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QUEEN BOXER

(Hong Kong/China 1972) 

Original Title: Chou

(aka) The Avenger; Fearless Karate Girl

Directed by Florence Yu Fung Chi Produced by Florence Yu Fung Chi Action by Wu Min Hsiung, Lin Feng Sheng, Wang Tai Lang, Ching Kau Lung, Liao Wen Chin

Starring: Judy Lee (Chia Ling), Peter Yang Kwan, Li Ying, Ma Chiang, Tsai Hung, Hsueh Han, David Tang Wei

Reviewing: Vengeance Video UK DVD Release

Genres: Traditional Kung Fu / Drama / Gangster

Rating - 3.5 / 5

DVD Synopsis: This cult classic is considered by many to be the ultimate femme fatal movie of all time. Judy Lee plays Mas Su Chen the sister of Shantung boxer Ma Yung Jun who was slaughtered by the axe gang. Su Chen travels to Shanghai in search of the axe gang and boss Pai Lai Lee. What unfolds in 84 mins is untold death & slaughter as she gets her revenge for her brother.

Views: After arriving at the axe gang's Shanghai teahouse, small-time gangster Ma Yong Sheng is attacked with lime powder and axes. Although he manages to fight back and kill off a number of the gang members, Yong Sheng is brutally murdered and finished off by having two burning cigars shoved into his eyes. His sister soon arrives in the city and after sitting down for a bite, finds herself hounded by some local gangsters who rattle the local business owners for protection money. Ma Su Chen soon finds herself rescued by Fan Kao To, an unemployed laborer who likes to stand up for good and is determined to make some changes in Shanghai. At the same time, Pai hears that SU Chen is in town and sends out his men to track her down, along with any other members of the Ma family. As they continue on their own journeys and stand up to many local thugs, the pair soon meet again to find out that their paths are actually connected through her recently deceased brother. Fan agrees to help Ma take down gang boss Pai Lai Lee and his men, which leads to a series of violent and bloody fights resulting in many deaths and an explosion of vengeance!

Supposedly filmed between 2 and 3 weeks, Queen Boxer, or The Avenger as it is also known, was the debut film of the wonderful Judy Lee (aka Chia Ling) after her co-star, Peter Yang Kwan, saw what she could do as a performer and cast her immediately in the role of Ma Su Chen. Having done such an incredible job in her first-ever role, he kept her around for his next film that same year, The Escape – which pretty much set this femme fatale's career in motion! Playing like an independent sequel of sorts to the Shaw Brother's film, Boxer From Shantung (connected by the character of Ma Yong Sheng) which also came out that same year, Queen Boxer may lack the high production values of its big studio counter-part, but it offers just as much amazing kung-fu action that proves to be an incredible introduction to Judy Lee. For her first role, this tough beauty totally delivers on both the acting and the action front. Commanding the screen with her looks and moves, Lee offers more in her first role than most new actresses in Hollywood offer today and went on to star in almost 60 titles such as Sea Gods And Ghosts, The Blazing Temple, Story In Temple Red Lily, The 8 Masters, 18 Swirling Riders, Lady Constables with Angela Mao Ying, and many more. This was also director Florence Yu's first film as a director (which could explain some of its small flaws) but she had been acting for a good decade beforehand opting to move behind the camera around this period as a writer, producer, and director on films such as Judy Lee's follow-up film, The Escape, Disco Fever, Enter The Fat Dragon, Fantasy Romance, toname but a few...

Much like Yu (and seemingly working alongside her on many projects), Peter Yang Kwan meddled in every part of the film making process, acting in almost 120 films from the mid-50s through to 2003, starring in titles such as The Escape (of which he also co-directed with Yu), Enter The Fat Dragon with Sammo Hung, The Protector with Jackie Chan, Rich And Famous/Tragic Hero with Chow Yun Fat and Andy Lau, and a number of titles with Moon Lee and Yukari Oshima. In his role as Fan Kao To, I thought he came across as Jimmy Wang Yu would in similar projects – both in looks and in moves, albeit a little more fluid than Wang usually is. Although he gets killed off before the end battle, Peter yang gets plenty of screen time and plenty of chances to bust a move but it's obvious that he wanted to make this all about his awesome new starlet. Veteran Taiwanese actor, Li Ying, stars as Pai Lai Li – the big villain who only really sits around giving orders and smoking cigars. Having started in the industry in the late 40s, Li Ying went on to star in almost 170 films into the late 90s, even getting the chance to direct a handful such as Stupid Swordsman, The Challenge, The Blind Hero Fighting Evil Wolf, and Fighting At Night. His right-hand man is played by Hsueh Han, a popular character actor that appeared in almost 200 movies including A Touch Of Zen, One-Armed Boxer, Beach Of The War Gods, Killer Meteors, The Face Behind The Mask, and so much more.

While no less than 5 names are credited for the action choreography, I can only imagine this was mainly for the two major action sequences that really showcase what its main stars can do. These include a fantastic teahouse battle with both Judy Lee and Peter Yang Kwan – which was just brilliant – and the final 12-minute fight scene in Pai Lai Li's home, where Judy takes on the whole of the axe gang in what is probably one of my all-time favourite finales of any old-school flick! One of the choreographers was Wang Tai Lang, a popular actor and action director of the time starring in films like Dance Of Death, Eagle's Claw & Butterfly Palm, 8 Strikes Of A Wildcat, One-Armed Boxer Vs The Flying Guillotine, and appeared as one of the ghosts in Jackie Chan's fun, Spiritual Kung-Fu. Although there are smaller fight scenes scattered throughout, these aforementioned two are definitely the highlight of the film and a great introduction to the skills of Judy Lee. It's just a shame that the print quality on this DVD or any other copy I've seen is so poor with its awful crop and washed-out look. Queen Boxer may not be perfect, but it wouldn't be ignored if it got restored and released on blu-ray anytime soon – allowing fans to see these fights in their full glory and experience a kung-fu classic the way it was meant to be seen!

Overall: A basic tale strengthened by the debut of Judy Lee, Queen Boxer may be a case of having seen it all before, but the powerhouse finale is so worth it!

DVD Extras: Trailers