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Black Cat (1991) Directed by: Stephen Shin

image stolen with permission from lovehkfilm.com

The beginning of the end for Dickson Poon's production company D & B and it came via a large budget, internationally flavoured remake of Luc Besson's La Femme Nikita. Best New Artist winner at the Hong Kong Film Awards Jade Leung takes on the lead, applying herself very well in the gritty stages of the film but faring poorly/being led poorly in the emotional areas. The premise has always been a killer one, the conflicted heroine who shouldn't feel emotions but nothing is done beyond the layer surface. Shame because the production values are high and the synch sound recording adds that extra touch of professionalism (despite English dialogue along the lines of "I was either stupid or horny to hire you!") Simon Yam co-stars as the man behind Black Cat while Thomas Lam and Louis Roth also appear. The English language sequel flopped badly and was the last picture from the company that brought us An Autumn's Tale, Tiger Cage, the In The Line Of Duty films and Her Fatal Ways.

Black Cat II (1992) Directed by: Stephen Shin

D & B's well produced take on La Femme Nikita did well enough to warrant a sequel and the production takes an even larger leap into the international realm by shooting largely in synch sound English and on location in Canada and Russia. When all was said and done it would be the last production out of the often ambitious D & B as the sequel flopped badly. Which is a shame because at a sensible 83 minutes with little to no TRUE attempt at drama, Stephen Shin goes for the ambition of making the second one bigger and louder (movie was also mixed in Dolby which was rare for a Hong Kong action picture at this time). Jade Leung is back as the CIA assassin with a NEW chip in her brain that turns her more into The Terminator compared to the first movie and she teams up with Robin Shou's CIA agent to prevent an assassination of Russian President Boris Yeltsin by a duo suspiciously similar to her robot state of being. Actually more of a movie focusing on casting of able Western performers (compared to random backpackers that were put in local Hong Kong productions), the production is well mounted, professional and more than capable of measuring up to what the rest of the international action market produced at the time. With a Hong Kong action choreography crew headed by veteran Poon Kin-Gwan putting together plentiful, bloody gunplay sequences as well as wire assisted fight action, director Shin keeps the basic plot moving very well and Black Cat II deserved a little better than this because it was not headed by ill intentions. The audience simply wasn't there and the company that gave us immortal classics such as An Autumn's Tale, Her Fatal Ways, Tiger Cage, Yes, Madam! closed its doors.

Black Dream (1995) Directed by: Joe Hau

From synch sound and a fine women's drama in the form of Right Here Waiting... to the dubbed Black Dream, Joe Hau's quick decline takes place here as he attempts to with depth portray the naive dreamers that are the criminal underworld assassins. Foolishly thinking they can get away, Hau uses props and the city of Hong Kong as pretentious symbolism at center but to his (minor) credit, the film isn't particularly embarrassing. It just tries too much with the extremely limited resources it has, including the actors. They and Hau are working with way too ambitious beats and the result is therefore quite deadly boring. While Hau later gave us the cult favourite Phantom Of Snake, it's very clear he was extremely more miss than hit as a director. Stay with Right Here Waiting... folks. Supporting players Josie Ho, Michael Chan and Yvonne Hung are the sole standout faces in terms of recognition here.

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Black Eagle's (1981) Directed by: Cheung Paang-Yee

KENNETH'S REVIEW: Taiwanese Wuxia that, partly due to its presentation on home video, doesn't cohere at all. It's a case of a large character gallery understanding each and every nuance of the subtle swings and twists in plot. We the viewers, or rather me the thick viewer, are left with "appreciating" such aspects as theme music (STOLEN theme music) accompanying certain characters extensively, ropey wire work and the frequent times the characters break into sword fighting. But one wish merely such individual scenarios would at least let us survive the long trek but that isn't the case as little variation or excitement is offered up. I prefer my Wuxia stories less busy and actually well-told, something I still in my heart don't believe Black Eagle's is. Nor is it serviceable as a spectacle. Roc Tien and Chi Kuan-Chun stars. Also known as Black Eagle's Blades.

The Black Enforcer (1972) Directed by: Ho Meng-Hua

Missing in action on dvd, Ho Meng-Hua (Oily Maniac, The Mighty Peking Man) showcases a strong eye and how to make a dent in audiences through a revenge tale in The Black Enforcer. Lawman Gong Tianlong (Tang Ching) captures vicious thief and murderer Guan Yunfei (Tien Feng) but an ambush by hired men sees the thief set free and Tianlong's whole family murdered. Left to die himself but rescued by Ling Tzu (Fong Yan-Ji), Yunfei's son frames Tianlong's and throws him away to rot in jail. All while Yunfei betrays an accomplice of his but ends up blind in the ensuing fight. Cut to 15 years later with Tianlong desiring revenge, Yunfei has developed into a skilled, blind swordsman and into the two's rivalry enters innocent family...

A strong sense of atmosphere through use of snow and a playful sense of light (that makes certain action segments stand out and they make sense for Tien Feng's blind character), Ho Meng-Hua also gets strong performances out of in particular his male leads with Tang Ching's Tianlong in particular being suitably divided between hatred, need for revenge and a retained humanity while Tien Feng's is pretty much evil personified. The endless cycle of revenge is neatly touched upon and you do feel for characters simply wanting it to stop without bloodshed, such as the daughter Yaner and Tianlong's love interest Ling Tzu. The weakness of the slightly stiff fantastical swordplay is quickly forgotten since in particular action director Leung Siu-Chung works fine with the visual mastery that is in the fight scenes as concepts. We simply get a rare cool and thought out aspect to the action connecting firmly to the story at hand. The end suitably stands out with several fine instances of tension as the cat and mouse game present in the entire film continuous on and ends on a bloody note here.

Black Magic (1975) Directed by: Ho Meng-Hua

Xu Nuo (Ti Lung) loves Wang Chu Ying (Lily Li). Widow Luo Yin (Tanny Tien) also loves Xu Nuo and is willing to do anything to make him love her. Liang (Lo Lieh) loves the widow and is also willing to go to extreme lengths...and so he does. Enter black magician Shan (Ku Feng) into this soap opera with the Shaw Brother's horror touch...

Director Ho Meng-Hua (The Mighty Peking Man) divides his time between the nasty, goofy and grisly here. There's ample opportunity for him to disgust as various, explicit spells are carried out throughout the film, within the then modern 70s atmosphere, freaky sound design and a fast paced tone. Things never truly become scary however and when the special effects climax hit, Black Magic can't really compete. Ho pushes the buttons he can, with a fair degree of success and the film is a bowl of disgusting delight from the horror filmmaking side of Shaw's despite. An often tasty side to the studio.

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The Black Magic With Buddha (1983) Directed by: Lo Lieh

Ben (Chen Kuan-Tai) wants wealth and brings home a brain devil in a box, to be used in his black magic rituals. Along with a bottle of holy water, he knows he can stop the devil if needed. Unfortunately for him but fortunately for us, that bottle of holy water breaks. Let's get it on!

Stiff acting aside, obvious focus for director Lo Lieh is genre content but for the largest amount of time, there's no distinction as such. Oh, there's an amusing sound cue that gets repeated 150 times to accompany any "creepy" moment and the brain devil sights are quite wonderful but to rely on a sole gimmick seems a little modest. Enter Lo Lieh himself in front of the camera and The Black Magic With Buddha begins to take flight.

Playing an quirky, old exorcist, Lo amps the weirdness to very satisfying levels through plot devices such as him allowing a golden buddha to possess him, with some disastrous results concerning gravity and the whole premise of the brain devil finally gets taken up to full throttle level once our final battle begin. It's very welcome, showing a continuation of Lo's fine handling of quirky humour as also seen in Clan Of The White Lotus. From the extensive cannon of horror films from this year and era, The Black Magic With Buddha will probably remain hidden for some time but if you like what you hear, like what the uneven genre offers up, it's a sure bet.

Black Mask 2: City Of Masks (2002) Directed by: Tsui Hark

Tsui Hark has not been unfriendly towards the ideas of bringing Chinese elements to the West. Just look how well The Master turned out. Yes, I'm being sarcastic.

A non-related sequel to what wasn't the best production of his anyway, the Daniel Lee directed Jet Li vehicle still delivered some nifty Hong Kong sensibilities, much thanks to action director Yuen Woo-Ping. It is Tsui and Woo-Ping who continues to roll the ball in the English language re-thread. It's a different beast and it's a poorer beast. Taking an American favourite past time, in this case wrestling, and spicing it up with mutations and Hong Kong style wire-fu, Black Mask 2: City Of Masks could speak to an outrageousness Tsui Hark can bring at the best of times but the whole package is done without any finesse whatsoever. Are we supposed to be impressed by split screen dialogue and CGI created inner body turmoil? Not even the B-movie market audience should be and pushing aside all dopey humour, poor writing and characters for a moment, if the film would've delivered via Yuen Woo-Ping's contribution, some could've been forgiven. Turns out to be not the case though and not only is it uninspired, the choreography is highly indistinct considering whose name is on the credits. Then there's another theory to flash in regards to all this. Watching just the action scenes, concentrating fully on Woo-Ping's work will reveal some positives of the creative kind but then again, in a movie so covered up in silliness, your mind isn't switched off that easy despite when trying to concentrate on what possibly is the best aspect of the film. Black Mask 2: City Of Masks stars Andy On, Teresa Herrera (as the ditsy female sidekick), Tobin Bell (Saw), Jon Polito, Scott Adkins, Traci Lords, Terence Yin and the late Blacky Ko appears in a useless extended cameo. When dubbed into Cantonese for Hong Kong release, the film suddenly turned high profile with Andy Lau taking on the lead role, Cecilia Cheung as the little boy (!) and Jordan Chan voiced Scott Adkins Lang.

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Black Panther (1973) Directed by: Hau Chang

Chen Sing gets framed for drug smuggling by his best friend, breaks out of prison and goes on a revenge rampage. As simple as they come and wisely enough not letting this basher slip over 80 minutes, you have pure rampage and effectiveness present here. Killing in cold blood just to get his revenge (on Lung Fei and his boss played by Yasuaki Kurata), Chen Sing brings the intensity but Nancy Yen also gets a fine fighting showcase and especially within arguably the best and highly suspenseful fight set at a roof.

The Black Panther Warriors (1993) Directed by: Clarence Fok

Clarence Fok's action-comedy has gained somewhat of a cult reputation over the years. Hard not to see why and it all surely has to do with the absolute manic Hong Kong comedy on display. Broad to the max but combined with its over the top nature and the same esthetics to the high flying action choreography, Fok scores points.

Not being able to sustain that silly momentum, Fok almost completely diverts and goes the straight heist thriller route for the rest of the show. A decision leading to The Black Panther Warriors losing much of its colour. Still, whenever the action rears its head again, many wild and creative ideas fly by in rapid speed. Fok's film is simply a matter of taste and a test to see how receptive you are of this relentless assault of wackiness and action. With Alan Tang, Brigitte Lin, Simon Yam, Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Carrie Ng, Melvin Wong and Yuen Wah.

The dvd subtitles are extraordinarily bad with grammar errors in most sentences but it's not high art and strangely adds to the nature of the film. Main credits also claim that 6 (!) cinematographers worked on the film including Arthur Wong and Jingle Ma.

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HK Flix.com

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