Category — Hong Kong
Last week’s Game of Thrones episode, The Mountain and the Viper, featuring Prince Oberyn [Pedro Pascal]’s pre-climactic proficiency with the blood spear during combat with “the Mountain” Gregor Clegane [Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson] vaguely reminded me of IOC favorite Lau Kar Leung‘s Legendary Weapons of China (1982), which features a similar weapon. And since everyone knows that here at the isle we love us some good kung fu, and everyone should know that kung fu doen’t get any gooder than in LKL’s Shaw Brothers films, we thought we’d revisit a scene from said movie. A pioneer of action filmmaking who got his start choreographing under director Chang Cheh and worked his way up to creating some of the most vibrant and perennial films of the genre [incl. Eight Diagram Pole Fighter, The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, Dirty Ho, Heroes of the East, Shaolin Mantis and everything that’s ever influenced anything], LKL’s plots spring from a core belief in the peaceful way of the warrior, espouse respect for one’s enemy and convey the martial artist’s goal of attaining spiritual excellence through personal mastery. Having said all that, let us not forget that his flicks are also a feast of first rate acro-combatic pyrotechnics, especially when the director steps in front of the camera, as he does here with brother Lau Kar Wing, a fine director and choreographer in his own right. Watch the pair face off using the 18 weapons and muse on the fate of Oberyn: Think Lau would ever taunt an opponent when he’s down? That’s not the Martial Artist’s way – which is what this legendary filmmaker, the embodiment of Kung Fu, spent his life trying to teach: humility in victory. Which incidentally will also help keep your eyes where they belong – inside your head.
June 7, 2014 No Comments
Today’s scene comes to you from director Ngai Choi Lam‘s The Cat [Lao Mao] (1992) starring Shaw Brothers veteran Philip Kwok as one of a group of Nicely-Suited-Hitmen (movies in the 90’s were legally required to feature NSH’s) who stumble upon a mysterious creature that appears to be a cross between The Blob and The Thing, with little white hairlike tendrils that somehow amp up the heebie jeebies (Hong Kong films of the 90’s always amped up the HJ’s). Let me preface things by stating that this is one of the tamer scenes from the movie. Lam also directed Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky (1991), which will give you a sense of the weirdness you’re in for. Quick inventory: haunted house (√), cheesy effects (√), an ex-Five Deadly Venom (√), limbs torn asunder (√√√) all punctuated by foreign entities invading orifices (√). And for the diligent fan of oddity cinema, there’s even a bodily possession shot recalling Goke: Body Snatcher from Hell (√√√√√√)! What the Hell else could you ask for? Subtitles? If you think that’s gonna help make sense of this chaos you haven’t been paying attention!
February 12, 2013 No Comments
I recently went to see RZA‘s Man with the Iron Fists (2012) hoping for a glimpse of that old Shaw Brothers magic I love so well – and though it was undoubtedly watchable, I was disappointed that besides for a fantastic title sequence and the brief presence of Chen Kuan Tai and Gordon Liu, it seemed to be missing the LOVE I expected to see from a genre fan and Wu-Tang man. So like an addict I ran home and popped in the nearest Lau Kar Leung flick, Lady is the Boss (1983) – by no means a great film save for this amazing ending, which features the director’s company (many of them his students) referencing the hits in a medley of manic action. We get Venom Sun Chien kicking formal ass (in bow tie) against perennial monk Gordon Liu, escalating into more self-referential goodness when Mad Monkey Hsiao Hou bursts on the scene with some insane acrobatics. And watching the ending, in which Sifu Leung faces off against Wang Lung Wei, I realize why I love these movies so much – because they feature actual ACTING, moments of reality where actors react to wounds, or hesitate before taking a new strategy, or reach for a nearby dumbell to use as a weapon – which give the fighting a realism rarely seen in modern martial arts, where everything’s choreographed to the point of boredom and directors have to turn to indulgence like slo-motion, ridiculous split screen, or over-the-top gore to maintain our interest. No thanks. I’ll take LKL and the Brothers Shaw anyday.
November 20, 2012 2 Comments
Known as the Godfather of Kung-Fu thanks to genre-defining The One-Armed Swordsman (1967), Shaolin Temple (1976) and The Five Venoms (1978), prolific writer/director (and one-time film critic) Chang Cheh‘s career spanned several decades and even more tonal shifts – from early über-macho flicks that inspired John Woo‘s “heroic bloodshed” cinema to later WTF? slapstick dementia that inspired Wong Jing – Cheh was a man of many styles and a mentor to many directors. Today’s great scene comes from his Five Element Ninja (1982) – also known as Super Ninjas – which is one of the director’s more brainless and fun movies, full of the type of inventive insanity that fans of cheesy cinema come to admire in Hong Kong films. In fact whenever the Chinese “do ninja” it’s worth a look – because they usually skip all that Japanese reverence and opt for portraying the ninja as some sort of magical boogeyman. In this movie starring Venom Lo Meng and Michael Chan Wai Man, the ninjas take on traits of the five elements – Earth, Wood [?], Fire, Water and Gold [?] (what happened to wind?). Featuring an abundance of spears to the crotch and a warrior who doesn’t seem to mind said spears as much as he should, it’s a wonderful appetizer to the full course meal ahead – full of quirk, gore and ridiculousness, and a wacko ending in which all 5 elements come together in one battle – definitely worth seeking out!
…and check out the previous Great Scene we ran from Cheh’s equally sublime Two Champions of Shaolin!
October 23, 2012 No Comments