Saturday, May 28, 2016

THE HEROIC ONES (1970) #051


Sir Run Run Shaw produces a historical drama entitled THE HEROIC ONES (THIRTEEN HIGH OFFICIALS) written by Chang Cheh and I Kuang and directed by Chang Cheh. This story is based on an historical event that took place in China during the Tang dynasty where a tribal chieftain came to the aid of the emperor to recapture the capital city with the help of his thirteen adopted sons and the tragedy of the aftermath. The action choreography is done by the awesome team of Tang Chia and Liu Chia-Liang with Liu Chia-Liang's younger brother Liu Chia-Yung also getting action director's credit. Let's get busy!   

In 883 during the Tang Dynasty, the Warlord Bandit, Wang Chao rebelled against the Tang Emperor and attacked and captured the nation's capitol of Chang'an. The Emperor, by imperial decree summoned Chieftain of Shatuo, Li Ke Yong to liberate Chang'an and promised to make him King of Jin. Chieftain Li and his thirteen adopted sons, known as the Thirteen Generals, along with 100,000 of his own soldiers and 500 of his personal guards went to a neighboring province to plan the attack. As guest of Warlord and Governor of Bianlian, Zhu Wen, Chieftain Li and his Thirteen Generals entered hostile territory and had to deal with not only the Warlord Bandit, Wang Chao but with the jealous Warlord, Governor Zhu Wen. This is their story.

the good: Ku Feng as Chieftain Li Ke Yung. David Chiang as 13th General Li Chun Xiao. Ti Lung as 11th General Li Jing Si. Chin Han as 1st General Li Sxu Yuan. James Nam as 4th General Li Tsun Hsin and Wang Chung as 12th General Kang Chun Zi. 
the bad: Lee Hae-Ryong as Bandit Warlord "King" Wang Chao. Chen Sing as Warlord Govenor Zhu Wen.

HONORABLE MENTION: Liu Chia-Yung as 10th General Li Chun Shou and Lily Li as Tsui Yen. Bolo Yeung as General Meng Jue Hai. 

FIGHT TIME: THE HEROIC ONES (1970) boasts three (count 'em 3) action choreographers and these three are no run of the mill action directors. Tang Chia, Liu Chia-Liang and his younger brother Liu Chia-Yung have a resume that can not be equaled but the action looks like it is a little bit crowded. There is so much going on in the scenes that there is hardly anyway to keep track of it all. However, I can buy that, 1)for the time period it is set in, and 2) the sheer number of combat participants, that this is actually a realistic depiction of army combat. It is just a little rough on the eyes but careful observation reveals quality techniques going on so I am just going to eat the results. I counted seven (7) fight scenes including one nearly 20 minute long but the action builds and supports the story line so it is an absolute win.

HONORABLE MENTION: an exquisite display of spear-play by Ti Lung starting 1 hour and 19 minutes into the film. 

The challenge when presenting an historical drama is how to honor the history but still present enough drama to hold the audience. Chang Cheh and I Kuang do just that with their work in THE HEROIC ONES (1970). But still, I would love to see a modern production of this drama in an 40 or 50 episode television show. There are plenty of characters and subplots to merit such a work. I unreservedly recommend this movie for collectors and casual viewers alike and in fact thist is one of the most challenging reviews where I am tempted to reveal spoilers of the plots but please, since I did not spoil the movie please, please, please go and see this movie by any means necessary. See you next time!


Saturday, May 21, 2016



Runme Shaw produced SWORDSWOMEN THREE (1970), released August 5th, written and directed by San Kong (Shen Chiang) with action scenes arranged by Tang Chia and Liu Chia-Liang. The story revolves around a person determined to be the number one swordsman and the head of all the clans in the Jiang Hu even if it means ruining two families to do so. Let's get busy!

In the Jiang Hu there is a martial arts competition held every ten years among the top clans. Should one person win every challenge, then that person is awarded with a plaque from the top clans that reads "Head of Martial Arts". The latest winner of this honor was Xiude Martial Arts Academy's Master Xu Mu Liang. 

A young upstart and founder of the new group called The Green Dragon Clan, Zhu Tian Xiang, wishes to lead the martial world so he challenged Xiude Martial Arts Academy for its position and the plaque. But Master Xu Mu Liang was not at the fort but Zhu Tian Xiang (with a betrayal and insults) forced the master's son, Xu Jin Wu to accept his challenge. Fortunately, young Xu Jin Wu won the match but allowed Zhu Tian Xiang to leave with nothing but a scar for his trouble. 


The Mighty Steel Sword is a legendary weapon used by the great hero Master Han all over the Jiang Hu for the cause of justice. Besides being a sword of the finest quality it has two unique attributes, one for each side of the sword. On one side, the entire surface of the sword allows blood to drain down from the blade making it a self cleaning sword. On the other side is a powerful magnet powered by the users own chi (life-force) allowing the user to disarm his opponent. Unfortunately, the great hero Master Han has died having fallen victim to an unknown illness. He is survived only by his three daughters.

After his defeat, it is suggested to Zhu Tian Xiang by his betrayal accomplice, Li Chi Liang to steal the legendary weapon, The Mighty Steel Sword from his fiance's family. It turns out Zhu Tian Xiang is betrothed to Master Han's eldest daughter Han Rou Lan. The sisters are vulnerable because although the family would still be in mourning and still on guard, they would trust Zhu Tian Xiang as family.  Zhu Tian Xiang gets Han Rou Lan to trust him with The Mighty Steel Sword and runs off with it, hoping to use it to defeat Xu Mu Liang.  

Please don't steal it, please don't steal it, please...


Ashamed on how badly Zhu Tian Xiang trick her into giving him the Mighty Steel Sword, Han Rou Lan left a note for her two sisters telling them what happened and promising to bring the sword back home. Han Rou Mei and Han Xiao Lian quickly go after their older sister and meet Xu Jin Wu along the way. Xu Jin Wu was on his way to see the three sisters to warn them about Zhu Tian Xiang and is determined to help them retrieve the sword. A chess game of cat and mice plays to an ultimate bloody ending, who do you bet on? 

the good: Essie Lin Chia as Han Rou Lan. Shen Yi as Han Rou Mei. Chang Yi as Xu Jin Wu. Pan Ying-Zi as Han Xiao Lan. Yeung Chi-Hing as Xu Mu Xiang.
the bad: Lo Lieh as Zhu Tian Xiang. Lee Wan-Chung as Li Ji-Liang.

HONORABLE MENTION: Fang Mian as Huang Flying Panther. Huang Chung-Hsin as Zhong Pa-Tien of The Three Bullies.

FIGHT TIME: SWORDSWOMEN THREE (1970) has eight (8) fight scenes choreographed by the great team of Tang Chia and the legendary Liu Chia-Liang and it is the quality of these fight scenes that are the most telling of this production (the casting of extras supports this as well e.g. Wu Ma and David Chiang). Although released in 1970 anyone familiar with the work of these two masters can tell this project was completed well before 1970 and released afterwards. So I am justified in giving it a pass on analytical comparison to work actually of this time period. Suffice it to say it is still worthy of the names Tang Chia and Liu Chia-Liang.

HONORABLE MENTION: Essie Lin Chia does a fantastic job in her one on one fight scenes, I was very pleased.

In researching SWORDSWOMEN THREE (1970) I was alerted to some problems viewers had with the narrative. When watching the movie, I also experienced the jolting manner in which the story moved and I attributed this to a lack of smooth transition scenes or segues. When moving the story ahead in time and location, San Kong's characters just appear there without any forewarning. Is it a bad job of editing or did some parts of the story make the cutting room floor because of length -- I don't know. The movie suffers from it though and that's a shame. What we have here is a "mission impossible" style story of suspense with some "interesting" character choices and a real sleazy villain in Lo Lieh's character. Alas, all we can do is bemoan what could have been another Shaw Brothers' classic and encourage casual viewers, if they are to watch this particular movie to watch out for lack of the transitions of plots so the movie will be less jolting. There is no need for collectors to spend money to own this one unless they "gotta have 'em all". See you next time!

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Saturday, May 14, 2016

VENGEANCE! (1970) #049


Chang Cheh is back and he is once again turning the new wuxia genre on its head with his creativity. Producer Runme Shaw presents VENGEANCE! (1970), released on May 14th it was directed by Chang Cheh, written by Chang Cheh and frequent co-writer I Kuang. The action is directed by Tang Chia and Yuen Cheung-Yan, two of the best in the business working together once again. Let's get busy!

Guan Xiao Lou is a man on fire as he sets out to kill everyone involved with the murder of his older brother over their desire for his older brother's unfaithful wife. 

the good: Ti Lung as Guan Yu Lou. David Chiang as Guan Xiao Lou. Wang Ping as Hua Zheng Fang. 
the bad: Alice Au Yin-Ching as Hua Zheng Fen. Ku Feng as Feng Kai Shan. Yeung Chi-Hing as Jin Zhi Quan. Chuen Yuen as Adjutant Gao Hong Tu. Hoh Ban as Generalissimo Hu Hu Cheng. Wong Ching-Ho as Yin Nan Ting. Chen Sing as Li Qi.

HONORABLE MENTION: This is Chen Kuan-Tai first appearance in a Shaw Brothers movie. Wang Kuang-Yu, Cheng Lui, Wang Chung, Cliff Lok, Yuen Woo-Ping, and Jason Pai Piao also have small roles as henchmen.





FIGHT TIME: VENGEANCE (1970) starts a new sub-genre in the category of wuxia films: namely modern kung fu. The movie takes place in the twentieth century, so the weapons and techniques used are more up to date than those wuxia tales of the dynasties of ancient China. Tang Chia and Yuen Cheung-Yan do the action direction that mostly involve hatchets, small throwing knives and huge bowie like knives. I counted four (4) fight scenes but there is still plenty of action throughout the movie. Excellent work!

HONORABLE MENTION: Ti Lung's athleticism in his youth is showcased in his opera performance, don't miss this! 

Chang Cheh has done it again! VENGEANCE (1970) is another Shaw Brothers classic movie that is truly deserving of the designation "classic". There are so many firsts and guest stars and cameos of future stars in this movie it is an instant collectors item. As far as the movie watching experience, it is a rather grim but entertaining and thought provoking showcase that no one should miss! See you next time!

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Saturday, May 7, 2016

HEADS FOR SALE (1970) #048


This time Producer Runme Shaw teams up Director Walter Chung Chang-Hwa with the gifted Script writer Yip Yat-Fong for HEADS FOR SALE released May 6th, 1970. Wild and interesting, with plenty of action but no action director, I can't wait to get into this one, so --let's get busy!

Hua Chen-Fang had long turned over a new leaf. He had been a "successful" burglar to the extent that he was able to retire with his wife and daughter and live in a modest comfort. Everyone in the Jiang Hu knew of his past life but because he had never harmed anyone, everyone could tolerate his presence. However when his daughter, Hua Bi-Lian, became of the age to marry, no one would accept her hand. To Hua Pi-Lien, herself, this was not a problem until the one man she did fancy: Luo Hong-Xun, also refused to marry her. Hua Bi-Lian then set out to confront him. 

Luo Hong-Xun attempted to reason with Hua Bi-Lian but she was too enraged. So, during their fight, he pretended she struck him and she was suddenly taken aback and raced off on her horse. After a while, however, Hua Bi-Lian's parents came to the Luo's home demanding he return Hua Bi-Lian to them. She had gone missing and they thought she was with him. Hong-Xun's mother explains to Bi-Lian's mother what happened and the Hua's take off to find their daughter. Luo Hong-Xun decides to go after Hua Bi-Lian and bring her back to her family. 

After leaving Luo Hong-Xun's house, Hua Bi-Lian comes across a man attempting to commit suicide by hanging himself from a tree. She cuts him down and learns he is doing so because he was tricked into gambling and lost his wife away to the gambling hall manager, Wan San-Ju for ten taels of gold. Bi-Lian goes to the gambling house to win back the wife, she gambles and wins the wife back and (of course) is attacked by Wan San-Ju and his men after the fact. During their battle, Hong-Xun catches up to Bi-Lian and jumps in to assist her and together they chases away Wan San-Ju and the remaining attackers. 

Gambling hall manager Wan San-Ju goes to report this trouble to his boss, and he turns out to be none other than Huang Lun, an old neighborhood bully and nemesis of Luo Hong-Xun. Times has been very kind to Huang Lun, although he has a scar and the bad memories of his run in with Luo Hong-Xun to keep him company, he can hold his head up because since being forced out of their old neighborhood, prostitution and gambling has been very, very good to Huang Lun and poor Luo Hong-Xun is about to find out just how good

the good: Lisa Chiao Chiao as Hua Bi Lian (she has never looked so good! this was an EXCELLENT role for her!). Chan Leung as Luo Hong-Xin. Chen Miu as Hua Chen-Fang. Lai Cheuk-Cheuk as Madame Hua. Wang Hsieh as Hero Pao Tzu-An. Helen Ma Hoi-Lun as Pao Chin-Hua. 
the bad: Fan Mei-Sheng as Wan San-Chu. Kao Ming as Huang Lun. Hung Lau as Pai Hua-She.

HONORABLE MENTION: Cheng Lui, Tung Li, and Chen Sing play minor roles. 

FIGHT TIME: I counted nine (9) excellent fight scenes in HEADS FOR SALE (1970). Historically, I see "they" have achieved the lateral movement of the "light skill" in wuxia. It looks fantastic! I am very excited to see the future of this technique. Why do I say "they"? Because HEADS FOR SALE (1970) has no action director credited! This is remarkable because the action throughout the movie is so praiseworthy I can't imagine who would not want to take credit for it? I do have a suspect but I dare not say who it is --but the fights are worth the price of admission AND the story is very entertaining, no disappointments here. 

HEADS FOR SALE (1970) is a definite recommend for collectors because of the standard for the seventies wuxia fights is established here, in my opinion. Every movie produced after this one has to be at least as good as HEADS FOR SALE or I got problems with it, period. In addition, it is a fun and entertaining wuxia afternoon for all fans so buy or borrow it at all costs! 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!