The Good and the Bad [餓虎狂龍] (1972)
AKA Kung Fu-The Invisible Fist, Kung Fu-The Invincible Fist, Tiger Vs Dragon, Death Rivals of Shaolin, Dragon and Tiger Ways
Starring Chan Sing, Yasuaki Kurata, Wong Yuen-San, Gai Yuen, Michael Chan Wai-Man, Chiang Nan, Irene Ryder, Hon Gwok-Choi
Directed by Ng See-Yuen
Expectations: I don’t know anything about this one, but I’m very excited for some reason.
A bit of context: I’m watching The Good and the Bad and one other (Black List) before I jump back into my chronological Shaw Brothers project and start 1973. (Oooo, it’s so close I can taste it!) These two films were in the Top 10 Hong Kong Box Office for 1972, and I figured they’d add an interesting context to what else was going on in 1972 HK other than Shaw Brothers and Golden Harvest/Bruce Lee films that I’ve already seen. I also plan to do this for all future years as well, but in chrono order along with the Shaw films. There’s actually not too many of these, so it only adds a few films to the series while presumably expanding my view of the time (and hopefully also adding to my enjoyment!). After watching The Good and the Bad, all I can say is, “So far, so good.” It delivered on both entertainment and contextual standpoints, so I am happy with my decision to go ahead and tack these extra films on.
The story in The Good and the Bad is as generic as “Kung Fu vs. Karate” plots come. Japan sends in a super badass karate master spy (Yasuaki Kurata) to help take over the docks in Shanghai. China sends in a super badass kung fu master spy (Chan Sing) to stop him. That’s it. If you want more than that, there are lots of movies that will do you a solid. But The Good and the Bad makes up for this lack in story with fights. Lots of fights. No, scratch that — LOTS OF FIGHTS.
The first act kicks off with a bang, and by bang I mean TONS of fists and legs doing their karate/kung fu thing. First we are introduced to Kurata as he leads a huge group of karate students through their kata before proving to the Japanese head honcho that he is indeed as badass as they come. Chan Sing’s intro is largely the same format, except it involves soldiers learning to fight with their guns as melee weapons and Chan Sing showing them how a true badass does it. The Good and the Bad shows a definite attempt to feature real martial artists displaying their skills, which, coupled with the extensive location shooting, really sets this film apart from its Shaw contemporaries.
We then move to the docks where the action is still well-choreographed (by Bruce Leung, Gam Ming & Lee Ka-Ting) and entertaining, but it’s not all that memorable. Hon Gwok-Choi does have a short comedic fight that’s fun, and his buddy (who I was unable to find a name for) does some incredible bike stunts, including jumping from a full speed bike and immediately engaging in combat. It’s very Jackie Chan-esque, and this wasn’t the only little moment that reminded me of him. Later in the film Hon Gwok-Choi shows off his athleticism by performing all kinds of cool flips and jumps mid-fight, something fairly rare in 1972 films. Obviously Bruce Lee was the major impetus to get real martial artists into the movies, but I wonder if Ng See-Yuen, who would later produce Jackie’s two breakout hits Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow and Drunken Master, was instrumental in helping it along with films like this.
The middle of the movie is a lot of generic (and fairly boring) posturing, but that’s OK because the finale is pure action gold. It’s something close to 30 minutes of straight action, and it never gets old. Part of this is that it’s also a chase sequence so the location is continually changing, but it’s also because the choreography is exceptional and feels very ahead of its time. It feels much quicker and more immediate than other films of the era, but maybe that’s just because I’ve been watching films older than this for a while now. In any case, I was locked in and enjoying the ride immensely. The one knock to the action is that there are quite a few moments where it is highly visible that the punch/kick is not connecting, so that can take you out of the movie if you’re not willing to roll with it.
Anyway, four big stars to the fantastic finale that truly delivers an epic showdown between Yasuaki Kurata and Chan Sing. It’s easily one of the best action sequences of this era. If only the rest of the film was as good.
No trailer, but here’s a good chunk of the dope finale!
Next up in this chronological journey through the Shaw Brothers Martial Arts catalog: One more film before I get back to business and start 1973! I’ll be checking out Black List, another non-Shaw 1972 film that made the Top 10 at the Hong Kong Box office for that year. See ya then! (Hopefully sooner rather than later.)