The Proud Youth (1978)

The Proud Youth [笑傲江湖] (1978)

Starring Wong Yu, Shih Szu, Michael Chan Wai-Man, Stanley Fung Sui-Fan, Lau Wai-Ling, Chong Lee, Ling Yun, Ding Ying, Yue Wing, Ku Feng, Wong Chung, Tin Ching, Yau Chui-Ling, Ching Miao, Chan Shen, Yang Chi-Ching, Teresa Ha Ping, Wong Ching-Ho, Ng Hong-Sang, Chan Wai-Ying, Yuen Wah

Directed by Sun Chung

Expectations: High. I have a feeling about this one.


When I was a teenager, I didn’t know anything about the wuxia genre, and fantasy wasn’t what I wanted from Hong Kong movies. Like many Western viewers, I generally saw wirework as a negative, thinking of it more as a crutch or an excuse not to do those incredible Hong Kong stunts I loved Jackie Chan for. A few wuxia films broke through my naive mental wall, though, and the Swordsman films — specifically Swordsman II — still hold a treasured place in my heart. So when I learned that The Proud Youth shared DNA with the Swordsman films, I was fascinated and excited by the prospect of revisiting this tale told through the Shaw Brothers lens.

The Proud Youth is based on the Jin Yong novel The Smiling, Proud Wanderer (笑傲江湖), and shares the book’s Chinese title (which literally translates to Laughing Proudly in the Martial World). Despite sharing titles, the film changed most of the character names for some reason. So if you’re familiar with the Swordsman movies (or the book), Brigitte Lin’s iconic Invincible Asia character is represented here as the castrated and effeminate Sima Wuji (Tin Ching), and Wong Yu plays the same character as Samuel Hui/Jet Li (or Chow Yun-Fat if you’re watching the 1984 TVB version 😀 ). While I haven’t read the book — no official English translation exists — The Proud Youth seemingly attempts to boil the whole thing down into one 90-minute movie, so the film covers some major events from both Swordsman and Swordsman II (I believe Swordsman III is largely unrelated to the book).

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The Game of Death (1978)

The Game of Death [死亡遊戲] (1978)

Starring Tong Lung, Bruce Lee, Gig Young, Dean Jagger, Colleen Camp, Hugh O’Brian, Mel Novak, Roy Chiao, Robert Wall, Dan Inosanto, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Billy McGill, Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, Casanova Wong, Ji Han-Jae, James Tin Chuen

Directed by Robert Clouse

Expectations: Not much.


The Game of Death is a tricky film to review, but I’m sure it won’t be nearly as painful as actually watching the movie. The actual Bruce Lee footage is as great as it ever was, but everything that leads up to it is pretty sub-standard. The Robert Clouse-directed stuff is most of the movie, too — only 10 minutes or so are from Bruce Lee’s shoot — and there’s just no way around the fact that it’s boring. Even with Sammo Hung choreographing the fights, and Yuen Biao doing a lot of acrobatic double work for “Bruce,” the fights are largely uninspired and average compared to the best the Hong Kong industry was producing in 1978. For instance, Sammo made the absolutely incredible Wing Chun movie Warriors Two later the same year, and the quality gap between these two films is about as wide as the Grand Canyon.

Perhaps the difference lies in Robert Clouse’s direction; there is certainly no palpable passion in any of his material. The shift in tone and quality is jarring when Bruce finally shows up in the final 10 minutes with every bit of charisma he ever had. Bruce Lee was always passionate about his martial philosophy, and he focused on presenting it through his films — particularly The Way of the Dragon and the unfinished Game of Death. Care could have been taken to preserve this spirit, and present a version of Game of Death that was as much a celebration of Bruce Lee as it was an attempt to salvage the unfinished footage. Instead, it was decided to ditch Bruce’s vision for a cliched and rather dumb plot that just sort of stumbles its way towards the electric Lee footage.

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The Vengeful Beauty (1978)

The Vengeful Beauty [血芙蓉] (1978)

Starring Chen Ping, Yueh Hua, Norman Chu Siu-Keung, Lo Lieh, Lam Fai-Wong, Johnny Wang Lung-Wei, Siu Yam-Yam, Wai Wang, Lee Sau-Kei, Lee Chung-Ling, Wong Ching-Ho, Keung Hon, Chiang Nan, Hung Ling-Ling

Directed by Ho Meng-Hua

Expectations: Hoping it’s better than Flying Guillotine 2.


The Vengeful Beauty opens with narration about how the Qing Dynasty emperor is ferreting out dissension among his subjects, and even the booksellers and proofreaders aren’t safe! I suppose that puts me right into his sights, but I will not be deterred from my mission, no matter what it costs! And just like me, Rong Qiu Yan (Chen Ping), better known in the martial world as The Bloody Hibiscus, will also stop at nothing to help people fight the ruthless emperor. During the day she is a sweet, doting wife to the imperial officer Han Tian De (Lee Chung-Ling), but when Tian De catches wind of the emperor’s secret flying guillotine assassins, the emperor orders his whole family murdered to keep the secret safe. Of course, Qiu Yan escapes the guillotine squad, and pivots her brave wuxia heroics from part-time avenger to full-time vengeful beauty.

I’m not sure what the production specifics were, but The Vengeful Beauty is Ho Meng-Hua’s follow-up to his trendsetting 1975 film, The Flying Guillotine. For some reason, Shaw decided to give the “official” sequel to Cheng Kang (and later Hua Shan), resulting in an OK movie that shows its production woes and ought to be much better than it is. Ho’s The Vengeful Beauty is a much more cohesive film, and while it definitely pales in comparison to the original, it’s a far better sequel than the “official” one. For that matter, so is Ho’s The Dragon Missile.

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Clan of Amazons (1978)

Clan of Amazons [秀花大盜 or 陸小鳳傳奇之一繡花大盜] (1978)

Starring Lau Wing, Ling Yun, Norman Chu Siu-Keung, Ching Li, Yueh Hua, Manor Chan Man-Na, Shih Szu, Ku Kuan-Chung, Cheung Ying, Chan Shen, Ngaai Fei, Lam Fai-Wong, Yang Chi-Ching, Teresa Ha Ping, Dik Boh-Laai, Lau Wai-Ling, Chong Lee, Kara Hui, Ou-Yang Sha-Fei, Yuen Wah

Directed by Chor Yuen

Expectations: I hope it lives up to previous Chor Yuen wuxias.


For Chor Yuen’s first film of 1978 (of five!), he once again returned to the fertile imagination of Gu Long. Clan of Amazons is based on the second novel in Gu’s Lu Xiaofeng series, The Embroidery Bandit (繡花大盜, Xiuhua Dadao), and the film shares the book’s title in Chinese. I’m guessing the Clan of Amazons English title refers to the all-female Red Shoe Organization in the film. Anyway, on the title screen there are also some characters identifying the film as a tale of Lu Xiaofeng, so perhaps this signals a hope to make many sequels. The film did well, hitting #16 at the year’s local box office, and TVB produced three TV series based on the novels (in 1976, 1977, and a few months after Clan of Amazons in 1978), but Shaw only produced a single sequel: 1981’s The Duel of the Century.

As for the film at hand, it is almost more of a mystery than anything else. It is, of course, a wuxia mystery, so it’s not without action or traditional martial clan intrigue. Whether you think Clan of Amazons has the goods necessary to offset all the talking, though, depends on your love of dense mystery stories. I love a good mystery, but I also love a rollicking action film so I found Clan of Amazons to be quite entertaining, while simultaneously a little too dry. It’s a hard film to dislike, though, as there are tons of great wuxia thrills packed into its 88-minute runtime.

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Witchouse: Blood Coven (2000)

Witchouse: Blood Coven (2000)
AKA Witchouse 2

Starring Ariauna Albright, Elizabeth Hobgood, Nicholas Lanier, Kaycee Shank, Alexandru Dragoi, Adriana Butoi, Andrew Prine, Serban Celea, Claudiu Trandafir, Jeff Burr, Dave Parker

Directed by J.R. Bookwalter

Expectations: Not much, but hopefully fun like the first one.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


There’s a general assumption that sequels go down in quality from the original, and that is probably especially true in low-budget horror films. Witchouse: Blood Coven actually steps it up from the first film, with a much more fleshed-out script that delivers an actual story along with its low-budget thrills. The characters aren’t as unique and memorable as the first film, but they feel more realistic. Witchouse: Blood Coven has more in common with a traditional film that its cheapo predecessor, and so your enjoyment of it will depend on your particular leanings. For me, I appreciated the effort made, and I think it’s a better film than Witchouse, but I still think the first film wins in terms of overall entertainment.

The story of Witchouse: Blood Coven is not directly related to the first Witchouse, and that’s as it should be. I like the idea of similarly themed films grouped by an overarching title, and with the thin story running through Witchouse, it seems like a natural fit here. Anyway, Witchouse: Blood Coven takes place in Covington, Massachusetts, and it follows a university professor (Ariauna Albright) and her team of students as they investigate four unmarked graves unearthed during construction of a shopping mall. Something tells me this town has a few secrets…

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The Siamese Twins (1984)

The Siamese Twins [連體] (1984)

Starring Ida Chan Yuk-Lin, Michael Tong Chun-Chung, Tanny Tien Ni, Margaret Lee Din-Long, Robert Mak Tak-Law, Yueh Hua, Kwan Hoi-San, Leung Jun-Git, Fei Pak

Directed by Angela Mak Leng-Chi

Expectations: Moderate. Don’t really know whatto expect.


The Siamese Twins tells the story of a college student, Po-Erh (Ida Chan Yuk-Lin), who returns to Hong Kong from Canada, and finds her mother less than satisfied at her return. It is implied that Po-Erh has been in Canada for quite a while (like more than just for college), but this is never explicitly stated. She has clearly never been close with her mother, though, and she doesn’t know where simple things like the telephone are located in her childhood home. Her old room is still set up with a crib and a bed for a young child, so I would guess that she left home sometime early during her elementary school years.

Why do I focus so much on her age when she left her parents? Well… because the movie asks us to believe that Po-Erh was born conjoined with her twin Bei-Erh, but has absolutely no memory of it at all. No brain damage is mentioned or anything that might explain memory loss, other than that the twins were connected at the head. I suppose it’s plausible that someone might forget the first few years of their memory after such a surgery, and I’m usually fine with suspending my disbelief for stuff like this, but as it was presented here it just seemed too far a stretch.

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The Brotherhood VI: Initiation (2009)

Starring Aaron Jaeger, Tyson Breech, Bryan McMullin, Sasha Formoso, Burke Carter, Dominick Monteleone, James Preston, Josh Yeo, Austen Dean Jesse, Jeremy Ray Simpson, Rebecca Zoe Leigh, Arthur Roberts

Directed by David DeCoteau

Expectations: Fingers crossed it’s one of the good Brotherhoods.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


The Brotherhood VI: Initiation is the (so far) final entry in David DeCoteau’s Brotherhood series, and he really pulled out all the stops. The heartbeat is on the soundtrack, there’s a lumberjack killer, and nearly the entire cast spends most of the movie in their underwear! The film doesn’t take place in one of his trademark thunderstorms, but DeCoteau makes up for this by hosing down his underwear-clad actors, all in the name of fraternity initiation. Do real fraternities do these sorts of homoerotic initiations? They do in the DeCoteau-verse!

Depending on your tolerance for DeCoteau films, this either sounds like a good time or your worst nightmare. My love of DeCoteau’s unique brand of filmmaking is well documented here, so, of course, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. It definitely isn’t a movie I’d want to explain to someone who walked in and saw everyone getting hosed down in their underwear, but it has a charm and a feel unique to horror movies. I will always value unique expression to cookie-cutter, corporate filmmaking, no matter what the state of undress the main characters are in. Besides, most reviewers wouldn’t bat an eye if the cast was female, so I don’t feel like it should matter.

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