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EAGLE CLAW VERSUS THE

BUTTERFLY PALM

(Taiwan 1978) 

Original Title: Shen Ying Fei Yan Hu Die Zhang

Directed by Yu Tien Lung Produced by Shen Chiang, Huang Ye Bai Action by Ma Chin Ku, Yu Tien Lung

Starring: Lo Lieh, Chi Kuan Chun, Roc Tien, Sun Chia Lin, Yueh Hua, Yu Tien Lung, Kam Kong, Lee Kwan, Leung Kar Yan

Reviewing: YouTube Release

Genres: Traditional Kung-Fu / Wuxia / Drama

Rating - 2.3 / 5

Synopsis: Having wiped out both the Shaolin and Wu Tang, the Butterfly Clan's objective is clearly the destruction of any and all rival factions. A wushu knight, and his rag-tag followers move into challenge their oppressors in a deadly battle.

Views: The multi-talented Yu Tien Lung delivers kung-fu and thrills in his directorial debut, Eagle Claw Vs The Butterfly Palm. With a great cast behind him, Lung tells the tale of a band of fighters who go up against the Butterfly Clan – an army of evil Mongolian invaders who have wiped out many across China, including those from Shaolin and Wu Tang...

While it's hardly original in terms of plot and a little rough-around-the-edges, Eagle Claw Vs The Butterfly Palm still has some entertaining moments – typical of Taiwanese wuxia flicks of this period. Written and produced by Shen Chiang, director of Call To Arms, Infernal Street, and Five Kung Fu Daredevil Heroes, the story has been told a hundred times before and often a little clearer. But the film wins by boasting a large cast, including a number of big names from kung-fu cinema, and proves to be a competent project for Yu Tien Lung's first time as a director. And while I have to allow for that which is lost in translation, Eagle Claw Vs Butterfly Palm is a fairly substandard affair at the end of the day. Starting life in the industry a decade before as an actor and action-director on Gwan Jing Leung's King's Sword, Lung went on to work on films such as 8 Dragon Swords, Tough Duel, and Ways Of Kung-Fu (as well as many others), and clearly made an impression as he continued in front of, and behind the camera into the 21st Century.

I can only imagine how much he wanted to impress with his first film as director, and in doing so offers some innovative moments and techniques as well as a host of characters. This reminded me of many Taiwanese wuxia films from the mid-late 1970s, and the likes of Jackie Chan's Killer Meteors and To Kill With Intrigue, although not quite as wild. Besides directing and starring in a leading role, Yu Tien Lung also worked on the choreography along with Ma Chin Ku, a well-known face and actor from plenty of old-school classics such as One-Armed Boxer Vs The Flying Guillotine, The Big Rascal, Cantonen Iron Kung Fu, Ninja In The Dragons Den, and many more. Even at that, the fights don't start off as anything special but they do get better as things move along, which all leads to a pretty decent finale with some exciting moves!

Eagle Claw Vs Butterfly Palm may have passed its sell-by date a long time ago, but it's not a complete waste of time. With a score composed by HK actor and director Frankie Chan, the film boasts a cast of great names including Lo Lieh who plays the big villain with Yuen Hua as his right-hand man, fan favourite Lee Kwan, Chung Wa, Chi Kuan Chun, Kam Kong, Leung Kar Yan, and Roc Tien. And until the film gets a restored re-release in its original language (which will never happen), old-school fans may get a bigger kick out of it than a modern audience would. The final 30 minutes make up for a lot though with a big twist that isn't as shocking as it hopes it would be...

Overall: Flawed in many ways, Eagle Claw Vs Butterfly Palm isn't completely terrible and has a pretty fun finale with great moves!

THE EAGLE FIST

(Hong Kong 1981) 

Original Title: Xue Men Ying Zhao

Directed by Cheng Kei Ying Produced by Cheng Kei Ying, Han Kit Ting Action by Cheng Kei Ying

Starring: Chi Kuan Chun, Cheng Kei Ying, Helen Poon, Chung Wing, Ardy Lam, Sham Chin Bo, Cheung Hei, Ma Hon Yuen, Steve Mak, Yuen Tak

Reviewing: Amazon Prime UK Release

Genres: Traditional Kung-Fu / Comedy / Drama

Rating - 3 / 5

Synopsis: Captain Lau Si Chung (Chi Kuan Chun), realises his kung fu isn't that good when he gets beaten by a weird old man (Cheng Kei Ying). He goes off to a temple to learn from the old man. Once he becomes proficient, the old man tells him that his master was killed by a Bandit known as 'The Red Dart'. Lau Si Chung then seeks vengeance & a book on nerve-lock reverses that was also stolen by The Red Dart.

Views: I remember having The Eagle Fist on VHS way back at the start of my kung-fu obsession. It eventually got chewed up by the video-player and I was unable to find another copy for many years. It did get a cheap label DVD release many moons later, as well as a release on Amazon Prime, which was nice to see. It's probably a good 25 years or more since I last saw The Eagle Fist, but I do remember it being entertaining on its first watch and thankfully, it still holds-up today – albeit with flaws that are much more recognisable to me today, now I've been directing for some time...

The fantastic Chi Kuan Chun plays Lau Si Chung, Captain of a small village police force. While arresting a few rascals one day (one of which is a young Yuen Tak in a fun cameo), Lau gets embarrassed by and beaten by a strange old man who was watching the arrest. Annoyed that his kung-fu wasn't good enough to beat him, Lau sets-out to find the old man in order to learn from him. It doesn't take him too long to find his new master and soon, Lau finds himself being put through some torturous regimes (as well as some daft ones) to prove his worth. As his training pick-ups and he starts to master the Eagle Fist, Lau learns that there's one more final step that even his master doesn't know, due to an old enemy stealing the last pages of his masters book many years ago. In order to retrieve the final pages, Lau must learn the Dying Fist so that he can defeat The Red Dart and take revenge for his masters-master, while becoming a true master of the technique himself!

If only he had Google.

The Eagle Fist is listed as an 1981 production, but in a time when Golden Harvest, Seasonal Films, Goldig Pictures, and even Shaw Brothers were delivering such incredible and modern hits, this independent flick feels like it was a decade behind. Kung-fu actor and choreographer Cheng Kei Ying, made The Eagle Fist as his directorial debut after starring in films such as The Owl, Invincible Killer, The Four Invincibles, The Handcuff, and Clones of Bruce Lee – most of which he also choreographed. While sticking with what he knew I guess, Cheng didn't really offer anything new or overly exciting with his first project as director and went on to make a number of features that never really became known as genuine classics, such as Ninja: American Warrior, Death Code Ninja, Satanic Crystals, and the hard-to-find Cat3 film, Rape In Public Sea with Lam Ching Ying, that also features an appearance from my good friend Mike Leeder. While his directing career slowly kicked-off, Cheng would continue to star in a number of great titles including Kung-Fu Zombie and A Fistful Of Talons with the awesome Billy Chong, Majestic Thunderbolt, Return Of The Bastard Swordsman, and The Man From Holland with Philip Ko. In The Eagle Fist, Cheng writes, directs, produces, choreographs, and stars as Chi Kuan Chun's old master – perhaps taking on just a little too much, although still manages to deliver some great moves and fight scenes along the way.

The wonderful and often forgotten about Chi Kuan Chun does a great job as Captain Lau. Although it's a pretty straight-forward role in a typical old-school story, Chi still delivers working with what he has and shining in the kung-fu sequences. While he had starred in a host of classics prior to this, from his Men In The Monastery debut to Marco Polo, Shaolin Temple, and Showdown In Cotton Mill, The Eagle Fist came in the middle of Chi's career and can easily be over-looked as just another old-school kung-fu flick. It's a shame he never went on to star in many more solid titles throughout his career – with the exception of Drunken Monkey and Seven Swords many years later – as I find him to be a great actor and fantastic martial artist, and would loved to have seen him continue like his Shaw Brothers counterparts Chen Kuan Tai and Leung Kar Yan, into modern Hong Kong action cinema!

Overall: While nothing new for it's time, The Eagle Fist isn't terrible and offers old-school fans some exciting kung-fu, with a well choreographed finale, surprise twist, and cheap production giggles!

THE EAGLE KING

(Taiwan 1978) 

Original Title: Da Ying Wang

(aka) The Ninja King

Directed by Karl Liao Chiang Lin Produced by Si Wai

Starring: Tsung Hua, Ko Hsiao Pao, Yeh Hsiao Yee, Su Chen Ping, Liu Li Tsu, Shao Lo Hui, Lee Man Tai, Hou Po Wei, Wu Te Shan

Reviewing: YouTube Release

Genres: Traditional Kung-Fu / Wuxia / Comedy / Drama

Rating - 1.3 / 5

Synopsis: A renegade Manchurian monk and master of The Golden Bell guillotine kung-fu sends his deadly disciples to China to attack the Ming Government. The Eagle King learns of the raid and sends his students to meet the onslaught head-on, and stop it.

Views: This cheap Taiwanese production is so messy on many levels, I found myself fighting to stay awake let-alone care for anything that was going on. It's main story is about a gang of Manchurian monks who make their way to China to kill the king and bring down the Ming government by using their golden bells – a deadly weapon that is based on the flying guillotine. Meanwhile, the Eagle King has heard news of the attack and sends out his best fighters to meet the monks and stop them, amidst a devastating tragedy after a large flood destroyed the local land and nearby towns. It all leads to a crazy showdown where the king's wuxia heroes must defeat the Manchurians before they kill the king!

The washed-out print and terrible English dub of this Ocean Shores release, doesn't help the fact that The Eagle King is already somewhat of a difficult watch. From its oddly annoying child-actor (Yeh Hsiao Yee) who can burrow underground with no effort whatsoever – backed by the infamous score from Jaws, to its bizarre run of characters and confusing storyline, it's hard to find love for this late 70s production. Shaw Brothers actor and Taiwanese wuxia star, Tsung Hua (aka Chung Wah) leads the group of heroes, although really doesn't get as much screen time as expected. Starting his career in Jimmy Wang Yu's awesome, Return Of The One-Armed Swordsman, Tsung went on to star in many classics such as The Killer, 14 Amazons, The Warlord, and A Massacre Survivor, and was a popular lead for many Taiwanese wuxia flicks until his career started to fade in the early 1980s. The always recognisable Su Chen Ping, actor of over 120 films such as One-Armed Boxer, Beach Of The War Gods, Shaolin Invincible Sticks, and Born Invincible, is pretty much wasted here in his role as an beggar that likes to help when he can, and only gets to fight in the last 10 minutes. Liu Li Tsu co-stars as a cross-dressing villain, with the always popular Lee Man Tai muscling in on the action here and there. Chang Fu Chien gets the majority of the fight action alongside child-actor Yeh Hsiao Yee, and is joined by lesser known femme fatales Lin Mei Ling, from 8 Masters and Kung-Fu Executioner, and Tam Yan Mei from films such as Deadly Snail Vs. Kung Fu Killers, The Gold Connection, and Dennis Law's action-packed Bad Blood.

While the last 30 to 40 minutes starts to iron itself out, and offer a bit better action (including a fun array of closing fights), it's still not enough to make The Eagle King a bona-fide classic. The golden bell monks only arrive in for the last 5 minutes in a scene that reminded me of the hilarious Bronzegirls Of Shaolin, but it was hardly worth their time. Director Karl Liao Chiang Lin only ever directed 5 features during his 3 years in the industry, and while they could never compete with what was on offer from the upcoming stars and studios in Hong Kong around the same time, the most of them have seen video and DVD releases around the world at some stage since their release to be fair such as Story In Temple Red Lily, Moonlight Sword & Jade Lion, and Dreaming Fists With Slender Hands...

Overall: A tad messy and a little bonkers, The Eagle King isn't one you need to rush for and one film I don't ever need to see again!

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EAGLES CLAW

(Taiwan 1977) 

Original Title: Ying Zhao Tang Lang

(aka) Eagles Fist

Directed by Lee Tso Nam Produced by Wong Fung Action by Tommy Lee, Chan Siu Pang

Starring: Chi Kuan Chun, Wong Tao, Chang Yi, Hwa Ling, Yu Sung Chao, Hsiao Yao, Philip Ko, Leung Kar Yan, Ma Chiang, Jimmy Lee

Reviewing: Eastern Heroes UK DVD Release

Genres: Traditional Kung-Fu / Drama

Rating - 4 / 5

DVD Synopsis: The deadly art of Eagle's Claw is challenged by the master of the Mantis Fist School. Provoking rivalry between the two schools and their students resulting in a death match. Top notch cast including Wong (Drunken Tai Chi) Tao and Leung (Legend Of A Fighter) Ka Yan, better known as 'Beardy', come together in this true late night classic.

Views: An all-star, old-school cast fill a genuine classic of Taiwanese kung-fu cinema. Eagle's Claw tells the overly familiar tale of rival kung-fu schools, one who are masters of the titular eagle claw and the other, of the mantis fist. This begins when the wicked master of the mantis-fist, Chow Ma Wu, arrives at the eagle school to challenge their teacher, Master Yang. Backed by his best fighters, Chow doesn't waste time in letting the eagle students see how good his kung-fu is before he attacks and badly injures Master Yang. As he lies dying because to his injuries, Yang tells two of his students that they must stop Chow at all costs – based on their history and Chow's evil deeds. He hands his control over to his Number 2 student (Li Chi) which pisses his close friend and Number 1 student-brother, Chen Tien Chun, right-off! Fueled with anger and in a drunken fit-of-rage, Chen shakes the last bit of life out-off his master and escapes from the clutches of his classmates. As tensions rise, word soon gets back to Chow Ma Wu which urges him to bring forward his plan to end the eagle school once and for all. This includes bringing Chen Tien Chun in as a minion, who only agrees to help if Chow teaches him the mantis-fist so he can help bring down his old school and earn his rightful place as leader. After more double-crossings and fights between students, it doesn't take long for the training to begin that lead to a bloody and fantastic finale as eagle takes-on mantis, and Chen's true loyalties are tested!

The interesting thing about Eagle's Claw, is that it often comes across as more of a Joseph Kuo movie than than Lee Tso Nam's. Director of over 50 titles, Lee has brought many classic kung-fu movies to fans such as The Hot, The Cool & The Vicious, Shaolin Invincible Sticks, A Life Of Ninja, and Beauty Investigator with Moon Lee and Yukari Oshima. Written by Chang Hsin Yi, director of John Liu's Incredible Kung Fu Mission, Struggle Through Death, and Lady Constables, the very same man penned over 60 films like Snake And Crane Arts Of Shaolin, Dance Of Death, Thundering Mantis, and a host of Lee Tso Nam titles. With Eagle's Claw, he provides a well developed plot and some interesting character development, cutting out the usual splatters of comedy that are typical of productions from this era. The fantastic fight scenes are handled by the wonderful Tommy Lee Gam Ming, a man of many talents both in front of and behind the camera including titles like The Secret Rivals, Shaolin Red Master, Butcher Wing, Shaolin Wooden Men, and many more. Lee opts to keep 99% of the action pretty grounded, allowing for some kick-ass choreography and fantastic display of styles. Although the film has a strong story and keeps a focus on it's characters, Eagle's Claw is far from short of fight scenes, each of which are all well-choreographed and lead to a fantastic end battle with plenty of great moves.

Of course, this is helped with having such an amazing cast on-board! The always impressive Don Wong Tao plays Li Chi, the second student that becomes the head of the eagle school after his masters death with the awesome Chi Kuan Chun starring as the troubled, Chen Tien Chun. Both stars are always a pleasure to watch on-screen, both in performance and in action and Eagle's Claw allows both of them to shine in their roles. Shaw Brothers star and around classic kung-fu star Chang Yi, plays mantis-fist leader Chow Ma Wu, and dons the long white wig once again for his role. Although this film came a good decade after his first role in The Thundering Sword, Chang Yi had already starred in over 70 titles – rarely disappointing fans whether he was fighting for good or bad. Wong and Chi are supported in the eagle school by Jimmy Lee (Lung Fong), a recognisable face to many fans of Hong Kong cinema who starred in films such as The Rebellious Reign, Big Boss Of Shanghai, Casino Raiders, and of course, the God Of Gamblers series. Joining him is Hwa Ling, a Taiwanese actress who starred only in a handful of films including Shaolin Iron Claws the following year with most of the same cast, and Fatal Needles Vs. Fatal Fists that reunited the team once again. The mantis school fared much better in my opinion with the always incredible Leung Kar Yan as Chang Yi's right-hand-man, as well as the equally impressive Philip Ko Fei who gets to show some amazing work in the grand finale, and an actress called Wong Gwai Sang who seemed to disappear for almost 10 years before starring in her second and final role. While a collective of regular Taiwanese actors show up throughout, it's really these guys that carry the show and makes Eagle's Claw well worth the watch.

Overall: Classic kung-fu with great production values and a fantastic cast, Eagle's Claw may be a by-the-book old-school film, but it stands strong on many levels!

DVD Extras: Trailer

EAGLE SHADOW FIST

(Hong Kong 1973) 

Original Title: Ding Tian Li Di

(aka) Not Scared To Die; Fist Of Anger

Directed by Chu Mu Produced by Hoi Ling Action by Yuen Cheung Yan

Starring: Jackie Chan, Wong Ching, Yuen Qiu, Alex Lung Ji Fei, Chiang Nan, Chu Mu, Yam Ho, Lee Man Tai, Brandy Yuen, Tino Wong, Yuen Yat Chor, Yen Shi Kwan, Yuen Cheung Yan, Fung Hak On, Yuen Shun Yi

Reviewing: Optimum Asia UK DVD Release

Genres: Traditional Kung-Fu / War / Drama

Rating - 2 / 5

DVD Synopsis: Set during the Chinese occupancy of Northern China in WWII Eagle Shadow Fist is the compelling story of the opera actor Bruce Li and his troop as the try to defend theirland from the violent and bloody occupiers.

Views: Often sold as one of the Lo Wei movies in multiple VHS collections and early DVD releases, the artwork of Eagle Shadow Fist is usually graced with photos and shots from more successful Jackie Chan movies, promoting him as the lead actor. Of course, it is neither a Lo Wei or Jackie Chan movie at all. But given the fast rise of Jackie's star only a few years later, it would be inevitable that distributors would do whatever they could to sell more Chan to the fans. I mean, look at how mad the 'bruceplotation' genre went (and is still going today)! Eagle Shadow Fist, also known as Not Scared To Die, tells the story of Tang Jing Fong (Wong Ching) the leader of an opera troupe who finds himself in trouble with some Japanese occupiers. Rather than send in the army, a Japanese official sends in two soldiers who are experts in karate, to infiltrate the troupe and kill Tang and the opera leads. As matters get worse, Tang and his young protégé Shi (Jackie Chan) start to fight back, willing to lay their life on the line. With some town members behind them, the pair soon find themselves betrayed and in the middle of a deadly ambush!

Although he was only around 18 or 19 in this production, a young Jackie Chan had already been in the film business for a good decade. Working his way up from a child actor, the legend soon became a stuntman and bit-player in early classics such as The Blade Spares None, Fist Of Fury, Hapkido, and more. 1973 proved to be a busy year for him and no doubt boasted his confidence in some respect, as he gained a role in no less than 10 productions including a reunion with Bruce Lee in Enter The Dragon. Even while continuing his bit-parts, Jackie started to push forward with a more prominent role in Police Woman (aka The Heroine, aka Rumble In Hong Kong, aka The Young Tiger) also for director Chu Mu, and took on his first leading role in The Cub Tiger From Kwangtung. While I don't know the exact pattern of this years productions, it would still be another couple of years after before Jackie would get the chance to take things to the next level when he began his working relationship with Lo Lei in New Fist Of Fury. In Eagle Shadow Fist, we get glimpses of the Jackie Chan we all know and love today – although hardly enough to warrant it a top recommendation from the clown-prince of kung-fu. That said, he still gives a credible performance as the young protégé, putting his all into the role and getting in on a number of fights that allow him to incorporate some neat acrobatics and moves.

Veteran actor and regular Shaw Brothers villain, Wong Ching, plays the lead of the film and head of the opera troupe, Tang Jing Fong. Starting in the business in 1967, Wong had mainly been an extra and bit-player for the most part, eventually starting to come out of the shadows in movies like Boxer From Shantung, King Boxer, and Four Riders, to name but a few. Eagle Shadow Fist would really be his first leading role and while it was nothing groundbreaking in any sense, Wong still does a decent enough job. With over 130 films to his name, the man with the biggest smile in HK cinema would go on to star in many classic films such as Shaolin Temple, Magnificent Bodyguards, Heroes Two, and Shanghai 13. While this film would never find itself among any Hong Kong film fans Top 100 list, I found it interesting how Eagle Shadow Fist stared such a great cast – albeit with many of it's greatest names only starting out in the business as stuntmen or bit-players. These include the wonderful Yuen Qiu in only her second role – more globally recognised as the Landlady in Kung Fu Hustle – Alex Lung Ji Fei in his first role, popular character actors Chiang Nan, Hao Li Jen, and Lee Man Tai, director Chu Mu as a Japanese officer, and upcoming stars like Lau Kar Wing, Fung Hak On, Ho Kei Cheong, Tino Wong, Brandy Yuen, Yuen Shun Yi, Yuen Yat Chor, Yen Shi Kwan, and Yuen Cheung Yan – who was also behind the action.

By this stage of the game, Yuen Cheung Chan already had over 60 acting credits to his name with roles as an extra or bit-player in classics such as Trail Of The Broken Blade, One-Armed Swordsman, Golden Swallow, and The Prodigal Boxer – as well as a number of credits as martial-arts-director on films like Have Sword, Will Travel, King Eagle, and The Killer for Shaw Brothers. As it would be a number of years after before Yuen (and his brothers) would amaze the cinematic world with their more innovative choreography and unique style, the fights in Eagle Shadow Fist are delivered in a much more realistic and chop-socky fashion. While you can see power behind the hits, movements seem raw – as if the opposition doesn't really know what is coming – and often seems like an old Jimmy Wang Yu flick at times. In fact, this closing fight reminded me quite a bit of his final fight in 10 Fingers Of Steel (aka The Screaming Tiger, and King Of Boxers). This leads to a lengthy and brutal finale where children are violently killed and smashed-off rocks before Wong Ching arrives and beats the life out of the enemy. The fight moves up and down hills, over rocks, and even into a lake, with many lengthy takes that must have been exhausting for the actors. It actually proves to be a harshly entertaining battle, ending with Wong Ching ripping the eyes out of the karate expert which then sends him over a cliff-edge!

Director Chu Mu had been acting for a good decade before directing his first film in 1967 with Feng Yang Flower Drum. Chu already had a taste of directing a few years before-hand, working as an assistant director on a number of films he was starring in. While he would continue to act into the mid-1990s, Chu Mu directed his last film in 1981 with The Third Hand, a sex-comedy with a touch of horror. While he was never the greatest director in the world, Chu was competent enough in working with what was available and delivered a few watchable titles. A number of those would also star a young Jackie Chan, although none of which would never be hailed as a 'real' Jackie Chan movie. While Eagle Shadow Fist would be the first, this was quickly followed by The Heroine – also known as The Young Tiger, Rumble In Hong Kong, and Police Woman – where Jackie plays a thug who goes up against My Lucky Stars co-star, Charlie Chin. The infamous adult-comedy, All In The Family, followed – you know that one that appears in countless YouTube videos that claim Jackie was a porn star before he became an action legend. This claim was a load of nonsense of course, which I talk about more in my review for the film. The last title Jackie would appear in for Chu Mu was No End Of Surprises, another comedy-drama for Golden Harvest with more sex and adult humour (something it seems, Chu Mu enjoyed making).

The trouble with Eagle Shadow Fist is that it comes across as a cheap movie. Overall production values seem very low, though I can't help but feel that seeing the film in it's original widescreen format may help that. Any DVD copy I've seen or even my old VHS copy, doesn't really do the film any justice with a badly cropped and washed-out presentation that means we're losing quite a bit in terms of it's visuals. That said, I can't ever imagine the film getting a 4K restoration anytime soon, regardless of how many fans Chan has around the world. It certainly isn't the worst movie in the world by any means, but it does fall into a large category of (what other critics like to call) 'basher films', outshone by many other titles that offer the same story with bigger production values and better fights. Still, Eagle Shadow Fist is a watchable old-school flick that offers a dark and violent tale, with a much stronger second half...

Overall: Old-school violence with a better second-half, and not completely unwatchable!