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# 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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Snake And Crane Arts Of Shaolin (1978) Directed by: Chen Chi-Hwa

Serious and straightforward but with strong, well conveyed hints of the lighthearted martial arts mixture that was just around the corner for Jackie Chan, Snake And Crane Arts Of Shaolin seems busy but is quite simple. Everybody's after a martial arts manual Jackie's Hsu Yin-Fung gladly informs he's in the possession of but it's his way of trying to find a man with a specific mark on his chest that may have something to do with the disappearance of a group of Shaolin monks. Co-choreographed by Chan, the martial arts is largely terrific with Chan bringing intricate, acrobatic traits to what is both traditional martial arts for the screen but it's also infused with comedy. It works less well for a couple of sequences towards the middle and certainly not when Chan is NOT involved but the parade of fighters (and hence parade of fight SCENES) throughout culminating in an astonishing finale (with Jackie taking on the main villain twice, with an interlude of him versus three spear man) remains strong to this day. Especially fun to go back to an actual kung fu picture with Jackie who would create a style less concerned with that as the career really took a leap into stunts in the 80s.

Snake-Crane Secret (1978) Directed by: Wu Ma

Familiar story structure of Ming vs Ching, rebellion, a secret name list, some comedy and Dean Shek as a badass?! It could connect, it could create a disconnect. Largely Wu Ma (a very solid director) goes through the familiar paces and phases and while the action is solid, even that comes off as somewhat tired. Solid watch for the brief stay in your life but I had 5/10 expectations out of this considering it was Wu Ma.

Snake Deadly Act (1980) Directed by: Wilson Tong

image stolen with permission from Dragon's Den UK

When Eastern Heroes in the UK released Wilson Tong's Snake Deadly Act on video back in 1995, it had reportedly been hard to obtain ever since its run in 1980. It's notable for that as well as being the only starring vehicle for Ng Kun Lung and for also featuring one of the most abrupt endings in martial arts cinema history.

But that's not really notable positives as such and Snake Deadly Act doesn't come off as anything special, even though it certainly doesn't try either. The obvious template is the successful one set by Snake In The Eagle's Shadow and in particular Drunken Master with Ng Kun Lung being launched as a Jackie Chan style hero here. Ng does have abilities, no doubt, but doesn't possess any of the winning charisma that Jackie had brought. Even with solid players outside of Ng's casting such as Wilson Tong, Fung Hak-On, Chan Wai Man, Phillip Ko and Angela Mao, the end result is just an assembly line product. Tong's action is lively and intricate but lacks a certain polish that the best of the action directors had. Despite, Snake Deadly Act is a harmless waste of time and don't expect a gem just because it once was rare. Also with Bolo, Tai Po and Cheng Hong-Yip.

In an odd move, Eastern Heroes dvd presentation uses the same subtitled print found on the VHS release but drops the original Cantonese track in favour of an English dub only. The tape is still readily available though.

Snake In The Eagle's Shadow (1978) Directed by: Yuen Woo-Ping

A classic not so much based on its depth and weight as part of the martial arts genre but more having to do with the impact it had when released in 1978. Star Jackie Chan was on loan from Lo Wei's production company to Seasonal Film Corporation and it proved to be a masterful decision on producer Ng See-Yuen's behalf. Snake In The Eagle's Shadow became a box-office hit and established Jackie as a bonafide star after years of making unsuccessful movies under the direction of Lo Wei. His agility, lightness of body and innocent charm is one of the many reasons why Snake In The Eagle's Shadow still holds up.

Snake In The Eagle's Shadow certainly wasn't the first kung-fu comedy but it firmly ignited the combination at the box-office. It doesn't set the house on fire today, at least not with Westerners, as much of the comedy is broad but when placing the comedy within action choreography, it holds up better and is fun. The traditional martial arts on display is entertaining and intricate as well, with the best elements found in the latter reels. All this of course orchestrated by Yuen Woo-Ping behind the scenes in his directing debut and as an actual storyteller, he gets surprising warmth out of the relationship between Jackie and Simon Yuen's (Yuen Woo-Ping real life father) characters. Simon would from this point on by synonymous with the beggar character, drunken or not, and leaves a charismatic impression in this first outing when doning his classic wear. Korean superkicker and legendary movie villain, Hwang Jang Lee, having debuted in Secret Rivals at Seasonal, brings much power as the Eagle's Claw master. So much so that he knocked out a tooth of Jackie Chan's while filming their first fight, a shot that's in the film. If that incident is due to the finale being disappointingly short, I can't say, but that fact is one of the true disappointments of the film. Dean Shek, Peter Chan Lung, Fung Hark On, Hsu Hsia and Roy Horan also appear.

The remastered Mei Ah dvd of course features the uncut version of cat vs. cobra fight, a scene that still won't pass censors in the United Kingdom due to their stance on animal cruelty and it's hard not to squirm even though it's a storyelement. It definitely does disrupt what is a rather light, generic but very important genre effort.

Buy the DVD at:
Yesasia.com

Snake In The Monkey's Shadow (1979, Cheung Sum)

One of the few kung-fu comedies that gets by and then some by bringing nothing new to the table... other than fine execution of genre-tropes and clichés. Even this close to Jackie Chan's breakthrough performance in Snake In The Eagle's Shadow, productions were not deviating from the formula. Which includes putting a young, initially abused hero front and center who learns martial arts, gets inspired by merging animal techniques and exterior location-work as this is an indie after all. But through the casting of a fairly charming John Cheung and not letting anyone's comedic persona run amok, seeing and experiencing all the familiarity is more than welcome. Especially since Wilson Tong's action choreography is also largely splendid, with creativity and even basic story context connecting well to his fight-scenes. Only letdown is that he gives us a complex 2 on 1 fight before the finale... which is also a 2 on 1 fight. Problem isn't repetition or that it's bad. Problem is that it's not as good.

The Snake Prince (1976) Directed by: Lo Chen

A tribe is begging the gods for water as a drought has been plaguing them. Looked at curiously by a trio of snake spirits (the snake prince himself Ti Lung accompanied by Wong Yue and Ng Hong-Sang), they decide to interact with the humans and help them as their mountain has an endless supply of water. The prince falls for village girl Hei Qin (Lam Jan-Kei - Dangerous Encounter - 1st Kind) and this sets into motion first warning that snakes were never destined to mix with humans. Facing violent resistance, betrayal and man showing its worse traits such as greed, along the way they also SING! Yes, this colourful and beautifully designed Shaw brothers production is also a musical. Both beautiful and groovy, combine this with often awkward dance choreography and The Snake Prince is hard to resist on a smile at and with kind of level. Taking dark turns about the hour mark (and boosting its sellable elements by featuring nudity and a human/snake sex scene), director Lo Chen engages quite decently despite seemingly elements clashing. It doesn't hurt that the finale is a full on monster battle with above average snake puppets vs the villagers out for blood. Also with Lam Wai-Tiu and Norman Tsui.

Snake Shadow, Lama Fist (1979) Directed by: Chu Mu

A movie feeling like it wants to be impenetrable but in fact it wants success like Jackie Chan had the year before and Snake Shadow, Lama Fist makes that disguise look very transparent and ugly. Accompanied by some of most known pieces from the Star Wars soundtrack, opening credits cartoon versions of characters to be seen in the movie, yes it does go down annoying comedic paths but is mostly a straight faced revenge story starring Chi Kuan-Chun. Good casting as Chi can done the serious face, the serious hurt but no one is attempting any personal depth here. It would've been fine had we understood any motivations or known who anyone is plus there's very little kung-fu action that until the final, decent reel is mostly set at night to boot.

The Snake Strikes Back (1982) Directed by: Godfrey Ho

Back from when IFD were Joseph Lai AND Tomas Tang and therefore no apparent ninja craze was present to cash in on, this South Korean martial arts vehicle was brought into the hands of IFD for re-dubbing and possible cutting (but no pasting). The Snake Strikes Back gives that impression, of someone attempting to speed up the already unbearable film so that audiences wouldn't feel like captives for a torturous 90 minutes. As a matter of fact, the Godfrey Ho stamp of approval doesn't change the original so original director along with Ho will get disapproval for a nonsense filled time but approval for the kooky elements present. Elton Chong plays an abused youngster who after some plot incoherency about him being the Master Of Absolutes and bad guys after that title as well as the Book Of Invincible, turns to a big bellied beggar (Mike Wong) for his proper martial arts training. Teaching techniques of working blindly but also channeling the energy hidden in your stomach, here's where the select few minutes of film equals wonderful, especially the finale where Elton graduates (yes, he gets his own deadly belly). A few Eagle Han Ying scenes of legwork are otherwise noteworthy as well as various Wuxia style weaponry. All in all, one can definitely praise IFD for having the eyes open for the light stuff because it is what makes The Snake Strikes Back and possibly sold it. Also re-titled by IFD to Dragoneer 10 The Remarkable.

The Sniping (1990) Directed by: Wilson Tong

A prison break (involving Norman Tsui, Eric Tsang and Huang Ha) has the cops (one of which, played by former Shaw Brothers director Chor Yuen, has a personal score to settle), triad hitmen and a private investigator (Alex Man) after the trio. Unlikely alliances occur along the way and Eric Tsang isn't that annoying. In fact, The Sniping is one of Wilson Tong's sharper movies as director. Looking dangerously cheap and bare at points, Tong actually pushes the thriller- and action buttons quite well despite the low budget look. Sufficient character, well paced and at times grim and bloody, The Sniping is also only one genre essentially. Not five, including comedy, as per many Hong Kong action movies of the time. Also with Irene Wan, Chen Kuan-Tai, Phillip Ko, Fung Hak-On and Dion Lam.

So Close (2003) Directed by: Corey Yuen

When talking about pure entertainment, popcorn flicks, there seems to be a movement among fans that those films automatically become good if you just turn off your brain and enjoy. I agree with that but it takes, a risky word to use, skill to pull that off. This year's The Twins Effect was a perfect example of how to not do braindead entertainment. Corey Yuen's So Close is a good example of well executed braindead entertainment. The recipe for success in this case; the ladies!

No, it's not the saviour of a declining Hong Kong action cinema. No, it's not very good as a film but forget all about that and let Shu Qi, Zhao Wei and the under-appreciated Karen Mok be your companionship for 2 hours of Hong Kong action cinema the way it's done in 2003. Corey Yuen takes quite a huge leap forward in action directing compared to his Hollywood work and what's on display in So Close I would say is what you get out of main performers that aren't classically trained. You hide it with a frenetic camera language and quick-cuts but as the movie progresses, the action becomes quite a delight. The ladies perform as much as they can which I admired in the neat fight between Shu and Karen. Plus the movie is so stylistically over the top, practically a fashion showcase, that you can't help to be sucked into the outrageous action feats the women perform.

With a script that is overly melodramatic at times, the biggest surprise comes in the emotional punch the Shu Qi/Zhao Wei sister relationship packs. It's so much thanks to enough dedication from the bonafide moviestar Shu Qi and rising talent Zhao Wei that it's not a tedious wait between the action. Considering it's this genre, I was thoroughly surprised at what director Corey Yuen managed to do with this Columbia Asia financed project. Thumbs up believe it or not but again, Hong Kong action cinema hasn't been saved. So Close however is a standout, despite it being quite laughable, much like China Strike Force was.

Both Chinese language tracks have dubbing but I prefer the Mandarin track since it features Shu Qi and Vicky Zhao's sync sound performances as opposed to the Cantonese track where they're dubbed by someone else.

Buy the DVD at:
Yesasia.com

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