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Knight Errant (1973) Directed by: Ding Sin-Saai

Lin Huo-Shan (Jimmy Wang Yu) is a taxi driver who gets into fights, willingly or not, to the point of ruining his family financially at a time where they want to save money to cure the blindness of Huo-Shan's sister. Creating strains between him and his father (Ngai So) therefore, fights will have to come to the forefront as three Japanese fighters (Yasuaki Kurata, Lung Fei and Shan Mao) arrive to claim revenge on Huo-Shan's father...

Modern day effort with Jimmy Wang Yu but nonetheless a versus Japan plot is constructed yet again, Knight Errant fits more into standard tactics that thankfully features Jimmy. More often than not the bashing on display doesn't dazzle but from the saw mill sequence and onwards where the revenge driven Japanese are revealed to be both rapists and inept killers, the fury of Wang Yu gets to shine... albeit only fairly well. Using the structure of this location well, veteran Taiwan director Ding Sin-Saai saves the best for last as Wang Yu goes head to head with badass kung-fu grandma played by Tse Gam-Guk (Queen Of Fist and credited on the English print of Knight Errant as Lady With An Iron Fist). Strong beyond belief, even getting run over by a car doesn't stop this woman! You tally up the elements and get a favourable grade out of the uneven Knight Errant easily therefore. Also known as Dragon Fist.

Buy the DVD at:
Yesasia.com

The Knight Of Old Cathay (1968) Directed by: Li Su

A partly superb swordplay drama examining the feeble notions of revenge and how you ultimately may earn nothing from it, director Li Su offers up plenty of well-staged atmosphere, using among other things the weather elements to his advantage as a secretive mystery slowly is unveiled when Peter Yang Kwan's character goes on his path of revenge. Equally adapt at letting this atmosphere build within very slow passages of film, this is approaching King Hu levels of direction, especially evident in an outdoor fight scene where Yang is outnumbered along with his sword fighting wife. Problem is though that once everybody sits down to slowly talk, talk, talk AND talk, the narrative fizzles out to the point of pure incoherence. Simply put, we're lost and frustrated since director Li Su clearly has a classic firmly in his hands that slips away way too easily. The final emotional push is very good though and Peter Yang Kwan shows what an acting strength he is for this genre in development at the time (see him log some of his best work in Joseph Kuo's King Of Kings).

Korean Connection (1974, Lee Doo-Yong)

The standard, generic kung-fu movie template could come out of Korea as well but noise and brevity is its strengths. A simple yet often muddled narrative about a document and revenge acts as the catalyst for the fight action as expected and here's where Korea does alright for itself after having chosen a basher-style to the proceedings. The complexity of the choreography can feel a little unrefined (certainly applies to the camera work too) but lead Han Yong-Cheol puts on a decent kicking showcase. Combined with a loudness within the brawls and the short running time for its US release, Korean Connection is the definition of a disposable genre-effort that was molded into a suitably brief package in the West thankfully.

Kung Fu Chefs (2009) Directed by: Ken Yip

With the Shaolin Vs Evil Dead-movies (the second of which Ken Yip co-directed) production company My Way tried and sporadically succeeded to evoke Hong Kong genre cinema of the past. Kung Fu Chefs has today's polish (a first for My Way) but evokes a lot of element of yesteryears and in a sleeper hit way genuinely engages. Sammo Hung is master chef Wong Bing-Yi who is disgraced after his apprentice Leung (Sammo's real life son Timmy Hung) sabotages the banquet he's preparing for a village. Re-emerging as the head chef for the struggling restaurant run by sisters Ching (Cherrie Ying) and Ying (Kago Ai), he also takes under his wing a new apprentice (Vaness Wu) with cutting and fighting talent. The master will have to eventually settle his past and deal with the grudges in such characters as Fan Siu-Wong's and the apprentice will have to prove his skills in the ultimate cooking competition...

With that polish also comes a hungry director who despite laying it on thick on with style during certain cooking sequences knows the select moments to choose in terms of this. The energy is engaging and with Yuen Cheung-Yan and Yuen Shun-Yi on board for the action, it's very thrilling to see such scenes shot with stability and clarity plus Sammo still appearing to move well for his age. Kung Fu Chefs doesn't snap into the age old schizophrenic mood of a Hong Kong action comedy thankfully and the drama present actually makes sense. It's as violent as it should be, as clichéd as it should be (think The Karate Kid with cooking instead) and surprisingly heartwarming. What hasn't changed since the 80s/90s however is certain tacked on elements such as Vaness Wu's and Kago Ai's love story and a lot of the broad comedy comes from this Japanese actress too. It's there to be survived easily and Kung Fu Chefs ultimately deserves to be a stronger blimp even on the Sammo fan radar. Also wiith Ku Feng, Bruce Leung, Lee Hoi-Sang and Lam Tze-Chung.

Buy the DVD at:
HK Flix.com
Yesasia.com

Kung Fu Cult Master (1993, Wong Jing)

Based on author Jin Yong's 'The Heaven Sword And Dragon Saber', Wong Jing's movie spends a good 10 minutes rattling off multiple plot developments that makes one think this is movie two out of x amount of adaptations. In fact, it's the first but was clearly aimed to be followed by at least an additional one judging by the open ending. Presumably disappointing box office figures and the popularity of the Wuxia pian trend of the 90s fading figured into a decision that led the creators to move on instead. Unless you're familiar with Jin Yong's work or any other film- or TV-adaptation, it's recommended you find a written recap and setup of the story that you can calmly read and absorb. Then Wong Jing's hyperactive spectacle isn't so hard to keep up with and is definitely easier to admire. There's certainly a plethora of characters to keep track of but a basic understanding of desires and motivation within the fantasy realm depicted here can be grabbed onto. Jet Li has his sights on revenge while sects and clans have their sights on each other and weapons to rule the martial world. This all gives way to surprisingly sporadic Wong Jing-comedy and instead a focus on momentum. Rarely letting up in the verbal and certainly not physical developments and altercations, on hand is Sammo Hung to direct the wire assisted action. And there's some inspired, visual tactics on display here, with most of it undercranked. Working well and even splendidly so as the characters are flying, displaying (to audiences) unpredictable powers whose effects are mostly done in camera (with select visual effects shots), it's only when Hung keeps action grounded that the performers are bouncing around in a noticeably unnatural fashion due to said filmspeed. But even when that creativity is not the focus, Wong Jing and Sammo just make sure that the film has a pace to it, with the camera often moving to emphasize this. It's easy for the story to get lost underneath what IS excess but when it's quite extensive, violent, imaginative and even brilliant moments of excess, we take basic understanding and even accept a degree of incoherency. Also with Chingmy Yau, Sammo Hung, Sharla Cheung, Ngai Sing, Francis Ng and Leung Kar-Yan.

The Kung Fu Emperor (1981) Directed by: Pao Hsueh-Li

Ti Lung is the 4th prince, son of an ailing emperor and forces who wants him to be the successor of the throne asks him to play dumb and go out amidst the people to get a sense of the emperor THEY want. Well crafted production technically, populated with genre familiars and fine martial arts choreography director Pao (an understudy of Chang Cheh's) maintains interest initially but the long section of the film with the 4th prince outside the walls stalls the movie. Little clarity or coherency remain and while the kung fu is continually a highlight, before we sensed a movie that could appeal to us on a broad scale but instead it gets lost in disinterest. Also with Dorian Tan, Chen Sing, Shih Szu and Wong Ching.

Kung Fu Executioner (1981) Directed by: Lin Chan-Wai

You don't expect a violent gangster/martial arts picture out of a title like this but that unexpected trait holds unexpected treats. Billy Chong along with excellent martial artist Carl Scott (previously paired up with Chong in Sun Dragon) gets drawn into a gangster war between two families and the bodies start piling up. A clichéd and average plot kept afloat well via a dedication to a dark mood, bloody and primal violence and to make martial arts part of it is a choice that makes sense. Because not only are the likes of Billly Chong and Scott pretty electrifying once they engage in the choreography but the tone of the fast and intricate choreography holds its share of primal darkness too. It genuinely feels dangerous as Chong takes on multiple swordsmen and best of all Kong Do in the next to last fight in the movie. That Bruce Lee-style yells were dubbed into at least the English language version of the film feels rather desperate and unnecessary. Kung fu fans would know they've seen far more boring narrative stretches in between the main selling point. Also with Chen Sing in a dependable villainous turn.

The Kung Fu Fever (1979) Directed by: Kim Si-Hyeon

A hilarious contradiction occurs right up front when the filmmakers claim The Kung Fu Fever is not based on any real persons or events yet it DEPICTS THE DEATH OF BRUCE LEE! Who said Bruceploitation was logical but many rightfully claimed it was a lot of fun. Dragon Lee (here credited as Bruce Rhee) stars as Rickie Chan, one of Bruce Lee's students and after circumstances that leads to his master's death (circumstances that are not very clear which is a sign of respect by the sensationalist filmmakers as they refrain by putting forth a theory thankfully), he and friends are chased by various people in search of the book of finger techniques as developed by Bruce. After some all too familiar footage from Bruce Lee's real funeral (making these sensationalist filmmakers lose all respect they gained a sentence ago), Rickie fights through various dumb henchmen of Shu Mu's (Martin Chui) including an opponent using the Iron Head-Technique but flown in from the US of A, enter Ron (Ron Van Clief - Black Dragon)...

One group of thugs even leads a cabaret troupe. Yep, a lot of amusement comes packaged with The Kung Fu Fever which may not be competently staged, is definitely overlong but has enough goofy details to make it memorable. One starts with the student of Bruce Lee's, Rickie Chan, who apparently feels he has to or has been made to act just like Bruce. He appears in the Game Of Death tracksuit for no reason, he of course owns the glasses and ghastly shirts and when it then comes to mimicking the mannerisms... oh boy. Dragon Lee is possibly the one impersonator taking it TOO seriously. Really looking more mentally handicapped when in fight mode than sincerely paying tribute, somehow there IS sincerity in Dragon Lee, albeit a bit misguided. The dubbing is classic stuff with a variety of wacky voices, accents and lastly, Amy Chum (My Mother Is A Belly Dancer) has a sexy leather suit on all throughout the film. It's likeable stuff as well as shameless but god, it's hard to stay angry at the film. Director Kim Si-Hyeon helmed several Dragon Lee vehicles including the South Korean movie IFD acquired and re-titled Secret Ninja, Roaring Tiger (hence Godfrey Ho getting a directorial credit on that one).

Kung Fu Genius (1979) Directed by: Wilson Tong

Despite gathering up a cast that had performed under master Lau Kar Leung's masterful eye for martial arts action, Wilson Tong's Kung Fu Genius never sparkles. Stock plot aside (rivalry between martial arts schools), Tong fills the running time with wall to wall action (including spirit boxing, monkey style and most bizarre of all, duck style) yet overall never achieves an exciting flow to the choreography, sometimes even leaning towards sluggish. Some of that can be due to Cliff Lok's obvious rough transition from real life martial artist to on-screen fighter and him as a lighthearted hero never is a choice that gels either. One of the fights that does work well however is a weapons one between Lok and Hsiao Hou. Kung Fu Genius also co-stars the alternate Dean Shek of the time, Cheng Hong Yip as well as Lee Hoi San, San Sin and Wilson Tong.

Kung Fu Jungle (2014, Teddy Chen)

Dedicated to a slew of iconic directors and performers that defined Hong Kong cinema, Teddy Chen's modern martial arts picture doesn't exactly provide a throwback where that dedication connects to his chosen story at hand here. But it's a very valuable nod to make because these people tend to be forgotten to time and he even got most to appear in cameos for his Donnie Yen vehicle at hand here. A fun mix of the traditional beats of a martial arts movie in a modern setting, Donnie Yen is a kung fu master that seems to know a thing or two about the continual murders of other masters by Fung Yu Sau (Wang Bao-Qiang) so he's let out of jail to assist police (headed by Charlie Young). With the prison brawl setting the tone action-wise with decent clarity and brutality, the movie then unashamedly goes high concept and really feels like the martial world intruding on our real one. But it's an easy buy because of the energy provided by in particular our villain played by Wang Bao-Qiang and also when we understand the reasoning behind it, Teddy has managed to establish a fun balance between the traditional in a new package. It doesn't attempt to make that much of a meaningful statement but how you navigate the world with martial arts, where skill can and should take you is entertaining to have in this merging of style and settings. When trying to be dramatic with backstories, the movie falls pretty flat and unfortunately Charlie Young is given a very standard cop-role with no interesting layers or beats to work with. Released as Kung Fu Killer internationally.

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