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 Silver Emulsion Podcast: Ep. 113 – The Big Boss

This week on the Silver Emulsion Podcast, Stephen and I talk about Bruce Lee’s debut starring role in Hong Kong cinema: 1971’s The Big Boss (AKA Fists of Fury), directed by Lo Wei! Listen and enjoy! 🙂

Watch The Big Boss along with us on Blu-ray, DVD, iTunes or Amazon Instant Video!

Also: the show is on iTunes! So if you feel like subscribing there, or rating/reviewing the show, feel free to share your thoughts!

Music Notes

Intro:

  • James Brown – The Boss

Outro:

  • Bruce Springsteen – The Promised Land

If you’ve got feedback, throw it into the comments below or email it to me via the contact page! We’ll include it in a future show!

The podcast is embedded directly below this, or you can go directly to Podbean (or use their app) to listen. If you want to subscribe, paste http://silveremulsion.podbean.com/feed/ into whatever reader you’re using.

The Iron-Fisted Monk (1977)

The Iron-Fisted Monk [三德和尚與舂米六] (1977)
AKA Iron Fisted Monk, San Te & Chong Mi-Liu

Starring Sammo Hung, Chan Sing, James Tin Jun, Lo Hoi-Pang, Chu Ching, Wang Hsieh, Fung Hak-On, Yeung Wai, Dean Shek Tin, Yen Shi-Kwan, Wu Ma, Casanova Wong, Eric Tsang, Chin Yuet-Sang, Chung Fat, Chiu Hung, Fung Fung, Lam Ching-Ying

Directed by Sammo Hung

Expectations: Interested to see this again.


Sammo Hung left the Shaw Brothers studio in the early 1970s to help kick-start Golden Harvest as an actor, stuntman, and action choreographer. Golden Harvest kept him very busy in the years leading to The Iron-Fisted Monk, giving him ample opportunity to hone his skills and develop new ones simultaneously. I don’t know if Sammo finally felt he was up to the task of directing his own film in 1977, or if Golden Harvest finally relented to his requests, but the finished film demonstrates that Sammo was definitely ready to add a new feather to his cap. I first saw this film a few years ago when I watched my way through Sammo’s entire directorial filmography; at the time I thought it was a pretty good debut, but not especially great. At some level, I still agree with myself, but watching the film within the context of its Shaw contemporaries reveals it to be a more impressive movie than it initially appeared.

Chong Mi-Liu (Sammo Hung) is a mischievous student at the Shaolin Temple. He began studying there after Manchu thugs bullied his uncle and killed him. Chong was unable to fight them off, but thankfully the revered Shaolin monk San Te (Chan Sing) — the same character that Gordon Liu plays in The 36th Chamber of Shaolin — takes control of the situation and shows the thugs the power of Shaolin training. Chong is like many heroes out for revenge, though, and waiting for the completion of his training is just not an option. Chong remembers how Hu Hui-Chien — the folk hero Chi Kuan-Chun plays in Chang Cheh’s Shaolin Cycle films — left Shaolin early, so he decides to do the same. For those keeping track of Shaolin lore, according to The 36th Chamber of Shaolin San Te was the monk who trained Hung Hsi-Kuan, so this and Chong’s knowledge of Hu would place this film sometime after the majority of the Shaw Brothers Shaolin films. The Chinese title of The Iron-Fisted Monk is a lot like those Shaw films, as well, simply stating the characters names: San Te & Chong Mi-Liu. Any disappointment about there not being an iron-fisted monk can be attributed to yet another misleading English title. Apparently, both characters are Chinese folk heroes (the original trailer states as much), but I couldn’t find any specific info on Chong.

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The Silver Emulsion Podcast: Ep. 49 – Mr. Vampire

Silver Emulsion’s annual Horrific October continues with Ricky Lau’s 1985 Hong Kong classic, Mr. Vampire! Listen and enjoy! 🙂

Also: the show is now on iTunes! So if you feel like subscribing there, or rating/reviewing the show, feel free to share your thoughts!

Music Notes

Intro:

  • Dialogue from Manos: The Hands of Fate
  • Ozzy Osbourne – Bloodbath in Paradise

Outro:

  • The Ramones – Pet Sematary (Single Version)

If you’ve got feedback, throw it into the comments below or email it to me via the contact page! We’ll include it in a future show!

The podcast is embedded directly below this, or you can go directly to Podbean (or use their app) to listen. If you want to subscribe, paste http://silveremulsion.podbean.com/feed/ into whatever reader you’re using.

The Accidental Spy (2001)

The Accidental Spy [特務迷城] (2001)

Starring Jackie Chan, Vivian Hsu Jo-Hsuan, Wu Hsing-Guo, Kim Min-Jeong, Eric Tsang, Murat Yilmaz, Alfred Cheung Kin-Ting, Lillian Ho Ga-Lee, Cheung Tat-Ming

Directed by Teddy Chen

Expectations: Moderate.


One of the great things about going through an actor’s complete filmography is discovering films that passed you by at the time of their release. By the early 2000s, my initial passion for Jackie Chan had faded due to my distaste for his American films and the films of the early 2000s in general (thanks in part to the rise of CG). I would love to say that The Accidental Spy is a wonderful film, offering untold delights, but it’s actually quite a mediocre film all things considered. Where it excels is its action, offering up a pair of incredible sequences that recall everything you’ve ever enjoyed about the films of Jackie Chan. They aren’t enough to pull the film out of mediocrity, but they are wonderful and very welcome in an otherwise underwhelming film.

The film begins oddly, as journalists drive through a village in Turkey afflicted with a deadly pneumonia outbreak. They are quickly assaulted and murdered by terrorists, and we are whisked away to the South Korean embassy in Istanbul. A spy is called in to investigate, but before we get too deep into this serious plot line, we are abruptly taken to Hong Kong where Buck Yuen (Jackie Chan) is doing his best to sell some exercise equipment by giving energetic demonstrations. His real test of fitness comes a few minutes later, though, when he daringly thwarts a bank robbery as only Jackie Chan could. The media coverage attracts the attention of Many Liu (Eric Tsang), a private eye looking for orphans about Jackie’s age, which consequently drags Jackie into an international struggle.

Continue reading The Accidental Spy (2001) →

Gorgeous (1999)

gorgeous_1Gorgeous [玻璃樽] (1999)
AKA Under Control, High Risk

Starring Jackie Chan, Shu Qi, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Emil Chow Wah-Kin, Bradley James Allan, Richie Ren Xian-Qi, Chan Chung-Yung, Elaine Kam Yin-Ling, Tats Lau Yi-Tat

Directed by Vincent Kok

Expectations: Hopeful, but it doesn’t look great.

threestar


When it comes to Jackie Chan, the late ’90s were the height of my obsessive period. I rarely watched anything else, and my friends and I would scour the budding Internet for info on old film and news of upcoming films. So imagine my surprise when I was putting together the chronological list for this Jackie Chan series and I discovered a Hong Kong movie called Gorgeous that was released just five months after Rush Hour. I had been under the impression that once Jackie came to Hollywood, he was basically just over here making movies, but no! He actually jumped around quite a bit between continents, continuing to make Hong Kong films while his American career flourished. I guess my excuse was that Star Wars: Episode I was dropping about that same time, so my attention was sufficiently diverted.

In any case, Gorgeous is a very different type of movie for Jackie Chan, trading in the typical action movie plot for romantic comedy. There’s still has a good amount of action, though it does feel more shoehorned in than it would in a more distinct good vs. bad storyline. But that’s a fairly good problem to have, as problems go; the end result is that the audience is treated to some really stellar examples of Jackie Chan action! But I do think it’s important to know before jumping into this one that it’s not really an action movie, and that even the romantic element is somewhat underdeveloped.

Continue reading Gorgeous (1999) →

Who Am I? (1998)

whoami_1Who Am I? [我是誰] (1998)
AKA Jackie Chan’s Who Am I?

Starring Jackie Chan, Michelle Ferre, Mirai Yamamoto, Ron Smerczak, Ed Nelson, Ron Smoorenburg, Kwan Yung, Mike Ian Lambert, Yanick Mbali, Washington Xisolo, Chip Bray

Directed by Jackie Chan & Benny Chan

Expectations: Interested to revisit it.

threehalfstar


Who Am I? was Jackie’s last Hong Kong production before re-entering into the Hollywood machine with Rush Hour. Like the last four or five of his films, Who Am I? continues the trend towards eliminating Cantonese dialogue in favor of English; to the point that this film only has a small handful of lines that aren’t in English. It’s still very much a Hong Kong film in feel, but the shift towards a more sustained and consistent American tone is a defining element of Who Am I?. Where Mr. Nice Guy was an Americanized version of the Hong Kong filmmaking philosophy of the ’80s (action above all else), Who Am I? is more an attempt to blend Hong Kong-style action and stunts into the structure of a traditional American action film.

Jackie plays Jackie Chan (yep!), a highly trained military operative on a mission in South Africa with an elite strike team. They pull off their mission without a hitch, but somewhere along the way Jackie was left behind. We aren’t privy to the exact events just yet — unless you’re watching the US cut that reorders all the flashbacks to not be flashbacks! — we just know that a tribe of African natives has taken him in, providing everything necessary to make a speedy recovery. But Jackie’s not just physically injured, he’s also lost his memory. The tribe calls him “Who Am I” due to a language barrier, and while he’s happy living with the tribe, he’s also eager to leave and reclaim his identity.

Continue reading Who Am I? (1998) →

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