Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Review #7: THE TRAIL OF THE BROKEN BLADE (1967)

Review #7: THE TRAIL OF THE BROKEN BLADE (1967)














Released March 4, 1967, THE TRAIL OF THE BROKEN BLADE was produced by Sir Run Run Shaw. The prolific Chang Cheh directed, scripted and wrote the lyrics to the songs. Based on the title, I would say this production was influenced by the popular westerns of the day in the movies and on television. As far as I can tell, this is the first "eastern / western".  The skilled team of Liu Chia-Liang and Tang Chia did the fight choreography. Let’s get busy. 

Kiu Chong as Fung Jun Zhao


Planning the caper

The prize!

Fang Jun Zhao is one of the top, up and coming students of Wu Dang Mountain. While on his way back to Wu Dang, he stops at a very small in  Guandong Province for a rest. From the room next door he overhears a planned robbery of the household of retired Commander-in-Chief, Liu Xian. The bandits planning the robbery are persuading the younger son of the Flying Fish Island Clan Chief named Tu Hu, to help them because of the superior martial arts of the Liu family. The head bandit entices Tu Hu, not only with the promise of plenty of money but with a description of Liu Xian’s daughter, Liu Zhen’Er as the village beauty and how he could enjoy her thoroughly as she is “a perfect match for someone as bright as you.”



Later that same night, the bandits attempt the robbery but Fang Junzhao assists Liu Xian and his daughter the end result being all of the bandits dead and Tu Hu severely wounded by Fang’s dart and escaping back to Flying Fish Island. 

After the crisis, Liu Xian asks Fang Junzhao to stay a few days and instruct his daughter in the way of the sword. What Zhen’Er’s father really hopes is that Junzhao and Zhen’Er form a bond and then fall in love so that his daughter can forget her childhood love: Li Yue





Li Yue is the son of the former Commander-In-chief of Zhejiang, the great hero, Li Tian Cong. Tragically; this great hero was falsely convicted and imprisoned all for the benefit of a crooked Imperial Minister. After his father died in prison, Li Yue murdered the Imperial Minister and has been on the run ever since.

When Fang Jun Zhao hears this heartbreaking story from Zhen’ Er's lips his chivalry takes over and he swears a platonic friendship with her and vows to find Li Yue and unite the two lovers to prove his honor and their friendship. 


"I must find Li Yue of Jiangnan"


Meanwhile, Tu Hu has made it back to Flying Fish Island but his injury has taken the ultimate toll as he offers up the fatal dart to answer his family’s question of “who has done this to you?” His father orders his eldest son to take his four henchmen with him to find this Fang Jun Zhao.
So we have the two sets of travelers headed to their destinations fated to meet each other and provide us with this early tale of the Jiang Hu and the chivalry of heroic bloodshed.

Jimmy Wang Yu as Li Yue of  Jiangnan

CAST REPORT
the good: Jimmy Wang Yu as Li Yue / Jiang Qi. Kiu Chong as Fung Jun Zhao. Chin Ping as Liu Chen Erh. Lisa Chiao Chiao as Shi Xiao Mei. Wei Pin-Ao as Shi Gan. Fan Mei-Sheng as Hu Zi.

the bad: Tien Feng as Chief Tu Qian Qiu. Chen Hung-Lieh as Tu Long. Wang Kuang-Yu as Tu Hu, Leopard Skin.

SPOTTED: Liu Chia Liang, Tang Chia, Liu Chia Yung, Wu Ma, Cheng Lui,  Cliff Lok and Pang Pang.

HONORABLE MENTION: According to HKMDB and the release date of THE TRAIL OF THE BROKEN BLADE (1967) this is Yuen Shun Yi’s (of the Yuen Clan) first movie appearance.

Liu Chia-Liang


FIGHT TIME: THE TRAIL OF THE BROKEN BLADE (1967) features the fight choreography of Liu Chia Liang and Tang Chia. I counted 6 (six) fight scenes including its very long finale in the one hour and forty-four minute movie, which to be honest, is not quite as much as in past movies. With the genre being only 7 projects old in the span of two years, I am mindful to not be too harsh in my analysis of the techniques. Using a system of “pass” or “fail” this movie’s fights are definitely a “pass”.


HONORABLE MENTION: Jimmy Wang Yu looks excellent in his fight scenes and director Chang Cheh wisely gives him the majority of the screen time and stunts. 



RECOMMENDATION: THE TRAIL OF THE BROKEN BLADE (1967) has enough characterization, plot and action to entertain you and hold your interest. As the first “eastern / western”, and an early Shaw Brothers classic it is also certainly collectible. Therefore it should come as no surprise that I call for you to take out your cards or cash and pick this one up as a “must have”!  On a personal note I would love to discuss as a film group just what is it that motivates a writer / director to resolve a story in the controversial way that Chang Cheh does in this movie. That’s it for now, see you next time.





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NEXT UP: 
THE SWORD AND THE LUTE (1967)






Thursday, April 13, 2017

Review #6: THAT MAN IN CHANG-AN (1967): the first kung fu comedy!

REVIEW #6: 
THAT MAN IN CHANG-AN (1967): the first kung fu comedy!















Shaw Brothers’ first movie of 1967, THAT MAN IN CHANG-AN (1967) very quietly set history as the first wuxia / comedy ever made. Released February 18th, 1967 it was produced by Sir Run Run Shaw and directed by veteran director Yan Jun. Ting Shan-Hsi wrote the script, only his second film, but the film he wrote before this one was the great COME DRINK WITH ME (1966) in an effort with King Hu. THAT MAN IN CHANG-AN (1967) is not as popular as other Shaw Brothers films of this period and while I have read other reviews of this movie there is not a lot of information on the making of the film and the audience’s reception of it. So we will just dig in and experience it for ourselves, in other words – let’s get busy!

KEYSTONE COPS chase scene
Empress Lu wants to replace the king of Zhongdu with her nephew. She sends an Imperial Edit to her nephew, General Lu Kun to assassinate the king of Zhongdu, King Dai Liu Heng and take his place as king in that province. So, General Lu Kun puts a scheme in place to frame King Dai Liu Heng for treachery so he may take the king’s head but when it comes time to take the king’s head does he do it? Noooooo, he decides to hold the king’s mother hostage and the place the king under house arrest so that he can marry the king’s sister and… what in the world is he doing?!? 


It says we are a comedy... what's a "comedy"?

It does not make any sense but spoofs rarely do. This delightful send up of the plot devices used in the spy movies that were coming to be popular in the sixties was a great idea but to set it in ancient China is probably where it threw everybody off. The movie itself is very funny in certain places but defies logic in just as many places and so while one should only have fun with it, the movie is set in a genre where everything is taken very, very seriously. What a challenge!


And what am I --blind?

Kim Jin-Kyu aka the Masked Man aka That Man in Chang-An aka Zhuang Bai the alchemist

CAST REPORT
the good: Kim Jin-Kyu as Zhuang Bai aka, The Masked Man aka, That Man in Chang-An. Fang Ying as Princess Wen Yang. Alison Chang Yen as Hong-er. Tien Feng as King Dai Liu Heng. Yan Jun as Cao Wu.

the bad: Park Nou-Sik as General Lu Kun. Cheung Kwong-Chiu as General Zhang. Chiu Ming as General Tian Ying.

HONORABLE MENTION: Kim Jin-Kyu as That Man in Chang-An. Mr. Kim totally sells his character as comedic when he has to and serious when he needs to, perfect casting!


SPOTTED: Fan Mei-Sheng as Cao Wu’s waiter. 

Fan Mei-Sheng 

What do you mean "you have to go??!"

FIGHT TIME: THAT MAN IN CHANG-AN (1967) has no fight choreographer credited. I counted eight (8) fight scenes scattered throughout the movie. For the most part they are short scenes with the exception of the four-minute finale. These fight scenes are basically by the numbers “one, two, three – kill” sword fights, rarely (there are exceptions, mostly during the finale.) more that two attackers at a time no matter how many soldiers enter the scene. There is also some last minute under cranking during the finally that just adds to the humor of the entire film, believe me, you do not watch this film for the fights.


HONORABLE MENTION: Alison Chang Yen’s (as Hong-er) double daggers versus soldiers with swords and spears fight scenes with its very direct maneuvering and quick-kill counters, were the best fights in the entire movie hands down. No nonsense, practical self defense techniques, bravo!




RECOMMENDATION: THAT MAN IN CHANG-AN (1967) is an automatic recommendation as a purchase because it is collectible as the first wuxia / comedy ever made. I was very animated while watching this movie with its the humorous moments and with the sheer ridiculousness of some of the scenarios presented, so I am definitely recommending it for the average viewer for pure popcorn entertainment! This movie is funny, period. That’s me for now, see you next time.




If you liked this review please comment on the blog, become a follower of the blog, join me on my Facebook account by sending me a message first and then a friend request so I know who I am friending (  https://www.facebook.com/Michael529P   ) and like my Facebook page: SHAW Brothers Kung Fu Movies 1965-1986. I thank you and would appreciate it very much!



NEXT UP: THE TRAIL OF THE BROKEN BLADE (1967)


Saturday, March 11, 2017

REVIEW #5: THE MAGNIFICENT TRIO (1966)

REVIEW #5:
 THE MAGNIFICENT TRIO (1966)










Released October 08th, 1966, THE MAGNIFICENT TRIO (1966) reunites the cast and crew of TIGER BOY (1964). TIGER BOY was “an experiment” Sir Run Run Shaw permitted Chang Cheh to engage in to produce a new genre in films provided Mr. Cheh kept expenses low. To that end Mr. Cheh used all new actors in the starring roles, used no martial arts action directors and filmed the movie in black and white. Chang Cheh also wrote and directed the film that was not released until Sir Run Run Shaw was convinced that the new genre was indeed a success. TIGER BOY was given a limited release February 16th, 1966 according to HKMDB (Hong Kong Movie Database).  Elder brother, Runme Shaw produced THE MAGNIFICENT TRIO with the script written once again by the director, Chang Cheh adapted from the Japanese movie: THREE OUTLAW SAMURAI (1964). Tang Chia and Liu Chia Liang were the action directors. Let’s get busy!





"CLICK" to enlarge and read more about TIGER BOY (1964)


THE MAGNIFICENT TRIO (1966) takes place during the twilight of the Ming Dynasty in China as the Han people fight off the Manchu invaders of the north. After a fierce battle the Manchu forces have some Han forces surrounded. Commander Lu Fang, the grandson of the Ming General has escaped the Han troop's encirclement and is on his way to see the Imperial Minister Yuan to request reinforcements when he comes across three villagers kidnapping a young noble woman. 

scene from THE MAGNIFICENT TRIO (1966)

same scene from THREE OUTLAW SAMURAI (1964)
The young noble woman is Wei Wen Zhen, the daughter of the County Magistrate Wei Huaire. The three kidnappers are the Head of Mati Village: Gao Bao-Shi, his son: Gao Ji-Xian and another village dweller: Li Chu-Yen. Commander Lu Fang learns that Mati Village has suffered from several years of drought and the Imperial Court has exempt the village’s provisions from taxation. However, County Magistrate Wei Huaire has continue to tax the village of Mati and otherwise oppress the villagers until, in desperation, they came up with this plan to kidnap his daughter which is to essentially sacrifice their own lives to save their village. 





Back at the Magistrate’s residence, the enraged Magistrate Wei Huaire has become desperate to resolve his daughter’s kidnapping before The Imperial Minister comes for his periodic inspection and reports any irregularities to the Emperor. Prisoners and thugs of all sorts are promised rewards in return for his daughter’s safety but is there ever any honor among thieves?


The star, Jimmy Wang Yu  (right)

CAST REPORT
the good: Jimmy Wang Yu as Commander Lu Fang. Lo Lieh as Yan Ziqing. Cheng Lui as Huang Liang. Margaret Tu Chuan as Li Ju Shan’s wife. Chin Ping as Wei Wen Zhen. Fanny Fan Lai as Xiao Qing. 
the bad: Lui Ming as Magistrate Wei Huaire. Lee Wan-Chung as the Magistrate’s advisor. Tang Ti as Master Xin / Qian. Fung Ngai as Master Han Rui. Ng Ho as Constable Liang Tong.

HONORABLE MENTION: Tien Feng, Ku Feng, Cliff Lok, Chen Hung-Lieh, Chang Pei-Shan, Wu Ma, and Violet Pan Ying-Zi.

SPOTTED: Little Unicorn Chan, Tang Chia and Liu Chia-Liang.

Bruce Lee's childhood friend Little Unicorn, center left.

Liu Chia-Yung (right) as a stuntman

extreme left: Tang Chia, extreme right: Liu Chia-Liang
FIGHT TIME: This is the first credited team-up of what is to become the legendary choreography team of Liu Chia-Liang and Tang Chia.  That fact makes this a collector's item! I counted eight (8) fight scenes and some minor skirmishes for an action-packed one hundred and three minutes. The most common mistake made when watching old movies is to judge them using the current standards instead of the standards of the time in which they were made. That said, everybody’s techniques including the killing techniques were clean, functional and precise for the most part. The exception being, some of the multiple killing techniques that sometimes missed their marks but not so much as to ruin the movie. These gentlemen did a great job and we know there is more to come!






RECOMMENDATION: Unfortunately the first movie ever directed by Chang Cheh: Tiger Boy (1964) is out of print and unavailable so I may never see, let alone review this movie in my lifetime. This review of the second movie ever directed by Chang Cheh, THE MAGNIFICENT TRIO (1966) demonstrates the how skilled Mr. Cheh was at characterization. Since it is an adaptation and not an original script I am not comfortable giving an opinion on his writing skills based on this movie but history speaks volumes about Mr. Cheh’s writing talent so there is no need for me to add my silly two cents on the matter.  I can say that I was thoroughly entertained by all aspects of the film and so I can recommend it wholeheartedly to collectors and casual viewers alike. See you next time!




If you liked this review please comment on the blog, become a follower of the blog, join me on my Facebook account by sending me a message first and then a friend request so I know who I am friending (  https://www.facebook.com/Michael529P   ) and like my Facebook page: SHAW Brothers Kung Fu Movies 1965-1986. I thank you and would appreciate it very much!



NEXT UP: THAT MAN IN CHANG-AN (1967)



















Wednesday, February 8, 2017

REVIEW #4:THE KNIGHT OF KNIGHTS (1966)

REVIEW #4: 
THE KNIGHT OF KNIGHTS (1966)














Released May 18th, 1966, THE KNIGHT OF KNIGHTS (1966) is based on a script by Chang Cheh that according to the website Hong Kong Cinemagic is one of Mr. Cheh’s first foray into the wuxia genre. [Chang Cheh was involved in the planning of TEMPLE OF THE RED LOTUS (1965) and THE TWIN SWORDS (1965)]. Produced by both SHAW BROTHERS it is directed by the multitalented Sit Kwan but unfortunately no action director is credited. 


Lee Wan-Chung as Governor Wang
Tang Ti as the bandit Min Kong

During the Ming Dynasty, King Jing of a southern Chinese province entered in an agreement with the Imperial Eunuch Pei to increase the eunuch’s power with the ultimate goal being to usurp the power of the emperor. To this end, King Jing has enlisted the aid of the bandit Min Kong and his men along with the governor of Haimin, Governor Wang. Min Kong and his men disguise themselves as monks and take over the Zhaoqing Monastery as a base of criminal operations. 


Lee Ying as Inspector Lin
The criminal operations of Zhaoqing Monastery consist mainly of human trafficking but it is done as such a level that the people become very disgruntled. To make matters worse, Governor Wang has imposed unfair taxes and has even seized some of the people’s land from them and this causes outrage among the people and attracts the attention of Imperial Inspector Lin who asks his nephew, Wen Suchen of the Seven Men Of Dragon School to investigate the monastery  and the governor and bring him evidence of their crimes.  

Kiu Chong as Wen Sy Chen


Seven Men of Dragon School (minus one)
Unfortunately when Wen Suchen receives the Imperial Inspector’s orders he is visiting his sick mother so he sends his six classmates ahead of him to investigate in his stead. Although his six classmates are highly trained in martial arts they are no match for the booby traps and the hit and run tactics of the fake monks and are wiped out but with one classmate escaping, barely clinging to his life. Wen Suchen and his two young students come across this same classmate on their way to meet up with the rest of the Seven Men Of Dragon School and with his last dying words he tells Wen Suchen of their failed mission at Zhaoqing Monastery!  




Wen Suchen decides a different tact is called for and goes undercover with his two students as a scholar to Zhaoqing Monastery to face Abbot Min Kong. The three of them battle kidnapping, slavery and uncover a plot to murder Imperial Inspector Lin atop of Guanri Pagoda!



CAST REPORT:
the good: Kiu Chong as Wen Su Chen. Lee Ying as Imperial Inspector Lin. Cliff Lok as Wen Lung. Chow Lung-Cheung as Wen Hu. Lily Ho Li-Li as Lin Hong Yu. Lily Li Li-Li as Hsin Yang. 
the bad: Lee Wan-Chung as Governor Wang. Tang Ti as Abbot Kung Ming. Fung Ngai : senior monk. Fan Mei-sheng : senior monk. Tien Shun : senior monk.


Lily Ho Li-Li 's "controversial" scene for the time (1966)
HONORABLE MENTION: Wu Ma, Ku Feng, Liu Liang-Hua, Cheng Lui, Chen Hung-Lieh, Chiu Hung, Wang Kuang-Yu, Simon Yuen Siu-Tin

SPOTTED: Li Ching as Chin (Carpenter You’s sister) and Bruce Lee’s childhood friend (Little) Unicorn Chan as one of the fake monks in the opening of the film. 





FIGHT TIME: THE KNIGHT OF KNIGHTS (1966) has no fight director credited and indeed the quality of the fights (or lack thereof) attests to the lack of skill in the execution of the fight scenes. The fights seemed to me to be very poorly done with the real martial artist looking only slightly skilled and the non-martial artists looking like they had somewhere else to go and wanted to be killed quickly. Not using a fight choreographer was a mistake and the movie suffers from it. I counted only five (6) fight scenes including the short assassination attempt on the Imperial Inspector –enough for a legit kung fu movie and wisely spaced out to keep boredom from being a factor.


HONORABLE MENTION: It is a long way into the movie but, young Cliff Lok has the best-choreographed fight in the movie and is very convincing in warding off multiple opponents. Kudos


RECOMMENDATION: THE KNIGHT OF KNIGHTS (1966) is not a bad movie per-se. It features an all-star cast and guest stars the crème de la crème of the Shaw Brother studios. The script by Chang Cheh is above average as well. It’s major failing is in the lack of martial art style or weapon focus or of martial art choreography. However because of the full back nude scene it is an asterisk in wuxia film history and so it is collectible and should be purchased for this reason. Feel free to keep it in its sealed packaging so it is worth more money. See you next time!





If you liked this review please comment on the blog, become a follower of the blog, join me on my Facebook account by sending me a message first and then a friend request so I know who I am friending (  https://www.facebook.com/Michael529P   ) and like my Facebook page: SHAW Brothers Kung Fu Movies 1965-1986. I thank you and would appreciate it very much!




NEXT UP: THE MAGNIFICENT TRIO (1966)