Saturday, July 25, 2015



COME DRINK WITH ME (1966)'s actual title is DA ZUI XIA (BIG DRUNKEN HERO) and is based on a Beijing Opera entitled The Drunken Beggar.

In an unnamed province in China during the Ming Dynasty, a ruthless band of bandits have come to power and are terrorizing the local towns. The governor sends armed troops and his special envoy Golden Swallow to deal with the bandits. After a particular battle, the bandits are nearly routed and their leader is captured along with two of the bandits' top commanders. The bandits retaliate by raiding the prisoner procession where the top commanders are being transported and kidnapping the lieutenant general who is also the governor's son. They write a petition to the governor demanding the release of their leader in five days time --or else!

However the petition is intercepted before it reaches the governor by his special envoy, Golden Swallow who also happens to be his daughter. Golden Swallow decides she will handle the bandits on her on and save her brother --or die trying. A deadly game of cat and mouse begins but Golden Swallow is at a distinct disadvantage for she knows neither where the bandits are hiding nor where they are keeping her brother.

During a battle with the bandits at an inn where she has stopped to rest, a rather scruffy drunken beggar runs into her just as a bandit throws a series of throwing knives at her from the level above them allowing them both to escape unharmed. Later that same night she catches the beggar sneaking into her room but he takes her aback with a request "I can't sleep, let's have a drink." He then steals her knives and hat as she chase him out of her room. Golden Swallow goes after the beggar to retrieve her items but when she returns to her room she catches three of the bandits trying to ambush her in her sleep and she chases them away as well. She then realizes that had she not encounter the drunk beggar she would have indeed have been fast asleep and at the mercy of her attackers.  Who is this drunken beggar ? What is his connection to the bandits? Why does he seem to be helping the Golden Swallow in her mission? These questions are what the rest of "COME DRINK WITH ME" is about.

COME DRINK WITH ME is very definitely a King Hu (he is credited as "King Chuan") production as he both co-wrote the screen play and directed the movie. The talents of his crew and actors have proven themselves in many other projects since but the magic here in the characterizations are undeniably spot on and even in future projects do not recapture the characters as they do here (yes, there is a sequel). 

That said, Cheng Pei-pei as the Golden Swallow does an excellent job coming across as a military brat with too much fight and not enough thought. She also does look a bit masculine (make-up and costume staff take a bow) and photos of her in modern dress and made-up surprise me with their gorgeous beauty. Yuen Hua as the drunken beggar is okay but does not deliver a notable performance. Even though I have no reference to draw on of previous depictions, I must say, he never really seems to be quite drunk enough to be disarming and Golden Swallow's martial arts look a bit more lethal than his by comparison. Chan Hung-lit is the Jade Face Tiger and is the villain that eats up the most screen. He plays an intelligent bad-ass and almost makes you want to root for him. Yeung Chi-hing is Abbot Liao Kung. Even though I have only seen four classic Shaw Brothers movies so far, the pattern is a big bad super villain shows up after the movie is half over and he is the one to beat. Yeung Chi-hing plays that super villain but the "super" is unimpressive, to me but fails to spoil the movie. The rest of the villains are just victims for the heroes to go through and are the usual Shaw Brothers cast members some of whom you will recognize.


Ahh yeah, here we go --fight time. I count six fight scenes in COME DRINK WITH ME, pretty evenly distributed through the film. They are not all created equally, however. The first fight scene is the raid on the prisoner's procession and is brutal, cruel but economical with but a few moves to show the viciousness of the bandits.  Golden Swallow's has three fight scenes and they are masterpieces of effective double dagger martial arts and yet have the simplicity of a military designed combat system. "Drunken Cat" ( the name he tells Golden Swallow to call him to the delight of the laughing children) has two fight scenes that work when his martial arts are displayed at the level of master, however when the film tries to depict grand master level skills, the film techniques of the day (1966) just are not convincing enough, I am sorry to say --but I do understand.

The word "classic" is a very over-used word when it comes to old movies but COME DRINK WITH ME (1966) is seen as a classic unanimously by critics and "fu-fans" alike. Far from being a perfect movie what gets everyone excited about seeing this movie is its ability to draw out the hero in all of us knowing we too would rise to the challenge should a loved one of ours be threaten by arrogant thugs. COME DRINK WITH ME is absolutely a must-see!

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Saturday, July 18, 2015

THE TWIN SWORDS (1965) #002


THE TWIN SWORDS (1965) is the seamless sequel to TEMPLE OF THE RED LOTUS (1965) and starts off with the last 4 1/2 minutes of the action-packed finale of its predecessor where the Red Lady saves the day with a handful of well placed red darts.

After the young couple are rescued by the Red Lady (Ivy Ling Po) only in this sequel she is now called "The Scarlet Maid", she gives the young couple Gui Wu(Wang Yu) and Gan Lianzhu (Ching Ping) two important instructions to send them off. One: "mind your own business" and Two: "practice hard and revenge for your family." Needless to say they fail miserably at both instructions and end up right back in the hands of the evil Red Lotus Clan. Well, at least Gan Lianzhu does and she convinces Gui Wu to go back to her home and beg her family to come rescue her. The problem? They still have that big unresolved issue of them leaving home while her father was away in the first place. Oh yeah, he is not at all looking forward to the type of reception he will get when he arrives back at the castle and has to tell the family he lost their daughter to the  Red Lotus Clan. Speaking of the Red Lotus Clan, they are not at all happy to have lost one base of operations to the young couple and plan a very special hosts of welcomes for their anticipated return. Oh, it's on baby!

The cast of TWIN SWORDS, as in all perfect sequels is excellent. Everybody is back: in addition to Ivy Ling Po, Wang Yu and Ching Ping mentioned above, Lo Lieh is back as Du Zhuang and still so very much in love with Lianzhu. Bo Bo Fung is back as the high spirited Xiao Ling along with all of the very stern Gan clan elders and all the Red Lotus clan villains and so seamlessly they return I suspect the two movies came about in one big production and because of length became two movies -- but this is just my thinking and I have no inside source for my speculation. It is just that these two regular length movies could have easily had been on great big long all-star blockbuster instead of the two movies as they are presented. To tell the truth more that one reviewer has felt that as stand alone movies neither of them really do just that. You really need to see first TEMPLE OF THE RED LOTUS and them immediately THE TWIN SWORDS for one complete story. As I look back on it I don't completely disagree with them.

As for the kung fu, first of all there is more of it. I count nine fight scenes although the first is a re-play of the previous movie's finale but that still leaves eight fight scenes which alone is still enough to call this sequel "action-packed". The standard of quality of the fight choreography of the first film is also upheld in the second, namely the techniques displayed are realistic and to the point with very little flailing about to fake action BUT there is a major departure from realism in the final fight scene of the movie between the two grandmasters (the master teacher of the Red Lotus Clan and the Scarlet Maid). Fortunately it does not ruin the movie but I cannot say the movie benefits from it either. What I honestly believe however is that when the movie was released and the audiences first saw these effects they were probably blow n away by them. Sadly, it is just too late for me to feel that way.

THE TWIN SWORDS definitively concludes the story started in TEMPLE OF THE RED LOTUS. There are some very strong dramatic moments in the conclusion that marks this a wuxia tale worth watching again for the purposes of discussion. Finding a story of this caliber so early in the history of the modern kung fu era makes me wonder how the chop-socky  films of the 70's ever came about -but I digress. I strongly recommend THE TWIN SWORDS to anyone wanting to see a quality kung fu movie from any era. 


Saturday, July 11, 2015



 The first movie I will review is actually part of a trilogy based on a wuxia story written by Ping Jiang Bu Xiao Sheng: TEMPLE OF THE RED LOTUS (1965). It is important to note that TEMPLE OF THE RED LOTUS (1965) and TWIN SWORDS (1965) are both but one story while THE SWORD AND THE LUTE is a very close follow up story. This is why I will review the three of them as my first three reviews. This makes the most sense to me rather than pretending they are 3 separate stories and reviewing them in the order of their actual release.

TEMPLE OF THE RED LOTUS is a pretty straight forward story of a young man, Gui Wu (played by Wang Yu) seeking revenge for his parents betrayal and murder and needing to 1) find a surviving Aunt and 2) improve his kung fu so he can get said revenge. To this end he is making his way to his father's old friend's castle where he is also promised to be married to this same friend's daughter with whom he grew up with. On his way to the castle he comes across a fierce battle where some black garbed fighters (with their faces covered as well in black) are in the process of taking a large shipment on horseback from some armed escorts. He decides to help the escorts but is wounded and knocked unconscious by the men in black. When he comes to he sees his wound was treated by a lady dressed in red and relates his story to her but also tells her he does not know his way to the castle. She tells him she knows the way and will take him.The rest of the movie is pretty much a lesson in judging by appearances and the importance of family and tradition.

There are a lot of familiar faces in Temple of The Red Lotus but make no mistake about it Wang Yu is the star as evidenced by the amount of screen time and the comparative finesse of his techniques. However he is joined by some heavy hitters including Lo Lieh (what a thrill to see him and Wang Yu together in one film!), Tien Feng and Fung Ngai (who become major players in Bruce Lee's Chinese Connection,), Wu Ma and Ku Feng. The women are well represented by Ivy Ling Po as the "Red Lady" Chin Ping as the fiance, Gan Lianzhu, and Fung Bo Bo as the youngest family member Gan Xiaoling. A great many of the ladies featured are acting as martial artists proving once again the East is well ahead of the West in portraying women in roles equal that of men. I am looking forward to seeing these women actors again and how they progress as I go through the years with Shaw Brothers.

Now, let's talk about the kung fu, because, let's face it, it is why we watch these movies and got hooked on Shaw Brothers in the first place. I remember in the 1980's when wushu in America fist became a big thing and there was a lot of discussion on what was the difference between "kung fu" and "wushu" fighting. Well as I am currently watch "The Journey of Flower" on Chinese television the answer would be to watch any pair of fights one from "Journey..." and one from "Temple..." and it would be obvious as to what the difference was, although to express it in words still might prove challenging. The words that came to mind as I watch the fights in TOTRL were "raw" and "realistic". The techniques displayed in TOTRL were "to the point" and very practical. I really appreciated that even though I also like the fancy stuff. There is very little flailing and waving arms and weapons about pointlessly. The martial arts here are definitely worth looking at and every so once in a while someone throws in a nice stance. As far as the amount of action I count five battles total including the epic finale. In my book I am going to say that it is a fair amount of action and will use five battles as the standard by which to judge in future movies. 

My biggest fear when I decided to watch all of the Shaw Brothers martial arts movies from the beginning was that I would find the vast majority of them very dated and boring. Admittedly it is still very early in the process but I very much enjoyed watching TEMPLE OF THE RED LOTUS (1965). It brought back a lot of fun memories of going to the movies with my brothers and sisters on Sumner Avenue in Brooklyn back in the day. Even though it was a movie it had the feel of the old serial black and white television shows with their dramatic acting and cliffhanger endings. 

TEMPLE OF THE RED LOTUS (1965) is the first wuxia movie in color and ushers in both the kung fu age of Hong Kong Movies and (for me at least) the Golden Age of Shaw Brothers. Therefore there are a lot of historical reasons to see this movie. Yet, as far as I am concerned the only reason to ever see a kung fu movie (or any movie for that matter) is because it  is a good movie. TEMPLE OF THE RED LOTUS absolutely qualifies as a good movie. I strongly recommend you see it when you have the opportunity. 

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 (   ) and like my Facebook page: SHAW Brothers Kung Fu Movies 1965-1986. I thank you and would appreciate it very much!


Wednesday, July 1, 2015



Dedicated to Wong Yun-Mei the lovely woman that left me her collection of 256 SHAW BROTHERS kung fu movies out of no more than the kindness of her heart. I hope what I am doing here will make me worthy of your effort. "I Love Shaw Brothers Movies" is a collection of spoiler free (as best I can) movie reviews that will eventually cover every Shaw Brothers kung fu movie released from 1965 to 1986. ( I hope.)

Let me just say upfront that if you're looking for something written by a expert or critic of film history you will certainly be disappointed. I am just like you. Some average "Joe" that has seen quite a number of SHAW BROTHERS  kung fu movies and have enjoyed them to no end. Today as lovers of the consistent production quality and superior choreography of "Another Shaw Production" we have unprecedented access to these classic martial arts movies such so that I have decided to see each and every one of them and document my journey as I do so. But the only qualifications I have are: I saw the movie and I have an opinion. 

One of the things that inspired me to do this is the endless number of groups, clubs and pages for kung fu movie fans on Facebook I have encountered. But I wanted to have my say, in full, without argument, interruption or the cyber-bullying that can go on in some of these groups.

So I am going to just jump into it and go in the order, as best I can, of their release with the justifiable exception of sequels which I will view in the order that makes the most sense. If a movie is actually a prequel then I will review it before the release of the main movie and the other sequels in order of the overall story. I am also going to do my best to keep the reviews as spoiler free as possible because you just never know who has yet to see any given movie and why spoil it for them just because the movie is over 20 years old? 

If you have any questions or comments feel free to use the comment section below and I will get to it as soon as I can. Also, to get advanced notice of this blog feel free to send me a friend request on Facebook by sending me a message saying "I LOVE SHAW BROTHERS MOVIES" and I will accept the friendship right away. 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 (   ) and like my Facebook page: SHAW Brothers Kung Fu Movies 1965-1986. I thank you and would appreciate it very much!