Executioners from Shaolin (1977)

Executioners from Shaolin [洪熙官] (1977)
AKA Hung Hsi-Kuan, The Executioners of Death, Shaolin Executioners

Starring Chen Kuan-Tai, Lily Li Li-Li, Lo Lieh, Wong Yu, Dave Wong Kit, Cheng Kang-Yeh, Shum Lo, Gordon Liu Chia-Hui, Lee Hoi-Sang, Tin Ching, Chiang Tao, John Cheung Ng-Long, Lee Chiu

Directed by Lau Kar-Leung

Expectations: Super high.


Shaolin Temple marked the end of Chang Cheh’s Shaolin Cycle, but hot on its heels a couple of months later came the first Shaolin film from Lau Kar-Leung: Executioners from Shaolin. Lau is fundamentally a different style of director than Chang, and this film is a perfect example of this. Chen Kuan-Tai reprises the role of Hung Hsi-Kuan, but Lau builds the character in ways that Chang never did. Executioners from Shaolin begins similarly to Chang’s Heroes Two (with Hung’s escape from the burning Shaolin temple), but it is not a tale of survival and hiding out from Qing government officials. Executioners from Shaolin has a bigger goal in mind, broadening its focus out to illustrate the evolution of Hung Gar and the importance of its lineage. Lau Kar-Leung was a member of this lineage himself, so his genuine appreciation and love for it really pops off the screen. Shaolin filmmaking at the Shaw studio began with Hung Gar under the influence of Lau, so it’s fitting that he would begin there as well.

The martial lineage of Hung Gar is the overall focus of Executioners from Shaolin, but it is framed around a basic revenge-driven story that any kung fu fan has seen a million times. It’s presented differently here, but regardless it still boils down to “You killed my master, now I kill you.” Shaolin Master Zhi Shan (Lee Hoi-Sang) is defeated by Pai Mei (Lo Lieh) during the film’s opening credits, setting the stage for a quest of revenge. Hung Hsi-Kuan & his remaining Shaolin brethren would like to strike while their emotional wounds are fresh and the wood of Shaolin still smokes, but after confronting some Qing resistance it becomes clear that regrouping and strengthening their position is their only viable option. The students find refuge in the Red Boat opera troupes who travel the country by sea, leading Hung to meet the beautiful and martially adept Fang Yung Chun (Lily Li), and this is where the heart of Executioners from Shaolin can be found.

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Lady Exterminator (1977)

Lady Exterminator [阿Sir毒后老虎槍] (1977)

Starring Chen Ping, Yueh Hua, Chung Wah, Derek Yee, Shirley Yu Sha-Li, Shut Chung-Tin, Wa Lun, Zheng Lou-Si, Jamie Luk Kim-Ming, Yeung Chi-Hing, Keung Hon, Chiang Tao, Ku Wen-Chung, Ng Hong-Sang, Stephan Yip Tin-Hang, Kong San

Directed by Sun Chung

Expectations: I enjoyed The Sexy Killer. I hope the sequel is fun, too.


Lady Exterminator is an ultra-rare Shaw Brothers film, as far as I know only surviving as a horribly degraded, full-screen bootleg of a Lebanese film print with English-dubbed dialogue and French & Arabic burned-in subtitles. Bootlegs have done a lot of harm to the kung fu DVD industry, but there are a few instances like this where bootlegs help the fan base keep an otherwise lost film alive. While this mangled print theoretically shouldn’t have any bearing on the film’s quality, it inevitably made it difficult to get into the film. I’m not usually a fan of English dubs anyway; I have a hard time connecting with characters emotionally when their dialogue doesn’t accurately reflect the emotions on-screen. Even with these factors stacked against my enjoyment of Lady Exterminator, I was still able to extract a fair amount of entertainment. The fact that it was a sequel helped, too, because I was already familiar with the characters that Chen Ping and Yueh Hua play.

A gang of criminals have discovered a police informer in their midst. They chase him through the streets and into the dank tunnels under the city, leading the pursuit to the subway system. The criminals catch the fleeing man and brutally beat him. They tie him to the subway tracks on all fours, so he is looking directly at the oncoming train as it plows into him. It’s a gripping way to open a film, and these moments of intense brutality are one of the few things helped by the horrific quality of the print. Shot in real locations around Hong Kong, filtered through multiple generations of video dubs, the brutal violence takes on the vibe of a snuff film found at the bottom of a well. Anyway, with his lead informant murdered, police detective Geng Weiping (Yueh Hua) must find a new way to get information out of the heroin-dealing drug gangs running rampant through the city. He turns to Gao Wanfei (Chen Ping), now in prison after the events of The Sexy Killer, where she took on the drug gang that killed her sister. Gao agrees, but she wants to do it right. She decides to shoot up some heroin, addicting herself so the gang believes her and easily accepts her into the fold. Now that’s commitment!

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Deadly End (2005)

Deadly End (2005)
AKA Neighborhood Watch

Starring Jack Huston, Pell James, Nick Searcy, Terry Becker, Anina Lincoln, Meredith Morton, John Ennis, De Anna Joy Brooks, Irwin Keyes, Randall Bosley, Gil Glasgow, Janice Davies, Tim Devitt

Directed by Graeme Whifler

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


Like Vengeance of the Dead, Full Moon picked up Deadly End for distribution and re-titled it. The original title was Neighborhood Watch, and it is much more fitting than whatever Deadly End is supposed to signify. Regardless which title you prefer, Deadly End is probably the strongest film to be released by Full Moon during the 2000s. I know that isn’t saying much because of Full Moon’s relatively lackluster offerings during that time, but I’m confident that Deadly End would shine in any of Full Moon’s eras. The film’s budget is minimal, but the ingenuity and the craft on display is anything but. It’s really a shame that director Graeme Whifler — who also wrote Sonny Boy and co-wrote Dr. Giggles — didn’t go on to make any other features, as Deadly End is a strong, memorable debut.

Bob Petersen (Jack Huston) and his wife Wendy (Pell James) have moved across the country to a seemingly normal neighborhood in the Californian desert. One house has multiple “Keep Out” signs and barricades, and another has derelict appliances in the front yard, but as someone who lived in that area for about 30 years, I can attest to this not being too far outside the norm. But nothing is normal or innocent in this particular film, and things get dark fairly quickly. Before that turn, though, we meet Bob and Wendy during their first night in their new home. In their underwear, they crawl on the floor around a maze of boxes, flirtatiously meowing to each other. Not your average foreplay, but hey, it’s their house and they can do what they want. When they’re done playing cat and mouse cat, the couple passionately makes love. In these moments, the precious, deep love they have for one another is tangible. The scene is surprisingly affecting and erotic, not so much in a titillating way, but in accurately replicating the reality of a moment’s passion between two loving people. It is undeniable, and it is pure, and for the remainder of the film, this innocence will be systematically attacked and tested.

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Shaolin Temple (1976)

Shaolin Temple [少林寺] (1976)
AKA Death Chamber

Starring Alexander Fu Sheng, Chi Kuan-Chun, Wai Wang, David Chiang, Ti Lung, Johnny Wang Lung-Wei, Yueh Hua, Wong Chung, Lau Wing, Bruce Tong Yim-Chaan, Phillip Kwok Chun-Fung, Li Yi-Min, Shih Szu, Ku Wen-Chung, Shan Mao, Chiang Sheng, Ku Feng, Lu Feng, Wong Ching, Tsai Hung, Chiang Nan, Shum Lo, Wang Han-Chen, Lee Sau-Kei, Liu Wai, Hao Li-Jen

Directed by Chang Cheh (with Wu Ma)

Expectations: Another Shaolin Cycle film. Yes, I’m still expecting greatness.


Shaolin Temple isn’t Chang Cheh’s last Shaolin film, but it is the last in his Shaolin Cycle that began with 1974’s Heroes Two. His later Shaolin films with the Venom Mob actors may relate in some ways, but I consider them separately from the Shaolin Cycle films. Anyway, Shaolin Temple is a great finale to Chang’s non-linear series with a habit of contradicting itself and re-telling different versions of the same story. Shaolin Temple showcases something that has been talked about in just about every film, but has yet to be shown in its full glory: the Shaolin Temple itself. In classic Chang Cheh fashion, it’s also not a typical martial arts film; it’s one that puts the Shaolin Temple and its teachings at the forefront of the film, above character development and even plot. If you’ve seen all the previous entries, this isn’t a big deal, but newcomers might be a little lost with the sheer amount of characters in the film.

Shaolin Temple is basically a prequel to Five Shaolin Masters and Heroes Two/Men from the Monastery/The Shaolin Avengers (and while we’re building shaky Shaw Shaolin timelines, Lau Kar-Leung’s The 36th Chamber of Shaolin would come directly before Shaolin Temple). It also re-tells/re-imagines certain aspects that would tie into those films, so it’s not the type of prequel that completely works. That doesn’t matter in this case, though, as these are folk tales just waiting to be re-imagined and re-told as the teller sees fit. In any case, the film opens with Hung Hsi-Kuan (here played by Wang Wai), Fang Shih-Yu/Fong Sai-Yuk (Alexender Fu Sheng), and Hu Huei-Chien (Chi Kuan-Chun) kneeling outside the Shaolin Temple in hopes of being accepted for training in the martial arts. The Grand Master (Ku Wen-Chung) decides that after five days of kneeling, the men are dedicated enough to withstand the hardships of Shaolin training. What ultimately sways him is his feeling that if he does not teach them, the very survival of the Shaolin martial arts might hang in the balance. They enter the temple, and it begins a new era of the temple training outsiders to aid their resistance against the oppressive Qing government.

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Manhunt (2017)

Manhunt [追捕] (2017)

Starring Zhang Han-Yu, Masaharu Fukuyama, Ha Ji-Won, Stephy Qi Wei, Jun Kunimura, Nanami Sakuraba, Angeles Woo, Yasuaki Kurata, Hiroyuki Ikeuchi, Tao Okamoto, Naoto Takenaka

Directed by John Woo

Expectations: A new John Woo action movie… I love these! But I have very little expectation to love this one, honestly.


John Woo has made over 30 films in various genres, but he is best known for his heroic bloodshed films set in the dangerous world of cops and criminals. His last film to fit the category is 1997’s Face/Off, so calling Manhunt a highly anticipated film would still undersell the considerable excitement of action fans worldwide. There is virtually no film that can stand up to 20 years of pent-up desires, though, and Manhunt is no different. It is not the next Hard Boiled, and it will never achieve such widespread classic status as The Killer or A Better Tomorrow. Regardless of this, Manhunt is a very enjoyable film in its own right, and a nice return for John Woo to the style that made him an international sensation. The focus on the overall style is particularly key, as the film itself hardly resembles Woo’s masterworks in any literal sense.

Du Qiu (Zhang Han-Yu) is a Chinese lawyer working in Japan for Tenjin Pharmaceuticals, a powerful corporation developing cutting-edge drugs. After a company party, Du Qiu is found in his apartment with the corpse of a woman beside him. Charged with murder, Du Qiu escapes the arresting cops and runs for his life. Japanese policeman Yamura (Masaharu Fukuyama) suspects a set-up, and with his recruit sidekick Rika (Nanami Sakuraba) he begins investigating beyond what the initial facts indicate. These threads converge and overlap throughout the film in clever ways, developing the bond between Du Qiu and Yamura, just as you would expect in a heroic bloodshed film from John Woo. The relationship feels undercooked compared to the perfectly executed ones in The Killer or Hard Boiled, though.

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King Gambler (1976)

King Gambler [賭王大騙局] (1976)

Starring Chung Wah, Chen Kuan-Tai, Chen Ping, Shut Chung-Tin, Ou-Yang Sha-Fei, Wang Hsieh, Ku Feng, Fan Mei-Sheng, Teresa Ha Ping, Chui Ga-Lam, Wong Chung, A Mei-Na, Chan Mei-Hua, Liu Wu-Chi, Ma Chien-Tang, Chan Shen, Kong Yeung, Ku Wen-Chung, Terry Lau Wai-Yue, Ling Yun, Shum Lo, Yeung Chi-Hing, Cheng Miu, Wong Ching-Ho, Lau Luk-Wah

Directed by Cheng Kang

Expectations: Super excited to see more Cheng Kang… and it’s a gambling movie!


There are many gambling movies from all over the world, but the Hong Kong gambling film is a beast all its own. I am a huge fan of this sub-genre of Hong Kong cinema, and of the filmmaker most associated with it: Wong Jing. Over the course of my chronological Shaw Brothers series, I’ve covered a couple of early gambling films (The Casino, The Gambling Syndicate), but those films feel like extensions of the traditional action genre more than they resemble what the gambling genre evolved into. King Gambler, on the other hand, is right on the money when it comes to tone and style. The film was clearly an influence on Wong Jing, as both directors showcase similar ideas and sensibilities in how they portray gambling and the people involved in the games. As such, I really enjoyed Cheng Kang’s King Gambler. Apparently 1976 Hong Kong shared my enthusiasm, too, because the film made #9 at the yearly box office (with only a couple of Shaw films doing better that year).

King Gambler is a structurally interesting movie. It begins by introducing us to the Sha family and how their mastery in sleight of hand and other forms of trickery were passed down from one generation to another. We then see a short game of mahjong, in which one of the Sha family members (played by Shut Chung-Tin) beats the young Peng Tian Shi (Chen Kuan-Tai). The resentment of being so resoundingly beaten does not sit well with Peng, and when the film flashes forward many years, Peng is now a wealthy casino owner known as The Card Tyrant. He has not risen above his feelings surrounding the Sha family, though. Peng offers an elder Sha (Wang Hsieh) a job, but he refuses to use his superior hearing skills to cheat for Peng. Retaliation comes swift and brutal, leaving the elder Sha permanently blinded. This is merely the first few minutes of the film; the prologue. The majority of the movie concerns itself with the young members of the Sha family and how they deal with Peng in the wake of this offense.

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Zigeunerweisen @ Blood Brothers!

Hey there, Emuls-a-weisen, I have a guest post up at Blood Brothers Reviews! They’re having a Seijin Suzuki month over there, so I contributed a review of the first film in Suzuki’s Taisho Trilogy: 1980’s Zigeunerweisen! Check it out here and enjoy!

And if you’re looking to watch Zigeunerweisen, it was recently released to Blu-ray/DVD in the Taisho Trilogy box set from the fine folks at Arrow Academy. You can find it at DiabolikDVD or Amazon.

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