Police Story Part II (1988)

policestory2_1Police Story Part II [警察故事續集] (1988)

Starring Jackie Chan, Maggie Cheung, Lam Gwok-Hung, Bill Tung, Charlie Cho Cha-Lee, Benny Lai Keung-Kuen, Ben Lam Kwok-Bun, Guan Shan, Mars, Lisa Chiao Chiao, John Cheung Ng-Long, Danny Chow Yun-Gin, Johnny Cheung Wa

Directed by Jackie Chan

Expectations: High. Can’t wait to see that playground fight again.

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Like Project A 2, Police Story Part II begins by re-introducing the disgruntled, revenge-seeking villains of the first film, but then sidelines them for a completely new plotline. This works well in Project A 2 — the pirates are but a single cog in a very well-constructed script — but in Police Story 2 the returning baddies don’t serve much of a purpose at all. They drive the story a bit in the early going, and they facilitate the entire playground fight, but overall they could have been excised and the film would still make complete sense. I’m ultimately glad they’re around because that playground fight is one of my favorite Jackie fights of all time, but I just wish their inclusion was more meaningful.

This disillusionment also represents my general feelings towards Police Story 2 this time around. There’s a lot to like here, and the action is incredible, but it’s in bad need of some editing. It turns out the version I watched was the Japanese cut — supposedly Jackie’s preferred version of the film — which runs about 20 minutes longer than the original HK cut. I guess I’ll have to hunt down that shorter version for next time, although I’m not entirely sure it would really change my opinion all that much. I guess it depends on where those 20 minutes are coming from.

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Vengeance of a Snow Girl (1971)

VengeanceofaSnowgirl+1971-20-bVengeance of a Snow Girl [冰天俠女] (1971)
AKA A Daughter’s Vengeance

Starring Li Ching, Yueh Hua, Ku Feng, Tien Feng, Lisa Chiao Chiao, Paul Chang Chung, Wong Chung-Shun, Lee Kwan, Nau Nau, Lo Wei, Hsu Yu

Directed by Lo Wei

Expectations: Pretty low, but hopeful.

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As I slowly approach 1972 and the real rise of the unarmed martial arts film, many of the films in 1971 have been significant in their own right. Vengeance of a Snow Girl is the final Lo Wei film for the Shaw Brothers, and it was released just two days before Golden Harvest released the film that could easily be called the most important film of Lo Wei’s career, The Big Boss. Yup, the film that gave the filmgoing world Bruce Lee, still one of the most popular figures in martial arts history. He’s like the Jimi Hendrix of the martial arts film world. He only finished a few works before his untimely death, but they continue to resonate. But Vengeance of a Snow Girl doesn’t star Bruce Lee, and, as far as I can tell, it didn’t set the world on fire like The Big Boss did. I’m sure the release date was timed specifically to undercut the performance of Golden Harvest’s The Big Boss, but clearly that plan (if it was a plan) backfired. I don’t think anything could keep people from loving Bruce Lee.

Vengeance of a Snow Girl tells the tale of Shen Ping Hong (Li Ching), an orphan on the warpath to kill the four men who murdered her parents in cold blood, and were in part responsible for the crippling of her legs. Yeah, that’s right, Li Ching plays a girl who can’t walk, but is on a mission of vengeance. Her kung fu is strong enough to allow her to fly and float around, and it also allows her to stay standing while she trades blows with her enemies. But before you get too excited about the entertainment prospects that this premise sets up, all four of her targets are all gathered together already, so instead of a rollicking quest around the countryside looking for these devious bastards, everybody just does a lot of talking about the girl that’s going to kill them.

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The Eunuch (1971)

Eunuch+1971-1-bThe Eunuch [鬼太監] (1971)

Starring Pai Ying, Lisa Chiao Chiao, Chung Wa, Yeung Chi Hing, Yung Yuk-Yi, Mang Ga, Wang Hsieh, Lo Wei, Ou-Yang Sha-Fei, Hao Li-Jen, James Tin Jun

Directed by Teddy Yip Wing-Cho

Expectations: Moderate.

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Any fan of Hong Kong movies will know the significance of the eunuch in the Hong Kong cinematic universe. They often provide wuxia tales with a wild villain wielding powers untold, but I went into The Eunuch expecting it to be a little more reserved and toned down. There have only been one or two eunuchs that have shown up so far during the Shaw series, and if I remember right, they were all pretty disappointing. The eunuch in The Eunuch might not be the guy in The Heroic Trio or Tai Chi Master, but he is pretty dope, and he provides our heroes with a devious, dastardly villain to contend with throughout the film.

The Eunuch starts off with a bit of a bait and switch, though, as its story starts by introducing the title eunuch (played masterfully by Pai Ying) and showing us an assassination attempt on his life. It’s hard out there for a eunuch, but after he dodges this cheap shot, he seeks out the culprit (who happens to be the king, played by director Lo Wei) and ruthlessly kills him and his family. Even his young son is not safe, as the eunuch grabs him, flings him across the room and one of the eunuch’s henchmen slices open his body in mid-air. Moral of the story: don’t fuck with eunuchs. It’s truly gnarly, and it makes you feel bad for feeling bad about the attempt on this guy’s life. It’s a great switcheroo, and just as the eunuch thinks he’s sealed up the murder of the entire royal family, he realizes that the prince is missing, so the hunt is on!

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The Twelve Gold Medallions (1970)

The Twelve Gold Medallions [十二金牌] (1970)
AKA Twelve Golden Medallions

Starring Yueh Hua, Chin Ping, Cheng Miu, Lisa Chiao Chiao, Wang Hsieh, Wong Chung-Shun, Yeung Chi Hing, Ku Feng, Liu Wai, Goo Man-Chung, Jeng Man-Jing, Fan Mei-Sheng, Tong Tin-Hei, Ma Ying, Go Ming

Directed by Cheng Kang

Expectations: High. Cheng Kang returns!


The Twelve Gold Medallions was Cheng Kang’s first feature since the wonderful Killers Five, so I went in hoping that it would live up to the pure, unfiltered awesome laid out there. While The Twelve Gold Medallions definitely doesn’t live up to that kind of hype, it’s a really incredible wuxia film that is sure to delight and excite fans of the genre. It starts out with a bang too, immediately dropping us into the action as Yueh Hua is doing his best to stop the messengers carrying the twelve gold medallions of the title.

The film opens with some text, hoping to frame the events of the film within some sort of historical context. The twelve gold medallions are the ploy of an evil traitor, hoping to thwart the plans of a patriotic general doing his best to preserve the current Emperor’s reign. Yueh Hua, a noble swordsman, takes up the task of stopping these messengers and their false messages. Beyond that, there’s also a romantic sub-plot between Yueh Hua and Chin Ping, the daughter of his master, as well as some drama between Yueh and his master (Cheng Miu) over the fact that Cheng has become the leader of the villainous group trying to deliver the medallions.

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Heads for Sale (1970)

Heads for Sale [女俠賣人頭] (1970)

Starring Lisa Chiao Chiao, Chan Leung, Wang Hsieh, Helen Ma Hoi-Lun, Chen Yan-Yan, Fan Mei-Sheng, Cheng Miu, Cheng Lui, Chan Sing, Tung Li, Chai No, Hung Lau, Poon Oi-Lun, Yip Bo-Kam

Directed by Cheng Chang Ho

Expectations: Low, despite a great title.


Heads for Sale opens with a song. This is not generally a good sign, and it immediately made me think this would be a throwback film to the early days of the genre when it was all pageantry and colorful music numbers. Thankfully, this is not the case, but the film suffers horribly from disorganized storytelling and a cast of characters so large and broad that it becomes tedious to keep up with everyone. Just when you think they’ve thrown everything they can at you, Heads for Sale introduces four new villains about 12 minutes before the film ends. And these aren’t villains that the film has been alluding to throughout like ominous string-pullers lurking in the dark, they’re just four brothers looking for vengeance on two of their brothers killed earlier in the film. It’s never clear who their brothers are either, but I’m going to assume they were the two guys beheaded about halfway through the movie. So yeah, the storytelling isn’t as strong as it could be.

In any case, the story begins with Hua Bilian (Lisa Chiao Chiao) waiting patiently for word that Luo Hongxun (Chan Leung) will accept her hand in marriage. The thing is: Hua’s father has a bad reputation as a bandit, so no one wishes to marry Hua. When an emissary arrives with the bad news, Hua flips out, suits up and heads over to Luo’s home to settle the score. A woman scorned, and all that. What she’s not aware of is that Luo actually cares deeply for her, it’s his mother that said no and sent the emissary away empty-handed. Cue some misunderstandings, followed by a bunch of fights and you’ve pretty much got an idea of what Heads for Sale is all about.

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Return of the One-Armed Swordsman (1969)

Return of the One-Armed Swordsman [獨臂刀王] (1969)
AKA One-Armed Swordsman Return, Le Bras de la vengeance

Starring Jimmy Wang Yu, Lisa Chiao Chiao, Essie Lin Chia, Chung Wa, Cheng Lui, Hoh Ban, Tien Feng, Ku Feng, Tung Li, Tang Chia, Lau Kar Wing, Lau Kar-Leung, Yuen Cheung Yan, Ti Lung, Wang Kuang-Yu, Wu Ma, Fong Yau

Directed by Chang Cheh

Expectations: High!


With the original One-Armed Swordsman in 1967, Chang Cheh re-defined what the martial arts film genre was and would be. Over the next two years, countless other films sought to capture audiences as Chang’s film had, but few other directors were able to harness the sheer energy on display in a Chang Cheh film. With Return of the One-Armed Swordsman, Chang doesn’t look to create a direct sequel, or one that feels in any way similar to the original. Instead he goes a completely different and incredibly over-the-top direction, resulting in one of the most fun martial arts pictures of the early Shaw Brothers era, and one that would again help re-define the genre.

The story opens with the one-armed swordsman Fang Gang (Jimmy Wang Yu) being invited to participate in a tournament held by the self-proclaimed Eight Sword Kings. He’s trying to leave the martial lifestyle behind him and live out the rest of his days with his lovely wife as a farmer, but we all know how that works out in films such as this. Master Fang is later visited by a group of swordsman seeking his help, as they know the so-called tournament is just a ruse to call all the sword clans together so that the Eight Sword Kings can murder the masters and take control of the region by force. Where your martial arts soaked 2012 brain might expect something of a tournament film after this setup, instead we receive something closer to a journey film where our heroes are sequentially ambushed and assaulted at every turn on their way to the “tournament.”

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The Black Butterfly (1968)

The Black Butterfly [女俠黑蝴蝶] (1968)

Starring Lisa Chiao Chiao, Yueh Hua, Tien Feng, Yeung Chi Hing, Fan Mei-Sheng, Ku Feng, Lo Wei, Ma Ying, Chen Hung Lieh, Cheung Yuk-Kam, Han Ying Chieh, Fang Mian, Lee Wan Chung

Directed by Lo Wei

Expectations: Low, but hopeful, as Lo Wei is a notable director in later martial arts history.


The Black Butterfly is a movie with more potential than actual, quality goods. It starts off as a slight retelling of the classic Robin Hood tale, with the Black Butterfly stealing taels of gold and silver from the rich and then redistributing the wealth to the less fortunate. Some research uncovered that this is also a period remake of the 1965 Chor Yuen film, The Black Rose, but I haven’t seen that so I can’t specifically comment on the differences. Anyway, the entire first hour is concerned with this Hood storyline and frankly it’s pretty ho-hum and boring. Not a whole lot happens, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some interesting elements at work. The film is slick and professional in its direction, with Lo Wei composing beautifully constructed shots and moving the camera around with grace and purpose. Some of these lesser Shaw Brothers movies feel as low-budget & hasty as they probably all were, but The Black Butterfly definitely belongs to the group that transcends that quality and looks like a million bucks. It’s amazing what quality camerawork will do for a film.

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