Redbeard (1971)

Redbeard+1971-84-bRedbeard [紅鬍子] (1971)

Starring Lee Hung, Wang Yin, Chen Chiu, Chen Hung-Lieh, Tsui Fu-Sheng, Cheng Miu, Suen Yuet, Cheung Kwong-Chiu, Siu Gwong-Po, Lo Dik, Man Man, Wong Yu, Liu Chik, Chang I-Fei

Directed by Chang Tseng-Chai

Expectations: High.

twostar


I apologize if this review turns out a little strange; I think it’s mostly going to be me trying to make sense of what I just watched. My confusion isn’t exactly the film’s fault; it’s more to do with the film’s presentation. As an extremely rare Shaw Brothers film, I was only able to track it down as a badly discolored VHS that’s gotta be at least 4th or 5th generation. I can usually deal just fine with this kind of ugliness, but Redbeard is an incredibly talky film, so when half the subtitles are cut off it makes it kinda hard to keep up. I don’t think a beautiful remastered version with full subtitles would fix all the film’s issues, but it would definitely make for a more pleasant experience.

The film opens with a group of people on horseback, led by Little White Snake (Lee Hung), chasing down a train. They assault the moving train in order to rescue their chief, Chow Tian-Hua (Wang Yin). While making their escape, Tian-Hua is wounded, but they make it out alive and to their hideout. From what I could gather, Tian-Hua and his rescuers are the redbeards of the title, although I don’t really have a clear understanding of what a redbeard is. It seems that Tian-hua and his redbeards are some kind of outlaws in opposition of the army, but as the redbeards seem to only want to take care of their own and farm their land, I’m not entirely sure what the conflict is about.

Continue reading Redbeard (1971) →

From the Highway (1970)

FromtheHighway+1970-6-bFrom the Highway [路客與刀客] (1970)

Starring Peter Yang Kwan, Ingrid Hu Yin-Yin, Tsui Fu-Sheng, Suen Yuet, Lee Hung, Yeung Fui-Yuk, Lee Man-Tai

Directed by Chang Tseng-Chai

Expectations: Fairly high.

threestar


From the Highway is an impressively produced film… if you can watch it without holding its legacy against it. The film is largely considered the first color hand-to-hand kung fu film, but the title is a misnomer in this case. From the Highway is only barely a martial arts film, let alone a hand-to-hand film. It’s actually a drama surrounded by some traditional martial arts traits. In this way it recalls director Chang Tseng-Chai’s later film The Casino, which is essentially a drama until the action-packed finale.

The lead character, He Tian (Peter Yang Kwan), is perhaps the genre’s first prominent unarmed character, though. If I remember right there are older Shaw Bros movies with hand-to-hand scenes, although I don’t remember other characters who only fight unarmed. I don’t know enough about martial arts film history to say definitively that he’s the first, but if nothing else he’s an unarmed fighter amidst a multitude of weapon-wielding contemporaries. But even if this character trait is notable, it only seems notable because of the film’s built-up legacy. As a viewer in 2015, I’m looking for the seeds of later films; I’m looking for the “birth” of the kung fu film. And it’s just not here. On the other hand, when I watched The Chinese Boxer under the same mindset, it lived up to the legacy of being “the first hand-to-hand kung fu film,” and was impressive for how much it actually resembled later films.

Continue reading From the Highway (1970) →

Fantasy Mission Force (1982)

FantasyMissionForce+1983-187-bFantasy Mission Force [迷你特攻隊] (1982)
AKA The Dragon Attack!!, Dragon Attack, Mini Special Force, Mission Force, Shadowman 2

Starring Jimmy Wang Yu, Jackie Chan, Brigitte Lin, Suen Yuet, Ko Ling-Fung, Pearl Cheung Ling, David Tao Da-Wei, Mary Wong Ma-Lee, Adam Cheng Siu-Chow, Hui Bat-Liu, Fong Ching

Directed by Chu Yen-Ping

Expectations: Not much, I remember this one being really weird, though.

onestar


I think Fantasy Mission Force shorted out my brain. I’m sitting here, wondering what to type, but instead of ideas forming and flowing, it’s more of a blank stare into the abyss. If my brain on Fantasy Mission Force were a sound, it’d be the sound of a robot who just had a big fistful of wires pulled out of his thingamajig and he’s about 0.3 seconds away from exploding in a shower of sparks and shrapnel. I just — What the fuck? Fantasy Mission Force isn’t even that weird of a movie, it just defies all logic, and any attempts to watch it as a “real” movie will be met with a similar response to my own.

Don’t believe me? Consider the scene when fiery bluegrass banjo plays while Chinese soldiers wearing kilts parade in formation in fast motion. Or when our band of misfit mercenaries encounter a jungle tribe of wuxia-inspired flying female fighters flinging fabric to and fro. Or the Japanese villains waving road flares while riding in ’70s muscle cars with spray-painted swastikas on the doors. And don’t forget the night they spend in the haunted house inhabited by hopping vampires. Fantasy Mission Force is just one big collective WTF for 90 minutes; it’s closer to a fever dream than anything that could be called a film.

Continue reading Fantasy Mission Force (1982) →

The Champion of Champions (1972)

ChampionofChampions_3The Champion of Champions [大地龍蛇] (1972)
AKA The Dragon and the Snake, The Dragon Snake, Hero of the Earth

Starring Chin Han, Lily Li Li-Li, Suen Liu, Suen Yuet, Lau Lai-Lai, Chui Fook-Sang, Hon Siu, Sek Fung, Miao Tian, Lee Yan-Wa

Directed by Lee Ga

Expectations: Low.

onestar


Shaw Brothers productions usually come with a base level of quality that is able to make even the most mundane of stories into an OK movie. The Champion of Champions is the exception to the rule and easily the worst film I’ve seen from them, proving that the Shaw studios did indeed produce at least one horrible movie during their long run in the business. And I’m a big fan, I can only imagine what a non-fan would think of this movie. I do have to give the movie the benefit of the doubt, as the print isn’t ideal and the subtitles were cut-off and especially hard to follow. But no amount of remastering and removable subtitles can fix all the problems with The Champion of Champions.

Due to that subtitle issue I mentioned, I’m not exactly 100% on the plot of the film. The opening credits play out over a couple of guys killing an entire government mansion full of people, everyone from the guards to the guys working the printing presses. But then no one mentions this ever again, and the two guys doing this weren’t even main characters. It’s possible that it’s related to another flashback we see about another character’s past and motive for revenge, but I honestly don’t know.
Continue reading The Champion of Champions (1972) →

Subscribe via Email!

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,593 other subscribers

Ongoing Series

Top Posts & Pages

Shaw Brothers Martial Arts Films
The Films of Arnold Schwarzenegger
Hell Has No Boundary (1982)
Finger of Doom (1972)
The Shaolin Avengers (1976)
Review Index
The Delightful Forest (1972)
The Silver Fox (1968)