# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
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The Mars Villa (1978) Directed by: Ting Chung

The export trailer tried to sell The Mars Villa as a "kung fu picture with a difference" and with an "unexpected plot". Which is funny because already at that point, the story staples presented surely was getting old. Regardless, The Mars Villa stands the test of time thanks to John Liu whose kicking abilities lives up to the reputation. In between all that, director Ting Chung does nothing out of the ordinary but admittedly, for an independent martial arts production, the scenes of Liu having fallen from grace and into insanity are unexpectedly affecting. Also with Phillip Ko Fei, Tong Bo Wan, Chan Chia Kai & Suen Yuet.

Crash Cinema's release offers up the original Mandarin language version with English subtitles on a separate dvd.

The Marshes Of Liang Shan Po (1984, Ma Shing)

Also known as Warriors Of The Water Margin, the movie may connect to the epic, written work but in reality is so basic and self contained that it's easy to follow without preparation. Rebels are fighting for the people and the rulers want to squash them (centering around a martial arts tournament). Easy enough, well designed, costumed and shot in a grounded way. Meaning there's not an epic, sweeping nature but a rather realistic tone in terms of style. This doesn't generate a cinematic effect though and by the hour point the disconnect to characters and conflict is what's present instead. Backed up by solid martial arts action though (in particular the tournament fights), we get a marginal and competent 90 minutes on offer here. Competence that does not linger however.

Martial Arts Master Wong Fei Hung (1992) Directed by: Lee Chiu

Low budget new wave kung-fu entry with positives such as acrobatic stuntman, actor Chin Kar-Lok getting a rare lead role (as Wong Fei-Hung) and solid martial arts. However Lee Chiu's frame is flat and dull, showing a lack of skill to work a low budget to his advantage. Sufficient sets and costumes never pop nor does the standard story of Wong Fei-Hung battling the growing influence of opium and Japanese fighter Jiubinku Kyoto (Lam Ching-Ying). However the mix of grounded and wire assisted martial arts makes the movie sparkle at times, with Chin Kar-Lok showing how well he is suited for this approach. The wisdom put forth that despite a wire-fu craze in motion grounded choreography should dominate is a major plus point as well. But these peaks do not create momentum for the movie as a whole. Also with Ng Suet-Man, Suen Kwok-Ming and Kwan Hoi-San.

Martial Arts Of Shaolin (1985) Directed by: Lau Kar Leung

Martial Arts Of Shaolin (aka Shaolin Temple 3) marked the first and only collaboration between former Wushu champion turned martial arts star Jet Li and legendary martial arts director Lau Kar Leung. Released at the end of the Shaw Brother's era as we know it, it was also Lau's last contribution to the studio until until 2002's Drunken Monkey. Martial Arts Of Shaolin does feature most of the same cast that first was beautifully showcased in Shaolin Temple (1982) but it's merely a sequel in name only so there's no catching up to do via the prior Mainland China productions.

Shaw's teamed up with Pearl River Film for this one and one of the finest assets of the production is the marvelous location work. Not only was the actual Shaolin Temple once more used but excursions to the Forbidden City, The Great Wall and a climax at the Yangtze river makes this stand out from all the efforts at the Shaw's stages that Lau previously had filmed on.

While the plot is no great shakes and basically utilizes the first movie and most others revenge storyline, it's a genuine treat to see all these actual Wushu performers perform under the direction of Lau. They're not the best screen fighters Lau ever directed but they're clearly not in need of aid in terms of wires or doubling either, especially not young Jet Li in his absolute prime. Lau Kar Leung bid farewell to Shaw Brother's in fine and grand style, firmly sealing his status as the greatest martial arts filmmaker in the world.

Romeo Diaz and James Wong also provide a score that lingers, in a very welcome way, long after the final frame.

Buy the DVD at:
Yesasia.com

Martial Club (1981) Directed by: Lau Kar Leung

More terrific martial arts action from Lau Kar Leung that has something to say (also see Lau's first stint at portraying the Wong Fei Hung legend in Challenge Of The Masters). Gordon Lau reprises his role as Wong Fei Hung who has to let go of his mischievous ways and firmly adopt the different facets of morals and virtues in the martial arts world. Although his transition is all too quick to be accepted on a proper filmmaking level.

You have broad comedy, rivalry between schools but it's clear as we move along that the emphasis on proper manners is going to be an important part of Lau's narrative. He succeeds greatly despite flaws, combining that with terrific hand to hand- and weapons action. Most important to note is that the choreography speaks to the set themes, which is not all out usual for the genre. Along with a fun intro explaining the rules of lion dancing, Martial Club displays a fine merging of the superior production values at Shaw Brother's, martial arts action from an ever so versatile mind and a thematic mindset that seemed to shine very little in martial arts cinema. Martial Club is the kind of effort that gets copied, only then it lacks the heart, mind and soul. Ku Feng, an outstanding Johnny Wang, Wilson Tong and Robert Mak also appear. Although barely used, the few forays into acrobatics courtesy of Hsiao Hou is memorable. Kara Hui deserves to be mentioned just because her character is another one of the few disappointing aspects of the film. It's the sheer ignorance and impulsive nature to her that doesn't ring true to Hui's persona (especially compared to the performance in My Young Auntie). Then again, one form of counterpart to Wong Fei Hung was needed but Lau's choice of Hui for that becomes a detraction sadly.

Buy the DVD at:
Yesasia.com

Martial Hero (1972) Directed by: Li Chiu Ming

You could call Martial Hero a cheap Bruce Lee rip off but fear not, it's not an early Bruceploitation (despite lead Yeung Wai credited as Bruce Kong) offering but rather a template being re-used to fine effect. Yeung Wai is Canton boy who runs a noodle stand and decides to TAKE a stand against the injustices forced upon the working people by the oppressing local thugs. High quality power in the bashing-esque choreography follows where little seems unnaturally cranked and a lot seems like a rare breed of quality for a low budget early 70s production. French VHS print also runs 69 minutes which is in reality probably shorter than original but also suitably perfect for a basic, violent and at times stylish piece of genre offering that in reality probably also honor the impact of a certain Bruce Lee by making an equal picture. Also with Tina Chin Fei.

The Mask Heroine (1969) Directed by: Gwan Jing-Leung

Although fairly straightforward story-wise, even this aspect is very crude in The Mask Heroine. Certainly you can't expect King Hu-level in every Taiwanese Wuxia pian in the wake of Dragon Inn and in reality the local cinema was still in a kind of infancy. Some productions, especially from Union Films, had the technical know how and drive but smaller ones like Gwan Jing-Leung's 1969 effort fares less well. Or incredibly poorly rather. Featuring a lot of outdoor shooting and indistinct characters, it certainly tries on a small budget to convey the fantasy elements. But through stiff action and pace, few elements have a chance to matter. Also known as The Lady Musketeer.

A Massacre Survivor (1979) Directed by: Dung Gam-Woo

Rejecting an offer to assassin a royal and overthrow the dynasty, Kao Jo-Hsueh's (Shih Szu) father and men are massacred and the only survivor is the daughter. Swearing to take revenge, she is put through rigorous training and along the way encounters the Prince of the Eastern Palace (Chung Wa) who becomes an important alley. Dung Gam-Woo's formulaic story is spiced up with intensity and a darkness that is welcome. Rain plays a part and revenge is played up to a very emotional level to the point where Jo Hsueh trusts nothing and noone but her own blood thirsty instincts. A stance that isn't bulletproof. Much of this drama is rather slight though and would've worked better with more of a charismatic star lead. Shih Szu has the fury and beauty in place but not ALL of it. Yuen Cheung-Yan's and Corey Yuen's action delivers expectedly though with multiple, intricate bouts that are at their peak the more outrageous the weaponry becomes. Highlight still remains the always fun genre staple in the form of the training sequences. Also with Lung Fei, Wong Chung, Yuen Cheung-Yan, Corey Yuen and Yuen Yat-Choh.

The Master And The Kid (1978) Directed by: Lin Fu-Ti

With obvious nods to the Lone Wolf And Cub-series and despite looking and feeling a little bit more bulkier as a production, The Master And The Kid is in reality a Taiwanese cheapie with occasional outrageous imagery. A big chase scenario mostly set outdoors (a sign of low budget), there's nothing to truly connect to other than genre content and action-wise it does ok for itself. Mixing grounded exchanges and some bigger wire-assisted concepts, this is where the noise happens. Especially when the wire feats are quite epic in scope and at one point a fighter explodes post-fight! All played straight, all overall competent but also so mild in feel that impact is lacking. John Williams, Jean Michel Jarre and Ennio Morricone are some of the composers whose work is used without permission here.

Master Killer (1980) Directed by: Wong Hung-Cheung

Blacky Ko and Casanova Wong play re-united brothers who must execute revenge on the ruling overlord (Phillip Ko) of the town as he killed their father. Generics and baring not just a little resemblance to Snake In The Eagle's Shadow and Drunken Master, what Master Killer doesn't have in its favour is the amount of annoying comedy-style present for one. Pratfalls, sound effects to accompany them and Chan Lau being aggravating to the max as the slimey assistant to Phillip Ko, not even the intricate comedy routines that echoes mentioned classic vehicles gets any acceptance. Plus, Blacky Ko as our Jacky Chan-esque lead doesn't exactly make himself fit but with the such a physical cast, sometime the film must deliver something you would think. And oh yes it does. After Blacky has been educated by the beggar/sifu in different ways of fighting Empress-style (Drunken Empress-technique is taught for instance), the intricacy in several fighting scenes is very much spot on. The mammoth finale with Blacky, Casanova and Phillip seals the deal perfectly and generics certainly made themselves look great here eventually.

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