Saturday, December 31, 2011

Shanghai 13 (aka All the Professionals)

Director: Chang Cheh
Starring: Ti Lung, David Chiang, Chen Kwan Tai, Liang Chia Jen, Andy Lau, Wang Yu Chiang Sheng, Lu Feng and oh, so many others...

The year was 1984 and the once mighty Shaw Bros. studio was on it's last legs. Legendary director Chang Cheh had left the studio a year earlier, his magnum opus Five Element Ninja being his last hurrah. He continued to make films independently in Taiwan. His first two features, Attack of the Joyful Goddess and The Nine Demons were both near disastrous fantasies that did a disservice to his reputation. Coming up on his 100th film, Chang apparently wanted to do something special (and wasn't about to let a complete lack of budget stand in his way). Assembling a Dream Team, who's who of former and current superstar proteges (ranging from the original kung fu movie star, Jimmy Wang Yu to up and comer Andy Lau), Chang wrote, produced and directed Shanghai 13, the Destroy All Monsters of old school kung fu movies.

Our story is set during the last days of The Republic when China was under the threat of invasion by the Japanese. Discovering a plot that would turn China into a Japanese colony, a government minister by the name of Mr. Gau steal incriminating documents. With the help of the underground, the "13 Rascals", Gau must make his way through Shanghai to board a boat to Hong Kong where he will present his evidence. But the traitors have their own contacts in the criminal world (including several members of the 13 Rascals who have defected). Without knowing exactly whom he can and cannot trust, Gau finds his path growing more dangerous by the moment.

From this plot setting, Chang unleashes a series of pitched battles that are probably the most exciting in his twenty plus year career. Starting off slowly (Both Wang Yu and Chen Kwan Tai start off the movie in essentially non fighting roles), the film gets it's main plot device out of the way during the first thirty minutes. From there, it moves from one blistering martial arts battle to the next with each sequence managing to top the previous one. It truly was a thrill to see so many top name fighting stars from the past (and a few from the present) go at it with fairly reckless abandon. The choreography combined the traditional 70s style combat with 80s style speed to make for an irresisitable viewing experience. Highlights include former Venom Lu Feng battling first Liang Chia Jen and then Andy Lau, a big time battle in a casino featuring an aging but still lithe David Chiang and the finale at the dock which features a mustached Ti Lung (with cap and pipe!) vs. the legendary Chen Sing as well as current Chang fave, Cheng Tien Chi. For fans of old school style fighting, it just doesn't get much better than this.

That isn't to say that Shanghai 13 is perfect. Far from it, in fact. The non exisitent budget and apparent rushed film schedule (both of which are especially regretful considering the amount of talent going on both in front of and behind the camera) reveals itself in the form of some sloppy editing and so-called sets that couldn't decide if they took place in the designated era of the 1930s or 1984 when the film was actually shot.

Despite these quibbles, there is no way I'm going to give Shanghai 13 anything less than my highest recommendation. It's just too much damn fun. One of the great ones far as I'm concerned.

On a side note, the opening credits feature an incredible guitar riff which was lifted from the Death Wish 2 soundtrack, composed by Jimmy Page. Wonder if Jimmy knows his music was used for a kung fu movie?...

                                                                 ***1/2 / ****

Friday, December 23, 2011

Rocco, Ang Batang Bato (The Boy God) (aka Stone Boy)


Director: J. Erastheo Navoa
Starring: NiƱo Muhlach, Jimi Melendez, Cecille Castillo

Here's a truly bizarre children's fantasy from the Phillipines that somehow manages to be equal measures charming and creepy (O.K. mostly creepy) while containing enough freaky imagery to send many an unsuspecting Western viewer's head spinning in disbelief.

The convoluted, yet linear story begins as baby Rocco (played by local child star, Nino Muhlach) is born the same night that his parents are viciously gunned down (exactly by whom is never made clear... to me, anyway). Fast forward eleven years and Rocco is being raised by his grandmother. She warns him not to display his newly found powers (which includes superhuman strength and the ability to crouch down like a ball and roll violently into things) and weakness (he loses his powers when exposed to water). Turns out easier said than done however because the evil scientist, Dr. Meagele has been conducting experiments on the locals, transforming them into either vampires or werewolves. After defending his home against one said lycanthrope, word spreads about Rocco, the Stone Boy. He is lured by a trio of witches who after weakening him by dousing him with water, tie him to a spit and prepare to dine on him like a Roast Pig (this is by far the most disturbing image in the movie). As the witches turn into wolfies, the heat from the fire that our hapless hero is basting on restores his strength. Fighting them off (as well as huge vampire bat that attempts to carry him off) Rocco seeks refuge in a cave. There he bumps into Vulcan, an elderly immortal who tells Rocco of his legacy; that he is himself, half immortal (on his father's side) and must travel to the land of the little people to free his parents souls which are in limbo. Allying himself with said little ones and receiving help from a suspiciously Darna-like woman warrior, Rocco is off to the rescue, battling a Cyclops and various other nasties in his quest to free his parents' souls.

The film takes a little while to really get rolling (much like our Boy-God himself) but once it does... ooh mama! It is hard to believe that this film was aimed at the kiddies, what with the gore and carnage on display, but it indeed was and that makes the proceedings all the more... let's say exotic for a lack of a harsher adjective. It lacks the extreme violence that is found in more adult Filipino fare like The Killing of Satan (which I previously reviewed), but there is plenty of eyebrow raising stuff going on for a family oriented fantasy.

Overall, Rocco, Ang Batang Bato with it's decidedly cool low budget effects and genuinely creepy visuals, shapes up as recommended viewing for fantasy fans with a penchant for the decidedly different. Just make sure you know what you're getting into before diving in.

                                                                 *** / ****

Friday, December 16, 2011

Death Duel of Kung Fu

Director: Chang Chu
Starring: Wang Tao, John Liu, Han Ying

Another one of those pleasant surprises that I stumbled upon back in the mid 80s courtesy of Ocean Shores, at the time one of the best companies releasing Kung Fu movies on vhs here in the U.S. This 1979 period piece teams Wong Tao and John Liu who previously duetted in 1976's  The Secret Rivals. Like that groundbreaker, Death Duel of Kung Fu was shot in South Korea on a similarly low budget, but the results here are actually more impressive than it's better known predecessor.

Set during the Qing Dynasty, our film begins with a strong sequence showing the beheading of the Qing Field Marshall at the hands of Ming Patriot, Shung Ching Kwei (Wong Tao). Now on the lamb, Shun finds himself hunted by Lord To Ko Lan (Han Ying). He also finds his trail dogged by mysterious rogue, Sun Sen (John Liu) as well as a mysterious Japanese woman who may or may not be his ally. Finding themselves initially at odds, Shun (Southern style fighter) and Sun (Northern style) must eventually team up in order to combat To and his lethal Crane style.

I was never the biggest fan of Wong Tao (aka Don Wong) as I found him to have a rather bland screen presence. Here, his stoic image is put to good use and this is probably the best work he's done. John Liu is one of 70s Kung Fu cinema's premier leg fighters. His kicks are nothing short of amazing (as demonstrated in the egg breaking training sequence). The two actually work off each other very well as they had in Secret Rivals (here their roles seemed reversed as Wong plays the no nonsense main hero and Liu the antagonistic rouge). As the villian, Han Ying (aka Eagle Han) brings a sense of menace and authority to his role. It is a relatively low key performance, but an effective one.

Written by Shaw Bros. vet, I Kuang and directed with an assured flair by Chang Chi, Death Duel of Kung Fu charges along at a swift, economic pace while featuring some fine martial arts battles (courtesy of choreographers Chien Yuet San and Mong Hoi), making this one of the stronger Independently made period pieces of the 70s. Worth seeking out.

                                                               *** / ****

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Daredevils (aka Daredevils of Kung Fu) (aka Shaolin Daredevils)

Director: Chang Cheh
Starring: Kuo Chui, Chiang Sheng, Lu Feng, Lo Mang, Sun Chien

The ubiquitous Chang Cheh first introduced the "Venom Mob" (Kuo Chui-usually the leader, Chang Sheng,-his tag team partner, Lo Mang,-the muscleman who arguably became the most popular "Venom" here in the States, Lu Feng,-usually the villian and Sun Chien,-the kicker) in 1978 in the now legendary cult movie The Five Venoms (aka 5 Deadly Venoms). That film (devoid of a name actor and absent of any comedy relief which had become the trend at that point) became a surprise hit and began a series of a dozen or so adventures with the same group (though all five did not appear in every subsequent entry) up until 1981 where they disbanded. These films were among the wildest and bloodiest ever seen in the Shaw cannon.

The Daredevils filmed in 1979, was an unusual entry in that in took place during the early Republic period (1920s). This allowed for Shaw Bros. to dress up their familiar sets a little differently, making for a slight visual alternative to what fans became used to seeing. Guns were also featured here, albeit briefly and admittedly awkwardly (it wasn't until the mid eighties before Hong Kong movies were to truly meld martial arts and gunplay).

At the start of the film, Lo Mang's character is in mourning. His wealthy family having been betrayed and killed by a vicious General. When Mang seeks revenge, he is himself killed by the General's martial arts bodyguards. In retaliation, his four closest friends, all street acrobats (the Daredevils) use his family money in order to construct an elaborate ruse to get close to and ultimately assassinate the General.

The first thirty minutes of this film features some lively action but once Lo's character is killed off (way too early, I may add), the adventure bogs down a little in an overly elaborate cat and mouse game that wasn't as interesting as I had hoped it would be (watching characters getting patted down over and over again got a little tedious). Fortunately, things do pick up and the finale (where our four acrobat avengers finally have their man cornered) features one of the better fights found in this series..

Overall, The Daredevils may not represent The Venom Mob at their best, but the unusual setting and terrific finale make it a worth catching. Just wish they hadn't killed my favorite Venom off so early on.

                                                                    **1/2 / ****

Monday, November 28, 2011

Superman in Istanbul (Super Adam Istanbulda)


Director: Yavuz YalinkiliƧ
Starring: Erdo Vatan, Safiye Yanki, Hayati Hamzaoglu

I've seen my fair share of no budget Turkish extravaganzas in recent years, but even going by the criteria.that these films have laid out, this is a particularly desperate affair. The Superman costume looks as if it will rip apart at the seems at any moment and there is absolutely nothing in the way of production or film technique to be had here. Yeah, I know that can be said about any number of like Turkish Pop films, but for some reason, I really felt it this time. If ever a film looked like it was made on the fly, it was this one. Yet despite my whining, this is a Turkish superhero adventure made at the height of these films' popularity and as such, there is plenty of fun to be had.

Lensed in 1972, Superman in Istanbul portrays the Man of Steel as a secret agent from America who along with his female sidekick, infiltrates a hippy flop house that is actually a front for a human traffic ring (at least I think that's the jist of the story as my dvdr came without English subtitles). The majority of this 63 minute epic consists of fights, tortures, escapes, more fights, more captures, more tortures, more escapes etc.

The opening scene is actually the most memorable segment. After being repeatedly stabbed, an unlucky damsal wanders the streets, blood running down her legs to the point of leaving bloody footprints. As she stumbles about, the film's credits are literally written on the ground beneath her. This seems to be the only part of the film that shows evidence of any real thought or consideration.

One thing noticeable about this Superman is that he doesn't fly. He arrives on the scene via commercial airliner. This undoubtably is due to the fact that there was no budget for any effects whatsoever. To make up for this, our male and female pair do summersaults during combat; LOTS of them. Even when there is no reason for it, they'll just do all sorts of front and back flips. It was an attempt at making a spectacle of the fight scenes, but comes off as more comically awkward than anything else.

Despite the seeming negativity of this review, I actually did kind of enjoy Superman in Istanbul. It can't compare to 3 Dev Adam or Bedmen Yarasa Adam, but it is still an action and sleeze filled Turkish film from the 70s and that alone makes it worth seeking out.

                                                                **1/2 / ****

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Yes Madam (aka In the Line of Duty 2) (aka Police Assassins 2)


Director: Corey Yuen
Starring: Michelle Khan (Yeoh), Cynthia Royhrock, Mang Hoi, John Shum, Tsui Hark

The story surrounding the various titles for this seminal "Girls with guns" film is about as checkered and downright confusing as any I've ever come across. I first saw this film in 1988 (dubbed in English as Police Assassins 2) and to this day, I'm still a little fuzzy about it's genesis. To the best of my knowledge it was filmed in 1985 as Yes Madam, but shelved because the Producers at D & B (a new and short lived Hong Kong film company) considered it unreleasable (!). When the semi sequel, Royal Warriors was a hit the following year, Yes Madam was dusted off and finally released as R.W.s sequel. In other countries, Royal Warriors was known alternately as Police Assassins and In the Line of Duty, so Yes Madam was similarly retitled once again as the sequel, even though it came first. Got that?

Multiple titles notwithstanding, Yes Madam is a real treat. It was one of my first experiences with the modern Hong Kong action films of the '80s (and my first that didn't star Jackie Chan) and I was properly blown away by it.

The film pairs Michelle Yeoh (then named Michelle Khan) and Cynthia Rothrock as mismatched police women who attempt to bring down a crime lord (played by long time vet, James Tien) only to have their paths cross with a trio of bumbling, yet clever thieves (John Shum, Mang Hoi and Tsui Hark).

It at times resembles that of Sammo Hung's Lucky Stars series, but it melds it's goofy comedy into the dead serious action in a much more satisfying brew. This of course, causes the film to be more than a little schizophrenic. But as uneven as it is, it really hits the ground running and proceeds at such a breakneck pace that it's almost impossible not to get caught up in it's wild shenanigans.

Director and choreographer Corey Yuen (who would eventually helm films like The Transporter) was one of the unsung heroes of the 80s modern action movement. As a choreographer, he is almost without peer as this and his followup effort, Righting Wrongs (which pairs Rothrock with Yuen Biao) so vividly point out. Here, the action is nothing short of incredible. The finale in particular ranks as one of the ten best in any Hong Kong movie of this vintage (meaning it ranks as one of the ten best from any movie ever).

As for our two leading ladies, this was Michelle Yeoh's first starring vehicle (she previously had a small non-action role as a demure school teacher in the film Owl vs. Dumbo) and for a relative rookie, she makes the most of it, displaying a ferociousness that she has not matched since. Ladylike one moment, she can go all out Dirty Harry the next (as demonstrated in the film's opening scene, complete with a "do you feel lucky?" riff). The film really takes off however, with the arrival of Rothrock as a super tough and quite ornary detective from America (Scotland Yard in the original, alternate English dub). A real life Black Belt in several varying martial arts forms, Rothrock puts her talents to terrific use here (though both ladies understandably were doubled for the really dangerous stunts of which there are plenty).

Special mention should go to Dick Wei (aka Ti Wei). One of Hong Kong's consistently best bad guys from this period, Wei can be seen in everything from 5 Deadly Venoms (where he played the dying master in the pre credits sequence) to Project A (where he had arguably his most memorable role as the Pirate leader). Playing the gangster's right hand man, he gets to battle both Yeoh and Rothrock in the finale and nearly wins. In real life, Wei was apparently as rough and tough as his characters and did not pull his screen punches. The story goes that at one point, he kicked Rothrock so hard in the head that she bled out of her ear! Not nice...

While hardly high art, Yes Madam gives as much high caliber bang for your buck as any you are likely to see. A personal favorite.

                                                               ***1/2 / ****

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Living Skeleton

Director: Hiroshi Matsuno
Starring: Kikko Matsuoka, Yasunori Irikawa, Masumi Okada

Until fairly recently, this film existed as something of a legend in my eyes. Way back in the early 1970s at the tender age of 5 or 6, I picked up my first ever monster movie book. It was titled A Pictorial History of Horror Movies and became a huge reference book for me growing up. It detailed mostly classic horror and sci fi (very Universal heavy) from the silents up until the 1950s. Anything made in the 60s got little more than a passing nod. Even still, there were several photos from seemingly obscure movies that went otherwise unmentioned anywhere else in the book. One of these photos showed a maniacal skeleton menacing a terrified Japanese woman. It was identified as a film called The Living Skeleton and was released in 1968. That was it, no other mention of it otherwise. For decades, that one picture was my only reference. It wasn't until a few years ago that I became aware of the availability of this film. Once I finally saw it, I made a discovery; that picture is a publicity photo. Despite the title, there is no actual living, moving skeleton in the movie. My thirty five year plus perception of what this film is was based on false hype. This isn't some silly, freaky Kaiju at all. What it is, is a decidedly creepy and occasionally hair raising ghost story.

The opening scene is especially memorable. A group of pirates massacres a ship full of people in a callous heist. It is a surprisingly gruesome sequence for it's time as you genuinely feel for these poor souls (both men and women) as they are being mercilessly gunned down. Fast forward to where the pirates have split up and are enjoying the spoils of their cruel conquest with the scarred and bald leader (played by actor Atsushi Murakami of Latitude Zero and T.V.'s Ambassador Magma) disguising himself as a Priest, no less. However, visions of those whom they murdered seem to be dogging them. Are they being haunted by ghosts or are they merely imagining it?

The director is Hiroshi Matsuno and I've not found another film to his credit. It is very eerily filmed, so I would think he had directed more than this one effort. More telling perhaps is that this tale was penned by none other than Kyuzo Kobayashi of Goke - Bodysnatcher From Hell and Genocide - War of the Insects fame and this film definitely bears the mark of this unique writer.

Others have pointed out this ghost ship story's similarities to John Carpenter's The Fog. While it is possible that Carpenter saw this until recently obscure Japanese movie, I tend to think that it's just a coincidence. It would make for a pretty nifty double bill, however.

Shot in claustrophobic black and white and with a pervasive gloom and doom atmosphere as thick as the fog bound ghost ship itself, The Living Skeleton shapes up as stirring "tell me a scary story" fun that is worth seeking out.

                                                             *** / ****

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Big Showdown (aka Kung Fu Massacre)

Director: Wang Tim Lam
Starring Charles Heung, Jin Fu Wan

A particularly fast and furious basher from 1974. Right from the get go as the opening credits roll and we see star Charles Heung doing various forms intercut with co star Jin Fu Wan overseeing his students as they beak boards, etc, this film let's us know in no uncertain term that it means business.

Returning home from being abroad, Tang Kin Ko (Heung) discovers his family dead and sister missing. He is to secretly meet with his Uncle Cheung, who will explain to him what is going on. However, he is then killed and Tang falsely accused of the murder by police (nice detective work, boys). Forced to go on the run, Tang stumbles into the mansion of a rich gangster named Towan (I think). Towan sees Tang's skills first hand and decides that he would be of use to him. He allows him to join his gang with the promise of helping to find the cause of his family's murder and sister's long disappearance (in fact as will be revealed and to no one's surprise, Towan is actually the cause of Tang's problems). Eventually, Tang runs afoul of a mysterious stranger (Jin Fu Wan) who is after Towan himself for stealing both his money and wife (yeah this Towan guy, he's just not a nice guy). After initially feuding with each other (and after more subplots including Tang's capture by the police, being sprung by the stranger and the surprise discovery of his sister), our two heroes team up and after special training, attack Towan and his gang.

Despite some overly simplistic direction from Wang Tim Lam, The Big Showdown still emerges as one of the better bashers I've seen and this is due in no small part to the fantastic choreography from the up and coming Yuen Wo Ping. As the most prominent member of the famed Yuen Clan, he has gone on to direct and choreograph evrerything from the Jackie Chan's twin breakthrough efforts, Snake in the Eagle's Shadow and Drunken Master to classics like Dance of the Drunken Mantis and Legend of a Fighter to wacky kung fu comedies like Taoism Drunkard before coming to Hollywood to choreograph the Matrix trilogy. Here, he proves that in addition to doing complex "Shapes" type action, he can direct some fast paced, down and dirty Basher action as well as anybody. Heung is very good here as he has been in most films I've seen him in (the previously reviewed Goose Boxer, appearing as the bodyguard in God Gamblers, etc.). I admit I'm less familiar with costar Jin Fu Wan. He appears to have made precious few movie appearances and I'm guessing may be an actual martial arts instructor (if the opening credits are any indication). He's not much of an actor (little in the way of facial expression), but he does have a certain charisma and if anything, may be an even better screen fighter tha Heung (it is he who has to teach Heung advanced fighting tricks before the finale). Jin's kicks are fast and powerful, rivaling those of Hwang In Sik and other noted Korean kickers of the period.

Also of note is the soundtrack which makes good use of Ennio Morricone's score from The Big Gundown, notably the famed "Hunt in the Cane Field" sequence.

Overall despite the going through the motions feel of the plot, the outstanding and abundant fights (which continue to build properly right up to the finale) and the presence of the two leads elevate The Big Showdown to high level, high energy fighting fun.

                                                              *** / ****

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Little Red Riding Hood and the Monsters (Caperucita Y Pulgarcito Contra Los Monstruos) (aka Tom Thumb and Little Red Riding Hood)

                                            Director: Roberto Rodriguez
                   Starring: Maria Garcia, Cesareo Quezadas, Jose Elias Moreno

Ooooh boy, where do I start with this one? This 1962 release was the third in a series of mind numbingly warped Mexican variations of the Little Red Riding Hood tale. Designed as a musical comedy horror tale for kids, it quickly developed a well deserved reputation as one of the most jaw dropping pieces of screwed up cinema ever made.

Here's the setup, kiddies; The Queen of Badness (who appears to have been inspired by both The Evil Queen in Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs and The Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz) has gathered all the monsters in the world. Among them are the Vampire (which looks to have been modeled after John Carradine's Dracula in House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula), Frankenstein's monster, Bluebeard, Carrothead, Father Hurricane, the Siamese Twins and the Killer Robot (the same suit that was used in Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy and also appeared in Ship of Monsters). Their objective is to capture and kill the last two decent humans, Little Red Riding Hood and Tom Thumb. In order to lure them into The Queen's haunted forrest lair, they have captured two of their friends, the Ferocious Wolf and the Red Headed Ogre and are using them as bait.

The above synopsis cannot begin to do justice to the mesmerizing insanity that transpires during it's 85 minute running length. I have seen plenty of whacky films from South of the Border, but nothing to compare to this er, monstrosity. Just the way it opens alone is indescribably insane. The credits play as if it were a full blown horror film. The forboding narration only adds to the uneasiness. Then without skipping a beat, the monsters perform a musical number. The entire film plays like this. It's really quite something to behold.

To add to the madness, this was one of the Mexican fantasy films that was dubbed and imported by the infamous K. Gordan Murray. Murray had previously unleashed other Mexi horror movies as well as a couple of El Santo films (whom he redubbed Samson). Murray's dubbing always seemed like it was being broadcast from another galaxy. Well, K Gordon outdid himself with the Red Riding Hood trilogy by dubbing the many musical numbers that appeared in each film. These numbers were bizarre enough in Spanish, but when dubbed in Murray-English, they produce something approaching an out of body experience. The "highlight" are the numbers performed by Red herself (played by little Maria Garcia). Mr. Murray saw fit to dub her with what sounds like a 50 year old opera singer! It just may be the most disconcerting thing in the entire film (and that says a ton).

One thing that all will likely agree upon is that love it or hate it, there is absolutely nothing else quite like Little Red Riding Hood and the Monsters.

                                                           *** / ****


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Thou Shall Not Kill... But Once (aka Shaolin Warrior) (aka Ferocious Monk From Shaolin)

                                               Director: Ulysses Au Yeung
                                 Starring: Chen Sing, Chan Hui Min, Kam Kong

Not only is Thou Shall Not Kill... But Once one of the greatest film titles in the history of action cinema, but it was also one of the earliest filmed Shaolin/revenge tales and having seen this 1975 micro budget Shaolin tale for the first time only recently, I was surprised by just how original and vital it still is.

During a funeral procession for a high ranking official, the family is ambushed by a rival official (played by Kam Kong) who wants the family's sword (said to be the most powerful in all of China). He murders the widow and has the rest of the family massacred. The son (Chen Sing) manages to escape. he spares the life of a guard that was pursuing him, impressing the Shaolin Abbott who happened to be watching. He is then allowed (after being rigorously tested) to become a Shaolin monk, renouncing his past. This doesn't sit well with his extended family (who have arranged for the once royal son to be married) or his beautiful wife to be (played by the lovely Lu Shu Chin). Internal strife within the temple also rears it's head in the form of the jealous top student monk (Chan Hui Man) who slowly finds his personal desires mentally intruding into his purified life.

While some fans may be put off by the lack of abundant action, I was extremely impressed with just how much depth (both in it's story and characters) it allowed within it's scant 82 minute running length and much of the credit must go to the note perfect direction by Ulysses Au Yeung. This includes a surprisngly frank depiction of sexual repression which is first shown during Chen Sing's initial test. In order to enter Shaolin, he must first meditate for 49 days. During this time, his mind wanders toward his spurned bride, but with big brother Chan Hui Man guiding him, he survives. Chan himself as it turns out however is not faring as well. He was very much aroused by the sight of the beautiful ex bride and has to fend off his feelings for her. At one point (in a bid of farewell), she clips off some of her hair and tosses it at them. Chen is unfazed, but Chan is clearly turned on by her scent. I was also very impressed with the reference to Bhodi Darma and how it ultimately relates to and parallels Chan's predicament (without giving too much away).

Both Chen Sing and Chan Hui Man turn in top work. Chen (with his gruff appearance) could seem cast against type as the quiet and studious monk in the making. But he pulls it off beautifully, showing a level of restraint to his performance that I hadn't seen before. Chan puts in arguably his best ever performance as the conflicted "big brother" who finds himself slowly consumed by feelings of lust and power. His is easily the most compelling character in the film. As the head villain, Kam Kang is decent, but nothing exceptional. Kam has appeared in a great many early seventies kung fu films and I've always come away underwhelmed by his performances.

When the action does happen, it is quite good. This could be considered an early Shapes (or Styles) film as it delves into the Shaolin 10 Animal styles (which are 5 more than I was aware of), but does not devolve into patty cake fu. The battles are still of the raw and harsh variety displayed in the earlier Bashers, making this film something of a hybrid which I found very pleasing to watch. The finale could have been a little longer and more drawn out, but that's really nitpicking.

Thou Shall Not Kill... But Once could have used a bigger budget but for me, the roughness was part of it's charm. It comes with my highest recommendation.

                                                     ***1/2 / ****


Monday, October 17, 2011

The Blind Boxer

                                                  Director: Cheung Sam
                                        Starring: Jason Pai Piao, Ingrid Hu

An early Basher from 1972 that despite containing all the generic trappings of the genre, manages to separate itself a bit by creating an unusual setback for our main hero as well as providing a faster and breezier pace than usual, courtesy of director Cheung Sam.

Jason Pai Piao plays Fong Man, a prominent member of a Chinese Boxing school run by his blind father/Instructor. The students are often distracted by national televised fights and are particularly enamored by the current champion, "Gorilla", who easily wins each of his bouts. The students want to enter, but their blind teacher knows better, "The matches are thrown. It's run by gangsters" he dismissively explains. One student however, secretly enters the contest anyway and finds the situation to be true. When he refuses to throw the fight (it ends in a draw) he is later killed in the streets by the gang's thugs. Fong (unbeknownst to his father) challenges Gorilla himself. Gorilla's gangster boss seeing Fong as a major threat, first attempts to win him over by having his floozy mistress "befriend" him. When she fails (predictably, she winds up falling for him), Fong is then attacked and blinded by more of the gang's thugs. Embarrassed and ashamed, Fong fesses up to his father who in return, teaches his son his special 'Blind" technique in order to defeat Gorilla.

Though on the surface Blind Boxer appears to merely go through the rock-em, sock-em paces, I was intrigued by both it's frankness (the blind teacher explaining that the fights are rigged as well as when Fong realizes the mistress was a plant, but sleeps with her anyway) as well as it's occasional subtelty (the slain fighter's sister interestingly underplayed by Ingrid Hu is clearly in love with Fong, but never does more than quietly give him an encouraging hug or a knowing glance). As these typically noisy bashers go, it's these moments that stuck in my head afterwards.

The action itelf is decent. There's lots of ring fighting. Normally I'm not that into tournament style action, but they are handled with zest and are fairly exciting to watch. The finale in which our heroes raid the baddies pad, makes for a suitably satisfying headknocker.

The Blind Boxer makes for recommended viewing for Basher fans. It's basic story is just different enough (with a definite 1940s Warner Bros. feel) and it's characters are given just enough depth to seperate this from so many others of this time period.

                                                           **1/2 / ****


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The H-Man (aka The Beauty and the Liquid Man)

                                                  Director: Ishiro Honda
                          Starring: Yumi Shirakawa, Kenji Sahara, Akihiko Hirata


One of director Ishiro Honda's finest films as well as one of the most horrifying sci fi features of the '50s.

Filmed in 1958, this was the first of Honda's unconnected "Mutated Man" trilogy (the other two being 1960's The Human Vapor and 1963's Matango aka Attack of the Mushroom People) and like the original Godzilla, had it's core sci fi story based on an actual incident. That being the Lucky Dragon 5, a tuna fishing boat which in 1954 had unwittingly drifted into nuclear fallout from the U.S.s Castle Bravo thermonuclear test in the bikini atoll. The fishermen were exposed to high levels of radiation and many subsequently died from the poisoning.

With this horrific story fresh in the local public's mind, it was used as a not so subtle plot device in relation to Godzilla's first appearance. Four years later, it was revisited even more blatantly in The H-Man. For this story, we have a fishing boat that drifts unwittingly into the center of an H-Bomb experiment. It's crew dissolves into liquid puddles of radioactive goop. "Transformed", these H-Men  attack other humans, dissolving them in order to survive. It is especially unsettling because these are former human beings now attacking and dissolving other humans. This gives it almost a faint cannibalism twist. At certain points, these "Liquid Monsters" (as so called in the English dubbed version) can form what look like vaguely human appearances, making things all the more uncomfortable.

Mixed into the main story is a pulpy and somewhat trashy underworld tale (complete with Cabaret dance numbers featuring the gorgeous and scantily clad Yumi Shurikawa). This plot devise had been used previously (1949's The Invisible Man Appears) and since (Dogora, the Space Monster and Ghidrah, the Three Headed Monster, both from 1964), but this is perhaps the only time where the material was treated in such an adult manner (the other films mentioned tended to play the Cops and Robbers scenario as mostly tongue in cheek). The combination of the two stories may not exactly seem to mesh, but this was a popular combo for local audiences. With it's garish colors and suggestive cinematography, it comes off as an irresistible Neo Noir.

Featuring some of the most memorable special effects of Eiji Tsuburaya's career, The H-Man ranks as the best "blob" movie ever made. As much as I enjoyed the Steve McQueen starrer (coincidentally released the same year), it can't hold a candle to Honda's neon soaked vision.

                                                        ***1/2 / ****                                   

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Rats (aka The Rats of Hong Kong)

                                                     Director: Law Kei
                            Starring: Alan Tang, Adam Cheng, Mars, Woo Gam

This is a superior and ahead of it's time modern day action drama.

Set to a driving guitar riff, The Rats follows the misadventures of a gang of small time thieves. When not blowing what few dollars they have on women and gambling, they dream of that one big heist that would ultimately make them rich. That opportunity presents itself in the form of a major gangland exchange involving two gold filled cars. Concocting an impressive scheme involving a fake traffic stop, our "Rats" successfully acquire the golden autos. Not all goes as hoped however as they soon find themselves individually persued by the understandably irritated mobsters who themselves are being pressured into retrieving the gold by their even crankier American clients.

Lensed in 1973 and directed by Law Kei (who would later direct the positively insane Bruceploitation mess, The Dragon Lives Again), The Rats more than most other films from this period successfully manages to avoid the pitfalls of the subgenre and transitions it's modern day gangland story into an entertaining tale. Others from this period (even the good ones) tend to be grungy, depressing affairs with the emphasis on seedy and uninvolving melodrama. Here we are presented with a lively adventure that though downbeat, refuses to wallow in any of it's potential sweaty excesses. The main characters are all surprisingly likeable and personable and are given just enough character buildup to keep you caring about them without overdoing it. It is not action packed (the majority of the action being relegated to the second half), but it is consistently involving. When the action does come, it is of the fast and furious variety with several lively and energetic fights and stunts. Most surprising is it's car chases. They are ambitious and excitingly choreographed with the finale being on par with the best the genre has to offer.

The cast is an impressive one. Alan Tang (one of the more recognizable faces in early Hong Kong action cinema) plays the lead and has never been more charismatic. He is allowed a three dimensional role here and takes full advantage of it, projecting both power and vulnerability. Adam Cheng is so young here that he is practically unrecognizeable as Tang's second in command. I had a hard time believing that this was the same actor featured in Zu Warriors of the Magic Mountain and Gunmen. Future Jackie Chan alumni Mars is given more to do than in most other films I've seen him in and he practically steals the film. He is also the best fighter of this group so it's no surprise that his fight scenes are the most impressive. Being a stuntman, he is also given some amazing things to do on a motorcycle during the film's preliminary chase scene, possibly the highlight of the movie. The beautiful and ubiquitous Woo Gam is given arguably the choice part of her young career as the main gangster's treacherous squeeze/business associate. Her character is allowed to play off both sides with equal relish; belittling her partner for his carelessness and getting close to Tang only so that she can get him to devulge the whereabouts of the gold filled vehicles. It's a wonderfully juicy role.

The Rats really was a pleasant surprise. It manages to be both exciting and consistently involving while also being a genuinely fine piece of action cinema. It is one of the best Hong Kong films of the early 70s.

                                                      ***1/2 / ****


Friday, September 30, 2011

Aces Go Places 2 (aka Mad Mission Part 2: Aces Go Places)

                                                   Director: Eric Tsang
                     Starring: Sam Hui, Karl Maka, Sylvia Chang, Yasuaki Kurata

The immediate followup to the wildly successful Aces Go Places (which I reviewed some months ago) is not only my favorite in the series but it just may be the greatest action comedy ever to come out of Hong Kong.

The admittedly difficult to follow story picks up shortly after the first film ended. The Godfather (unseen in this film) is still furious at King Kong and Baldy for having stolen the diamonds (what he and the other charaters never realize is that they no longer have said diamonds). Since White Glove had failed him, he calls on the White House (!) to send their number one assassin, Filthy Harry (an unnamed white actoer who does a dead on Clint Eastwood impression) to kill our heroes. Back in Hong Kong (where the remaining 95% of the film takes place) King Kong finds himself repeatedly setup by a deceitful damsal who tricks him into robbing a bank. Fleeing from the cops, he interrupts Baldy and Ha Tung's wedding, leading to further bickering amongst the trio. In addition to Filthy Harry, Kong and Baldy find their trail dogged by a Japanese gangster (verteran Yasuaki Kurata in a memorably low key comedic turn) and must also deal with an escaped mental patient who's posing as an F.B.I. agent (hilariously played by Tsui Hark who nearly steals the film).

If the above plot description makes the film sound a bit disorienting, it's because it is. The story veers off in all kinds of directions that exist for the sole reason to hold the action and comedy together. Yet it all works and works wonderfully, thanks in no small part to the deft direction of Eric Tsang. Tsang did an excellent job on the first entry and manages to up the ante considerably here. For me, this film is ninety minutes of sheer joy as it breathlessly goes from one frentic setpiece to another. The fight scenes are an improvement (though admittedly they're still not at the level of what Jackie Chan and Smmo Hung were performing) and the car chases though pretty remarkable in the first, are improved ten fold here. The mid film chase alone (including backwards driving for much of it) is one of the greatest of it's type ever filmed. Then there are Filthy Harry's robots (yes, imagine Clint Eastwood with a pair of giant robots at his disposal). There is an entire sequence where Harry's giant bot battles Kong's army of small toy bots and it may be the highlight of the film (well for this robot loving fan, anyway).

But the heart of the film's enjoyment remains our ever loveable trio of mismatched heroes. Sam Hui, Karl Maka and Sylvia Chang have now grown into their roles and are a true joy to watch as they play off each other with a rare level of charm for this type of movie. They supply the film with it's soul and keep everything well grounded, despite the almost constant craziness that goes on around them.

Complete with the welcome return of the James Bond, whistling, fuzz guitar theme (as identifiable to this series as anything else), Aces Go Places 2 is an endlessly enjoyable and inventive farce. Easily one of my favorite films, I've watched this a dozen or so times over the years and it's still as fresh and enjoyable as the first time I viewed it. A desert island film to be sure.

                                                           **** / ****

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Gambling for Head

                                                Director: Jimmy Shaw     
                        Starring: James Nam, Gam Kei Chu, Travador Ramos

One of the many consistencies of early 70s Chinese martial arts films is that they include a gambling scene. To this day, I'm not sure why so many of them did, other than to serve as a way to advance the plot (which I guess is all the reason that's needed). But it wasn't until this incredible 1975 basher was unleashed on the good public that the entire crux of the story revolved around the ever present gambling den.

Gambling for Head tells the story of a poor fisherman whose wife dies giving birth to their child. Broke and jobless, he leaves his son in the care of his best friend as he seeks help from his uncle who lives in another town. When the baby grows gravely ill and needs hospitalization, the friend resorts to visiting a gambling hall in an attempt to raise money. When he looses his last dollar, he resorts to offering his head as currency. He looses that bet, too... Upon returning home, the fisherman finds his child dead and his friend murdered by the casino owned thugs (yes this is one DARK mamajama of a story). In a fit of understandable rage , he first murders the second, third and fourth in command (each a top fighter) and with their decapitated heads in a bag, marches to the gambling den to confront the boss.

Director Jimmy Shaw films the first half of this ferociously grim revenge tale in a circular manner, ala Citizen Kane or Pulp Fiction. It is a surprisingly ambitious move on Shaw's part and he manages to successfully pull it off. Throughout the first thirty minutes, we see our hero face off individually against a trio of his enemies. During each fight, there is a either a cutaway or splitscreen mirroring an incident at the casino which we have yet to see. It isn't until after these battles that we then flashback showing the full, horrific incident involving his friend at the casino (and some of this is indeed tough to watch). For the final thirty minutes, we are then brought up to speed as the enraged fisherman confronts the main boss. Though initially this technique may be a bit befuddling for first time viewers, it builds dramatically as a result and by the final freeze framed image, one is left feeling drained.

Starring in this harrowing film was "Mr. Rage" himself, James Nam. As I mentioned in my review of Thunderbolt Fist, few (if any) can convey anger and hatred like Nam. Usually relegated to villainous roles, here he makes for the ideal avenging hero. This in addition to some rather ugly and scary looking baddies, fuels the fight scenes wonderfully. The final twenty minute plus confrontation is as savagely intense as any I recall seeing, further fueled by unusual (and nasty) weaponry (the head baddie's lackeys use claw like devices that clamp around the enemy's arms and legs).

Gambling for Head emerges as a top notch late period basher that is a must for genre fans.

                                                             *** / ****

Monday, September 19, 2011

Kartal Yuvasi (Turkish Straw Dogs)

                                                  Director: Natuk Baytan
                         Starring: Yildiz Kenter, Ceyda Karahan, Cemil Sahbaz

When I first heard that there was a Turkish remake of Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs, I was in no way prepared for the bit of culture shock that awaited me. Though the basic theme of the original (meek person defending home against vicious locals) was present and many of the most memorable scenes recreated, there turned out to be far more differences in this version than similarities.

Filmed in 1974, Kartal Yuvasi was really a reinterpretation and that was likely out of necessity. Rather than being a meditation on the meaning of violence with no clear cut hero or villian, this version instead fed off local angst of the times. In this case it was about the conflict raging between Greece and Turkey over Cyprus with the Turkish Muslim community being forced out. During the making of this film, there was first a Greek military coup followed by a Turkish invasion. Director Natuk Baytan saw the uprising as the ideal backdrop for his Straw Dogs. Also out was Dustin Hoffman's character. Being that Turkey was at war, there was simply no place for a wimpy main character with questionable motivation. The solution was to replace him with... a woman and an elderly one at that!

The story starts with the arrival of a young Turkish doctor named Murat who has returned to visit his mother in his home in Cyprus along with his English fiance, Mary. Immediately, the good doctor is off to the hillside to aid a sick patient and does not return for the rest of the film. Left alone with Murat's mother, the two uneasy In Laws to be are almost immediately harassed by the brutish, ornery locals. The Mother you see is Muslim and is not welcome in the Catholic village. Things quickly escalate, leading to rape, murder and the eventual seige of the mother's house.

Throughout the movie, it is both the cultural and particularly the religious overtones which serve as the motivation behind the violence. This is encapsulated by Mary who is Catholic, but will convert to the Muslim faith for her husband. This as much as anything else, enrages the locals and gives way to her being raped by them. This scene is made all the more disturbing by the film's juxtaposing between this and a child birth being performed by the mother. And unlike the similar scene portrayed in the original, Mary clearly does not enjoy being raped (again, the characters in this version are completely black and white; not a shade of grey to be found here). During the climatic siege of her home, the mother defiantely reveals to the invaders that she is wearing the Turkish flag underneath her clothing. She also plays a record of Turkish marching band music (which actually resonates more than the bagpipe music used in the original). Just in case the Patriotic theme wasn't hammered home strongly and thoroughly enough, these climatic scenes are jarringly joined by edited footage of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus that was occuring during production! This elevates the proceedings to a truly hysterical level.

Kartal Yuvasi adds up to a pretty amazing viewing experience. It is a reinterpretation that can stand alongside it's filmic influence. It does admittedly come up short of Peckinpah's masterpiece, but it is still a harrowing slab of cinematic mayhem in it's own right.

                                                                 *** / ****


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Heroine Susan, the Sister of the Shangtung Boxer

                                             Director: Wong Hung Cheung
                                 Starring: Wang Ping, Charlie Chin, Jack Long

Here's an unofficial, independently made sequel to the classic Shaw Brothers epic, Boxer From Shangtung. The Susan of the title is actually Ma Su Chen, sister of Ma Young Chan and a real life freedom fighting heroine whose exploits have been documented in many a kung fu move over the years.

As the credits roll, the film begins with a recreation of the climax of Boxer From Shangtung with the Ma Young Cheng charater receiving his bloody demise via axes to the chest and back. Arriving in town, Ma Su Chen learns of her brother's untimely demise. Unfortunately, the town is too frightened to speak out against the viscious gang behind the murder and who are now ruling the land, so to speak. This forces Ma to go undercover as a man (a comon and consistently unconvincing thread run through the Ma Su Chen films in particular and many 70s kung fu movies in particular). As she and her likeminded rebel friends learn the truth, the bodies start piling up.

Heroine Susan is in a word, disappointing. Wong Hung Cheung's direction is fairly flat and the martial arts choreography is some of the slowest and poorest I've seen from a 1973 production. There are times when a fighter can be seen throwing a punch or kick so half assed and so off it's mark, that it looks more like a blown outtake. It does attempt to pick up some steam at the very end with the inclusion of a pair of outlandish mercenaries hired by the baddies. One is a samurai and the other appears to be an American Indian! Unfortunately, their fights at the climax aren't much better choreographed than the feeble battles that preceeded them.

This is especially a shame since the performances are all quite good. In the role of Ma Su Chen, Wang Ping is very engaging. After watching her do almost nothing but cry throughout King Boxer, it is nice to see her in a lead fighting role. She's no Angela Mao or Polly Shang Kwan, but she clearly is trying her best and her pretty face is displayed well (making her male disguise scenes all the more ludicrous). It was fun to see a young Charlie Chin playing Ma's sidekick. I had gotten used to seeing him mostly in comedic roles in Sammo Hung films of the 80s (My Lucky Stars, Eastern Condors) with the big exception being his chillingly villianous turn in On the Run. His performance here is good, but not especially memorable. Like Wang Ping, he does not appear to be the most accomplished of screen fighters (though again, this could be attributable to the poor choreography).

Ultimately, Heroine Susan exists now more as a curiosity for old school kung fu completists and it will likely come up short even for that crowd.

                                                             ** / ****

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Manster (aka The Split)

                                Director: George P. Breakston, Kenneth G. Crane
                             Satrring: Peter Dyleny, Tetsu Nakamura, Jane Hylton

The opening scene features a pair of Japanese women frolicking in a bath house as another is inside, fixing her makeup. Unbeknownst to this poor unfortunate, a monstrous ape like presence approaches. Seen in shadow, the beast attacks and rips at the beauty until her blood splashes onto a door. Thus begins the credit sequence of this surprisingly lurid and trashy 1959 shocker.

The story is about American journalist, Larry Stanford (played by British/Canadian actor Peter Dylany) who while on assignment in Japan, schedules an interview with the brilliant, yet eccentric Japanese scientist Dr. Robert Suzuki (Tetsu Nakamura) who lives high up on a volcano mountain. The good doctor turns out to be something a mild mannered quack who has been experimenting on family members. His brother has been transformed into an ape like creature (presumably the same one from the pre credits sequence, but this was never made clear). After apologizing to his newly mutated kin (!) Suzuki shoots him dead and throws the carcas into an infurmary. We then see his wife; a hideous looking mutant thing that the doc. keeps locked up in a cage. Ain't love grand? When Larry shows up for the expected interview, he is unknowingly given a serum that eventually (after some admittedly unnecessary plot and character exposition) turns him into a crazed maniac who spawns a second beastly head. After a few murders and some considerable carnage, the "Manster" returns to the lab and kills Suzuki. Making his way up the volcano, Larry 's beast head "Splits" from him and reveals itself to be another of the now deceased doc's simian nasties. This sets up a Jekyll and Hyde style smackdown finale.

For the most part, The Manster is great fun. There's a very unhealthy atmosphere pervading this picture with some surprising sexual overtones (Larry is seduced in no uncertain way by Suzuki's secretary and as part of the subplot, is willing to forsake his marriage for a bit of fun) and some pretty intense violence to match. It sort of ends up feeling like forbidden fruit for the kiddies.

The makeup effects like much of the rest of the film, run hot and cold. When on the lamb from the police, it is quite obvious that Larry's second cranium is a goofy looking rubber prop. However in the (too few) closeups, the monstrous head is terrifyingly realistic. The most memorable scene in the film of course, is when a screaming (both in pain and terror) Larry first discovers a pre head eyeball on his shoulder. It is an iconic moment and one which influenced many a horror director, most notably Sam Raimi who lifted the sequence wholesale for Army of Darkness.

Overall, The Manster is a mixed bag where the good stuff outweighs the bad. It's a fun, goofy, yet decidedly creepy schlockathon that could have been even more had it been afforded a bigger budget and tighter script.

                                                              *** / ****

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Iron Dragon Strikes Back (aka The Gold Connection)

                                                Director: Gwai Chi Hung
                                          Starring: Ho Chung Tao,  Kao Fei

It can be seen as both a blessing and a curse that talented Taiwanese martial artist Ho Chung Tao was redubbed Bruce Li. Through his new identity, he got to star in dozens of Brucesploitation vehicles throughout the 70s. Some were actually not too bad and one in particular; Bruce Lee The Man, The Myth is widely considered one of the best (if not THE best) Lee documentaries. The sad part is that Ho was better than this. He was no Bruce Lee to be certain (then again, who was?), but he was a better fighter/actor than these cheapies deserved and much better than any of the other dozen or so Lee-alikes. By the end of the 70s the Brucesploitation cycle had reached it's end and Ho couldn't shake the albatross sized moniker. Fortunately, he continued to make movies for several more years under his true name (though this didn't stop exploitative Producers from retaining the Bruce signature; thinking that it would still make him more marketable). Some of these non-Lee films are actually quite good. This one, 1979's The Iron Dragon Strikes Back is easily one of his best. It is also one of the darkest themed kung fu movies I have ever seen.

In the film, Ho plays a down on his luck martial arts instructor who while scuba fishing with three friends, discovers a stash of Vietnamese gold. Realizing that it's likely stolen goods, Ho wishes to put it back, but is outvoted by the others who decide to take the gold and divide it. After one of them attempts to use some of it, the group finds themselves on the run from a particularly vicious gang that will stop at nothing to get their stolen gold back.

Director Gwai Chi Hung imbues the film with a terrific amount of tension and sense of foreboding that's very unusual for a martial arts film of this vintage . There is next to no comedy on display and the overall tone seems to harken back to the early seventies (where many a dark and downbeat story was told). The overall effect is almost on the level of a horror film. You are nearly always left feeling uneasy as our heroes are constantly besieged by waves of baddies. As each in turn meets his demise, that uneasiness increases to an almost unbearable degree.

The martial arts on display here are impressive with a heavy slant toward economical street fighting technique. Ho by this point in his career had developed into one of the more accomplished fighters in Hong Kong cinema and his skills are shown off to their fullest. Veteran Kao Fei plays the most dangerous of the gangsters' henchmen and his final reel battle with Ho is one of the very best one on one battles ever seen in 70s martial arts films. His denouement is guaranteed to give first time viewers a jolt. Also in the cast is Hon Gwok Choi. Due to his comedic looks, Han was usually relegated to goofball status in various kung fu comedies like My Twelve Kung Fu Kicks and Crack Shadow Boxers. As Ho's student/friend, he continues to play that type of role. His early scenes are played more or less for laughs which makes it all the more nightmarish as the film's tone degenerates into it's black hole of no return.

The Iron Dragon Strikes Back is a hidden little gem that any fan of Ho Chung Tao (I refuse to call him Bruce Li in this case) would do well to seek out. An ahead of it's time classic!

                                                              ***1/2 / ****