Director: Joseph Kong Hung
Starring: Chen Sing, Henry Yu Yung, Cheung Lik
Firstly, this film is known by more aliases than a secret agent. As far as I can tell, Tough Guy is it's true original title. Kung Fu the Head Crusher (referring to the main hero's ability to kill by grabbing his opponent's skull and squeezing it like a vice) is it's most well known title here in the States and in England (and my favorite of all the akas). Revenge of the Dragon is it's generic video retitling. There is I believe, at least one more title that it goes under, but I can't think of what it is right now.
Released in 1972, Kung Fu the Headcrusher (as I prefer calling it, even though it's wrong) is one of the better early bashers. The story and premise though formulaic, are just different enough to keep things between fights interesting (or at least tolerable). Fortunately, time between fights isn't very long and when the battles do come, they are some pretty viscious encounters.
The film stars Chen Sing (aka Chen Xing) whom I consider one of the scariest dudes to ever work in action films, martial arts or otherwise. Looking not unlike a Chinese Charles Bronson, Chen attacks each of his many roles like a wild man, always with a maniacal growl to go along with his short, but imposing stature. Be it hero or villian (he's the hero in this one, btw) you just know his opponent is in for a rough time. Simply put when Chen Sing is in a film, look out. Co starring is Cheung Lik. Cheung is not the most personable of actors, but he is one of the best fighters I have seen in these early Punch and Kick flicks. He is a very good martial artist with fast kicking ability and great use in this film of the nunchaku (he uses two simulaneously). Among the rest of the cast, I spotted Fong Hark On and Mars. Fong has spent a two decade career as one of the nastier bad guys in Hong Kong cinema. With his perpetual sneer, it's easy to see why. Mars started his career as a stuntman and occasional second banana, comic relief (which is what he plays here). He would go on to become one of Jackie Chan's top stuntmen and can be seen in many of Chan's 80's films. Actually, both Fong and Mars appeared in Jackie Chan's Police Story. It's kind of fun to see them together here, a dozen or so years earlier.
The film's soundtrack is an interesting one as it borrows liberally from the classic Sergio Leone Western, Once Upon a Time in the West. Specifically, it incorporates the "Cheyene" theme and this suits our main hero in a decidedly odd, yet appropriate way.
The story is about a pair of cops (Chen Sing and Cheung Lik) who are tasked to stop drug runners. Chen goes undercover as a prisoner to help break a gang member out. He ingratiates himself to the gang and with Cheung staying near but out of sight, gets to the bottom of it. Unfortunately, Chen's ruse is discovered and he is captured and beaten. He escapes just in time to stop the latest shipment and a fierce battle ensues, ending with Chen and the gang's number one enforcer battling it out in the mud. Great old school knock down, drag out stuff to be found here.
As a sidenote, there is a running gag in the film concerning the gang's boss (a slightly built fellow) who continually experiences... eh, let's say erectile disfunction when in bed with his summoned women. I'm guessing that this was meant to be comedy relief, but it just comes off as strange in an otherwise dead serious flick.
*** / ****