Showdown at the Cotton Mill [胡惠乾怒打機房] (1978)
AKA The Canton Challenge; Cold Face, Heart & Blood
Starring Chi Kuan-Chun, Dorian Tan Tao-Liang, Chang Peng, Ching Kuo-Chung, Li Chiang, Shan Mao, Fai Wan, Chang Chi-Ping, Tai Ping-Kang, Cheng Sai-Gang, Tan Tao-Kung, Tang Hsiao-Wen
Directed by Wu Ma
Expectations: I am very optimistic about this one.
Showdown at the Cotton Mill was an independent production, but it carries a fine Shaw Brothers pedigree. It fits right in with Chang Cheh’s Shaolin Cycle films, and if I’m to believe his screenwriting credit on HKMDB (there’s no on-screen writer credit), then maybe that was its origin. If this was the case, any number of reasons exist for why it wasn’t produced through Shaw. The dissolution of Chang’s Film Co. in Taiwan and Chang’s return to Hong Kong was most likely a major factor, as his films were over-budget and under-performing at the time. In an interview on the Cotton Mill DVD, Chi Kuan-Chun notes that his Shaw contract was up, and Sammo Hung was pursuing him for Warriors Two. He remained in Taiwan instead of signing any deal, leaving both Shaw and Golden Harvest without his wonderful talents.
The exact truth of the film’s production I do not know, but what matters is that Wu Ma and Chi Kuan-Chun essentially made another film in the Shaolin Cycle, with Chi reprising his role as Shaolin hero Hu Hui-Chien! Hu was one of three heroes in Men from the Monastery, then one of two heroes in The Shaolin Avengers, so it’s only natural that he’s the sole hero of Showdown at the Cotton Mill. This premise is intriguing in theory, but the execution leaves something to be desired. The film opens with Hu’s father already murdered, and Hu out for revenge after leaving behind his Shaolin training with San Te (here played by Tai Ping-Kang). You probably remember Chi Kuan-Chun smashing fabric looms in Men from the Monastery, and I do believe that would be the “cotton mill” of this film’s title. Shockingly, he doesn’t do anything of the sort here, instead taking his revenge at the home of whom I’m presuming were the bosses of said cotton mill.