Chin Yuet Sang, Brandy Yuen, Yuen Mao Reviewing: Soulblade UK DVD Release Genres: Traditional Kung-Fu / Comedy
Rating - 4.3 / 5
DVD Synopsis: A year after training a young Jackie Chan in the Drunken Fist, Sam Seed returns home to find that his wife has adopted a son (Foggy), Sam dislikes the lad and tortures him mentally and physically. Devastated, the boy runs away and takes a job at an inn where he meets Rubber Legs and his student. He overhears that they are looking for Sam Seed and want to kill him, making Rubber Legs' northern Drunk Mantis Boxing supreme. Foggy returns home to warn Sam Seed, who is then injured by Rubber Legs. Sam sends Foggy to a sickness teacher for herbs to cure him, and the doctor teaches him a dreaded style called Sickness Boxing. Now, armed with this sick form of fighting, Foggy is ready for Drunk Mantis. (94 Mins)
Views: Originally sold as Drunken Master 2 in many territories, Dance Of The Drunk Mantis should really be the official sequel to the original hit film. I mean, it continues the story of Sam Seed (Simon Yuen) only a year after his adventures with a young Wong Fei Hung (Jackie Chan), was directed once again by Yuen Woo Ping and produced by Ng See Yuen, and although numerous cast members from the first film return, most of them play different roles than they previously did – which was typical of kung-fu movies from this era. But then of course, Jackie brought out his own sequel in 1994 which quite happily continued the story of the young Wong Fei Hung (with Chan having hardly aged a day over the 16 year gap between productions) and thus created a bit of a dilemma as to what really was the follow-up movie. In a sense, both titles could easily run alongside each other in regards to them continuing the stories of their characters – but if you really needed to settle on one, I guess it all depends on who you regard as the titular drunken master. Is it the character of Sam Seed, the old kung-fu master who loves to drink and teaches the art of drunken boxing? Or is it that of Jackie Chan's character of Wong Fei Hung, the troublesome kid who mastered the drunken style in order to beat one of the toughest fighters around (and someone his master, ultimately, could not defeat)? It's quite the predicament I guess, and while Dance Of The Drunk Mantis has more consistency in tone, style, and production design than the more modern Golden Harvest sequel does in comparison to the original, it's more likely that Jackie Chan stands strong as the main connection for most people – thus making his version of Drunken Master 2 the official sequel to today's audience..
Set 1 year after the events of the original film, Dance Of The Drunk Mantis follows Sam Seed as he makes his way home to his wife. At the same time, Rubber Legs (Hwang Jang Lee) and his assistant are heading to the same town in search of Sam. He wants to challenge him in a fight for superiority using his Northern style of drunken boxing combined with the deadly mantis style kung-fu, against the old master's Southern style. When Sam returns home, he finds that his wife has adopted an adult son, Foggy, who is happy to see his new dad. Hoping to learn kung-fu, Foggy soon finds that his dad is slightly abusive towards him and soon runs away, finding solace with a new master who teaches Foggy the art of the Sick Fist. After a run-in with Rubber Legs leaves Sam injured, Foggy steps into save his dad and helps him escape. From there, Sam agrees to teach him the style of the Drunken Fist, which when combined with the Sick Fist, will help him to beat Rubber Legs' Drunken Mantis in a deadly showdown!
There's no denying that Dance Of The Drunk Mantis is a highly entertaining and well-made film. And as a Seasonal Production with Ng See Yuen behind it, you would expect nothing else. But it still seems to be missing something that the original Drunken Master had, as well as focusing on the comedy a little more than before. But most noticeably for me, it is the lack of charm of a certain Jackie Chan. It also has a touch of (what I like to call) sequelitis, in that the film-makers have tried too hard to better the first film, which quite often doesn't work in their favour. That said, there's still a lot to love here from the Yuen Clan's intricate choreography to the funny comedy situations, and then there's the incredible Hwang Jang Lee that steals the show for me. I've long been a huge fan of the super-kicker and it was nice to see him having fun with this role, as well as getting to show some amazing kicks and kung-fu. His student is played by the brilliant Corey Yuen Kwai, a man that needs no introduction and another of the Seven Little Fortunes that gained as much of a great start in the industry as his brothers Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung did. Along with co-starring and getting to show some incredible kung-fu – with his opening fight being a highlight on both fighters behalf, and his drunken style against Yuen Shun Yi (Foggy) executed perfectly – Yuen Kwai was a big part of the fight choreography with the Yuen Clan, a relationship that continued over many productions (and had started well before).
While I always enjoy seeing Yuen Shun Yi on-screen, it's safe to say that he's no Jackie Chan. There's no denying that he's got the comedy-timing and martial moves down to a tee, but there is a natural charm to Jackie that many stars just don't have. Regardless, Shun Yi as Foggy is brilliant and allowed him to show some incredible skills as a leading man. Although he had been in the business for over a decade at this point, most of his roles were as an extra or bit-player in an incredible amount of Shaw Brothers productions, gaining bigger roles from about 1977 onwards with his brothers before Dance Of The Drunk Mantis really gave him leading-man status - leading on to classics such as The Buddhist Fist and Dreadnaught of course. While his on-screen presence would fade around the turn-of-the-century, Yuen Shun Yi would continue his work behind the camera as a martial-arts-director on films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword Of Destiny, The Banquet, True Legend, Kung Fu Hustle, and the Ip Man movies. His father however - having starred in over 340 movies during the course of his career - would be forever seen in the eyes of kung-fu fans as the grey haired, scruffy old beggar which was a role that would see him typecast in most of his films for the last few years of his life. That's not to say it was a bad thing, going on to give Simon Yuen (the leader and father of the Yuen Clan), legendary status in the cinematic world and a character that is still copied to this very day. Popular kung-fu star, Yen Shi Kwan, stars as the Sick Fist master and the man who helps teach Yuen Shun Yi the deadly style. Although a great mover and actor in his own right, Yen's moves are elevated to greatness with the Yuen Clan's choreography that gives him some scene-stealing moments. Of course, Yen would go on to star alongside more of Hong Kong cinema's greatest stars including Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao, Jet Li, Donnie Yen, Cynthia Khan, and Michelle Yeoh respectively. The wonderful Linda Lin Ying returns after her role in the original Drunken Master, only this time to play Sam Seed's wife and Foggy's mum. Although her time in the film world spans almost 30 years, Linda has only starred in 7 films altogether – yet has impressed with her flexibility and martial arts every time. Her highlight moment here has to be her showdown fight against Corey Yuen Kwai, in a fantastically worked fight that highlights her skills to the max. And although she is doubled a couple of times for the more acrobatic moves, she still proves to carry the majority of the fight and looks great doing so. The ever wonderful Dean Shek returns in his trademark wacky role, this time as Money Bags the bank manager, and the fantastic Chin Yuet Sang gets an extended cameo as a loan shark who think he can harass the subdued Mrs. Seed...
As mentioned, the choreography for Dance Of The Drunk Mantis is handled by the Yuen Clan. This consisted of director Yuen Woo Ping, star Yuen Shun Yi, brother Brandy Yuen Ja Yeung, and co-stars Corey Yuen Kwai and Chin Yuet Sang, most of who had worked on the original film the year before. Between them, the team take things to the next level with even more intricate moves, speed, and great acrobatics that make every fight of the film exciting to watch. From the opening fight scene with Corey Yuen Kwai to the one-on-one between Sam Seed and Rubber Legs, the team definitely set-out to impress and certainly achieved it. It all leads to an even more impressive final 20 minutes, which sees Foggy reach his peak in training and take on Rubber Legs in the final showdown, is a pretty incredible display of choreography and martial arts from both parties involved. And although many have stated that the doubling of Simon Yuen was distracting to some degree, it's definitely not off-putting by any means. Viewers must remember how old this guy actually was and, in one of his final cinematic roles, still manages to pull-it-off. Producer and writer Ng See Yuen was on a winning streak during this stage of Hong Kong cinema, something that continues to show with Dance Of The Drunk Mantis. While it would have been great to see Jackie Chan return for a sequel this close to the original and at the height of it's popularity, this offering still proves to be highly entertaining and well worth the watch!
Overall: With a little more comedy than before, Dance Of The Drunk Mantis offers a lot of exciting kung-fu action and should not be missed by fans of old-school movies, Yuen Woo Ping, or it's stars!
DVD Extras: Audio Commentary by Rick Baker & Toby Russell, Interviews, Rare Footage of Hwang Jang Lee, Drunken Master Deleted Scene, Trailers, Cast & Crew Notes, Restoration Footage
DANCES WITH DRAGON
(Hong Kong 1991)
Original Title: Yu Long Gong Wu 與龍共舞
Directed by Wong Jing Produced by Jimmy Heung, Wong Jing Action by Paul Wong Kwan Starring: Andy Lau, Sharla Cheung Man, Deannie Yip, Alfred Cheung, Yvonne Yung Hung, Ng Man Tat, Wu Ma, May Lo, Ridley Tsui, Wong Yat Fei Reviewing: YouTube Release Genres: Romance / Comedy
Rating - 3.5 / 5
Synopsis: A young, successful Hong Kong businessman drifts onto a rural island, after he is pushed overboard from his boat by an angry girlfriend. Mistaken for an illegal immigrant and keeping his identity secret, he is forced to work and hide in a family run grocery store where he soon falls for the owners daughter. (108 Mins)
Views: This early 90s rom-com from Golden Harvest and Wins Movie Productions, proved to be quite the hit upon release with director Wong Jing in top form and a strong cast behind him. That said, it doesn't offer much that we haven't seen before, but still has a charm about it that makes for a fun watch. Andy Lau plays Lung Ka Chun, a wealthy businessman who is into real-estate, driving nice cars, and is hounded by his mum to marry anyone she seemingly introduces. While out on a boat trip with his latest lady-friend, Lung gets pushed overboard by here and left to fend for himself as she takes the boat away. Floating about in the shark invested waters, Lung soon makes his way to the shore of a rural island with a host of illegal immigrants who have swam in from the mainland and soon find themselves on the run from the police. This results in a chase through the streets, with Andy making his escape in some pretty-tight speedos – which was a welcome sight, I must say! Hiding in a nearby home, Lung is soon found and captured by mother and daughter team, Deannie Yip and Sharla Cheung Man, who mistake him for an illegal mainlander. Lung decides to play along for a while so he can escape the rat-race and let those in his life worry for a bit. At the same time, Moon (Cheung) has gotten a job at Lung's business in the city, working with her cousin Charmy (May Lo) and hounded by Lung's assistant Martin. As expected, complications naturally arise as love starts to blossom and truths come to light that test relationships and proving that love conquers all...
While not amazing in any way, Dances With Dragon is an enjoyable rom-com that doesn't suffer from the usual crass humour or too much mo-lei-tau that would normally be seen in a Chow Sing Chi or wackier Wong Jing production. Instead, the humour often comes across in a silly-but-cute kind of way, just ever so slightly dipping its toe into mo-lei-tau territory. That usually comes about when the hilarious and recently departed, Ng Man Tat, appears. Ng plays Andy's right-hand man – his only lifeline to the real world while in hiding, who keeps his boss up-to-date with what's happening at home and often getting himself into some crazy situations to help keep his cover. Sharla Cheung Man gets to offer a more comedic role than usual as the Lantau Island resident who gets a job in the big city with the help of her cousin Charmy, played by May Lo Mei Wei. As per usual, Cheung is always a joy to watch and seems to be having fun here getting in on some hilarious moments, as well as getting to be the Belle of the ball. The always amazing Deannie Yip stars as her mother, a sweet and comical lady who tries her hand at cheating people for a few extra dollars, whether its at mahjong or pretending to heal them with her kung-fu. Actor and director in his own right, Alfred Cheung, plays Martin – assistant to Lau's character in the business and potential brother-in-law to his boss, with his sister Diana (played by Yvonne Yung Hung) currently dating Lung. Wu Ma plays an island cop called Uncle Prawn who has a long-time connection to Ng Man Tat's character of Uncle Fly, and older character actor, Bau Hon Lam from God Of Gamblers, plays Uncle Chow – a pain-in-the-arse businessman who likes to degrade Lung when possible and trick him out of a deal.
With a few other regular faces popping up throughout, such as Paul Chu, Tan Lap man, Ridley Tsui, John Ching, and Wong Yat Fei, Dances With Dragon proves to be an easy watch. Although some of it's jokes may appeal more to a local audience, there's still enough going on to entertain the more unfamiliar audience. While it could have been snipped by 10 or 15 minutes, the charm of it's cast and tidy direction of Wong Jing keep you glued. And from a period when Hong Kong cinema was rife with martial-arts action, triad stories, and gambling thrillers, it must have been a great chance for it's leading man to breathe considering it was only 1 of 14 incredible titles he starred in that year – from Ann Hui's Zodiac Killers to the hilarious Tricky Brains with Chow Sing Chi, and from the incredible Saviour Of The Soul to Wong Kar Wai's highly praised, Days Of Being Wild, it's seems there was no stopping this man. Dances With Dragon proves to be a much more relaxed experience than the majority of those other offerings in 1991, but it still shows what a great comic actor Andy Lau is, along with those that joined him on-screen!
Overall: While it's not incredible by any means, Dances With Dragon is a charming rom-com with a great cast and many funny moments!
Original Title: Honogurai Mizu No Soko Kara 仄暗い水の底から (aka) From The Depths Of Dark Water
Directed by Hideo Nakata Produced by Takashige Ichise Starring: Hitomi Kuroki, Rio Kanno, Mirei Oguchi, Asami Mizukawa, Fumiyo Kohinata, Yu Tokui, Isao Yatsu, Shigemitsu Ogi, Maiko Asano, Yukiko Ikari Reviewing: Tartan Asia Extreme UK DVD Release Genres: Horror / Thriller / Drama
Rating - 3.7 / 5
DVD Synopsis: From the internationally acclaimed director of the blood curdling Ring comes Dark Water, a brooding and unsettling masterpiece of modern horror cinema. When Yoshimi's marriage breaks down, she and her daughter are forced to find a new place to live. Desperate for stability during a time of anguish and uncertainty they settle for an apartment in a gloomy, run down block of flats. Once there, the discovery of a school bag left behind by a mysterious young girl, along with the appearance of damp patches on the ceiling and walls, begins to haunt them. Soon they will both learn the sinister truth behind these events, and their lives will change forever. This truly terrifying tale is guaranteed to have you on the edge of your seat as its chilling intensity increases to the almost unbearably nerve-shredding climax. (98 Mins)
Views: If any movie defined the term 'slow-burn' it would have to be Hideo Nakata's Dark Water. Considered a classic of the Japanese horror genre, it was never really a favourite of mine – perhaps only watching it a few times over the last 20 years – and it was definitely a product of its time when the world was suddenly hooked on J-Horror thanks to Nakata after he shot to fame with Ringu/The Ring, only four years earlier. Of course, he wasted no time in making an equally creepy sequel the following year, but needed to deliver something a little different for his next big piece. While he made films such as Take It and the brilliant Chaos in-between, Hideo Nakata struck gold once again with Dark Water. After all, this style of Japanese film was all the rage back then and it wasn't long before Hollywood came knocking on his door. As Dark Water was hitting Japanese cinemas, Tinsel Town were releasing their own version of The Ring – a highly successful remake that proved to be just as scary as the original, although this time directed by Gore Verbinski. A few years later, the Hollywood sequel was in production which saw Hideo Nakata invited back as the director, once again delivering a hugely enjoyable and unnerving adaptation. That same year saw the release of Hollywood's Dark Water remake directed by Walter Salles, which was pretty similar to the original version (penned by Hideo) and saw Jennifer Connelly in the role of the haunted mother. The Japanese director would be invited back in 2010 to direct the horror-thriller Chatroom starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, but it never quite gained the same attention as his famed original titles. And even with such success in the West, it would seem that Nakata's time in Hollywood would be short-lived and soon he was back in Japan directed films and television shows such as the fantastic samurai-horror Kaidan, Death Note: L Change The World, The Complex, Ghost Theatre, and Mamagato although the last few years has seen him step back into the genre that made him famous with films such as Stolen Identity 1 & 2, The Woman Who Keeps A Murderer (Satsujinki O Kau Onna), and a modern reboot of The Ring called Sadako that sees the legend reborn, based off the novel 'Tide' which was the last book of Koji Suzuki's Ringu series...
While only rated PG-13 in most territories, you would think that Dark Water would have the ability to scare your granny – but I would be lying if I said that was the case. In fact, there are a number of genuinely chilling moments throughout enhanced by some handheld camerawork, decrepit locations, long-winded scenes of tension that often make the viewer uneasy, and ghost children, although these are often overshadowed by the underlying tragic tale of loneliness and abandonment which is very relatable for many people. Hitomi Kuroki does a great job as Yoshimi Matsubara, the struggling mother who has just won custody of her daughter and is trying to find them a good home. Having made her film debut in Yoichi Higashi's drama Keshin in 1986, Kuroki quickly went onto become one of Japan's most recognisable actresses – both on television and in films. With titles such as 47 Ronin, Invisible Man, Haunted School 3, Ring: The Final Chapter mini series, The Great White Tower, the 20th Century Boys Trilogy, John Woo's The Crossing 1 & 2, and so much more, Hitomi has since starred in well over 110 productions and is still going strong today. She is supported by (then) child actress Rio Kanno who plays her daughter Ikuko, in what would be her first ever role. As with most child actors in Japanese (and South Korean) features, Rio does a fantastic job in delivering a natural performance, backed up with plenty of fear induced and emotional moments. It was clear that the girl had something, and went on to star in films and TV shows such as The Hunter & The Hunted, Noroi, GoGo Sentai Boukenger (the Japanese Power Rangers), Kamen Rider Decade, Lesson Of The Evil, Downtown Rocket, and others.
But regardless of my thoughts on Dark Water, it's quite obvious that Hideo Nakata sparked a trend and inspired a generation of film-makers with his work. And even though his style of ghostly storytelling was milked dry by the Hollywood machine, the popular director has still managed to keep a loyal army of fans who look forward to, and enjoy, what he has to offer. Dark Water may seem slightly dated by today's standards, but it still proves to be an entertaining classic ghost story and even more-so without the glossy Hollywood look. Hailed by the original author for his adaptations on both this and the Ringu series, Dark Water was based on the story of the same name which came from Koji Suzuki's novel, Floating Water – a collection of water-themed horror stories I'm only surprised that Hideo didn't create a series out of them!
Overall: A classic ghost story that still manages to chill and unnerve today, Dark Water leaves a lasting impression and entertains!
DVD Extras: Trailers
DAY OF THE PANTHER
(aka) White Panther
Directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith Produced by Damien Parer Action by Guy Norris Starring: Eddie Stazak, John Stanton, James Richards,Michael Carman, Zale Daniel, Matthew Quartermaine, Paris Jefferson, Brian Fitzsimmons, Ow Mun Hong, Kim Yap Reviewing: ILC Prime UK DVD Release Genres: Martial Arts / Action / Ozploitation
Rating - 3.5 / 5
DVD Synopsis: Jason Blade and his partner are two of a select group of Westerners permitted to join the legendary Panther School of Martial Arts. Intercepting a Triad drug ring while on a stakeout in Hong Kong, Blade and Linda cross the path of Jim Baxter, Australian right-hand man of drug boss Damien Zukor. Having learnt too much about Zukor, Linda plays with her life. Blade's revenge is slow and starts from the inside of Zukor's empire. He impresses the drug boss with his extraordinary fighting skills to the point that he decides to have him fight at his annual tournament of martial arts. Soon, however, Baxter uncovers Blade's identity and consequently Zukor discovers Blade's true intentions. (85 Mins)
Views: This late 80s Australian production is the first of two films about Jason Blade – an ass-kicking martial arts-expert who takes on a criminal gang after they kill his partner. The film begins with a lengthy introduction that shows Jason being trained in Hong Kong while, in Australia, his old partner has run into some trouble with a local drug lord. After he returns to his homeland, Blade works with some highly trained friends to infiltrate the gang and bring them down from the inside! To be honest there's really not a lot more it, but I must admit that I thoroughly enjoyed this action adventure. Most of this has to do with the fact that it delivers some pretty exciting martial arts-action (quite a bit actually) and was directed by the brilliant Brian Trenchard-Smith; an Aussie director who is widely known for his exploitation titles covering martial arts, science fiction, action, thriller, romance and more. Of course, one of his most famous works is his feature film directorial-debut The Man From Hong Kong with the late Jimmy Wang Yu and legendary Sammo Hung. I love this film in particular and highly enjoy many of his works overall – in fact, I'd say we have quite a bit in common as directors and have often said that I should have been doing what I do in the 1980s...
But this isn't about me! This is about Jason Blade and his first adventure as an action hero. I must admit, as dull-looking as Eddie Stazak is throughout this production, he does a pretty good job as Blade with his fantastic martial arts moves, good looks, and hot body in what would have been his debut role. As an on-screen fighter, I personally think he gives his Hollywood counterparts (such as Van Damme, Don Wilson, Segal, Gruner etc) a run for their money. And while his acting could have been a bit better, I'd like to have seen more of Edward Stazak as an action hero - but it seems that he would star in only 3 productions over a few years. While he and Trenchard-Smith would follow this with a sequel called Strike Of The Panther, Stazak's final show would be in his self produced action-drama Black Neon – a film that is considered pretty damn rare by many, if not lost in all reality. A third film in the series, known as Escape Of The Panther, was planned to go into production soon after, but was actually never made. Seventies television actor John Stanton stars as William Anderson, the father of Blade's murdered partner and returned for the sequel – which was actually shot the same year. A popular character actor, Stanton had starred alongside Bryan Brown in the historical-drama Tai-Pan only a couple of years earlier, and would appear in the popular Hollywood horror, Darkness Falls, after the turn-of-the-century. Still going strong today, Stanton delivers a pretty fun performance even if he does take it all a little more seriously than most. The pair are joined by a fun cast including Michael Carman, Paris Jefferson, Linda Megier, and James Richards as the dastardly Jim Baxter.
While Day Of The Panther will offer many unintentional laughs to most people that view it (if not all), the film does present itself as an other-world version of a Richard Norton/Cynthia Rothrock flick – similar in ways to the underrated Rage & Honor movies and others – as Jason Blade and Linda pair up to take on the baddies. I also feel that is worth pointing out that Trenchard-Smith was brought in after filming had started to rescue a somewhat, troubled production. Claiming it to be one of the toughest jobs he's ever done, director Brian jumped straight into the action as he recast, altered, and made many script changes along the way to deliver an action-packed adventure with no less than 8 full fight scenes to keep martial-arts movie fans happy. Day Of The Panther is most certainly worth checking out, but just try not to take everything too seriously, soak up the fight scenes, and enjoy!
Overall: While many will cringe over its acting and cheesy lines, there's no denying that Day Of The Panther offers up some fantastic martial arts action that entertains!
THE DEAD & THE DEADLY
(Hong Kong 1982)
Original Title: Ren Xia Ren 人嚇人 (aka) Fight Among Ghosts
Directed by Wu Ma Produced by Raymond Chow, Sammo Hung Action by Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, Lam Ching Ying, Billy Chan Starring: Sammo Hung, Wu Ma, Lam Ching Ying, Cherie Chung, Hui Leung Mei, Chin Yuet Sang, Chung Fat, Yuen Miu, Wellson Chin, Kwan Yung Moon, Hiu Ying Ying, Peter Chan, Billy Chan Reviewing: Eureka Video UK Blu-ray Release Genres: Martial Arts / Horror / Comedy
Rating - 4.3 / 5
Eureka Video UK Blu-ray Synopsis: Criminally unseen in the West, The Dead and the Deadly is a horror-action-comedy-special effects extravaganza in the same vein as Mr. Vampire and Encounters of the Spooky Kind. Directed by Wu Ma (one of Hong Kong cinema's most beloved multi-hyphenates; over a 50 year career he was hugely successful in writing, directing, producing, and acting) in perhaps his best directorial effort, and also starring Sammo Hung – The Dead and the Deadly is a must-see for both horror and action fans. Wu Ma also stars as a man who fakes his death in order to steal his family's funeral treasure. When the plan fails, his co-conspirators kill him (for real this time) and his vengeful spirit seeks out the help of his friend (played by Sammo Hung), who helps him seek revenge on his murderers. Also starring Lam Ching Ying (as a Taoist priest, foreshadowing his future role in Mr. Vampire) and Cherie Chung, The Dead and the Deadly comes to home video for the first time ever in the UK from a brand new 2K restoration! (99 Mins)
Deltamac HK DVD Synopsis: This is a ghost story about a young man who is into sorcery, his girlfriend, and the ghost who goes astray. The young man is honest Gee, a helper to Grand Uncle who is the town's high priest. They are now found in the ancestral shrine of the Mas working wonders. Gee is also being reprimanded by Grand Uncle for being rude to his fiancee, Ah Wun. The last of the Mas, the richest family in town, is back, but Ma Cheung-In is coming home dead. Accompanying the body is a woman who claims to be Ma's wife and very much pregnant. But Gee knows his boyhood friend Ma couldn't be a husband because he was impotent. Gee therefore examines Ma's body. There is no wound. Gee concludes Ma has been poisoned. He is wrong. Ma is not dead. He is using some magic in order to fake death in order to steal the family's funeral treasure. When no treasure is discovered, except a promise that Ma's son would inherit a fortune, Ma is killed forthwith by his cohorts...
Views: The wonderful Sammo Hung stars as the Chu Wang Lee, a bumbling oaf that works in a funeral home, who takes it upon himself to investigate the death of one of his closest friends. But unbeknownst to him his friend, Cheung, is only pretending to be dead. His plan, along with a wicked hooker and her deadly kung-fu brother, is to get into the Cheung family tomb so that he can steal whatever precious treasures have been left in there. But when the greedy siblings learn that everything in the tomb is worthless, they kill Cheung for real which triggers a host of supernatural events. Now, as a ghost, Cheung must try to convince Chu to loan him his body so that he can exact revenge for his murder, enlisting the help of his wife and Chu's old master – resulting in a martial-arts battle to the death, and supernatural showdown to save both men from a life in purgatory!
I thoroughly enjoy The Dead & The Deadly. I want to say that I love it, but I know deep down inside that it's just missing a little something. Coming out just two years after Sammo Hung's more superior Encounters Of A Spooky Kind, this similarly themed kung-fu horror-comedy has been hailed by many as a sequel of sorts – and it totally could have been, on many levels – although it would be another 8 years before an official sequel would come out with Encounters Of A Spooky Kind 2, aka Spooky Encounters, that could have been the final chapter of a fine trilogy. Produced by Raymond Chow of Golden Harvest and Sammo Hung's Bo Ho Films, The Dead & The Deadly is a hugely entertaining film with some fantastic martial-arts action and plenty of fun comedy moments. The film is directed by the late and legendary Wu Ma, an industry journeyman who had been a staple part of Hong Kong cinema from the mid-60s through to his death in 2014. Starting life in the industry as a bit-player in many Shaw Brothers classics, Wu would soon win the role of assistant director only 5 years later, working on 4 titles over the year such as The Singing Thief, Return Of The One-Armed Swordsman, The Invincible Fist, and Dead End – most of which he also starred in. In 1970, Wu would make his directorial debut with independent film, Wrath Of The Sword; a historic swordplay flick starring Tang Ching, Shu Pei Pei, and Shek Kin. Although he had proven himself as an actor and assistant director, Wu Ma's directorial debut was clearly good enough to gain the attention of the studio bosses back at Shaw's who gave him the chance to direct a host of titles from 1971 to 1976, including films such as The Water Margin, The Pirate, All Men Are Brothers, and Seven Man Army with Chang Cheh, as well as Wits To Wits and others. Around the same time, Wu would direct The Manchu Boxer for a young Raymond Chow which would be the first time he would work directly with Sammo Hung, who choreographed the action and co-starred alongside the director. Of course, this would be the start of a long and healthy relationship between the pair that saw them go on to work together on an amazing number of films of the years, with Wu turning up in the majority of Hung's productions among many other Hong Kong classics. Proving to be one of the hardest workers in the industry, Wu Ma would go on to star in well over 300 films as well as directing close to 50 including Eunuch Of The Western Palace, Mr. Boo Meets Pom Pom, Picture Of A Nymph, Just Heroes, Stage Door Johnny, Kickboxer, Circus Kids, and this underrated classic, of course. In The Dead & The Deadly, Wu also does a fantastic job as the unfortunate Cheung – artfully doubled by the incredible Yuen Biao for his major fight scene – and delivers plenty of laughs in one of the most memorable roles of his career.
Of course, no one is ever going to say that The Dead & The Deadly is a Wu Ma film. That honour will always go to the great Sammo Hung; the portly legend who is credited as the main star, producer, martial-arts director, and even screenwriter (alongside the late Barry Wong). I love Sammo in this film. It's a role that, as previously mentioned, is similar to that of his role in Encounters Of A Spooky Kind and allows Hung to deliver some fantastic comedic moments, as well as a solid display of martial-arts action. Of course, Sammo already had two decades of acting behind him by the time this went into production, making his mark in many of the first Golden Harvest films as well as becoming a highly sought-after fight choreographer coming into the 1970s. Going on to be one of the greatest film-makers and stars of Asian cinema, it would be safe to say that Sammo has made more than an impact in the world of film with over 200 acting credits to his name, over 30 as a director, almost 50 as a producer, and so much more. Interestingly enough, 1982 wasn't exactly the busiest year for the star, with Sammo only starring in the fantastic Carry On Pickpocket alongside this, after coming off the success of the incredible Prodigal Son. But he had already pulled together a strong team of stuntmen, choreographers and actors; many of whom had worked with him on many titles for a good five years already. These included the wonderful Yuen Biao, brothers Peter Chan and Billy Chan, Yuen Miu, Chin Yuet Sang, Ka Lee, Tai Bo, and the late, great Lam Ching Ying who stars here as Hung's aged Taoist master, Uncle Ko. And while it would be another few years before Lam would go on to star in his iconic role in Mr. Vampire, it just seems right that he was cast in a similar role here – albeit as an older version. In the 10or 12 years leading up to production, Lam Ching Ying and Sammo Hung had shared the screen many times over the years,as bit players in films such as The Invincible Eight, The Angry River, A Touch Of Zen, Hapkido, Enter The Dragon, and The Man From Hong Kong among many others, before both shifted to another level in Sammo's titles like Enter The Fat Dragon, Dirty Tiger Crazy Frog, Odd Couple, Warriors Two, The Victim, Magnificent Butcher, and the amazing Prodigal Son. Of course, their relationship would go on to last decades with the pair working together on many great titles, until Lam's untimely death in the mid-90s. Joining them is a fun supporting which includes the brilliant Chung Fat – another famed Hong Kong star who has been a part of the Sammo Hung team for many years, from films such as Broken Oath to Warriors Two and Pedicab Driver to Pantyhose Hero. Korean actor Kwan Yung Moon, a recognisable face who has appeared in plenty of classics including The Shaolin Plot, Master With Cracked Fingers, Killer Constable, My Young Auntie, Dragon Lord, and Project A, also appears along with Yuen Miu; both of whom play the right-hand-men of Chung Fat's character. Of course, they are in cahoots with Lee Yuet Ying, the feisty female who is pulling the strings in getting Wu Ma's riches by pretending that she is pregnant with his child. She is played by Hui Leung Mei in, what looks like, her one and only film role to date. I find this really hard to understand as she pulls off the role brilliantly in both the drama and action department. A couple of other female stars help flesh things out, with the beautiful Cherie Chung starring as Sammo's wife - although really only coming in to play for the second half of the film – and the prolific Hiu Ying Ying (in one of her 318 roles) playing a brothel madam once again. Other popular stars of the time that pop up throughout are Sammo's aforementioned team as well as Chin Yuet Sang, To Siu Ming, Chang Ching Po, Yue Tau Wan, Pang Yun Cheung and Wellson Chin; director of The Inspector Wears Skirts films, Super Lady Cop, Crazy Hong Kong, and Prince Of The Sun, respectively. As well as playing a brief role here as an adulterer, Chin also serves as one of the films assistant directors.
While many have complained that The Dead & The Deadly doesn't contain enough martial-arts action – no doubt expecting the same quantity of that seen in Sammo's previous horror-comedy – I felt that there was definitely still plenty to enjoy, with a host of genuinely comedic moments including the beautifully executed scene that sees Sammo act (for a great length) as one of the paper dolls at the funeral. While many other fun moments keep viewers entertained, the 2 or 3 fight scenes that are on offer were delivered with such perfection, they are totally worth waiting for. This is all thanks to Sammo Hung himself and his action team at the time which included Lam Ching Ying, Billy Chan, and the hugely talented Yuen Biao who gets to show off some incredible moves when he doubles Wu Ma for his fight scene against Chung Fat, Kwan Yung Moon, and Yuen Miu. That fight scene, for me, is a genuine highlight of the film – as is the final battle between Sammo and the villains which shows the star at the top of his game. But I guess it is, indeed, the final act of the film that really seems to have thrown most people. It's a scene that involves bizarre ghostly-aliens (spirit guards) who look like cousins of E.T. to some degree, period-stained underwear, and a fight to get Sammo's spirit back into his body before it's too late. It's odd, it's wacky, it's different, but it definitely leaves an impression!
Another thing I really loved about The Dead & The Deadly, as well as its funky soundtrack, was the awesome cinematography and lighting on offer. The latter was courtesy of Huang Wei Shing and Choi Wah; two lighting guys who have worked on titles such as The Young Master, Duel To The Death, and Project A, who provide some well lit and colourful shots. The film benefits from no less than 3 cinematographers in the shape of Cheung Yiu Cho, who has captured films such as Last Hurrah For Chivalry, Project A 1 & 2, Wheels On Meals, Dragons Forever, Police Story 1& 2, and Drunken Master 2; Danny Lee Yau Tong who worked on many of the same titles, and Mr. Vampire director Ricky Lau – who had already directed Crazy Couple and Two Toothless Tigers by this point, as well as having already captured films such as Enter The Fat Dragon, Warriors Two, Incredible Kung Fu Master, Knockabout, Prodigal Son, and Carry On Pickpocket for Sammo. I really loved how The Dead & The Deadly was shot, and even more so having been able to watch it again in its 2K restoration on Blu-ray from Eureka Video. While it may be short on action, this underrated classic never fails to entertain and is definitely worth checking out if you're a fan of Sammo Hung, Hong Kong horror-comedy, or just in need of something a little different...
Overall: Hugely entertaining and a lot of fun, The Dead & The Deadly is a fantastic Hong Kong horror-comedy well worth checking out!
Eureka Video Blu-ray Extras: Audio Commentary with Mike Leeder & Arne Venema, Audio Commentary with Frank Djeng & Michael Worth, Q&A Session with Sammo Hung, Interview with Sammo Hung
Deltamac DVD Extras: Trailers
Watch my unboxing video of this Eureka Video release HERE
DEADEND OF BESIEGERS
(Hong Kong 1992)
Original Title: Wu Lin Sheng Dou Shi 武林聖鬥士 (aka) Steel Horse; The Japanese Warrior
Directed by Zhang Siu Wai Produced by Wang Rong Action by Yu Rong Guang, Wang Hua Starring: Yu Rong Guang, Cynthia Khan, Yu Hai, Ji Chun Hua, Li Zhi Zhou, Ge Chun Yan, Jin Demao, Dale Cook, Xu Jie, Chang Rong, Wang Hua, Zhang Jian Wen Reviewing: Mei Ah HK VCD Genres: Martial-arts / Adventure / Drama
Rating - 3.5 / 5
Synopsis: Deadend Of Besiegers tells the story of Japanese fighter, Wuwechimatao, and how he came to bring Karate to his homeland. During a trip to China, Wuwechimatao finds himself of a boat full of pirates where he is mistaken for one of them when they attack a small village. Stepping in to stop the pirates from kidnapping the village children, the hero is soon befriended by a little girl who introduces him to her big sister, Cui Gu. Soon, Cui Gu agrees to teach him the art of Dog Fist kung-fu that will soon aid him in the ultimate showdown against the murderous pirates. (90 Mins)
Views: Unseen by many, this forgotten gem of Hong Kong cinemas heyday is actually a pretty entertaining martial-arts adventure with plenty of great fight action to enjoy. The only credit of director Zhang Siu Wai, Deadend Of Besiegers was made by the ironically named Rising Fortune Films Production Company in Hong Kong; a production house whose only other listing is the category 3 triad film, Sex Racecourse, which was also made the same year. Not much in the way of making fortunes rise! Made in 1992, the film tells the story of a Japanese man called Wuwechimatao who makes the journey to China after he is defeated by an American fighter and embarrassed. But little does he know that the boat he has taken is full of pirates, intent on murdering and plundering Chinese coastal villages while kidnapping their children at the same time. Shocked at his find, Wuwechimatao jumps into action to help save the villagers and drive the pirates away – becoming a hero of sorts to the Chinese and an enemy to the bandits. In doing so, Wuwechimatao befriends a young girl who soon introduces him to her older sister, Cui Gu; a kung-fu master of the Dog Fist style. They quickly become friends and Cui Gu agrees to teach him the Dog Fist style, a skill that he uses to dispatch of the deadly pirates and take back to his home in Japan to promote the martial art!
The wonderful Yu Rong Guang stars as leading man, Wuwechimatao, as well as handling the films wonderful fight choreography. Although he had been acting for almost a decade by this stage, Yu had only been dishing out one movie per year including films such as Tsui Siu Ming's Holy Robe From Shaolin Temple and entertaining Mirage, Ching Siu Tung's A Terracotta Warrior, and Red Fists with Sharon Kwok – of which he would also serve as the action-choreographer. I really enjoyed the action-star in this role; it gave him the chance to show off some incredible martial-arts skills as well as deliver some comedic moments, and I only wish we had seen him in more like this. Of course, there was still plenty of dramatic moments to be had, and it no doubt helped secure his role in Hong Kong cinema from there on in with no less than 4 solid projects following just a year later. These included Swordsman 3: The East Is Red, Iron Monkey, Taxi Hunter, and Michelle Yeoh's Project S – the hugely underrated sequel to Jackie Chan's Police Story 3: Super Cop. Each of these films propelled Yu further as an actor and martial artist to watch, although I've always felt that his career just hasn't been quite as successful as deserved. Yes there have been many memorable roles that followed, such as those in Rock N' Roll Cop, The Green Hornet, Gunmen, My Father Is A Hero, Man Wanted, Storm Riders, and Shanghai Affairs, but I've always felt that it should have been so much more. The turn-of-the-century would see things lift a little for him with roles in Jackie Chan's Hollywood hits, Shanghai Noon and The Karate Kid, as well as his other films New Police Story, The Myth, Police Story 2013, and Little Big Soldier. This period would also see Yu star in the South Korean epic, Musa The Warrior, Divergence, Three Kingdoms: Resurrection Of The Dragon, Mulan, My Kingdom, and the underrated Champions that saw him join forces with Tsui Siu Ming once again.
The beautiful Cynthia Khan lights up the screen in a fun role as Cui Gu; the kung-fu mistress who teaches the Japanese fighter her Dog Fist style. Much like her co-star, Khan came onto the scene around the same time although went onto star in double the amount of films. These began with titles such as This Love Of Mine, Split Of The Spirit, Three-Head Monster, and Vampire Kid 2, before bursting onto the screen as Michelle Yeoh's replacement in the awesome, In The Line Of Duty 3: Force Of The Dragon. From there, Ms. Khan fast became one of Hong Kong cinemas most popular action-queens going on to star in the rest of the famed series, Tiger Cage 2, Queen's High, 13 Cold Blooded Eagles, Madam City Hunter, and so much more. Interestingly enough, Deadend Of Besiegers came about in 1992, after most of the aforementioned action classics – although one would think that it was made much earlier. It was one of five titles she starred in that year alongside the hilarious Super Lady Cop, It's Now Or Never, Zen Of Sword, the fun Inspector Wears Skirts 4, and Eternal Fist; a post-apocalyptic martial-arts adventure that saw her star alongside Dale 'Apollo' Cook – who also makes a cameo here. 1993 would keep her even busier with a whopping 10 titles before her career would take a fast dive soon after, with most of her titles unfortunately falling under the radar or being critically destroyed due to their low-budgets and poor stories. As Cui Gu, Cynthia looks fantastic and does a great job in the action scenes, getting to display more traditional style kung-fu which has been a rare sight throughout her career...
While the rest of the cast featured a host of faces I didn't really recognise, I was pleased to see American martial artist Dale Cook pop up; cameoing as a wigged colonial in Japan that gets to go toe-to-toe with Yu Rong Kwong. This must have been the one year in his career that Cook spent in Asia having appeared in this and the aforementioned Eternal Fist with Khan, as well as Triple Impact alongside Ron Hall. Another well known face that got me excited was the brilliant Ji Chun Hua; kick-ass bad guy who started his film career in Jet Li's Shaolin Temple series. From there, this martial-arts star appeared in Red Fists with Yu Rong Kwong, Yellow River Fighter, Fist From Shaolin, Fong Sai Yuk 2, White Lotus Cult, New Legend Of Shaolin, and more, including Tsui Hark's forgotten gem, Vampire Hunters – aka Era Of Vampires – which is great fun. Joining him is the late Yu Hai; co-star to Ji in most of those previously mentioned titles and recognisable for other monk roles in films such as Tai Chi Master and its sequel Tai Chi 2, New Shaolin Temple, Birth Of The Dragon, Rising Shaolin: The Protector, and Benny Chan's Shaolin alongside Jackie Chan and Andy Lau. In Deadend Of Besiegers, Yu Hai stars as Cynthia Khan's father. And finally, Wang Hua, who starred with Yu in Holy Robe Of Shaolin Temple and Mirage for Tsui Siu Ming, also appears as well as assisting Yu Rong Guang with the impressive action-choreography.
While it may not be high in production value or offer anything spectacular, Deadend Of Besiegers is still a highly enjoyable martial-arts adventure that will appeal to anyone who loved films such as Ninja In The Dragons Den, Wing Chun, or Fong Sai Yuk to some degree. As mentioned, Yu and Wang provide plenty of exciting fight action, allowing the star to show off some of his best moves to date, from fast-and-furious Japanese swordplay to well-performed and choreographed kung-fu. I can only imagine that a restored Blu-ray release of the film would help gain it the credit it deserves, but I don't think that will be happening anytime soon – it's already a rare title to come across on physical media. I remember finding Deadend Of Besiegers in an independent video store back in 1999, when I lived in Toronto, and pleading with the guy to sell it to me. But he wasn't for budging, so it was some time after that before I managed to import it on VCD from Hong Kong. Regardless, it's always been a film I've enjoyed dusting off and going back to every few years, and if you get the chance to catch it yourself, I'd recommend giving it go!
Overall: Somewhat of a forgotten gem, Deadend Of Besiegers is full of exciting martial-arts action and a treat to fans of Cynthia Khan and Yu Rong Guang!
(Hong Kong 1994)
Original Title: Luk Chi Kam Moh 六指琴魔 (aka) Deadly Melody; Dreadful Melody; Six-Finger Strings Demon; The Magic Lyre
Directed by Ng Min Kan Produced by Ng Min Kan, Stephen Tsang Action by Mang Hoi, King Lee Starring: Brigitte Lin, Yuen Biao, Carina Lau, Elvis Tsui Kam Kong, Wu Ma, Lam Wai, Peter Chan, Chung Fat, Siu Wing Sang, Zheng Sang, Lee Kin Reviewing: Optimum Asia UK DVD Release Genres: Martial Arts / Fantasy / Wuxia
Rating - 3.7 / 5
Optimum Asia UK DVD Synopsis: Hong Kong starlet Brigitte Lin (The Bride With White Hair, Chungking Express) stars in a masterful swordplay classic as the protector of a magical lyre with destructive forces which can only be unleashed by a skilled musician. In ancient China the land is ruled by six clans struggling for power. Each clan wants to possess the 'Demonic Strings', a mystical lyre which will guarantee them supremacy over the populace. Joining forces, the clans ruthlessly attack the guardian of the lyre and his family, and in the chaos then only two survivors are separated: the son Lui Lun (cult Hong Kong actor Yuen Biao – Once Upon A Time In China) and his older sister Snow (Lin), who escapes with the instrument. After years of patient practice, Snow has finally mastered the instrument and now seeks her revenge. Reuniting with her brother, Snow sets out to find the men who killed her family for a spectacular showdown between the forces of good and evil. (91 Mins)
Views: Zipping by at 100 miles-per-hour, Deadful Melody is a wild-ride through the martial world where deadly clans battle for the magic lyre; a deadly weapon that will secure their supremacy as the leader of all martial-arts clans! Badly injured in battle, the current master of the lyre arrives at his students house to pass the weapon over, but when the rival clans show-up hot on his heels, they continue their attack. Brother and sister, Lun and Snow; the children of the house, escape with the lyre but are soon separated in the chase – destined to spend the next ten years apart. During that time, Snow teaches herself the secrets of the killer instrument then makes it her mission to take revenge on the clans that killed her family. At the same time, Lun – who had been rescued by a kung fu master all those years ago, has been taught incredible martial-arts and is a hero to many. But when Snow makes an attack on the clans and finds herself up against Lun, she soon realises that's her long-lost brother and begins working with him to take vengeance on those who destroyed their family!
From the short-short lived production studios, Super Class Production LTD and Film City Distribution LTD – with the Chin Kar Lok movie, Little Hero On The Run, being the only other title from the latter – Deadful Melody has never been seen as a classic of Hong Kong cinema, let alone a go-to title for the great and very underrated Yuen Biao, but I've always enjoyed this action-packed 90s movie and believe it deserves a little more praise and attention (not to mention a restored Blu-ray release sometime soon). Produced and directed by Ng Min Kan, a recognizable face from many Sammo Hung movies made between the late 70s and mid-90s, Deadful Melody would be the last of his 3 directorial efforts which also included Ghost Legend with Wu Ma and Spiritual Trinity with Lam Ching Ying. Before that, Ng also worked as the assistant director on many of the same Sammo Hung movies he appeared in, including Heart Of The Dragon, Millionaires Express, Dragons Forever, and Pedicab Driver. So it comes as no surprise to see many other stars from Sammo's films starring in Deadful Melody, and more working behind the scenes. This includes his very own real-life brother, Lee Chi Kit, who has starred in many of Sammo's movies over the years from The Dead & The Deadly to Paper Marriage, and lots of other Hong Kong greats including the Mr. Vampire series and their spin-offs, As Tears Go By, Burning Ambition, High Risk, Fatal Contact, and more. On Deadful Melody, Lee serves as the assistant director and, of course, had worked with Yuen Biao many times before on films such as A Kid From Tibet, Shogun & Little Kitchen, My Kingdom, Tai Chi Hero, and obviously all of his brothers aforementioned titles. The frantic and superb martial-arts action is handled by the wonderful Mang Hoi – a man who needs no introduction and has been a major part of Sammo Hung's filmography as well as an action star in his own right – and King Lee; an actor and choreographer who worked under the legendary Lau Kar Leung for many years over at Shaw Brothers and helped direct the action on films such as My Young Auntie, Martial Club, Legendary Weapons Of China, 8 Diagram Pole Fighter and more, as well as other Hong Kong titles such as All Men Are Brothers – Blood Of The Leopard, Crazy Safari, The Fortune Code, Casino Raiders, and Yuen Biao's License To Steal. Between them, Mang Hoi and King Lee deliver a vast selection of wild, fast-paced wire-fu action, full of slick moves, explosions, deadly weapons, and quick-fire edits that should please anyone who is a fan of classics such as Swordsman 2 & 3, Butterfly & Sword, and Kung Fu Cult Master, to name but a few...
I keep forgetting what a great cast Deadful Melody boasts, with Yuen Biao sharing the lead alongside the fantastic Brigitte Lin. While he had already appeared in over 100 productions and been the leading star of many massive hit movies by this stage, Yuen Biao's choice of roles and popularity seemed to taking somewhat of an unfortunate dive. To many of us, it seemed that Biao had vanished from the industry for years; making a big deal of his return when appeared in Andrew Lau's box-office smash, A Man Called Hero. But in reality, this incredible performer had still been hard at work – it just so happened that most of the projects he was starring in, slipped under the radar of the mainstream audience. The mid-late 90s was a bad time for Hong Kong cinema, but even worse for Yuen Biao. As great as Deadful Melody was, Biao's next project would be alongside the equally talented Donnie Yen in Wu Ma's unfortunate Circus Kids – a film that did no favours for either stars. An enjoyable role in Sammo Hung's Don't Give A Damn soon followed, but once again, failed to ignite the box-office and was yet another blow to Yuen Biao and his burly big brother. Seemingly cast aside, Biao opted to star in cheaper productions such as the fun-but-flawed Tough Beauty & The Sloppy Slop with Cynthia Khan; a low-budget remake of Police Story 3: Super Cop that had its moments in terms of action, as well as the lesser-known kung-fu adventures, Hero Of Swallow and Dragon In Shaolin. Biao would get the chance to shine once again in the Shaw Brothers produced Hero – a fantastic and exciting re-telling of the classic Boxer From Shantung, and the underrated Hunted Hunter following soon after. A role in Millennium Dragon and Andrew Lau's aforementioned feature would take him into the 21st Century, before the next few years saw Biao take on a brave mix of projects that would throw him from pillar to post with moments of greatness in The Avenging Fist and No Problem 2, to forgettable roles in cheap productions like Boxer's Story and Hero Youngster. Ever since then, fans have waited with baited breath to see if this amazing man would ever return to superstar status and while we all know it will never happen, it's safe to say that his career has definitely been a lot better of late with enjoyable roles in films such as Rob-B-Hood, Wing Chun The Series, Turning Point, The Legend Is Born: Ip Man, My Kingdom, Sifu Vs Vampire, and more. Similarly, 1994 would also be somewhat of an important year for Ms. Brigitte Lin claiming her retirement from the industry – no doubt exhausted from the gruelling schedule she had been on since 1992. With no less than 18 leading roles over a 3 year period; including the highly energetic Swordsman 2 & 3 movies, Royal Tramp 1 & 2, Eagle Shooting Heroes, Black Panther Warriors, New Dragon Gate Inn, and Bride With White Hair 1 & 2 – Lin would see her final year out with The Dragon Chronicles, Fire Dragon, Chungking Express, The Three Swordsman, Ashes Of Time, and her role here in Deadful Melody. Both stars are joined by Sammo Hung regulars Wu Ma – who plays a clan leader known as Fire Master and is painted head-to-toe in red – Peter Chan Lung as Yuen Biao's crazed master, Chung Fat as rival clan member Hon Suen, and David Lam Wai; who stars as the big baddie of the piece known as Ghost Master. Since starting in the industry in the late 70s with the famous Shaw Brothers studios, Lam Wai has crossed paths with many of his co-stars over the years in a host of titles from any number of Shaw's movies that saw Wu Ma co-direct, to starring alongside him in A Chinese Ghost Story and more. Wai would also share the screen with Biao in films such as Those Merry Souls, Dragons Forever, and Picture Of A Nymph before following his role here with appearances in Circus Kids and Tough Beauty & The Sloppy Slop, also serving as a producer on the latter. The wonderful Elvis Tsui Kam Kong stars as the opposing Tung Fong Pak, and gets in on the action a bit more than usual, and the beautiful Carina Lau stars as Wu Ma's fiesty top student who falls for Biao's likeable character.
The film is shot like a live-action comic book, with cinematography handled by DOP Kwan Chi Kan; the same guy who shot films such as Yuen Biao's Peacock King and its sequel, Saga Of The Phoenix, as well as Story Of Ricky, Legend Of The Wolf, Ballistic Kiss, Shaolin Vs Evil Dead 1 & 2, Madam City Hunter, Thunderbolt, and many more. Saying that, he is joined by around 18 other cinematographers who worked together in 3 other units, which only makes me think just how fast did they shoot this movie?! I really enjoy Deadful Melody, and although it has its flaws in story and execution, the film was definitely typical of its time and had enough going on to keep me entertained. Although penned by no less than 3 writers, the script was based on a story that was written by the great-late Ni Kuang (who was pretty much responsible for the most of the films we love from Hong Kong's yesteryear). I firmly believe that a full restoration and Blu-ray release would help the film gain a little more love and attention, if not for what's involved then for the sake of it being one of the last great Yuen Biao films of his career!
Overall: Fast paced, action-packed, and highly enjoyable, Deadful Melody is somewhat of a forgotten gem of Hong Kong cinema, and totally worth the watch!
(Hong Kong 1989)
Original Title: Lie Mo Qun Ying 獵魔群英 (aka) Ultra Force 2; Red Force 3; Megaforce 2
Directed by Tony Liu Produced by Lee Yuk Hing Action by Tsui Fat Starring: Moon Lee, Ray Lui, Sibelle Hu, Candy Wen, Alex Mann, Francis Ng, Michael Chan Wai Man, Lau Siu Ming, Ken Lo, Wong Wai, Ridley Tsui, James Ha, Cheng Kang Yeh, Jack Wong, Andy Tai Chi Wai Reviewing: Spectrum Films French Blu-ray Release Genres: Martial Arts / Thriller / Girls With Guns
Rating - 3.5 / 5
Spectrum Films Blu-ray Synopsis: Inspector Fong is on the trail of jewellery trafficking. During a transaction between two mafia clans, the suspect Bing spreads panic and the exchange turns into carnage. This confusion allows Shing to kidnap his boss, "Master Sam," in an attempt to find out where to hide the jewellery. At the same time, the daughter of the mafia boss contacted Fong to suggest that he team up to find her father. Filmed in 1989 and released in France in vhs under the title of Raid for the honour, Devil Hunters is part of the genre Girls With Guns whose matrix is Yes Madam! What strikes most with the vision of Devil Hunters, besides the rhythm and the frenetic action scenes, it is this incredible cast for a film of pure exploitation. Moon Lee (Angel, Mr. Vampire), Sibelle Hu (Fong Sai Yuk, My Lucky Stars), Alex Man (As Tears Go By, Long Arm Of The Law 2), Ray Lui (To Be Number One, The Suspect), Ken Lo (Drunken Master 2, Crime Story) but especially Francis Ng (The Mission, Infernal Affairs 2) who plays here one of his first roles as a bastard.
German (Ultra Force 2) DVD Synopsis: Gangster San, head of the Hong Kong Syndicate, and Chai, handler of the Golden Triangle mafia, have a rough drug deal in an anonymous tip, and Captain Tong of the Hong Kong Police is already in the park. He hopes to catch all the dealers at once, but an unknown girl ruins the action. A deadly shoving begins in the course of which the gangsters can swear. San suspects Chai of tipping the police and orders him to be killed. Chai dies in the arms of his son Rick who swears bloody vengeance.
Views: A deranged gangster gathers his own loyal band of men to find his boss's stash of diamonds, killing anyone that gets in the way – even down to the big man himself. But the boss's daughter is onto him, and with the help of his former second-in-command they set out to stop him. Along the way, the daughter joins forces with the Hong Kong police who make a deal with her to save her father and stop his manic minion. Well, that's it in a nutshell I think! But if I'm to be honest, Tony Liu's script and direction gets a little muddled at times, that you soon give-up on the plot and just take in the crazy action that's on offer!
Shot back-to-back with Moon Lee's Killer Angels – which was released in Germany as Ultra Force and this as Ultra Force 2 – Devil Hunters offers up a few odd moments in its storyline, some rough cinematography, plenty of great fight action, and a lot of doubling for Moon Lee. If anything, I'd say this was a pretty cheap and quick production that delivers a lot of cut-and-paste shots of the femme fatale, re-using obvious clips over-and-over again that become quite obvious during the films opening action scene at the amusement park. The same thing happens again during a shootout later on, with close-up's on Moon's face murmuring one or two words before cutting to a wide shot that only showed her from behind or at an angle. I found it very weird (and more-so during the amusement park scene) since Moon was clearly there and mixing with other cast members during the scene, but her doubling by a man in costume for some kicks and punches was quite obvious, as were the cuts to the same close-up of her falling down. It just threw me as they were for such bizarre moments – unless, of course, she had gotten badly injured early on that it was called for. Regardless, it doesn't really detract from the action too much and fan's get to rejoice later as Moon returns to kick-ass (in full view) a number of times. Personally, I think Moon Lee was the greatest of the femme fatale genre (just edging past Yukari Oshima ever so little). She had only just exploded onto the scene as an action actress a year or two before with her role in the awesome Iron Angels 1 & 2, which was quickly followed by Killer Angels and this in 1989. It would prove to be a busy year for Ms. Lee with an action-packed role in the brilliant Princess Madam, as well as a second sequel in the Iron Angels series. In fact, I'd imagine that she might have managed to squeeze out another 2 or 3 had she not been hospitalised after shooting the explosive ending for this film. In one of the most memorable moments of Hong Kong action cinema, Moon Lee, Ray Lui, and Sibelle Hu attempt to jump from a first story window as Francis Ng blows-up a gas canister from inside. Unfortunately, things went a little awry that saw the three of them engulfed in flames as they jumped out of the window. Although they were rushed to hospital, the actors were out of action for some time although seemingly recovered fine and were soon back in action for their next roles.
The great Francis Ng seems to get a kick (literally) from playing slimy characters. He does it so well, and in Devil Hunters brilliantly plays the bad guy you just love to hate. One scene sees him torture a young woman who he has tied up naked (except for knickers), after he covers her with crickets before going-on to stab her and rip off her toenails with pliers. This is all before she is brutally raped over a barrel by his men, of course. It's crazy to think that he had only been on the scene for a few years by this stage, with Devil Hunters coming in as his 7th or 8th film at the time. Of course, the actor has since went on to star in a host of great titles and make a name for himself as one of Hong Kong's most prolific actors with over 160 roles to date, and stuck with director Tony Liu for The Dragon Fighter right after this. The infamous Michael Chan Wai Man plays the role of a more subdued ex-gangster for the majority of the film, but manages to get in on the action towards the end of the flick as he tries to take on Ng and his men in an explosive and manic shootout in the hills. Like Ng, Chan has starred in as many titles (only since the early 70s) and is just as famous for his real-life antics as much as his life as an actor. The wonderful Ray Lui, who spends a lot of his time creeping around and hiding on people, gets to go all out as one of the good guys who eventually joins forces with Moon Lee and the cops in finding her father and bringing Francis Ng to justice. I'm a huge fan of Lui Leung Wai and would first have seen him in Jackie Chan's Project A 2. Of course, he had been around since the early 80s and went on to star in some crackers over the years and is still going strong today appearing in films such as Dynasty Warriors and Raging Fire, alongside Donnie Yen. It was great to see him get to kick-ass as much as everyone else, and look great doing it. Alex Man, who was matching his previous years projects with the same amount of films (12) in 1989 including Crocodile Hunter, China White, The Last Duel, and Framed, takes things a little easier as the chief of police. He still gets to join the action here-and-there, but most of his screen time is spent giving orders to Sibelle Hu or making plans with Lee and Lui. Miss Hu, who once again gets artfully doubled for many of her more tricky moves, looks great and still manages to pull off some nice moves during her many action scenes. I've always been a huge fan of Sibelle ever since I saw her in the classic My Lucky Stars and Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars, as well as the Jackie Chan produced Top Squad – better known as The Inspector Wears Skirts – alongside Cynthia Rothrock. She's always been a treat to watch, especially when starring with other action starlets like Moon Lee and Yukari Oshima, and has been in some fantastic titles over the years through to her retirement from the industry in the late 1990s after a role in Yuen Woo Ping's Tai Chi 2/Tai Chi Boxer, and a lesser-known mainland production called The Rising Sun & A Sudden Clap Of Thunder in the year of Hong Kong's handover. It was also great to see the brilliant Ken Lo star as one of Francis Ng's heavies and put his kicks to good use, along with Andy Tai Chi Wai who reminded me of a young Lau Ching Wan at times...
I must admit, I am a fan of director Tony Liu's work. From his early days at Shaw Brothers with Holy Flame Of The Martial World to Bastard Swordsman and its sequel, and Hwang Jang Lee classics like Hell's Wind Staff and Tiger Over Wall, to his more modern works such as this and Killer Angels, Angel Terminators 2, Dreaming The Reality, Holy Virgin Vs The Evil Dead, The Dragon Fighter, and then some. Of course, Liu had been acting well before his directorial debut of Tough Guy in 1974, starring in films such as The Great Plot, The Inn Of Mercy, and The Invincible Iron Palm. It was probably because of these bit-player roles that Liu decided to start writing and directing his own, giving him the chance to become more of a star and get stuck into the action. His first few films as a director (after Tough Guy) included Trail Of The Dragon, The Black Dragon's Revenge, and Magic Curse while still appearing in other films such as Action Tae Kwon Do, Bruce Lee & I, The Himalayan, Iron Fisted Monk, Broken Oath, Thunder Run alongside Ray Lui, and many more over the years. He is joined by Tsui Fat, the director of 13 Cold Blooded Eagles and actor of over 150 films which range from his days at the Shaw Brothers studios through to many of Tony Liu's directed flicks. Apart from his vast acting career, Fat would also be well known to fans of Hong Kong cinema for his action choreography on many Hong Kong films. This began on early classics such as the awesome Five Superfighters, The Fighting Fool, The Master, Kung Fu Vs. Yoga, and the patchwork Fearless Hyena 2. As the modern age crept in, Tsui continued his work as an action-director for Tony Liu's Killer Angels and Devil Hunters, as well as earlier Donnie Yen vehicles such as Crystal Hunt, Cheetah On Fire, and Holy Virgin Versus The Evil Dead – some of which he also co-directed. Between them both, Liu and Fat present a fast paced and energetic piece with Devil Hunters that boasts a great cast, and some very memorable action scenes!
Overall: Exciting and packed full of wild action, Devil Hunters has its flaws but still proves to be a highly entertaining piece of late 80s Hong Kong cinema!
Spectrum Films Blu-ray Extras: Introduction by Arnuad Lanuque, Video Essay by Julien Seveon, Trailer
German DVD Extras: Trailers
Watch my unboxing video of this Spectrum Films release HERE
(Hong Kong 1976)
Original Title: Lan Tou He 爛頭何
Directed by Lau Kar Leung Produced by Run Run Shaw Action by Lau Kar Leung Starring: Wong Yu, Gordon Liu, Lo Lieh, Johnny Wang Lung Wei, Hsiao Ho, Wilson Tong, Kara Hui, Helen Poon, Lam Hak Ming, Jamie Luk, Wong Ching Ho, Peter Chan, San Si Reviewing: Arrow Video Shaw Scope Blu-ray Release Genres: Martial Arts / Comedy
Rating - 4.7 / 5
Arrow Video UK Blu-ray Synopsis (Book): Ho Jen, a chivalrous robber likes to squander money on female entertainers. But, one night, he discovers that Wang Tsun Hsin, a millionaire, has monopolized all the girls. Under these circumstances, the two men meet. Wang takes a liking to Ho, but knowing he is a robber of licentious character, he tries to make him turn over a new leaf by helping him avoid arrest on several occasions. Ho being so obstinate, Wang decides to teach him a lesson. He deliberately plans on getting Ho wounded. Once wounded, Ho discovers that no doctor can cure him, so he finally turns to Wang for help. In exchange for curing his wound, Wang wants him to be his apprentice and for Ho to follow him wherever he goes. Though unwilling to submit, Ho has no choice. Emperor Kangxi has fourteen sons and one of them has to be chosen as his successor. Wang Tsun Hsin happens to be his 11th son. The 4th son, however, wants to succeed to the throne and, knowing Wang is in Guangdong, specially makes General Liang responsible for getting rid of Wang. Knowing Wang's keen personal interest in wine and Chinese art, they use this knowledge to try on many occasions to have him killed. But Wang is such a well-skilled martial artist that he outsmarts them. Unfortunately, at one point he is wounded in the leg, and Ho helped him escape. Understanding later that Wang is actually the 11th son of Emperor Kangxi, and a skilful martial artist, Ho willingly accepts him as master and learns from him the technique of martial arts expertise. A big reward is offered to anyone who gets rid of Wang, and his whereabouts is known since people know of Ho. They, therefore, leave their hideout and head for the capital city. On the way, as expected, they are ambushed by General Liang's men, which they narrowly escape. When they arrive at the city, they are again hindered by General Liang and his men. Finally, they succeed in foiling the plans of the 4th son. (103 Mins)
Views: As I've said before, there are many kung-fu movie titles that could be easily misconstrued to fit into the cinematic world of porn such as Gambling For Head, Brave Young Girls, Red Lips, Naked Weapon – heck, even Fist Of Fury could slide on in there! And then there's Dirty Ho - one of my favourite Shaw Brother films from director Lau Kar Leung that tells the tale of an endangered prince, who enlists a quick witted and talented thief to serve as his bodyguard in a bid to protect him from many assassination attempts. After a busy, but successful year in 1978 with 36th Chamber Of Shaolin, Heroes Of The East, and Shaolin Mantis, Lau went for another hat-trick in '79 with this classic, the fun Spiritual Boxer 2, and the brilliant Mad Monkey Kung Fu of which he returned for a full starring role. But it's clear that both years obviously took their toll with him as Kar Leung would only deliver one production the following year with the wonderful, Return To The 36th Chamber. Regardless, with Dirty Ho Lau was at the top of his game and managed to deliver an outstanding piece of kung-fu cinema that has now been released in a 2K restoration as part of the Shaw Scope Vol.1 collection from Arrow Video – a major upgrade from watching it on my old VHS release from Made In Hong Kong and the Thai release of the Celestial DVD that I had imported...
The great Gordon Liu shines as the 11th Prince, Wang Chin Chen, favoured heir to the throne and undercover antique jewellery dealer. After training with Lau Kar Leung's father, Lau Cham (who himself was taught be Wong Fei Hung's infamous student Butcher Wing), Gordon was soon adopted into the family and moved into the film industry with the rest of the Lau brothers. Moving up from stuntman and extra, Liu made enough of an impression in Breakout From Oppression to bag himself a role in Chang Cheh's Shaolin Martial Arts and Five Shaolin Masters before landing his first leading role with Lau Kar Leung as a young Wong Fei Hung in Challenge Of The Masters. The pair quickly followed up with Executioners From Shaolin, but it would be Lau's classic 36th Chamber Of Shaolin (just prior to this) that would really project Gordon Liu to leading man status. Now, in high demand, Liu would go on to star in over 100 films (not including television shows), moving into modern-day action films in the late 80s with films like Tiger On The Beat 1 & 2, A Bloody Fight, Killer Angels, Cheetah On Fire, Last Hero In China, and hitting Hollywood hard with his roles in Kill Bill 1 & 2, as well as The Man With The Iron Fists in 2012. But it would be after this, that Gordon would suffer from a stroke and a bad fall that has since seen him step out of the industry for the last decade unfortunately – quite possibly destined never to return to the screen again. Wong Yu returns to work with Lau Kar Leung once again after playing the lead role in Spiritual Boxer and co-starring in Challenge Of The Masters, Executioners Of Shaolin, 36th Chamber Of Shaolin, and Spiritual Boxer 2. Wong made his feature film debut alongside Chen Kuan Tai in The Bloody Fists in 1972, a production directed by Ng See Yuen, and for the next 5 years, the pair would star together in a number of films including The Tea House, The Flying Guillotine, Big Brother Cheng, and the aforementioned Kar Leung movies. While I've never been amazed by Wong Yu, it's fair to say that he is a very talented performer and seems to be having fun in the titular role of Dirty Ho Ching – the small time thief who gets recruited by Liu. Originally named Wong Chi Kuen when he was born, the actor has been known as Wong Yue, Wang Yu, and Wong Yu respectively - renamed by one of the Shaw Brothers out of spite towards the real Jimmy Wang Yu who had left the studio to work on more independent flicks and many Golden Harvest pictures – with the latter fast becoming the Shaw Brothers biggest competitor. After starring in almost 80 feature films and a host of television shows, Wong would retire from the industry in the mid-90s with final roles in films such as Godfather's Daughter Mafia Blues, Handsome Siblings, Sleeping With Two Sisters, and the television show Legend Of The Warring States. After trying his hand in several different business opportunities in the years to come, Wong would pass in 2008 from acute pneumonia.
The fantastic Lo Lieh stars as General Liang Jing Cheng, a royal guard who works for a rival prince that is determined to remove Liu from the picture. Born in Indonesia to Cantonese parents, the great Lo Lieh started life in the film industry when he joined the Shaw Brothers studio in 1964. After a bit part in The Dancing Millionairess, Lo quickly climbed the ladder as an actor appearing in films such as Temple Of The Red Lotus, The Twin Swords, The Sword & The Lute, Tiger Boy, Magnificent Trio, and Golden Swallow – all alongside Jimmy Wang Yu – as well as roles in King Cat, The Thundering Sword, Dragon Swamp, and Brothers Five for director Lo Wei (which also featured choreography by Sammo Hung). More prominent roles in the aforementioned Valley Of The Fangs and The Chinese Boxer (again with Wang Yu) took him through to a busy year in 1971 where he would star in no less than 10 feature films, right through to the production of the ground-breaking King Boxer a year later. From there, Lo Lieh went on to star in (and appear in) hundreds of fantastic titles right through to the turn-of-the-century, just before his death at the end of 2002. Respectively, Lo made his own directional debut in1973 with Devil & Angel – a martial arts crime-thriller also starring Wu Ma and Chan Wai Man, which also saw him produce as part of his own film company, Lo's Film, before going on to direct a further 8 films including the highly regarded Clan Of The White Lotus, Black Magic With Buddha, and Zen Master 6. Fan-favourite Johnny Wang Lung Wei appears as Master Fan – a fellow antiques dealer who gets to trade moves with Liu over a cup of wine at an art deal. At his side is the agile and entertaining Hsiao Ho who entertains viewers with his monkey kung-fu – a little taste of what was to come when he starred alongside Lau Kar Leung in the awesome Mad Monkey Kung Fu which was also made the same year. Fight choreographer and kung-fu star Wilson Tong appears in a similar role to Wang, where he gets to trade kicks with the 11th Prince as they checkout some handmade pieces and paintings. This time though, the stakes are a little higher as Tong attacks Liu with a bladed shoe – backed by a number of his servants. It's a revealing moment for Ho when he realises that Liu can fight, but has to come to his aid when Tong lands a blade in the royal's thigh. And the lovely Kara Wai guest stars as one of the brothel girls who gets used as a weapon by Liu when in a confrontation with Ho. Interestingly enough, Wai (also known as Hui Ying Hung – and sister to movie star Austin Wai) was upgraded to the part after the lead actress of the film quit due to the strain of the stunt-work involved. And although Hui and Kar Leung had worked on many projects before for her godfather Chang Cheh – with her as a bit player and him as choreographer – Dirty Ho would mark the first time Kara would star in a Lau Kar Leung film, subsequently kicking-off their infamous personal relationship soon after that. Of course, Wai would spend many years starring in a host of Lau's works (as well as many others) with the incredible 8 Diagram Pole Fighter marking her final film for the Shaw Brothers studio. From there, Hui Ying Hung would star in a host of modern-day action comedies, dramatic thrillers, fantasy films, and any amount of titles in the girls-with-guns sub-genre, with over 150 film credits to her name right through to today.
With high production values and hugely impressive choreography, Dirty Ho is a masterpiece of the late 70s packed with great comedy, a wonderful cast that deliver a range of wild characters, and some some gorgeous cinematography courtesy (once again) of Arthur Wong. who also shot Kar Leung's 36th Chamber Of Shaolin, Heroes Of The East, Shaolin Mantis, Spiritual Boxer 2, and Mad Monkey Kung Fu. Of course, Wong would go on to lens some of Hong Kong cinemas most memorable films including Aces Go Places 1 & 2, Wheels On Meals, My Lucky Stars, Once Upon A Time In China, Crime Story, Iron Monkey, and more modern flicks such as Bodyguards & Assassins, The Warlords, Painted Skin, and League Of Gods with Jet Li. It's also worth noting that apart from his work behind the camera and appearances in films like Viva Erotica, Beast Cops, Infernal Affairs 2, and Gangster Payday, Wong also directed The Fool Escape starring Lau Kar Wing in 1980, Cynthia Khan's In The Line Of Duty 3: Force Of The Dragon in '88, and Ulterior Motive in 2015 with Gordon Lam and Simon Yam. And while many may complain of its sudden ending or lack of explanation as to why the attacks were put upon Liu's prince, it never really bothered me as this was such a common thing with kung-fu films from this era. It's not like we don't know what is really going on to be honest, and Lau delivers enough incredible choreography and fight action to keep a smile on any viewers face from start to finish. In fact, the end battle itself is worth the ticket price alone!
Overall: Another kung-fu classic from Lau Kar Leung, Dirty Ho is one film I can never tire of watching!
Arrow Video Blu-ray Extras: 2K Restoration, Appreciation Film by Tony Rayns, Trailers, Image Gallery
Celestial Thai DVD Extras: Trailers
Watch my unboxing video of this Arrow Video release HERE
DISCIPLES OF SHAOLIN
(Hong Kong 1975)
Original Title: Hong Quan Xiao Zi 洪拳小子 (aka) Invincible One; The Hung Boxing Kid
Directed by Chang Cheh Produced by Keng Chu, Shih Wei Peng Action by Lau Kar Leung Starring: Alexander Fu Sheng, Chi Kuan Chun, Chiang Tao, Chen Ming Li, Fung Hak On, Wang Ching Ping, Lu Ti, Han Chiang, Fan Shou Yi, Jamie Luk, Stephen Yip, Eric Tsang, Brandy Yuen, Yuen Shun Yee Reviewing: 88 Films UK Blu-ray Release Genres: Traditional Kung-Fu / Drama
Rating - 4 / 5
88 Films UK Blu-ray Synopsis: Another Kung Fu vehicle from the infamous Shaw Brothers studio, Disciples Of Shaolin AKA Hong quan xiao zi, delivers a typically power-packed Hong Kong tale of enemy gangs and super cool fight scenes. When shaolin disciple Kuan Fung Yi (Fu Sheng) takes a job at a textile factory he soon becomes embroiled in a bitter and violent clash with the rival Manchu clan who run a neighbouring mill. As well delivering some impressive martial arts set pieces, Disciples Of Shaolin also provides a political punch, underlining the abuse of workers and the corruption of cruel bosses. Fast, fierce and thought provoking, this is a must for collectors of extreme Asian cinema. (107 Mins)
The Vengeance Pack German Blu-ray Mediabook Synopsis: The lovable farm boy Kuan comes to town to visit his friend Huang Han, who works in a weaving mill. Kuan quickly realizes that different customs and priorities prevail in the city than in his home country. He starts a job as a porter in the weaving mill, but due to his boisterous demeanour, he often offends other workers. However, his friend Huang Kuan can always prevent Kuan's expulsion. The weaving mill, however, has an inexorable competitor who does not stop at violent attacks. Kuan, who is a very good kung fu warrior, prevents worse things from happening and rises in the reputation of the weaving mill owner, Xin Fa Long. He becomes a foreman... But fame and money go to his head. Disciples Of Shaolin is one of the films that made Alexander Fu Sheng an absolute superstar. His performance is still considered one of the best ever seen in a kung fu film. Co-starring Chi Kuan Chun and directed by Chang Cheh, the film is an unforgettable piece of Asian cinematography. (102 Mins)
Views: Alexander Fu Sheng plays Guan Feng Yi, a down-on-his-luck kid from the countryside who comes to the city in search of his good friend, Wang Hon. He soon finds Wang working at a textile factory and quickly gets embroiled in a war with a neighbouring factory, run by the arrogant Manchus and Boss Ha. In doing so, Guan starts to gain a little more respect which brings him more riches than he can imagine as he climbs the social ladder. At the same time though, it starts to drive a wedge between Wang and himself which doesn't help Guan when things take a turn for the worst that see him beaten to death after a brutal fight in Boss Ha's home. Of course, it is then up to Wang Hon to take revenge and bring Boss Ha to his knees!
Unlike most other Chang Cheh films, viewers don't need to take notes on Disciples Of Shaolin to keep up with the huge cast on offer, as the majority of the focus stays on Alexander Fu Sheng (and Chi Kuan Chun in more of an extended bit-part). It's also not as violent and bloody as the most of his titles were around this period and even though it came in between his renowned 'Shaolin Cycle' of films – such as Heroes Two, Men From The Monastery, Shaolin Martial Arts, Five Shaolin Masters, and the fantastic Shaolin Temple – this title doesn't really have anything to do with any of them. Although named as Disciples Of Shaolin, it's fair to say that there isn't a single scene (or talk) of Shaolin itself, which leads me to think that it's more about the characters of Guan and Wang who were once disciples of the famed temple – and most probably suited its other title of The Invincible One more-so. Chang often liked to tell rise-and-fall stories, such as those seen in the awesome Boxer From Shantung, Chinatown, and many others, with Disciples Of Shaolin being no exception. The film gives Fu Sheng the chance to prove himself as an actor, giving a strong performance as the farm kid who is happier to finally receive a new pair of shoes, than anything else. I must admit though, it has given me a new appreciation of Fu Sheng who mixes comedy and dramatics with some great moves. While he has often been referred to as the original 'clown prince of kung-fu' (before Jackie Chan owned that title), I more often than not just found him to be irritating and annoying as opposed to funny. But there have been certain titles over the years – most of which have been restored and re-released like this – that are letting me see that Fu Sheng had a lot more to offer. The wonderful Chi Kuan Chun appears in what would only be his 4th role after the aforementioned Men From The Monastery, Shaolin Martial Arts, and Five Shaolin Masters, although doesn't really get to kick any ass until the final scene – which, in turn, looks like it had been misplaced from an early part of the movie. The wonderful Chaing Tao (aka Kong Do) returns in yet another bad guy role as Boss Ha, with the incredible Fung Hak On by his side. Both names have been a huge part of kung-fu cinema for many decades now, with each starring in over 200 titles (not to mention any television credits) as well as doubling-up as action-choreographers over the years. Fung even managed to direct a small number of films between 1981 and 1991 including The Gold Hunters which was produced by Jackie Chan, and the wonderfully named Godfather's Daughter Mafia Blues with Yukari Oshima. Unfortunately, Fung would pass in 2016 although had continued to star in films right up till then such as Tai Chi Zero, Ip Man: The Final Fight, Badges Of Fury, Once Upon A Time In Shanghai, and the outrageously fun Soccer Killer from Jeff Lau. A number of recognisable faces help fill out the cast, and many of which had starred alongside Fu Sheng and Chi Kuan Chun over the years. These include Lu Ti, Han Chiang, Chan Shao Chun, Stephen Yip, Jamie Luk, Ko Chang Sheng, and many more – including appearances by young stars Eric Tsang, Brandy Yuen, Yuen Shun Yi, Chan Siu Kai as extras or stuntmen.
The legendary (and late) Lau Kar Leung handles the fight choreography in Disciples Of Shaolin, delivering a number of fun fights throughout that really entertain – especially the final battle for Alexander which is shown in a beautiful, sepia-toned, black and white filter. While Fu Sheng has never came across to me as a genuine kung-fu master, he still manages to throw some nice moves and pulls-off a number of high-combination sequences under Leung's direction – with rumours that the master himself trained Fu Sheng for a good 6 months leading up to this. Interestingly enough, master Lau would return almost 20 years later to choreograph the action in Johnnie To's highly praised remake, The Barefooted Kid, starring the gorgeous Aaron Kwok, with Ti Lung, and Maggie Cheung. Produced by Mona Fong, through Cosmopolitan Film Productions (under the Shaw Brothers/Celestial Pictures banner) along with titles such as Chow Sing Chi's Out Of The Dark, Love On Delivery, Look Out Officer, and The Mad Monk, To's film is a much different take on Chang Cheh's original tale – and probably more beautiful and melodramatic to a point, with even more incredible martial arts-action. The script for Disciples Of Shaolin was written by Chang Cheh and the prolific Ni Kuang. For Kuang, this was a job he had been doing since his debut in 1967 with the Chang Cheh directed classic, One-Armed Swordsman and by the time this film had come about, Kuang had written well over 90 films – most of which were for the Shaw Brothers studio, and many that were for director Chang Cheh. As well as a few small roles in Hong Kong movies over the years, Ni Kuang has proven to be one of the industries most successful writers with over 300 published novels and 400 films scripts completed over a few decades. It's also worth noting that this, along with Boxer Rebellion made the following year, would be one of the last films that would see Leung work as a choreographer for Chang Cheh – soon going off to become a hugely successful and highly regarded director himself...
While it's safe to say that Disciples Of Shaolin is a Shaw Brothers film of significance, it still didn't wow me as much as I thought it would have, but I can totally appreciate the film for what it is and actually enjoyed the fact that it was a little more mature and different than the majority of Chang Cheh films from this period. All in all, it's definitely worth a watch and has never looked better than this Blu-ray release from 88 Films – or that from German label The Vengeance Pack, respectively!
Overall: A well-directed tale that gives Alexander Fu Sheng that chance to shine, Disciples Of Shaolin is a Shaw Brothers classic that is worth the watch!
88 Films Blu-ray Extras: Slipcase with New Artwork by R.P. Kung Fu Bob O'Brien, Extensive Booklet Notes, Double-sided Fold-out Poster, HD Remaster from Original 35mm Negatives, Audio Commentary with Mike Leeder & Arne Venema, Audio Commentary with Samm Deighan, Interview with Jamie Luk, Trailer, Reversible Sleeve with Original Hong Kong Poster Artwork
The Vengeance Pack Blu-ray Mediabook Extras: Documentary on Chang Cheh, Elegant Trails Featurette on Fu Sheng, VHS Tribute on Fu Sheng, VHS Opening Sequence, Trailers, Music Video – Requiem, Photo Gallery (Plus matching DVD)
Watch my unboxing video of this 88 Films release HERE and of The Vengeance Pack release HERE
THE DRAGON FIGHTER
(Hong Kong 1990)
Original Title: Dei Tau Lung 地頭龍 (aka) Lethal Panther 2: Hard To Die
Directed by Tony Liu Produced by Lee Yuk Hing Action by Chui Fat Starring: Sibelle Hu, Michiko Nishiwaki, Alex Fong, Alex Man, Francis Ng, Carrie Ng, Eddy Ko, Lee Wing Ho, Mark Houghton, Shum Wai, Kam Hing Yin, Mak Wai Cheung, Tin Ching, Steve Tartalia Reviewing: Spectrum Films French Blu-ray Release Genres: Action / Martial Arts / Thriller
Rating - 3.5 / 5
Spectrum Films Blu-ray Synopsis: Alex Man stars as a petty crook whose only friend is a kid named Little Monster. One day, he is killed by a gangster who works for Dragon's Head, the godfather of the biggest criminal organization. Alex then teams up with Miss Ho, a super cop, and Jessica, a Japanese woman dressed in black as a masked heroine, whose father was killed by Dragon Head. This unlikely trio will then bring down the gang, eliminating all of their men. (93 Mins)
Views: Tony Liu's super-fun crime thriller tells the tale of a small-time crook and buffoon (Alex Man) whose only friend is a child known as Little Monster. After the kid is killed by the man of a feared gangster known as Dragon Head, Alex forms an unlikely team of avengers that includes a formidable police woman and a powerhouse Japanese female fighter. Each of them have lost someone close because of the gangster, and together they set out to bring him down – no matter how many of his men get in the way! Like the majority of Tony's movies, The Dragon Fighter entertains with a paper-thin plot that is saved by some balls-to-the-wall crazy action and stunt-work from all involved. While Moon Lee and Yukari Oshima are missed and could easily have made this another classic team-up, I must admit that it was nice to see (and somewhat a change of pace) to have the likes of Michiko Nishiwaki and Carrie Ng join Sibelle Hu as the leading action starlets. Much like Angel Terminators 2 and Devil Hunters, The Dragon Fighter is packed out with gangsters in suits, girls with guns, and fast fight choreography that oozes early 90s Hong Kong cinema. Of course, all of this is backed by a great cast and a score that reminded me a lot of Yuen Woo Ping's Donnie Yen led action-flicks, Tiger Cage 2 and In The Line Of Duty 4...
Alex Man, who was trying to match his previous years projects with the same amount of films (12) in 1988 and '89 including Crocodile Hunter, China White, The Last Duel, Framed, and Tony Liu's Devil Hunters, plays a little against type as the daft small-time crook. He still gets to join in with the action here-and-there, with his character bringing the majority of the comedy element to the film right through to the final scene. Miss Hu, who once again gets artfully doubled for many of her more tricky moves, looks great and still manages to pull off some nice kicks during her many action scenes – impressing with a dangerous fight scene that takes place upon a moving crane-lorry. I've always been a huge fan of Sibelle ever since I saw her in the classic My Lucky Stars and Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars, as well as the Jackie Chan produced Top Squad – better known as The Inspector Wears Skirts – alongside Cynthia Rothrock. She's always been a treat to watch, and has been in some fantastic titles over the years through to her retirement from the industry in the late 1990s after a role in Yuen Woo Ping's Tai Chi 2/Tai Chi Boxer, and a lesser-known mainland production called The Rising Sun & A Sudden Clap Of Thunder in the year of Hong Kong's handover. Carrie Ng gets a fun role as Jessica, the girlfriend of Alex Fong who gets to kick, flip, and shoot her way through the film. Ng had been working in the Hong Kong industry for less than a decade by this stage, appearing in titles such as City On Fire, To Err Is Humane, Call Girl '88, Fury, Gunmen, Diary Of A Big Man, and much more. 1990 would see her explode onto the scene with roles in memorable films like Skinny Tiger Fatty Dragon, The Dragon From Russia, Return Engagement, Blood Stained Tradewind, and this. The great Francis Ng seems to get a kick from playing slimy characters, and while he doesn't play a character here that's half as twisted as he was in Devil Hunters, he still comes across as a guy you just love to hate. It's crazy to think that he had only been on the scene for a few years by this stage, with The Dragon Fighter coming in as his 9th film at the time, and has since went on to star in a host of great titles and make a name for himself as one of Hong Kong's most prolific actors with over 160 roles to date. Much like Francis, Alex Fong was only hitting his 10th or 11th title with The Dragon Fighter although had already made quite the impression with his roles in the Iron Angels Trilogy alongside Moon Lee. Eddy Ko plays gangster boss Dragon Head, and while he doesn't get to bust any moves as such, Ko joins in for some of the wild gunplay on offer before going out with a bang in an OTT car stunt. But it has to be Japanese body builder Michiko Nishiwaki who steals the show with some bright green dungarees, a rocket launcher, and plenty of slick moves. Although she made her highly memorable debut 5 years before in My Lucky Stars alongside Sammo Hung, Jackie Chan, and her co-star Sibelle Hu, Michiko actually only starred in another four (Hong Kong) titles before this including In The Line Of Duty 3, the underrated City Cops, Princess Madam, and the classic God Of Gamblers. While it may seem that she appeared in a hundred films from there on in, Michiko actually only starred in just over 20 Hong Kong films before disappearing from the scene in the mid-90s to go West where she would work as a stunt-woman on Hollywood projects like Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Blade, Man On The Moon, Charlies Angels, Rush Hour 2, Kill Bill 1 & 2, Mission: Impossible 3, and more. Her role in The Dragon Fighter is definitely something a little different from what fans had seen her play previously, and more than proves how much of an action starlet she really is when it comes to her fight scenes. Along with stars such as Shun Wai, Kam Hing Yin, Tin Ching, and Mak Wai Cheung, Western fan favourites Mark Houghton and Steve Tartalia also pop-up for a brief fight scene.
I must admit, I am a fan of director Tony Liu's work. From his early days at Shaw Brothers with Holy Flame Of The Martial World to Bastard Swordsman and its sequel, and Hwang Jang Lee classics like Hell's Windstaff and Tiger Over Wall, to his more modern works such as this and Killer Angels, Angel Terminators 2, The Big Deal, Dreaming The Reality, Holy Virgin Vs The Evil Dead, The Dragon Fighter, and others. Of course, Liu had been acting well before his directorial debut of Tough Guy/The Black Dragon in 1974, starring in films such as The Great Plot, The Inn Of Mercy, and The Invincible Iron Palm. It was probably because of these bit-player roles that Liu decided to start writing and directing his own, giving him the chance to become more of a star and get stuck into the action. His first few films as a director (after Tough Guy) included Trail Of The Dragon, The Black Dragon's Revenge, and Magic Curse while still appearing in other films such as Action Tae Kwon Do, Bruce Lee & I, The Himalayan, Iron Fisted Monk, Broken Oath, Thunder Run (alongside Ray Lui), and many more over the years. He is joined by Tsui Fat once again as the action choreographer. Tsui was the director of 13 Cold Blooded Eagles and an actor of over 150 films which range from his days at the Shaw Brothers studios through to many of Tony Liu's directed flicks. Apart from his vast acting career, Fat would also be well known to fans of Hong Kong cinema for his action choreography on many Hong Kong films. This began on early classics such as the awesome Five Superfighters, The Fighting Fool, The Master, Kung Fu Vs. Yoga, and the patchwork Fearless Hyena 2. As the modern-age crept in, Tsui continued his work as an action-director for Tony Liu's Killer Angels and Devil Hunters, as well as earlier Donnie Yen vehicles such as Crystal Hunt, Cheetah On Fire, and Holy Virgin Versus The Evil Dead – some of which he also co-directed. Between them both, Liu and Fat present a fast paced and energetic piece with The Dragon Fighter that boasts a great cast, and some very memorable action scenes and martial arts battles!
Overall: Packed with wild action, great martial arts battles, and a great cast, The Dragon Fighter makes for a fun watch more than once!
Spectrum Films Blu-ray Extras: Introduction by Arnuad Lanuque, Video Essay by Julien Seveon, Trailer
Watch my unboxing video of this Spectrum Films release HERE
(Hong Kong 1981)
Original Title: Yong Zhe Wu Ju 勇者無懼
Directed by Yuen Woo Ping Produced by Raymond Chow Action by The Yuen Clan Starring: Yuen Biao, Leung Kar Yan, Yuen Shun Yi, Lily Li, Philip Ko, Kwan Tak Hing, Fung Hak On, Tong Ching, Fan Mei Sheng, Yuen Cheung Yan, Brandy Yuen, Danny Chow, Yuen Qiu, San Kuai Reviewing: Eureka Video UK Blu-ray Release Genres: Traditional Kung Fu / Comedy
Rating - 4.5 / 5
Eureka Blu-ray Synopsis: Directed by legendary action choreographer Yuen Woo Ping (The Matrix; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), Dreadnaught expertly blends majestic action sequences with superb physical comedy, courtesy of stars Yuen Biao, Bryan Leung Kar Yan, and Yuen Shun Yee. A violent criminal known only as White Tiger (Yuen Shun Yee; Iron Monkey) is hiding amongst a theatre troupe, murdering anyone who discovers his identity (as well as anyone who happens to annoy him). Mousy, a timid laundry man (Yuen Biao; Project A), crosses paths with White Tiger several times but always manages to escape. When the killer instead targets his friend (Bryan 'Beardy' Leung; Warriors Two),Mousy must overcome his cowardly nature and acquire the skills necessary to defeat the White Tiger. Notable for being the final film in which Kwan Tak Hing portrayed folk hero Wong Fei Hung (and, oddly enough, for its famous laundry scene being directly referenced un Batman Forever), Dreadnaught is a cult favourite amongst martial arts fans, and Eureka Classics is proud to present the film from a brand new 2K restoration! (95 Mins)
Hong Kong Legends DVD Synopsis: Action maestro Yuen Biao (Project A) stars opposite veteran star Kwan Tak Hing (75 years old and lethally fast), who reprises the role of the legendary Wong fei Hung in a wonderful mixture of breathtaking physical comedy and genuine chills. Biao is 'Mousy' and is every bit as shy and retiring as his name suggests but what he doesn't realise is that his sister has been secretly training him in Eagle Claw, which might just explain the inovative way he dries his laundry! It's also just as well as his encounter with the psychotic White Tiger (Yuen Shun Yi) could end his washing days for good! It takes the combined fight skills of Mousy, Wong Fei Hung and star student Ah Foon to take on White Tiger in a film that will delight fans of 'Drunken Master' and 'Snake In The Eagles Shadow'. (92 Mins)
Made In Hong Kong VHS Synopsis: Yuen Shen is Tiger, a psychotic killer. The murder of his wife does not improve his mental state, but sends him on a death trip. Hell-bent on slaughter, he targets hapless laundry boy Mousey (former stuntman and choreographer par excellence Yuen Biao). Directed with customary genius by veteran Jackie Chan helmer Yuen Woo Ping, 'Dreadnaught' delivers matchless kick-ass sex-drenched kung fu action by the minute. (96 Mins)
Views: The illustrious Wong Jing pens the story for this classic kung-fu comedy that sees Yuen Woo Ping return to the world of Wong Fei Hung for the fourth time as a director, with the wonderful Kwan Tak Hing reprising his role from The Magnificent Butcher from only a couple of years prior – his final role as the legendary hero after portraying him almost 100 times since the late 1940s. The incredible Yuen Biao plays Mousy, a timid laundry man who has some unfortunate clashes with a violent criminal called White Tiger. Hiding amongst a theatre troupe to avoid the law-men who seek him, White Tiger cripples and kills anyone who gets in his way with his anger often triggered by the sound of bells that remind him of his late wife. But after he kills Mousy's closest friend Ah Foon - a pupil of Wong Fei Hung - the scared fighter is forced to throw his fear aside and take-on the killer so that he can seek revenge!
I love Dreadnaught! The first time I had ever seen anything from the film was in the early 90s documentary Deadliest Art: The Best Of Martial Arts Films, and incredible production that highlighted some of the finest moments from Hong Kong cinema to that point – most of which were produced by Golden Harvest. Dreadnaught always excited me as it highlighted scenes such as Fung Hak On's killer tailor measuring up Wong Fei Hung, Yuen Shun Yi's attack on Leung Kar Yan while dressed as the two-faced ghost, and Yuen Biao's incredibly skilful way of doing laundry – a scene that would later be re-worked for Chris O'Donnell as Robin in Batman Forever. In the late 90s, Dreadnaught got a wonderful VHS release in the UK courtesy of Made In Hong Kong, followed by DVD release almost a decade later by Hong Kong Legends. But my latest addition is on Blu-ray from Eureka Video that presents this classic flick in a wonderful 2K restoration, giving me the best viewing experience I have ever had of this film to date. Having made his directorial debut with the incredibly popular Snake In The Eagles Shadow just a few years before, Yuen Woo Ping offered up something a little different with Dreadnaught from all the other titles he had directed beforehand. It was clear that he had a love for Wong Fei Hung themed films, although it would be over a decade later from this before he would return to direct the character in the awesome Iron Monkey and underrated Hero Among Heroes. Of course, over the same period Woo Ping would lend his talents as an action-choreographer for films such as Last Hero In China and the ever-popular Once Upon A Time In China series that still involved Wong Fei Hung. I always felt that Dreadnaught was very similar in tone to Jackie Chan's amazing kung-fu comedy, The Young Master, a film that was made just a year before and featured a number of Dreadnaught co-stars including Yuen Biao, Lily Li, Fung Hak On, Fan Mei Sheng, and others. And while Woo Ping opts to lessen the kung-fu action for a more atmospheric piece (offering up scenes of tension more akin to that of a slasher flick), he still manages to provide a hugely entertaining piece that is still as entertaining today as it was over 40 years ago.
Yuen Biao is just amazing as Mousy, the scared-but-very-athletic laundry boy. Although he doesn't get to take part in a lot of kung-fu action, fans are still treated to an amazing display of physicality and comic acting by the young star. Having started as a child-actor alongside his brothers Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung (along with a number of other stars from the Peking Opera School), Biao went on to appear in over 50 films before getting his big break in Sammo Hung's fantastic Knockabout. From Fist Of Fury and The Valiant Ones to The Magic Blade, The Man From Hong Kong and Hand Of Death to Enter The Fat Dragon, it was clear that the little dragon had something special which was very quickly recognised by fans of Hong Kong cinema after his roles in the aforementioned Knockabout, The Magnificent Butcher, The Young Master, and this – as well as his outstanding performance in the epic Prodigal Son which also came out in 1981. Biao is joined once again by the wonderful Leung Kar Yan after the pair shared the screen in Sammo Hung's brilliant Enter The Fat Dragon and Knockabout, as well as Warriors Two that saw Yuen Biao in a smaller bit-part. Kar Yan plays Ah Foon, one of Wong Fei Hung's most respected students and the character that Yuen Biao plays in Once Upon A Time In China. Of course, Kar Yan does a fantastic job once again – getting to bust a move more than once which is always a treat to watch. But for me, it has to be Yuen Shun Yi who steals the show as the psychotic White Tiger. Having joined the film industry with his brothers in the later 1960s – all of whom were following in their famed father's footsteps – Shun Yi appeared in well over 100 films before gaining bigger roles after his brother (Woo Ping) took to directing. A bit-part in Drunken Master was followed by the lead role in its unofficial 'official' sequel Dance Of The Drunk Mantis, with roles in films such as Six Directions Boxing, The Buddhist Fist, and Two Toothless Tigers, following. As White Tiger, Shun Yi gets to go wild and delivers a brilliant performance of a martial-maniac who is happy to destroy anything or anyone in his path – even ripping the heads of live chickens when they fly in his face. It's also worth noting that the lovely Yuen Qiu – who made a return to the industry after playing the role of the landlady in Kung Fu Hustle – appears as his wife before she is killed by the very cops that want to take them in. They are joined by the aforementioned Kwan Tak Hing as Wong Fei Hung, the awesome Philip Ko Fei as Tam King in yet another villainous role, Lily Li as Yuen Biao's sister who has been secretly training him in Eagle Claw kung-fu, Fan Mei Sheng as Marshal Pao – backed by his team of cops which include Brandy Yuen, Yuen Cheung Yan,and Yue Tau Wan, and the brilliant Fung Hak On who plays the killer tailor hired to get rid of Wong Fei Hung (a scene that I have always loved). Jackie Chan Stunt Team member Danny Chow plays Gorgeous Koon, the leading man of the theatre troupe and popular actor San Kuai appears as a poorly fighter who opts to give Wong Fei Hung a bit of bother for a quick fix.
As with the majority of Yuen Woo Ping's self directed flicks, he is joined by his brothers in front of and behind the camera with the Yuen Clan handling the films action-choreography. While Dreadnaught was still an early production from their filmography, the team had already highly impressed the world with their work on Jackie Chan's Snake In The Eagles Shadow and Drunken Master, Dance Of The Drunk Mantis, The Magnificent Butcher, and The Buddhist Fist – all of which still sit as genuine classics of Hong Kong cinema today. In Dreadnaught, the Yuen Clan deliver an interesting mix of martial arts action from the wonderfully choreographed kung-fu fights of Wong Fei Hung to the brutal moves and attacks of White Tiger – but it works, with many of the fight scenes being hailed as some of Woo Ping's finest work which gives his audience plenty of great moments to remember, including an inventive lion dance and brutal finale that allows Yuen Biao to let loose as he faces-off against the psychotic White Tiger. All-in-all, Dreadnaught is a classic slice of Hong Kong cinema that is still as entertaining today as it was when I first saw it – blending highly inventive kung-fu action with a 70s-style slasher flick that highly entertains!
Overall: Brilliantly directed and hugely entertaining, Dreadnaught is a fantastic entry to the filmography of Wong Fei Hung that should be seen by any fan of Hong Kong cinema!
Eureka Video Blu-ray Extras: 2 K Restoration, Audio Commentary with Mike Leeder & Arne Venema, Audio Commentary with Frank Djeng & Michael Worth, Archival Interview with Lily Li, Trailers
Hong Kong Legends DVD Extras: Who Is Wong Fei Hung Featurette, Interview with Lily Li, Trailers
Watch my unboxing video of the Eureka Video release HERE
Directed by Steve Wang Produced by Mitsuru Kurosawa, Michael Leahy Action by Koiji Sakamoto Starring: Mark Dacascos, Kadeem Hardison, Brittany Murphy, John Pyper-Ferguson, Tracey Walter, Masaya Kato, James Shigeta, Ron Yuan, Ted Smith, Christopher Michael Reviewing: 88 Films UK Blu-ray Release Genres: Martial Arts / Action / Adventure
Rating - 4.3 / 5
88 Films UK Blu-ray Synopsis: Starring Mark Dacascos (Crying Freeman, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum) and Kadeem Hardison (I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, Vampire In Brooklyn) This fast and furious action flick combines the superhero film with the cop buddy movie in a high-octane chase feature populated with explosive Shaw Brothers style martial arts set pieces in a bombastically entertaining slice of nineties fun. When special agent Toby Wong (Dacascos) is fitted with an advanced bio device giving him superhuman powers he fears that he and the new technology will be exploited for ill gain when the Chinese government takes back control of Hong Kong. Fleeing to San Francisco he plans to sell the device to a company in Los Angeles but when he teams up with down on his luck singer Malik (Hardison) he finds himself being pursued by ruthless assassin Madison and his band of mercenaries. Like a sort of mash-up of Robocop, Iron Man and Lethal Weapon with added Kung Fu, this unashamed hybrid genre piece will keep you hooked with its thrill a minute pace and fabulous science fiction premise. (118 Mins)
Medusa Pictures UK DVD Synopsis: Starring action-superstar Mark Dacascos and outrageous comedy talent Kadeem Hardison, Drive fuses ultra-slick fight-action with stunning camerawork and inspired editing to deliver the best martial arts action-adventure ever made by a Hollywood Studio! For 'Drive', visionary director Steve Wang worked with partner and ace fight-choreographer Koichi Sakamoto, to evolve a ground-breaking formula for the presentation of martial arts action sequences, which is unparalleled outside the Far East, and gives Drive a distinctive 'live wire' quality which has so far endeared it to festival audiences all over the world, and won for the movie two prestigious awards (even beating Jackie Chan's Drunken Master 2 for the Best International Film at the 3rd Annual Fant-Asia Festival in Montreal). If you are regularly disappointed by the quality of Western Martial Arts Action Adventures – enjoy the difference... Drive will blow you away! (112 Mins)
Columbia Tristar UK VHS Synopsis: The year is 2008. Having been dumped by both his employer and his wife, Malik (Kadeem Hardison – Dead Presidents) doesn't think his life can get much worse. However, he soon realises his mistake when, sitting in a pub, four gunmen burst in and try to grab a fellow patron – who in turn seizes Malik as his human shield as he uses devastating martial arts skills to fight his way out. As the two men flee by car, Malik learns that his kidnapper, Toby (Mark Dacascos – Crying Freeman) is being hunted down by a powerful corporation, eager to steal the prototype of a bio-tech system which enhances physical performance – and just happens to be implanted in Toby's chest! Gathering both friends and enemies on route, Malik and Toby head for the ultimate showdown – where Toby must face a technologically superior assassin – the only force capable of brining him down... (95 Mins)
Views: Set in the year 2008, Drive tells the story of special agent Toby Wong who has made his way to the US to escape a powerful Chinese tech company. Infused with a hi-tec bio-chip that has been implanted in his chest; a chip that gives him a massive power-up which enhances his speed and martial arts abilities, Wong's intention is to sell the product to the highest bidder so that he can leave his old life behind. Along the way, Toby indirectly befriends barfly Malik after he takes him hostage and forces him to drive, but it doesn't long for the tech companies hired thugs to catch up with them. Together, the new friends must fight for their lives in a blistering adventure of fast-paced martial arts action, shoot-outs and explosions, as well as a breath taking finale that puts Toby up against a deadly assassin who has been enhanced with an upgraded chip of his own...
Every so often, a film comes along that just really catches your attention. It may not be perfect, but it quickly becomes a firm favourite and never tires no matter how many times you go back to it. Drive is one of those films, and I just love it! I suppose it comes as no surprise since I had always been a huge fan of Steve Wang's sci-fi adventures, The Guyver and Guyver:Dark Hero, as well as having a massive crush on the amazing Mark Dacascos. The debut screenplay of writer Scott Phillips, Drive fast garnered a cult following with two versions released in different territory's – the Directors Cut coming in at just under 2 hours, and the home video release that was chopped down to a healthy 95 mins although with a brand new soundtrack and some major plot points dropped. Over the years I have bought Drive on ex-rental VHS and DVD but now, thankfully, this new 4K restored Blu-ray (and alternate UHD) release from 88 Films gives fans the chance to experience both versions of the film, of which I have to say, have never looked better!
I think it's safe to say that Drive carries vibes of both Rush Hour and The Matrix (without going as deep on the sci-fi side of things), and even pre-dates both movies by a year or two. Toby is most definitely a 'Neo' of sorts – and most certainly a much better fighter – with the pairing of Mark Dacascos and Kadeem Hardison proving to be equally as funny and exciting as Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker were. I would even goes as far to say that the action-choreography in Drive is miles better than what was on offer in Brett Ratner's blockbuster flick, and Jackie is my absolute hero, but that's the thing about Drive – it is that good, it should have been so much more! So much bigger! And it should have had at least one fucking sequel!! But yet it didn't and it wasn't, and that's just a damn shame because everyone involved deserved to get so much more out of this. Steve Wang is a great guy. I've had the pleasure of chatting with him over the years and interviewed him for my Invincible Asia YouTube channel, and I whole-heartedly have hoped and wished for the moment that he would return to the directors chair with a third Guyver movie, or something more akin to this. The Taiwanese-born filmmaker got his first taste of directing when he worked as the 2nd Unit Director on Donald Jackson's Roller Blade Warriors in 1989. He had already been working as a visual effects artist on films such as Invaders From Mars, Evil Dead 2, and Beetlejuice as well as working in the make-up department on the fun Hell Comes To Frogtown and Games Of Survival, and honing his work as an effects sculptor in my childhood favourites such as Harry & The Hendersons, Predator, The Monster Squad and more. Of course, Steve would go on to work as one of Hollywood's most wanted FX artists and lent his talents to films such as Gremlins 2: The New Batch, Godzilla, Reign Of Fire, Darkness Falls, Underworld, Blade Trinity, Hellboy, Aquaman, Aliens Vs Predator, and most recently, Bill & Ted Face The Music – as well as many others, including his own. After co-directing The Guyver with Screaming Mad George (the infamous FX artist of whom he worked with on multiple occasions), a hugely enjoyable adaptation of the famed manga/anime series, Wang set out to direct his own feature with the brilliant Kung Fu Rascals – a wild kung-fu parody that also saw him take the lead role and deliver a host of wild creature characters with his impressive FX work. While Kung Fu Rascals didn't really gain him the attention he deserved, Steve's next move was to direct a sequel to The Guyver a couple of years later with he brilliant Guyver: Dark Hero. This time, Steve ramped up the action and FX work to produce a fantastic sci-fi action-flick which is still loved by many fans around the world today. This, of course, soon led to Drive with Steve eventually moving into the television world as a director working on the Power Rangers and Kamen Rider: Dragon Knight shows – with the latter being one of his biggest inspirations as a child.
Of course, a big part of what makes Drive so special is the fact that it shows some of the greatest martial arts action ever put on-screen, along with some painful looking stunt-work. This is all thanks to Japanese-born stuntman, director, and fight choreographer Koichi Sakamoto and his Alpha Stunts team who have had a long history of making fight fans very happy from countless episodes of the infamous Power Rangers to Kamen Rider shows, and Jeff Wincott movies such as Martial Law 2: Undercover, Mission Of Justice, and Martial Outlaw, and others such as Vanishing Son 3 & 4, Savate, Sword Of Honor, Beverly Hills Ninja and more. The Guyver: Dark Hero would be the first time Koichi and Steve would really work their magic together before going on to Drive which, I believe, highlights some of Koichi's finest work. Around the same time, Koichi would begin his own journey as a director on the Power Rangers show, going on to be one of the series' most sought after directors for almost two decades. A few years later he would take Power Ranger Johnny Yong Bosch aside to direct him in Wicked Game, Sakamoto's first feature film, with the pair returning to work together in 2008 on the fun Broken Path. And while he has produced, choreographed, and directed a host of wonderful shows since the late 90s (and is still going strong today), I think it would be fair to say that his work here in Drive stands strong as his most successful and most recognised works in the world of action cinema. But such a statement can only be confirmed when the talents of one such choreographer are put together with an equally talented martial artist, and for Drive (as we all know) Steve Wang secured the amazing and gorgeous Mark Dacascos as his leading man. The first time I ever saw Mark was as Kenjiro Sanga in the fun American Samurai alongside David Bradley. I had an instant crush on the star and knew that one day, he would make a splash as a martial arts actor. The brilliant Only The Strong quickly followed with the live-action adaptation of (computer game) Double Dragon promising to make him a star – something that didn't really happen as the film was ridiculously cheesy and about 20 years too early in regards to the FX work needed. Regardless though, Mark still shone brightly and was definitely the best thing about it. Over the next few years, the young star would appear in a number of films and TV shows making quite the impression in films such as Kickboxer 5: The Redemption and the awesome Crying Freeman in a role that should have made him a household name! While we all thought that Drive would be the one that really did elevate his status, Mark quickly found himself stuck in B-movie territory once again with films such as Boogie Boy, Sanctuary, and The Base following before he landed the lead role of Eric Draven in The Crow: Stairway To Heaven for 22 episodes. An appearance in the popular Martial Law would follow that gave Mark the chance to face-off against the legendary Sammo Hung – the very same person he name dropped in Drive when he was asked his name by the police. It seemed that the turn-of-the-century was looking up for him with a role in Stanley Tong's fun China Strike Force, and a hugely memorable turn in Christophe Gans historical action-horror hybrid Brotherhood Of The Wolf before going on to fight Jet Li in Cradle To The Grave just a couple of years later. But alas, it seemed that Mark's star was never going to rise any higher as more forgettable roles came in low budget films like The Hunt For Eagle One, Code Name: The Cleaner, I Am Omega, and Alien Agent with the same pattern continuing over the years, although his role as The Chairman in Iron Chef did help to secure his name in most US households. A few years later, Mark would join forces once again with Steve Wang to work on the television show Kamen Rider: Dragon Knight for about 9 episodes, and later appearances in Mortal Kombat: Legacy and Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. would peak new interest in him. 2019 proved to be a strong year for Mark that saw him cast in television shows such as Warrior and Wu Assassins for Netflix, as well as a scene stealing performance as Zero in Keanu Reeves highly regarded John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum. While his journey continues and he never seems to stop working, I am still waiting for the day that Mark Dacascos gets his dues and the recognition he so well deserves. Perhaps this new release of Drive will help do just that and reignite the spark of all involved so that we may get the chance to experience something new from them all in the near future...
While it certainly has its flaws, viewers can't deny the fact that Drive is such a fun ride. The charm and moves of Mark are accompanied by the quick witted ways of Kadeem Hardison and crazy antics of the late Brittany Murphy, of whom has me in stitches every time, and I'd be lying if I didn't admit to John Pyper-Ferguson being a fantastic bad guy. Japanese model-turned-actor Masaya Kato delivers a memorable performance as the villainous Advanced Model, returning to work with Mark after they shared the screen in the hugely underrated Crying Freeman only a year before, and Hawaiian-born James Shigeta has somewhat of an extended cameo as Mr. Lau – the big boss of the Chinese company determined to get their bio-chip back in one piece. My old friend Wyatt Weed returns to work with Steve once again as his Second Unit Director, and cameos as one of the scientists in the 'in-film' programme, 'Walter The Einstein Frog'. Wyatt worked with Steve on The Guyver movies and Kung Fu Rascals (where he also played Raspmutant the Mad Monk) after started in the FX department before moving into directing. Since then, he has delivered some of his own wonderful pieces including Guardian Of The Realm and the award winning Shadowland; an independent vampire film of which I released on my own DVD label back in 2010 and is worth checking out. And I guess that only leaves me to say that, with so much energy and talent involved, any self-respecting film fan should pay Drive a visit and see what all the fuss is about. I can guarantee you'll enjoy the ride!
Overall: One of the best martial arts movies to ever come out of Hollywood, Drive deserves a place in every fight fans' collection!
88 Films Blu-ray Extras: 4K Restoration of the Directors Cut & Original 100 Minute Cut, Audio Commentary with Steve Wang, Koichi Sakamoto, Mark Dacascos & Kadeem Hardison, Deleted Scenes, Interviews with Cast & Crew, Force Behind The Storm – Making of Documentary, Highway To Nowhere – Jason Tobin on Drive, Cast & Crew Biographies, Trailers
Medusa Pictures DVD Extras: Audio Commentary with Steve Wang, Koichi Sakamoto, Mark Dacascos & Kadeem Hardison, Deleted Scenes, Interviews with Cast & Crew, Force Behind The Storm – Making of Documentary, Cast & Crew Biographies, Photo Gallery, Trailers
Watch my unboxing video of this 88 Films release HERE
(Hong Kong 1992) 3.5
Original Title: Goh Yeung Yee Sang 羔羊醫生 (aka) Doctor Lamb
Directed by Danny Lee, Billy Tang Produced by Danny Lee Starring: Simon Yam, Danny Lee, Kent Cheng, Lau Siu Ming, Parkman Wong, Emily Kwan, Perrie Lai, Chung Bik Wing, Wong Wing Fong, Julie Lee, Eric Kei, Lam King Kong, Ma Lee Reviewing: Unearthed Films US Blu-ray Release Genres: Cat.3 / Thriller / Drama
Rating - 3.5 / 5
Blu-ray Synopsis: A mentally disturbed taxi driver lusts for blood every rainy night, and several young women are brutally murdered. He likes to take photos of the victims' dismembered bodies as his special mementos after sex with their corpses and stores their severed breasts in pickle jars. Inspector Lee and his team are called onto the case in this bizarre, nasty, and notorious CAT III films. (90 Mins)
Views: I've waited a good 30 years to see this highly revered Category 3 thriller with Simon Yam, and I have to say that the wait was worth while – especially since I got to watch it in glorious HD thanks to this Blu-ray release from US indie label, Unearthed Films. While it didn't shock or impress me as much as Herman Yau's Untold Story and Ebola Syndrome, I still felt myself cringing during moments of Dr. Lamb and found the great Simon Yam to be quite chilling at times in the role of the titular character. One of the last directorial features from the brilliant Danny Lee, Dr. Lamb was actually based on the true story of serial killer Lam Kor Wan who had killed four woman in Hong Kong about a decade earlier. Using a bit of artistic licensing, screenwriter Law Kam Fai crafts an entertaining piece, albeit with a bit of a slow-burn to begin with, that tells the story of Yam's crazed killer who finds himself arrested after he collects his latest set of photos from the local photo lab. After developing hundreds and hundreds of pictures for him, one particular lab technician begins to recognise that the women in the shots aren't exactly models and makes his manager, and the police, aware. Once they have taken Yam into the station, the police begin a gruelling interrogation that soon reveals the horrors of his crimes – revealed to us throw a number of gritty flashbacks!
As mentioned, the wonderful Danny Lee Sau Yin directs Dr. Lamb as well as producing the film and starring as Inspector Lee – a character he would bring back in other true crime thrillers such as The Untold Story 1 & 3, Organised Crime & Triad Bureau, Portrait Of A Serial Rapist, Water Tank Murder Mystery, and many others. In fact, a number of his team members also return in similar roles for The Untold Story, with some joining him in the other aforementioned titles over the years which makes a number of his 'true-crime' movies loosely connected to some degree. Launching his acting career in the very early 70s with a small role in Chang Cheh's classic The Deadly Duo, Lee went on to become on of the Shaw Brothers most bankable stars over the next decade before shifting into modern action-films with his directorial debut, One Way Only, in 1981. This would be followed-up with the action-comedy Funny Boys and Oh, My Cops! before Danny made a splash with the fantastic Law With Two Phases which would kick-off his love for playing the heroic cop – a role he would return to many times over the next few decades. While he is still going strong today, Danny is still recognised as one of Hong Kong cinemas biggest stars having directed 10 features, produced 30, and starred in almost 150 including hits such as City On Fire, The Killer, Just Heroes, Unmatchable Match, The Big Score, Asian Connection, and many more. For Dr. Lamb, Lee would find support in co-directing with the infamous Billy Tang – a man who made his directorial debut with the Rosamund Kwan thriller Vengeance Is Mine, of which he quickly followed up with Jet Li's underrated Dragon Fight. Dr. Lamb was the first of the infamous Category 3 titles connected to his name which was quickly followed by his films such as Deadly Desire, Run & Kill, Brother Of Darkness, Red To Kill, and others. Around the same time Tang had been the producer of the Hong Kong Criminal Archives Series, some of which he also directed, and went on to direct a host of other successful titles including Sexy & Dangerous, Street Angels, Casino, Sharp Guns, and Raped By An Angel 5: The Final Judgement. This would also be the first time the director would work with Simon Yam before bringing him back for the insane Run & Kill (along with Kent Cheng and Danny Lee), Street Angels, and Casino – once again with Kent Cheng. There's no doubt that director, producer and star Danny Lee brought Tang in for the more violent and darker moments of the film, allowing Lee to focus more on the drama and (light) comedy that is strewn throughout, and although it takes a while to get into the nitty-gritty there's definitely enough disturbing moments to make viewers wince. From the slicing and stabbing of breasts to the prolonged raping of a dead woman, Dr. Lamb doesn't offer as much vomit inducing moments as Ebola Syndrome for example, but what it does have still has the ability to flip the stomach of some viewers as well as make them ask 'What the actual fuck?' when you remember that what you are watching was based on a true story.
The handsome Simon Yam does yet another fantastic job in his role, providing a nerving portrayal of a sadistic killer who gets his kicks out of mutilating and raping his victims – and usually when they are dead. By this stage of the game Yam Tat Wah had starred in over 60 films, making his feature debut (much like many Hong Kong stars of that period) in a Shaw Brothers production (Lau Kar Leung's Spiritual Boxer) after a few years working in television shows for TVB. And while his roles would become a lot more prominent over the next few years, it would be almost a decade later before the model-turned-actor started making an impression in films such as Tongs: A Chinatown Story, The Big Brother, Bloodfight, and Yuen Woo Ping's Tiger Cage. By the late 80s, Yam had become a star and was in high demand going on to star in hits such as Burning Ambition, Killers Romance, Bullet In The Head, Gigolo & Whore, Black Cat, Naked Killer, Run & Kill, Future Cops, Young & Dangerous, Full Contact and so much more. Like many of Hong Kong's busiest stars, Yam had no problem turning his hand from comedy to romance, action, horror, or even to demented characters like Dr. Lamb which quickly made him a firm favourite among the fans of Hong Kong cinema. Even today, there seems no sign of the superstar slowing down, with the turn of the century seeing him make his Hollywood debut in Angelina Jolie's Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle Of Life as well as nailing a host of great roles in many Johnnie To films such as Election, Breaking News, Exiled, and Sparrow, along with memorable performances in Donnie Yen's SPL, Ip Man 1 & 2, Bodyguards & Assassins and more recently, Raging Fire. It's also worth noting that there was an attempt to bring back Yam as the murderous doctor in 1998's Trust Me U Die – a crime thriller directed by Billy Chung Siu Hung; the same man behind flicks such as Legend Of The Chiu Chow Brothers, The Assassin, Lady Supercop, The King Of Robbery, Kung Fu Mahjong, and Colour Of The Loyalty (with the latter two being co-directed by the wonderful Wong Jing). While it's also known as The New Dr. Lamb in some places, and that it's still a film I have yet to see, it's clear that Trust Me U Die failed to gain the same status as Dr. Lamb – even though it was penned once again by Law Kam Fai.
With both of the aforementioned actors supported by a great cast in the shape of the hilarious Kent Cheng, a man who would share the screen with both Simon and Danny many times over the years, Lau Siu Ming, Parkman Wong, Emily Kwan, Eric Kei, Dr. Lamb also offers up some gorgeous cinematography from Tony Miu; a cinematographer who also lensed many titles for Danny Lee and Billy Tang as well as films such as Cop On A Mission, Naked Soldier, Flash Point, The Warlords, and The Monkey King. And while it may have its flaws, mainly down to the direction and some dated choices, Dr. Lamb still proves to be a memorable and entertaining piece of 90s Hong Kong cinema that is well worth the watch if you are looking for something a little dark and disturbing. I'm just glad that I've finally been able to add this Category 3 exploitation-classic to my collection!
Overall: While I was expecting more, Dr. Lamb is still a disturbing piece of Hong Kong cinema with enough dark and gritty madness to keep Cat.3 fans happy!
Blu-ray Extras: Audio Commentary with Art Ettinger & Bruce Holecheck, Interview with Gilbert Po, Film Critic James Mudge on the Golden Era of Category III, Sean Tierney remembers Dr. Lamb, Atomic TV interview with Simon Yam, Trailers
Watch my unboxing video of this Unearthed Films release HERE