Rivals of Kung Fu (1974)

RivalsofKungFu_1Rivals of Kung Fu [黃飛鴻義取丁財炮] (1974)

Starring Shut Chung-Tin, Sek Kin, Lily Li Li-Li, James Ma Chim-Si, Bruce Le, Ricky Hui Koon-Ying, Sharon Yeung Pan-Pan, Cheng Miu, Kam Kwok-Leung, Kong Ling, Chan Shen, Lin Wen-Wei, Tong Chung-San, Keung Hon

Directed by Wong Fung

Expectations: Low. The title sounds good, but I’m wary.

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Rivals of Kung Fu feels like a film that could have been made a few years earlier, especially in terms of how it focuses on story over action. Not that Shaw films of 1974 don’t have good stories, but Rivals of Kung Fu exhibits a unique quality that sets itself apart from just about every Shaw film I’ve seen. It is a cause-and-effect story that slowly moves forward on small details and slight misunderstandings, telling of a rivalry between your favorite Chinese folk hero Wong Fei Hung (Shut Chung-Tin) and nearby school leader Master Shen Chiu Kung (Sek Kin). It’s very deliberate and purposeful, and I don’t think it’s something that will appeal to everyone. There’s no action whatsoever until a little over 30 minutes in, and after that extended sequence, there’s not a lot that would fall under the traditional umbrella of what we think of when we think “action movie.”

The key to understanding this difference lies in the film’s writer/director, Wong Fung. By this point in his career, Wong had been active in the Hong Kong film industry for nearly 25 years. Many of those years were spent as a screenwriter on over 100 films, with around 40 of these scripts for the original Wong Fei-Hung film series starring Kwan Tak-Hing. Wong Fung directed a few of the later films in that series, as well! I haven’t seen any of those films, but it’s probably not a dangerous stretch to say that Rivals of Kung Fu is probably a stylistic continuation of the series. Also of note: Sek Kin seems to have been the villain in most, if not all, of those Wong Fei-Hung films, so his presence as the villain in Rivals of Kung Fu here is significant.

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Uncle Jasper reviews: The Killer Snakes (1974)

The Killer Snakes (1974)

Starring Kam Kwok-Leung, Maggie Lee Lam-Lam, Chan Chun, Chow Gat, Helen Ko, Lam Fung-Hung

Directed By Kuei Chi-Hung


 

With The Killer Snakes, Shaw’s go-to sleazemeister, Kuei Chi-Hung, reaches stellar new heights (or lows, depending on how sensitive you are to animal cruelty and wild forays into sexual bondage). No stranger to no-holds-barred subject matter, having made the rounds with women’s prison films (Bamboo House of Dolls), and gross-out experiments in the dark arts (Bewitched and The Boxer’s Omen), Chi-Hung plunges the viewer headfirst into his darkest and most socially unredeeming worldview yet.

The Killer Snakes, despite its disturbing imagery and horrifying ventures into only the most psychologically depraved territories, is probably one of the best non martial arts films to ever make it out of Shaw Studios. Don’t get me wrong, it is not a pleasant experience, and I highly doubt I’ll be popping this one in again anytime soon.  But you can’t deny how effective it is in eliciting some pretty heavy reactions from anybody brave enough to dive beneath its unsettling surface.

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