Saturday, June 25, 2016

THE IRON BUDDHA (1970) #055


WARNING!!!: The Iron Buddha (1970) contains sexually mature subject matter and is not suggested by this author for young children or squeamish adults, parental guidance is advised.

On November 12, 1970 Shaw Brothers Studios released THE IRON BUDDHA (1970) produced by Sir Run Run Shaw, directed by veteran actor, Yan Jun with the script chores done by two time script writer, Sung Hiu-Wong (as Sung Kang) and action directed by Sammo Hung (as Chu Yuan Lung) and Han Kuo. This is a very twisted but psychologically interesting revenge tale with the revenge seeker in the first half of the tale being an unrepentant serial rapist! Let's get busy!

Xiao Tianzun of the Yun Mountain Sect is on the prowl. He is a serial rapist and has just spotted his next victim in a silhouette from a home he has happened to pass. Unfortunately for Xiao Tianzun, the hero known as Wind Chasing Knife Master Liu Peng also happens to be enjoying the hospitality of the family that owns the home along with his two daughters and his senior student. The hero and his daughter stop Xiao Tianzun from raping the mute daughter of a blind woman and Xiao Tianzun quickly begins begging for his life. Master Liu's daughters and student all protest strongly, nevertheless, Master Liu grants Xiao Tianzun's request to spare his life but scars Xiao Tianzun's chest to teach him a lesson.

It is three years later and Xiao Tianzun has made some changes in his life. He has NOT however, turned over a new leaf. Instead, he has planted roots in the world of the Jiang Hu as a notorious rapist and a very evil man. He has murdered his sifu and his sifu's family. He has acquired the famous Evil Poisonous Sword and with it has joined a heretic sect. He is now lying in wait for Wind Chasing Knife Master Liu Peng and his two daughters. Xiao Tianzun left a note for Master Liu's students to come and collect their teacher's body somewhere in the woods. Xiao Tianzun intends to murder Master Liu rape his daughters and then murder all of Master Liu's students in order to punish Master Liu and the world for allowing him to live. Let's look and see how it turns out for this odd fellow, shall we? 

Luo Han is the second eldest of Master Liu Peng's students. He is nick-named The Iron Buddha. As the sole survivor of Xian Tianzun's massacre, it has become his responsibility to seek justice for his master, his clan, the people of Swallow Valley and the murdered family and owner of the Ten Mile Inn. But in order to defeat Xian Tianzun's Evil Poisonous Sword, Luo Han must first travel to the capitol and get the precious Hulong Saber. With villains to the front of him, villains to the back of him and villains to the side of him, will he succeed? 

the good: Ling Yun as Luo Han. Fang Ying as Mu Dan. Ku Wen-Chung as Uncle Chen Imperial Guard Wang Qi. Lee Sau-Kei as Master Liu Peng.
the bad: Huang Chung-Hsin as Xiao Tianzun. Chen Hung-Lieh as Master Geng Xian. Fan Mei-Sheng as Master Luo.

HONORABLE MENTION: Sammo Hung, James Tien, Liu Chia-Yung, Wang Chung and Chiu Hung have minor roles as villains. Huang Chung-Hsin gives a command performance as Xiao Tianzun the pathological serial rapist, murderer that makes the movie a must see!

FIGHT TIME (or "can you handle the truth?"): I counted eleven (11) fight scenes including the finale in THE IRON BUDDHA ()1970) which credits Sammo Hung and Han Kuo as the action directors. As far as Han Kuo goes, his entire action directing career spans a whopping total of 3 movies, period. Conversely, Sammo Hung continues to work to this day and the quality of his work is literally, legendary. As politely as I can put it: this is NOT the movie to watch for experiencing quality action direction. Some of the fight scenes are badly over-cranked often looking "cartoonish". The editing is also chaotic and aids in a negative experience with the fight scenes. "Nuff said." 

THE IRON BUDDHA (1970) is a peek at pure evil or as close as I have seen so far of pure evil in a wuxia movie. Even though Sung Kang (Hiu-Wong) never wrote another screenplay after this one I can't say why this script would be considered so bad... --okay I can, but themes of the psychological underpinnings of pathological criminals should not only be pursued by television crime drama script writers but those that want to expand and kept the wuxia genre alive. People now-a-days will be more likely to see your movie if there is more to it than "Why did you kill my teacher?" (or "steal my elephant?"). For these reasons I recommend THE IRON BUDDHA (1970) as a "must-see" especially for students of film making, but as a collectible --not so much. See you next time!

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Saturday, June 18, 2016



Runme Shaw produces Hsu Tseng-Hung's last directed movie for Shaw Brothers Studios: THE SECRET OF THE DIRK (1970). Hsu Tseng-Hung is the most famous director you do not know: he directed the very first movie in the wuxia genre, the wonderful BUT underrated classic, Temple of the Red Lotus (1965) [as well as the two sequels: The Twin Swords (1965) and The Sword and the Lute (1967)]. THE SECRET OF THE DIRK (1970) was released on October 24th, Yat Fong is the script writer and Tang Chia does the fight choreography all by his lonesome. The movie is told in an complex manner but it is really a simple two-party treasure hunt. Let's get busy!

A large army of robbers lead by one, Pa Tien Wang laid siege to the City of Liu for three months forcing its citizens to flee but not before pooling their most precious valuables together in single lock-box. The Liu City treasure's location was kept secret and try as they might neither the robbers nor Pa Tien Wang was able to get their hands on the treasure. 

Twenty years later, Madame Liu returns to the village where a group of the former citizens of Liu City have hidden out. She is mortally wounded by members of The Black Tiger Gang. The Black Tiger Gang are a band of notorious robbers that have learned about the Liu City Treasure Lock-Box and wants it for themselves. Madame Liu had been out searching for some of the missing citizens of Liu City especially a female child named Liu Ching Ching who is the rightful heir of the City of Liu and true custodian of the treasure. Madame Liu had gotten a lead on the child's whereabouts when she was ambushed. On her deathbed, Madame Liu assigns her four students the task of finding the heir Liu Ching Ching and restoring the treasure to the survivors of Liu City. 

Meanwhile The Black Tiger Gang locate and kidnap Liu Ching Ching with the hopes of discovering the location of the Liu Treasure but are coincidentally discovered by Da Law School senior member Zhou Ying Long, who is the sole wielder of the deadly Da Law Sword. Zhou Ying Long is a true knight errant of China and rescues Liu Ching Ching and takes the responsibility to escort her home. 

On the way to bringing Liu Ching Ching back to her home, Zhou Ying Long and Ching Ching both pass by Madame Liu's four students' camp and the students overhear Liu Ching Ching identify herself. Madame Liu's four students decide to acquire Liu Ching Ching but without her permission. By doing so, they become in direct competition with The Black Tiger Gang but with Zhou Ying Long and the Da Law School sitting smack in the middle of the conflict for the Liu City Treasure. The story continues with twists and turns and red herrings but only at the very end do we learn THE SECRET OF THE DIRK. 

Liu Chai-Yung, David Chiang, and Wang Chung starting second from left going left
the good: Ching Li as Ming Chu. Chang Yi as Zhou Ying Long. Shu Pei-Pei as Liu Ching Ching. Lin Jing as Madame Liu. Helen Ma Hoi-Lun as Xiao Lan. Cliff Lok as Xiao Ying. Fang Mian as General Liu Tsing. 
the bad: Tien Feng as Wang Shan Hu. Chiu Hung as Wan Tai Zhi.

HONORABLE MENTION: Tang Chia, Chen Kuan-Tai, David Chiang, Liu Chia-Yung and Wang Chung all have minor roles as members of the Black Tiger Gang. 

FIGHT TIME: THE SECRET OF THE DIRK (1970) was fight choreographed solo by Tang Chia. I counted eight (8) fight scenes, most of them were very short but exciting. Some of them seemed pretty chaotic but they were few in number. The movie's finale was excellent, even though it stopped just a little sudden for me there was plenty of tension and excitement as the fights went back and forth from one on one to one versus many from Ching Li's fights to Chang Yi's fights and some shots showing both at the same time. Kudos!

HONORABLE MENTION: There were two honorable mentions, one was the Da Law Sword, a fantastic weapon and the other was Ching Li's performance in the finale when she took a double-handed grip on the sword and went to town you just knew it was about to get bloody!

Based on the small roles of some prominent stars of the time, I am going to conclude that this is one of the many films that sat a while on a shelf a minute before being released, which in and of itself is not at all a rare practice. Nevertheless, THE SECRET OF THE DIRK (1970) is an entertaining film, flaws and all so I am going to recommend it for general viewers but not necessarily a must have for collectors. The plot twists and red herrings will make you want to watch it a couple of times to figure out what you (or they) missed. Have fun with it! See you next time!

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Saturday, June 11, 2016



VALLEY OF THE FANGS (1970) was released October 6th produced by both Sir Run Run Shaw and Lee Ji-Ryong. Written by Wong Po-I and directed by the very talented Walter Chung Chang-Hwa it is a mission wuxia tale with the oft used tale of the Ming Dynasty during the rule of a child emperor and a corrupt eunuch and a corrupt prime minister. A loyal subject is unjustly accused of treason and his loved ones must find a way to save them. The action choreography is handled by Liu Chia Yung the younger brother of Liu Chia Liang. Let's get busy!

Song Yuan is the senior lecturer in the Imperial Academy. He was honored by the emperor with an Iron Shield Pardon for his loyalty and contributions to the empire. The person presenting this small token can even be pardoned a death sentence. When the emperor died, his very young son became emperor and  Prime Minister Jia Shoudao took advantage of the child and oppressed the common people. Song Yuan refused to go along with the abuse of power by the prime minister and so was framed for treason, imprisoned and tortured with the prospects of being put to death. 

The Head Of Punishment, Geng Shangde visits the child emperor to ask for a pardon of Song Yuan as a favor to him (Geng Shangde) but is rebuffed. He then goes and tells Song Yuan's wife and daughter they must use the Iron Shield Pardon as it is the only way to gain Song Yuan's release. Unfortunately the child emperor's eunuch has followed The Head Of Punishment and alerts Prime Minister Jia Shoudao of the Song's plan to use The Iron Shield Pardon. Prime Minister Jia Shoudao assigns Commander Gao Sixian of the Jin Yi Wei to confiscate the Iron Shield Pardon but it must be done in secret because Song Yuan's loyalty to the previous emperor is well known and he is loved by the people. 

Song Yuan's wife and daughter disguise themselves as street entertainers and hide the Iron Shield Pardon on their person as they make their journey to the capital to save the head of their family.  The journey is dangerous enough as it is but to make it to the capitol they must pass through the dreaded Valley Of The Fangs where the emperor's new palace is under construction. Will they make it? 

the good: Li Ching as Song Jie. Lo Lieh as You Rulong. Chan Leung as Chin Shikai. Chen Yan-Yan as Song Jie's mother. Tung Li as Boss kiln worker. 
the bad: Wang Hsieh as Commander Gao Sixian. Fan Mei-Sheng as Instructor Ma. Wang Kuang-Yu as Instructor Niu.

HONORABLE MENTION: Paul Wei Pin-Ao as Hu San shows his skills as an excellent character actor.  In fact, the moment the movie gets to "THE VALLEY OF THE FANGS" with the workers in the kiln it hits a higher note of drama than the rest of the film and the actors in it rise to the occasion! Chen Sing, Luk Chuen, Someno Yukio, and Cheng Lui have small roles in this movie.  

FIGHT TIME: Liu Chia-Yung handles the fight choreography all by himself for the first time so that alone makes this a collectible film. I counted a total of nine (9) fight scenes making for an action-packed movie. The techniques were good and added to the excitement of the film. Bravo. 
HONORABLE MENTION: Liu Chia-Yung's choreography (especially with Paul Wei Pin-Ao) during the kiln sequence shows his skills as in putting the right technique with the correct character for maximum entertainment value, double bravo!!

VALLEY OF THE FANGS (1970) is certainly good entertainment but it is a showcase for the action choreography talents of Liu Chia-Yung and that makes this first solo job from him a collectible and must have. Watching some of the faces on the actors here make for a good time if group watching as well. So please see this film if you have the opportunity to do so. See you next time!

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Saturday, June 4, 2016



Sir Run Run Shaw produces another film by the team of Director Griffin Yueh Fung and Writer Wang Po I entitled A TASTE OF COLD STEEL (1970). Released September 16th, it seems to borrow a few things from August 5th's Swordswomen Three (1970) while being just marginally a sequel to the team's previous movie Rape Of The Sword (1967) made three years previous to this one. A TASTE OF COLD STEEL (1970) has a more straight forward sword stealing, character driven plot and an updated style to entertain us. The action choreography is done by Simon Chui Yee-Ang which I will get to later on, so --Let's Get Busy!

But before we get busy, I cannot allow the moment to pass before mentioning there are some similarities between these two movies released some weeks apart from each other. That said, the sheer number of times this has happened, even in Hollywood, means that I just get to mention it but not make too much of a fuss about it. It happens, trust me. Now, on with the show!

Lord Wu Yi and his step son Prince Lu Tianxia (although in the previous movie the titles are reversed) have conspired to murder Lord Gan Xiong of Fort Gan in order to acquire the Gan Family treasure The Purple Light Sword. While the surviving three daughters of Gan Xiong are still in mourning, Prince Lu Tianxia goes to Fort Gan to pay his respects but then demands the Gan Family "present the sword to the emperor" or risk having the rest of the remaining family being killed. Just as things are getting tense their cousin Hsu Chiu arrives. He had already been on his way to pay his respects but hung back seeing Lu Tianxia and Lu's men and wanting to know what Lu's plan was. A battle ensues and Prince Lu Tianxia is defeated but escapes and goes on the run. 

Exhausted and bloodied Prince Lu Tianxia stumbles into an old run down temple in which to rest and unwittingly disturbs the occupants resting within. The Five Tigers decide to beat him up for the offense and because he looks as though he has nothing of value, to kill him. Prince Lu quickly uses his wits to recruit this gang of misfit outlaws to do his bidding and go after the Purple Light Swords, jewels and the three Gan daughters. However the old adage proves true that there is no honor amongst thieves and the Five Tigers and Prince Lu Tianxia form an uneasy alliance with each waiting for the opportunity to get one-up of the other.  

The entire cast did a good job but the villains were freaking outstanding! The Five Tigers were genuinely scary and kept the tension up until the end of the movie. I know the movie is over thirty years old but I really hate to ruin the surprise guest star that comes in near the end of the movie so I won't! If you want to know who it is you'll just have to find a way to see the movie but I'm not kidding you. It is worth it if, like me, this the first time you are watching these Shaw Brothers gems from the 60's. Watching these movies in order and not just jumping to the ones I thought would be good proved to be a learning experience for me. I am very glad I did it that way. 

the good: Yau Ching (the eldest Gan sister), Essie Lin Chia  second Gan sister or Gan Ya Nan --the only sister whose name is mentioned Shu Pei-Pei (third Gan sister), and Chang Yi (cousin Hsu Chu).

the bad: Chen Hung-Lieh returning as Prince Lu Tianxia and Lee Wan-Chung returning as Lord Wu Yi. Huang Chung-Hsin was Tiger Boss number one,Ku Feng was Tiger number two, Simon Chui Yee-Ang was Tiger number three, Hung Lau was Tiger number four and Wu Ma was Tiger number five. 

HONORABLE MENTION: Wong Yap, Tian Jun, Lee Kwan, Hung Lau, and Fong Mien.

FIGHT TIME: Yes, this is the reason I watch these movies! Glad to see that this time there is an action director: Simon Chui Yee-Ang, the actor playing Tiger number three Crippled Tiger. The improvement in the fights scenes from the previous movie are quite noticeable. The women also stood out in their fights and they look like they really took their performance to heart, bravo! I counted eight (8) fight scenes and lots of action in this movie so I had a really good time watching it. No, the techniques are no where near where they will be in just a few short years but I still enjoyed the movie and respect the effort put into the production. My only sore point is the shaky-cam work. It just made it more difficult for me to see what I was looking at and I just don't care for it. 

Lee Kwan

Sammo Hung second from right

James Tien

For sequels I look to see if the characters are advanced in their depiction or is the purpose of the plot moved forward. In this case neither is true. We have a very entertaining movie but it is a sequel only because the villains are again used here but they are no more this or that for this story than the last one. Yet, the new villains are better enacted in this sequel and the fights are improved and the movie stands alone in its presentation so you don't need to see the previous movie to enjoy this one. That said, it is an easy nod for me to recommend this movie (as I did the previous one) on the strength of its entertainment value alone, especially if you like creepy villains and surprise guest stars. Maybe not a collectible so much. Thanks for reading, 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!