The Virgin Mart (1974)

virginmart_1bThe Virgin Mart [販賣人口] (1974)
AKA When the Kung Fu Hero Strikes

Starring Wong Yuen-San, Betty Ting Pei, Sek Kin, Elaine Kam Yin-Ling, Eddy Ko Hung, Woo Gam

Directed by Kao Pao-Shu

Expectations: Pretty high, based on my previous love of Kao Pao-Shu’s Lady with a Sword.

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I had one recurring thought throughout The Virgin Mart: “What a weird movie.” Hong Kong filmmakers love to mix genres and tones, and that’s something I love about the country’s films, but it just didn’t work for me in The Virgin Mart. The film blasts off with searing rock ‘n’ roll and a montage of neon lights and pretty girls. This emotional wave of fun night life imagery is quickly challenged by the introduction of Lin Ying (Woo Gam) and Mao Song (Eddy Ko Hung), a prostitute and her pimp, still within the opening montage. As we make our way into the film proper, it becomes apparent that this is also going to be an over-the-top comedy at times. Huh. OK. Perhaps something is lost in translation, but when they strap an unwilling woman onto a Qing dynasty metal sex chair called “The Joy Rider,” and play it for laughs, I just can’t go along with it.

The Virgin Mart is also largely without a distinct plotline. After the intro montage we meet a bunch of new characters, including a few that are actually important and integral to the film and its world, such as the big boss Qiang Han (Sek Kin), another prostitute Mei Ji (Betty Ting Pei), and the film’s hero Kang Tai (Wong Yuen-San). We see how the prostitution operation lures unsuspecting young girls to Hong Kong, we see the pimps battling a rival group’s men, but there’s hardly any narrative to hold these disparate bits together. Kang Tai is the man they target as a fall guy for their organization, but after he’s introduced early — stating that all he wants to do is “Just fight” — he’s absent from the film for quite a while.

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The Good and the Bad (1972)

TigerVsDragon+1972-76-bThe Good and the Bad [餓虎狂龍] (1972)
AKA Kung Fu-The Invisible Fist, Kung Fu-The Invincible Fist, Tiger Vs Dragon, Death Rivals of Shaolin, Dragon and Tiger Ways

Starring Chan Sing, Yasuaki Kurata, Wong Yuen-San, Gai Yuen, Michael Chan Wai-Man, Chiang Nan, Irene Ryder, Hon Gwok-Choi

Directed by Ng See-Yuen

Expectations: I don’t know anything about this one, but I’m very excited for some reason.

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A bit of context: I’m watching The Good and the Bad and one other (Black List) before I jump back into my chronological Shaw Brothers project and start 1973. (Oooo, it’s so close I can taste it!) These two films were in the Top 10 Hong Kong Box Office for 1972, and I figured they’d add an interesting context to what else was going on in 1972 HK other than Shaw Brothers and Golden Harvest/Bruce Lee films that I’ve already seen. I also plan to do this for all future years as well, but in chrono order along with the Shaw films. There’s actually not too many of these, so it only adds a few films to the series while presumably expanding my view of the time (and hopefully also adding to my enjoyment!). After watching The Good and the Bad, all I can say is, “So far, so good.” It delivered on both entertainment and contextual standpoints, so I am happy with my decision to go ahead and tack these extra films on.

The story in The Good and the Bad is as generic as “Kung Fu vs. Karate” plots come. Japan sends in a super badass karate master spy (Yasuaki Kurata) to help take over the docks in Shanghai. China sends in a super badass kung fu master spy (Chan Sing) to stop him. That’s it. If you want more than that, there are lots of movies that will do you a solid. But The Good and the Bad makes up for this lack in story with fights. Lots of fights. No, scratch that — LOTS OF FIGHTS.

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Uncle Jasper reviews: Ten Tigers of Shaolin (1978)

Ten Tigers of Shaolin [少林十虎] (1978)

Starring Bruce Leung, Jason Pai Piao, Lau Hok-Nin, Han Kwok-Choi, Larry Lee Gam-Kwan, Michelle Yim, Wong Yuen-San, San Kuai, Charlie Chan Yiu-Lam, Kong Do

Directed by Ngai Hoi-Fung


Still reeling from the high of Gallants, I felt inspired enough to take a look at another of Bruce Leung’s earlier films. Ten Tigers of Shaolin tells a fictional tale involving the legendary real life kung fu superteam, The Ten Tigers of Kwangtung. Many fans may already be familiar with the Shaw Brothers film depicting their legendary heroics, titled — well, Ten Tigers of Kwangtung. Despite the latter being the more polished film, I felt it to be needlessly confusing and bogged down by unnecessary plot twists which only seemed to slow the film’s pacing down to a crawl at times. The super low-budget Ten Tigers of Shaolin however takes a refreshingly different approach. Like many of its 1970s independent-studio-produced brethren, TToS uses a simple, hashed-together plot as an excuse to showcase an absolute shit-rain of kung fu fights. Most of which are actually pretty good.

At first I thought this was going to be a Wong Fei-Hung film since the movie opens with the iconic theme music, which is also sprinkled pretty liberally throughout. It was only after I heard a couple of choice selections from John Williams’ Close Encounters of the Third Kind soundtrack in this film that I quickly realized that this is just another one of those old kung fu movies that throw pretty much any random piece of movie music into the mix, copyright rules be damned.

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