Saturday, October 31, 2015



GOLDEN SWALLOW (1968) is the sequel to King Hu's  masterpiece COME DRINK WITH ME (1966) by virtue of the lead character of COME DRINK WITH ME being the love interest and being played by the same actress, the lovely Cheng Pei-pei. However the character Golden Swallow is not the main character of the movie bearing her name. That honor goes to Silver Roc played by the very talented Jimmy Wang Yu. The co-writer and director of the sequel this time is Chang Cheh  (spelled here Chang Cheuh). The action scenes are arranged by a new team as well: Tang Chia and Liu Chia-liang.

Since the events in COME DRINK WITH ME, Golden Swallow has become somewhat of a savior to the downtrodden people of an unnamed village and is quite charitable. Her enemies lay in wait for her expecting her to help a lady with children in dire need. She does indeed show up and leaves money for the needy family. Her enemies use this time to attack her with poison darts and, after striking her with one, move in for the kill. However just in time a friend of hers, Golden Whip steps in and cripples all of her attackers and threatens to kill them if they do not give him the antidote to the poison. He brings her back to his home at a remote valley to recover and during that time they develop a strong bond.

 Next we see Silver Roc traveling on horseback on a seemly remote road along some mountains. Above him some warriors are setting up an ambush for him to do nothing but kill him. After wiping them out in grand style he comes atop a mountain and looks down and sees Golden Swallow, Golden Whip and his friend Flying Fox sitting around rather friendly like. He ponders the situation a second and then pulls out one of her golden swallow darts with an idea clearly on his face. Silver Roc decides to mass murder despicable villains and leave her dart behind implicating her as the murderer! Cue up Tina Turner's  "What's Love Got To Do With It?"

Jimmy Wang Yu as Silver Roc Xiao Pang is as twisted a hero as you will ever find, but you know what? When they come for him we root for him from the bottom of our hearts!
Cheng Pei-pei's portrayal of Golden Swallow Xie Ru Yan is very good once again but this time she plays her character very much as a girl and not the rugged military trained fighter tomboy from her previous movie. This time she is not the governor's special envoy but another female fighter wandering the jiang hu and fighting for justice. Lo Lieh as Golden Whip Han Tao also opts for a softer interpretation of the characters that he usually plays and he has a quirk against killing but maiming for life is okay (?). Wu Ma plays Golden Whip's old classmate Flying Fox Hu Zhen and Yeung Chi-Hing is the big bad villain that shows up after the movie is half over once again. Future Star Gazing: seen in this movie are: Ku FengLiu Chia-LiangLiu Chia-Yung, and a scruffy David Chaing.

Fight time, yeah!! So, I count six fight scenes in GOLDEN SWALLOW which, from my judgment, is a good amount leaving very little chance for boredom here. This is the first movie I am reviewing with the team of Tang Chia and Liu Chia-liang (although it may not be their earliest work together) and the first difference I noticed, from the other four films I have reviewed, is the change of focus from "one on one fights" to "one versus many opponents battles". This makes the overall look of the fights are not as tight as the other fights I have seen. Basically the difference is in the techniques which have gone "from point and line" to "point and circle". The techniques the fighters are using (with the interesting exception of Golden Swallow's techniques) swing about in an arc whether they hit or miss their intended targets. This method allows for as many as four opponents to be felled with one strike. In addition to the arcing techniques, the camera is often so close to the action as to obscure the details of the fight, which, to be brutally honest, I do not like. What is worth the price of the admission is the sheer number of people Silver Roc manages to kill, it is absolutely incredible! As for Golden Swallow's techniques they are still mostly one to one techniques but are more girlish and now instead of keeping her twin daggers stealthy in her boots she wears both of them on her belt.

In conclusion, GOLDEN SWALLOW (1968) could have easily been named: WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A PATHOLOGICAL SERIAL KILLER HAS A CRUSH ON YOU. Kudos to co-writers Chang Cheh and tu Yun Chih on the screenplay. What a sad, twisted hero Silver Roc is but a master-swordsman of the highest caliber.The movie is definitely a must see mostly because of the plot but please, bring a strong stomach.


Saturday, October 24, 2015



Hey, welcome back. Producer Runme Shaw continues the Shaw Brothers' vision of the female heroine in their wuxia movies with THE SILVER FOX (1968). He brings back both the director (Hsu Tseng-Hung) and writer (San Kong) of TEMPLE OF THE RED LOTUS (1965) and TWINS SWORDS (1965) in a mind numbing story of self indulgent evil you will not soon forget. Tang Chia and Liu Chia-Liang do the honors of the action choreography and actually get screen credit for it for the first time. Now let's check out San Kong's story.  

Sima Chau is a victim, a victim of want and the world has conspired against him. He wants what belongs to his father. His father is the teacher of a famous kung fu school. The Deadly Palm technique are the specialty of the school and Sima Chau should inherit the system but instead his father favors an older student of the school, Hsia Wu, whom he has to call elder brother.  That handsome bastard was only adopted by his father and what he has should belong to Sima Chau. Hsia Wu's wife Pui Yu. Beautiful Pui Yu. She should be his, as well, in spite of her marriage to Hsia Wu, in spite of giving him a child, she should be his and she will be his --as well as everything else that should belong to him. He will fix them. He will fix them all

For eighteen years Hsia Wu has hidden himself. He and his one-year-old daughter (Hsia Ching Ching) barely escaped Sima Chau's treachery and slaughter of their entire school, that day, when his own morals failed him. Hsia Wu has trained himself with the Deadly Palm Manual and has almost mastered the technique. He has trained his daughter in the martial arts as well. She is very good and has become The Silver Fox constantly harassing Sima Chau's escort business. Their ultimate goal, however, is to get revenge, to take their time and get revenge. 

Huang Chung-Hsin as Sima Chau is not the star of THE SILVER FOX (1968) but his presence carries the whole of the movie. I say this because if even for a minute you do not believe in the sheer evil of his sense of entitlement then nothing else the cast does in this movie makes any sense. For me, I was sold from the very first snide look his character gave at the beginning of the movie to Tien Feng's character. Not only are the things we see significant but as we learn of the other characters we can only imagine the sinister things he must have threatened to get the characters to comply with his wishes. This story absolutely deserves a modern remake as a Netflix unrated series. If you know somebody, tell somebody.
HONORABLE MENTION: The rest of the cast deserves honorable mention for their parts are well done: Tien Feng as Hsia Wu, Lily Ho as Hsia Ching Ching aka Silver Fox, Chu Sam-Yin as Pui Yu, and Chang Yi as Hsu Shung Wu as the obligatory male hero.

FIGHT TIME: Welcome back, let's get right to it. We have a pretty interesting scenario here, while we have Tang Chia and Liu Chia-Liang as credited action choreographers but we don't a lot of action. What we do have is the first unarmed combat scenes and the first mention of an unarmed kung fu school. So The Silver Fox (1968) has some historical significance due to these facts as least as far as I can tell and until somebody else proves different. I counted no more than four (4) fight scenes including the finale some of them pretty short. Everybody does a good enough job with their fights but the star of this movie is the story.  Not that there's anything wrong with that. 

I already gave it away that I have every reason in the world to recommend THE SILVER FOX (1968). It is all about the story which could use some evening out but the front and back ends of the story are plenty powerful enough. The historical significance is just an added bonus for collectors to actually purchase the movie to own. This was a lot of fun, see you next time!


Saturday, October 17, 2015



Hey, welcome back! Our first movie of 1968 was produced by Runme Shaw and directed and co-written (with Yip Yat-Fong) by Lo Wei who also stars in the movie as the head baddie. THE BLACK BUTTERFLY (1968) is a re-make of the very popular Cantonese movie THE BLACK ROSE (1965) where, in present day Hong Kong (circa 1965) the police are on the look out for a "Robin Hood type cat burglar" who leaves behind a black rose whenever they engage in a burglary or leave money to a destitute citizen. The Black Rose is then falsely accused of stealing a precious gem from a prominent citizen and the insurance claims adjuster investigating the case helps create the rest of the plot. Now, let's look at Lo Wei's adaptation.

During the Ming Dynasty, near the village of Kiang Shan County lies Five Devil Rock Fortress. They have experienced a rash of burglaries as of late by the one known as The Black Butterfly because of the small black butterfly emblem they leave behind at the scene of the burglary. The Five Devils are enraged about this but do not want to lose face for being burglarized. They decide to go to the nearby villages and see if they can discover the identity of The Black Butterfly and get their revenge. Meanwhile in Kiang Shan County, The Court of Censors (their version of a justice department) has a strange case of a drunken beggar giving large quantities of rice to the poor as opposed to the Court's bowl of congee. The drunken beggar agrees to go to court but they have to let him go with no evidence of any crimes having been committed. 

Third Devil: Jade Nan and Fifth Devil: Nan Jie traveling together arrive at Kiang Shan County where they stop an inn to rest. Jade Nan immediately swoons for a young girl he spots outside his window. She is Kwan Bao Zhu, the daughter of retired kung fu expert Gold Sword Kwan Yee who owns and runs the village restaurant and teaches kung fu on the side. The devils learn Master Kwan fell ill after a confrontation with The Black Butterfly go pay him a visit and start trouble but are outmatched. They decide on an indirect approach. They steal The Court of Censors official seal and demand payment for their losses inflicted on them by The Black Butterfly and Master Kwan's daughter hand in marriage to Jade Nan in exchange for them returning the seal. Master Kwan, of course, refuses their offer and vows to personally go to Five Devil Rock and retrieve the seal himself. 

Having lost the great Tien Feng earlier this year makes me observe his presence in the Shaw Brothers movies in a more meaningful way. I realized just how much they use him for "story-telling short hand" whether he is a villain or hero when they need to impart to the audience a sense of nobility. His skill is his ability to let the star be the star and not steal the scene or the movie from the intended actor. A consummate professional, he will be missed. In THE BLACK BUTTERFLY (1968) he plays the retired swordsman Gold Sword Kwan Lee.  Lisa Chiao Chiao plays his daughter Kwan Bao Zhu who he has never taught martial arts. Yuen Hua is Liu Xi Lang, Master Kwan's top student and an officer of The Court of Censors.

HONORABLE MENTION: Yeung Chi-Hing, Ku Feng, Fan Mei-Sheng round out the good guys and Lo Wei, Ma Ying, Chen Hung-Lieh, Chang Yu-Chin and Han Ying-Chieh play the Five Devils and Sammo Kam-Bo Hung

FIGHT TIME: Oh, whoa is me, we are still at a time where the fight choreographer may not be credited for any given movie and such is this movie THE BLACK BUTTERFLY (1968). This is clearly a shame because this movie is so well choreographed both in individual fights and en mass conflicts. It was very hard to catch someone "dialing it in" or actions lacking in emotional commitment. I counted five (5) full fight scenes including the grand finale and often the numbers of opponents faced were simply incredible which actually made the fight scenes more fun to watch! More than once I found myself saying "get the f**k outta here!" but with more glee than disbelief. All the fights were technically well executed and the fights with multiple opponents were exceptionally well done! Bravo, but to who?

Trying not to spoil a movie that starts off giving away the big reveal isn't easy. I don't think I fooled anyone (especially if you read my weekly page) but if you are not at all familiar with this movie THE BLACK BUTTERFLY (1968) or the movie it is remade from THE BLACK ROSE (1965) then you will just have one more thing to like about this movie. I have learned that it is very possible to enjoy these movies of the Shaw Brothers yesteryears when you keep an open mind and have an appreciation for the craft of film making and the skill it takes to engage in the martial arts. I highly recommend this film because I believe you will have as much fun watching it as I did. See you next time!

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Saturday, October 10, 2015



Hey, welcome back! Here we are reviewing the last kung fu movie for 1967. Run Run Shaw produces THE ASSASSIN written and directed by Chang Cheh based on the Ranked Biographies section (liezhuan) of the Records of the Grand Historian (Shiji) which was completed around 109 BC by Sima Qian shortly after the death of his father Sima Tan who began the work during the Han Dynasty. Liu Chia-Liang and Tang Chia once again, handle the action choreography for Chang Cheh. But keep in mind, the adaptation is only from a very small fraction of a section of the work so we don't need to go into details that will only complicate the matter. Okay, let's get busy!

Yen Chung Tzu is an official of the Han kingdom during the Warring States Period. He is very loyal and strongly opposes being submissive to the Qin Kingdom fearing ultimately this will lead to the Han Kingdom's demise. Premier Han Kui however has a plan that calls for him to speak to his nephew, the Emperor of Han, and convince him to submit to Qin in the best interest of Han. When Official Yen Chung Tzu voices his objections, Premier Han Kui threatens him and then send assassins to wipe him outHowever, Fortune smiles on Official Yen because he has hired a wanderer to train his son in swordplay and this very person manages to save his life but not before Official Yen's own son is killed. Before he dies, he tells his benefactor the name and location of his elder classmate and advises him to seek out his classmate should he want revenge. Official Yen does indeed find this young man but can he convince this brave swordsman to become the assassin? 

The late Tien Feng plays Official Yen Chung Tzu  with the regal composure of that can only be displayed by a true veteran actor. (May he rest in peace.) Jimmy Wang Yu is THE ASSASSIN and he is no longer the unsure young actor but (maybe under the influence of Tien Feng?) nails his character's emotions in scenes even when there are no words. He has taken international audiences by storm playing characters just like this. Confident but never over-bearing. (Take that Chuck Norris!) Lisa Chiao Chiao plays the Jimmy Wang Yu characters' love interest once again but it is the stuff for psychologist, at least in my opinion because she seems a bit matronly to me. (I think having Ching Ping back instead would have been a better casting choice). 
HONORABLE MENTION: Zhang Pei-Chan (Cheung Pooi Saan) as the nasty entitled Xu Shi and Cheng Lui as the best friend / classmate.

FIGHT TIME:  Straight off, let me tell you, as it pertains to the sheer number of fight scenes THE ASSASSIN (1967) does not even qualify as a kung fu movie by my standard of a minimum of five (5) fight scenes. It falls short by one. I count four (4) fights scenes in the entire movie and yet I was not dissatisfied with the kung fu content. Liu Chia-Liang and Tang Chia did a remarkable job of displaying what sword fighting must have been like during The Warring States period (475 to 221 B.C.) and understandably during this period armies fought armies with very little person to person combat. As a result of their intelligence the movie succeeds as an appeal to the soul of the warrior with a realistic portrayal of what life would have been like for a patriotic assassin with no glorifying it at all. Bravo. Kudos also to Jimmy Wang Yu's portrayal of a young sword master and senior classmate / leader with very little dialog but with just his body language. I watched how he guided his classmates through the raid on his school without saying a word that the enemy could have used to know his intention. Great, just fantastic. 

Chang Cheh, Liu Chia-Liang and Tang Chia, starring Jimmy Wang Yu is how you spell "classic kung fu movie" but to be honest I had never heard of THE ASSASSIN (1967)  before I researched her list to see what movie was next. This was a very good movie. My thing is, I love fight scenes, when I watch a kung fu movie I am looking for the kung fu. And yet, to keep it real sometimes a movie come along and qualifies as a classic kung fu movie without much kung fu in it at all. Such is the lesser known Jimmy Wang Yu kung fu movie THE ASSASSIN (1967) I strongly recommend it both for collectors and for anybody looking for a touch of Chinese history with their kung fu. See you next time!  


Saturday, October 3, 2015

KING CAT (1967)

KING CAT (1967)

The Seven Heroes and The Five Gallants is a novel written during the late Qing Dynasty that combined two genres: crime mystery (goon'an) and swordplay (wuxia). The characters in the title would assist one, Judge Bao Zheng, called "Black-faced Zheng for his unwavering dispensing of justice. The stories take place during the Song Dynasty known for it corrupt officials and the hopelessly downtrodden citizens of China at that time. Shaw Brothers made three (3) movies using the characters from this very popular novel and although they are not sequels I will review them consecutively because I can avoid writing the details of the characters three separate times in this way. The first review will be of KING CAT (1967) produced by Sir Run Run Shaw, directed by Chui Chang Wang and written by Ting Shan-Hsi (his first screenplay).

 In this adaptation we begin as Judge Bao Zheng (aka black-face Bao Zheng because in in addition to be dark-skinned, the color black in Chinese Opera represents rough and bold or impartial and selflessness of character) beheads a relative of the Grand Tutor for embezzlement. The Grand Tutor learns of this but already has a political assassination plot for the emperor's younger sister in play involving Hua Chong (aka The Variegated Butterfly) his regular henchman, so he sends in the three Xiang Brothers to assassinate Bao Zheng. South HeroZhan Zhao suddenly rescues Bao Zheng from the attempted assassination and is then asked by Judge Bao to come stand guard with him over the emperor who is traveling out of the palace to view a lantern celebration. During the lantern viewing Zhan Zhao rescues the emperor's younger sister --twice and scales a wall to return her to the viewing balcony. This prompts the emperor to grant Zhan Zhao an official title of Imperial Cat as a reward. 

When word of this gets around to the Five Gallants also known as the Famous Five Rats (or Mice) of Xiankong Island , none of them seem too concerned about it accept Rat number 5Bai Yutang aka Brocaded Rat. When he hears of the events by the Ding Brothers of the Seven Heroes, he is offended by the title of "Cat" since he is a "Rat" and goes to the capital to challenge Zhan Zhao. The eldest Rat, Lu Feng (aka Skyward Rat) dispatches the 3 other Rats ( Rat number 2: Han Zhang, aka Underground Rat,  Rat number 3: Xu Qing aka Mountain Rat and Rat number 4: Jiang Ping aka Underwater Rat) to return Bai Yutang to the island before he makes any trouble but when they catch up to him in Bianjing they experience an insult and are swayed into helping him. The four of them decide to steal an item from the emperor's palace counting on the emperor to give the case to Judge Bao Zheng and on Judge Bao Zheng to ask Zhan Zhao for help and they hope to embarrass him and ensure their reputation as superior to his. What they don't count on is the hideous character of Hua Chong to bring into question whether or not Bai Yutang can rape and murder.  

As this is a famous novel with literally hundreds of sequels and imitations naturally, this is an all-star cast production. Chang Yi is once again the star and once again he does not seem comfortable at all as the hero but, this time,  I think it is suitable for the character. Zhan Zhao wants no part of this official stuff and just does what any hero would do and then wants to move on. His character opposite is Bai Yutang and playing him is Kiu Chong who to my surprise just eats up the screen in this role, bravo! Kiu Chong is superb as the fancy-dan swordsman who won't be outdone by anyone and certainly not some official named "Imperial Cat"! The rivalry here is depicted in a very logical manner and even though Bai Yutang is supposed to be the unreasonable one, his emotions and subsequent actions make sense especially for the time (Song Dynasty). 

Speaking of great acting: watching Lo Lieh go back and forth as the hero and villain in these past few movies gives one a qualified opinion of how talented this actor really is. The character Hua Chong is the typical Song Dynasty official who can't possible conceive of  his actions as anything but justified as they are all self-serving actions. Lo Lieh is careful not to over-do his portrayal of this villain and create an evil caricature but just plays him as a man going about his evilness in a pathological, devil may care calmness, again, bravo!. Honorable Mention: There are so many stars here that I know that I am just going to miss someone so I won't even try but I must mention these guys: Liu Chia-Liang, Liu Chia-Yung, Tang Chia, Wu Ma, and Clif Lok. 

FIGHT TIME: Once again here we are, the reason why I am living and wait, what is this --no fight choreographer credited? But, but I see Liu Chia-Liang andTang Chia right there, in fact they are in the very first fight. Okay, okay I am being a bit facetious. Although they are not credited their presence in the movie means they worked on it and it shows. I counted eight (8) fight scenes which qualifies this movie as action-packed and it is well choreographed with even some stunt doubling to boot. The quality of the techniques is above average and the shining star this time is Kiu Chong, can you believe it!? I remember calling him out in THE KNIGHT OF KNIGHTS (1966) review for his lack of fighting ability but here, not only are his skills improved but they are character appropriate, so kudos to Mr. Kiu Chong for being the stand out in this ensemble production and Masters Liu Chia-Liang and Tang Chia for putting it together.

With this movie the experienced team of Liu Chia-Liang and Tang Chia raised the bar by adding some acrobatics to the sword-play and with a well-known and extremely popular story line there was no way for this one to disappoint. The new wuxia genre was here to stay and was only going to get better. To be brutally honest there is still some 1950's ambiance on the movie but KING CAT (1967)does feel like it is moving forward in film history and I whole-heartedly recommend you see it and buy it if you are a collector. We will continue with the adaptations ofTHE SEVEN HEROES AND THE FIVE GALLANTS in our next review. See you then. 

NEXT UP : CAT vs. RAT (1982)