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Great Scenes – LEGENDARY WEAPONS OF CHINA

18 เจ้าอาวุธมหาประลัย

Last week’s Game of Thrones episode, The Mountain and the Viperfeaturing Prince Oberyn [Pedro Pascal]’s pre-climactic proficiency with the blood spear during combat with “the Mountain” Gregor Clegane [Hafþór Júlíus Björnssonvaguely 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 HoHeroes 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.

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June 7, 2014   No Comments

Great Scenes – FIVE ELEMENT NINJA

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!

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October 23, 2012   No Comments

Baroque Kung Fu – FIVE DEADLY VENOMS

FIVE DEADLY VENOMS is a genre classic, but not for the reasons you think.

Part whodunnit, part horror film, with a pinch of Mexican wrestling thrown in for good measure, Chang Cheh‘s Five Deadly Venoms (1978) is a film that’s earned a reputation as a must-see for people interested in exploring Kung Fu cinema. The tale of a Kung Fu Master who dispatches his last student to discover which of his past pupils – Centipede, Snake, Scorpion, Lizard or Toad – is putting the clan’s special Poison skills to evil use (imagine that!), it’s a movie which features more sidelong glances, suspicious ducking down alleyways, and guessing games than it does actual martial arts. But despite the fact that it fails to wow in the action department, Five Deadly Venoms ultimately proves to be a thoroughly entertaining affair which grows on you with repeated viewings, thanks to director Chang Cheh’s knack for “borrowing” from other directors. Here he seems to be channeling Mario Bava, creating a palpable dread whose color scheme feels like the Kung Fu version of Planet of the Vampires – at once both colorful and grey – and whose violent passages feel sublimely campy and overwrought. What little kung-fu there is is first rate, the pedigree and skills of the cast – tough guy Lo Meng, strongman Lu Feng, nimble Chiang Sheng, superkicker Sun Chien, and all-around bad ass Philip Kwok – never in question. It’s just that there isn’t that much of it, by Shaw Brothers standards. While the earlier films of director Chang Cheh (The One Armed Swordsman trilogy, Shaolin Temple, Heroes Two) were loaded with innovative martial arts, by the late seventies – following the departure of choreographer Lau Kar Leung to begin a directing career of his own (36th Chamber of Shaolin, Dirty Ho, 8 Diagram Pole Fighter) – the action began to dwindle and become over-reliant on weird machismo, cartoonish violence, and fancy acrobatics. But despite this, there are incredible sets, crazy costumes with iconic masks, and ridiculous plot twists to keep you occupied, and when the five styles of venomous animals are on display it’s as if you’re watching a heady mix of 1960’s TV Batman by way of Kung Fu Panda. It might not be the best martial arts film in “godfather of Kung Fu fimmaking” Chang Cheh’s career – which spanned nearly a hundred films – but Five Deadly Venoms is nevertheless a one-of-a-kind cult classic any fan of filmdom should experience.

And hey lookee here- the movie available in its entirety!

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June 13, 2011   2 Comments

Great Scenes – TWO CHAMPIONS OF SHAOLIN

No fight scenes are greater/weirder/wronger than this one. It comes from the prolific Chang Cheh‘s Two Champions of Shaolin (1978), one of his later Shaw Bros. flicks, which stars 4 of the Five Venoms, with the remaining one (Philip Kwok) serving as fight choreographer. In this scene Chiang Sheng ends a fight creatively, by reaching out and touching someone. Whoever posted this has added an abrupt dissolve to the scene where the unfortunate victim is buried. I recommend you find this movie and watch the whole thing, since it’s one of the better Venom mob movies.

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February 7, 2011   No Comments

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