Polar Bear Return to Polar Blair's Den Menu Page

Asian Action Movies

Back to "Action Movies" Main Page
Go to "Martial Arts Superstars" Main Page

Features:

"Champ vs. Champ" (1983)

Quick Reviews:

"Black Dragon" (1974)
"Blind Fist of Bruce" (1979)
"The Bodyguard" (1976)
"Bruce Lee Fights Back From The Grave" (1976)
"Champion of Death" (1975)
"Chinese Hercules" (1973)
"The Crippled Masters" (1979)
"Deadly Kick" (1976)
"The Death of Bruce Lee" (1975)
"Dragon Lee vs. the Five Brothers" (1978)
"Drunken Fist" (1978)
"Fist of Fear, Touch of Death" (1980)
"Fists of Bruce Lee" (1978)
"Golden Dragon, Silver Snake" (1979)
"The Guy With Secret Kung Fu" (1981)
"Image of Bruce Lee" (1978)
"Kung Fu Fever" (1979)
"Kung Fu, the Invisible Fist" (1972)
"Lone Shaolin Avenger" (1980)
"Master With Cracked Fingers" (1971)
"Militant Eagle" (1978)
"Rage of the Dragon" (1979)
"Rage of the Master" (1975)
"The Real Bruce Lee" (1979)
"Samurai Reincarnation" (1981)
"The Screaming Tiger" (1973)
"SISTER STREET FIGHTER 1: Sister Street Fighter" (1974)
"Snake-Crane Secret" (1976)
"STREET FIGHTER 1: The Street Fighter" (1974)
"STREET FIGHTER 3: Street Fighter's Last Revenge" (1974)
"Tattoo Connection" (1978)

The above link goes to a fantastic 20-movie set of martial arts films.  Some of the movies I talk about in this feature are in the set!


Black Dragon (1974)- Jason Pai Piao, Ruel Vernal, Ron Van Clief, Jorge Estraga.

OVERALL SUGGESTION: NOT RECOMMENDED
RATING EQUIVALENT: PG-13

    If only it was the "Black Dragon"!  Very misleading, but above all else, slow-paced and boring.  I wanted to see this for the fact that black martial artist Ron Van Clief was the star.  That's how it was promoted.  But we find out he is a character of third importance at best.  He's also given a rather lazy character name of "Black Boxer" with his colleage Jorge Estraga, the "Filipino Boxer".  The story is really about Jason Pai Piao's character, Tai-Lin.  He's a small-time Chinese farmboy who goes to the Phillipines to make his fortune.  After getting a job on the docks as an enforcer due to his martial arts skills, he eventually realizes that his employers are smuggling opium.  When he finds out, he joins forces with Black Boxer, Filipino Boxer, and friends in taking down the criminal organization.  I suppose this is a good enough story, but the movie is just dry.  Ron Van Clief's fighting sequences are a highlight, but there isn't enough of him.  This is not a bad movie, but there are many better Asian action flicks to watch.

    One other thing I wanted to make of note was the fact that this film has some of the goofiest-sounding overdubs ever!  Most of the Filipino characters sound like such geeks!  The actual title of this movie is "Xia nan yang".  In Hong Kong, the English title for this film is "Tough Guy".  This movie was filmed in Hong Kong and the Phillipines.




Blind Fist of Bruce (1979)
- Bruce Li, Simon Yuen.

OVERALL SUGGESTION: RECOMMENDED
RATING EQUIVALENT: PG

    Actual title is "Mang quan gui shou".  The Hong Kong title, in Cantonese, is "Maang kuen gwai sau".  It is also known as "Blind Fists of Bruce".  This is one of only two known films directed by Kam Bo, who was also a fighting instructor.  He did a good job with this movie and I don't pay attention to many film directors, but I did want to give him credit here.
   
    This is a good movie.  It has a simple enough story that's very coherent and easy to follow, yet provides enough plot twists to make it interesting.

    I'd assume the setting is 1800s-early 1900s China.  A gang of bandits takes over the town, using their kung fu mastery to rob the people blind.  The crooked sheriff allows them to do this for a percentage of the take.  Meanwhile, a wealthy bank president (Bruce Li) loses everything to the bandits.  Bruce enlists the help of a blind old man (Simon Yuen) to teach him kung fu.

    Bruce Li is an excellent martial arts actor, and he's good in this movie as well.  But Simon Yuen truly has the coolest part in this film.  His character is funny and extremely competent.  He's blind in this movie, not drunk, like in the "Drunken Master" movies.  Simon Yuen uses his other senses to make up for no eyesight.

    Simon makes Bruce a super-stud kung-fu dude.  Bruce uses his newly found skill to take down the gang and take back his life.  Then what does the gang do?  Bring in the ultimate fighter, named Tiger (played by Tiger Yeung).

    We learn that Tiger is the only one who ever beat Simon.  Not only is he vicious, he doesn't play fair.  Tiger uses an acidic dust to blind his enemies.  This is what he did to Simon years ago.  Together, Bruce and Simon team up against the bandits.  All of the bad guys die at the hands (and feet) of our two heroes!  The movie ends kind of stupid, though.  We see Simon and Bruce giving Tiger simultaneous death kicks, and the movie cuts off right there.  Is there something missing in this American version?  I would have liked to see the movie wrapped up a bit better.  What happens to Bruce and Simon after they kill all the bad guys?  Does life return to normal?  We'd like to think so, but we'll never know.  This movie is SO begging for an American remake.

    The violence is mild.  No gore.  This movie is based more on story and action than it is violence.  There are a few swear words, but not many.  I'd give this a solid PG rating.  The little girl in this movie is cute!  She's funny, and adds even more entertainment value to the movie.  On the whole, this film has a pretty good cast.

    This is one of the many movies made that tried to capitalize on the legend of Bruce Lee.  We see that in the name of the American title, the name and look of the star, and the many times we hear the words "kung fu".  This is still a good movie, though, and in many ways better than Bruce Lee's Chinese productions.  Recommended.


The Bodyguard (1976)- Sonny Chiba.

OVERALL SUGGESTION: RECOMMENDED
RATING EQUIVALENT: R

    Also known as "Karate Kiba" and "Viva Chiba the Bodyguard".  "The Bodyguard" is actually a recut version of the original Japanese movie, and you can tell.  There are so many places where the editing looks choppy and hurried, and opens it up to plot holes you can drive a Toyota through.  So don't even try to find "meaning" or "character defintion".  This is just good for Sonny Chiba's awesome martial arts abilities and intimidating screen presence.  Definitely worth watching!

    Sonny Chiba is an anti-drug vigilante who plays bodyguard to a woman who helps him take down a notorious druglord and his gang.


Bruce Lee Fights Back From The Grave (1976)- Bruce K.L. Lea.

OVERALL SUGGESTION: RECOMMENDED
RATING EQUIVALENT: PG-13

    There are few kung fu films as contradictory as this one.  Let's begin with the title.  The original title is "America bangmungaeg".  "Bruce Lee Fights Back From The Grave" is something that was tagged onto it upon American and other international releases.  Some sources date this movie as 1978.  This is most likely when it was released internationally.  The poster art and splash card for "Bruce Lee Fights Back From The Grave" is an obvious ripoff of the cover art for Meatloaf's "Bat Out of Hell" album, released in 1977.  So not surprisingly, this movie has NOTHING to do with the title of "Bruce Lee Fights Back From The Grave".  The opening sequence shows lightning striking the grave of Bruce Lee, and a Bruce Lee impersonator jumping from it, ready to fight.  That's the only thing that even promises a fantasy movie about Bruce Lee.  The actual movie's plot is a lot more straightforward.

    The movie has bad acting all the way around.  Deborah Dutch, however, has a pretty good part as Susan Clark, the heroine of the film.  Susan is dopey, but she was meant to be.  This was Dutch's second film, and she actually received celebrity status from it when it was released in South Korea.  Although the acting is generally awful throughout the entire film, the story and consequent action is very interesting.  Yes, a movie can have bad acting and STILL be watchable.  A Chinese man named Wong Han (Bruce K.L. Lea) comes to Los Angeles to look up an old friend.  Upon arrival, he learns that his friend is dead.  At first, it's assumed he committed suicide, but Wong Han soon believes it was murder.  Wong Han hunts down the killers.

    SPOILER ALERT!  Wong Han is assisted in his quest for the killers by Susan Clark, a beautiful brunette waitress who once worked for the dead businessman and is the only one who has seen his supposed killers.  Our hero takes them down one by one only to ultimately discover that his friend faked his own death to run the ultimate opium-smuggling scheme.  To be truthful, a couple of things surprised me about this movie.  One, I didn't at all expect for Wong Han's friend to be alive and evil.  Two, I didn't expect Susan to be killed; that sucked.  The movie greatly suggests a building romance between Wong Han and Susan Clark.  It would have been nice to believe that they could have had a relationship after the conflict.  I'm up for surprises when I watch a movie, but killing Susan is one that the writers should NOT have played on.  It leaves the viewer unsatisfied.

    This movie is largely a South Korean production, although it is jointly a Hong Kong production.  It is filmed almost entirely in Los Angeles, California.  There is authenticity to the location, but not the star.  The true name of Bruce K.L. Lea is Jun Chong.  He is not really Chinese, but Korean.  Jun Chong is supposed to be a Bruce Lee imitator, but looks NOTHING like Bruce Lee.  This movie would have succeeded on more levels if they dropped the whole Bruce Lee ripoff thing and went with a non-Bruce title and used Jun Chong's real name.  As it is, this is considered by most markets to be a "Bruceploitation" film and is largely ignored.  It's actually a much better movie than one would believe.

Cast:

Jun Chong as Wong Han [credited as Bruce K.L. Lea]
Deborah Dutch as Susan Clark [credited as Deborah Chaplin]

Director- Doo-Yong Lee
Writers- Chee Do Hong, Chong Huang

Alternate Titles:

Fun Facts:

YouTube Video:



CHECK OUT THE PBDEN CHANNEL ON YOUTUBE FOR THIS AND OTHER GREAT VIDEOS!



Champion of Death (1975)- Sonny Chiba.

OVERALL SUGGESTION: RECOMMENDED
RATING EQUIVALENT: R

    The Japanese title for this film is "Kenka karate kyokushinken".  It's also been called, in the United States, "Karate Bullfighter".  Released in America in March of 1977.  This movie is the first in a trilogy based on the true-life story of Sonny Chiba's real-life master.  A Korean fighter by the name of Choi Bae-dal later changed his name to Masutatsu Oyama and became the founder of Kyokushin Karate in Japan.  This movie begins with Oyama's strange appearance in raggedy clothes at a 1949 karate tournament, the first one held in post-WWII Japan.  The man proves himself awesome, and a legend is born.  Unfortunately, butt needs to be kicked along the way to maintain his place in the field of karate.  Oyama saw that karate needed to be improved upon, and brought a savage edge to this ancient form of self-defense with his Kyokushin style.

    The real Oyama (Choi Bae-dal) was born in 1923, South Korea.  In 1938, he emigrated to Japan.  By 1953, he founded the Kyokushin Karate organization.  At last count, this form of karate has been practiced by 12 million people in 120 countries around the world.

    This is an entertaining movie, and it's well-liked by martial arts movie-watchers.  It's believed to be not entirely accurate, but what the heck, it's an action movie!  Midway through the movie, Oyama kills a rampaging bull with karate, which explains the "Karate Bullfighter" alternate title.  The movie is pretty much action-packed all the way through, with the climactic finale being the best part; he takes on an entire school of karate fighters and wins!  Maybe a better title for this movie would be, "A Constantly Kick-A** Kind of Dude".


Chinese Hercules (1973)- Bolo Yeung.

OVERALL SUGGESTION: OKAY
RATING EQUIVALENT: PG-13

    Also known as "Ma tou da jue dou".  The title of this movie is funny.  It's hard to imagine a "Chinese" Hercules, but Bolo Yeung brings that imagery to vivid reality.  This is NOT a Chinese version of Hercules.  Rather, it's a nickname given to Yeung.  His character's name in this film is Chiang Tai.  He is not the lead character.  He is a bad guy, and not even the top bad guy.  He is really just a thug, but a very deadly thug.  Yeung is the Chinese equivalent to Arnold Schwarzenegger.  In this film, Yeung plays a very difficult villain to kill.  We don't really see that much of him, but he is memorable, and his performance is one that fans of Yeung should see.  This movie is set in modern-day.

    Yeh Fang is actually the star.  He plays the hero, Lee Hsi.  Haunted by his past, he takes a job as a dockworker far away in a small village and vows never to fight again.  But a gang of ruthless aggressors, with Bolo Yeung among its ranks, forces Lee Hsi to fight.  This is actually a good plot for an Asian film, which is not always easy to find.  Needless to say, Lee Hsi wins and gets the girl.



The Crippled Masters (1979)- Frankie Shum, Jackie Conn.

OVERALL SUGGESTION: VERY RECOMMENDED
RATING EQUIVALENT: R

    This movie is excellent!  "The Crippled Masters" is not, I repeat NOT, made as an insult to handicapped people.  The two main stars are, in reality, handicapped martial artists.  This movie proves, without a doubt, that you can have these major handicaps and still be extremely useful.  It's as watchable as many American action films.  There's a great story, and often decent acting.  I was also impressed with the quality of filming and overall competent camerawork.  Americans take these things for granted, but Asian cinema in the 1970s was far from perfect on a technical level.  I was extremely impressed with the martial arts action; the majority of it is real.  You'll have to overlook the overdubs; that's a reality of Americanized Asian cinema.  It's a pity that there are some scenes of extreme violence in this film, because without the gore, this could be a film all ages could see.  There is not much in the way of bad language or touchy subject matter.  The only thing that makes this an R-type film is the violence.

    The movie begins with a guy getting both his arms cut off.  It's a gruesome attention getter.  We know it's fake and that the arms are fake.  Frankie Shum had no arms to begin with.  You'll notice the profound lack of blood spillage.  Still, it is not a family-friendly sight.  Shum plays the armless Crippled Master.  He actually has a small nub remaining of his left arm.  Jackie Conn plays the "legless" Crippled Master.  He does have both legs, but they are so shriveled that they're essentially useless.  As the story goes, both men worked for an evil gangster that was taking over the land.  Neither of them fully realized the extent of this man's evil.  We don't know why, but Frankie Shum's character crossed the boss.  The boss ordered both of Frankie's arms to be cut off, and Jackie Conn had to carry out the order via his henchmen!  Understandably, Frankie is going to hold hard feelings against Jackie for some time.

    Frankie has to adapt to being a double amputee.  It's hard, but he is eventually taken in by a friendly village.  While living with these people, Frankie learns how to live life with no arms, and he learns very well.  Meanwhile, Jackie Conn somehow ticks off the bad boss (this is also not explained).  The boss, himself, pours acid over Jackie's legs that fries them to a crisp!  For all intents and purposes, he has no legs!

    Jackie Conn wanders into the same area where Frankie Shum now resides.  Upon first seeing Jackie, Frankie starts beating him senseless.  Jackie confesses to Frankie that he did not want to carry out the order that cost Frankie his arms, but that he still wanted to die.  Frankie would have tortured Jackie to death, if an aged kung fu master had not intervened.  The old man convinced the two that they had a common enemy, and that if they worked together they could be two parts of a whole and take down the evil kingpin.  With the old man's training, the two cripples become better kung fu experts than they ever had been!  Frankie and Jackie become good friends in the process.

    Now in their prime, the "Crippled Masters" go back into town to take out the trash!  They are continuously aided by a mysterious, yet friendly, perfectly-abled kung fu expert.  The old master wants his students to retrieve the Eight Jade Horses from the evil boss, special jade figurines that hold the key to learning superior martial arts techniques.  With the help of their mysterious buddy, the Crippled Masters get the Eight Jade Horses and take them back to their camp.  They study the figurines and find out how they can take down the evil boss, who is a seemingly unbeatable martial artist.

    It's revealed that the Crippled Masters' mysterious ally is, in fact, an undercover agent working for the government, sent to investigate and shut down the strange happenings in the area.  The Masters, with their buddy, kill the bad guys.  End of story.

    There is one thing that bothers me: What happened to the old master of the Crippled Masters?  The evil boss attacked him, that much we know.  He destroys the camp, but when our heroes return, they do not find a body.  Did the old man die, or was he taken prisoner?  We never see him again, so this question is unanswered.  Besides this major plothole, the story is pretty straightforward and flawless.

    If I ever had the chance, I would love to have my picture taken with Frankie Shum and Jackie Conn.  I think they are incredibly talented individuals and very likable movie heroes.  They're an inspiration to many people, handicapped or non-handicapped.  Both of these men made a handful of movies before simply "disappearing" from the public eye.  They deserve recognition.  If you know anything about Frankie Shum or Jackie Conn, please CONTACT ME.

Cast:

Frankie Shum as The "Armless" Crippled Master [I believe his character name is Lieh Ho]
Jackie Conn as The "Legless" Crippled Master
? as The Old Master
? as The Mysterious Ally [I believe his character name is Po]
? as The Evil Boss
? as The Evil Boss' Second-In-Command
? as Black [the thug]
? as White [the thug]

Director- Kei Law

Alternate Titles:

Fun Facts:

YouTube Video:





CHECK OUT THE PBDEN CHANNEL ON YOUTUBE FOR THESE AND OTHER GREAT VIDEOS!



Deadly Kick (1976)- Lo Lieh, Bobby Kim.

OVERALL SUGGESTION: RECOMMENDED
RATING EQUIVALENT: R

    Bobby Kim plays good guy, Dae Ho.  Lo Lieh plays troubled bad guy, Maryon (I think that's how it would be spelled; information on these films is scarce at best.).  Let's just refer to them as Bobby and Lo throughout the rest of this review.

    Bobby and Lo are two superior martial arts killers, trained by the same master, with a rivalry that goes way back.  Five years ago, Bobby and Lo vyed for their ailing master's position at his sacred temple.  Also up for grabs was the master's beautiful daughter.  Although she was clearly in love with Bobby, Lo still pursued her.  Lo was even married at the time and pursued the master's daughter!  Wicked as Lo was, he was the better fighter at the time and won position of master fair and square in a physical contest.

    However, the master wished Bobby had won.  Upon his dying breath, the master gave his daughter an ancient book that would give Bobby a special fighting power.  Bobby would be able to call upon this special, supernatural power when and if he needed it.  After Bobby had received this book, he left Hong Kong for Japan.  Bobby became an Interpol agent (international policeman).

    Shortly after Bobby's disgrace, Lo raped the master's daughter.  She fought back, but was not strong enough.  Lo, angry from rejection, ran his fingers through the woman's eyes, permanently blinding her.  Lo was arrested for this crime and held in prison for five years.  During that time, the master's blind daughter trained herself to become an even better martial artist, anticipating revenge against her attacker.

    Lo is released from prison after five years, a broken man.  He has always known he is wicked and battles his demons, but always gives into evil.  Now a drunkard, Lo vows never to fight again.  His mother has disowned him, and his wife, in shame, turned to prostitution.  However, a Hong Kong crime syndicate has had their eye on Lo since he was released.  They are planning to spend 10 million dollars on weapons to oppress the people.  They need his fighting services, and force Lo into his old ways by hiring other fighters to attack his wife.  Lo kills the bad men swiftly, and insures his position into Hong Kong's mob.  Once Lo starts working for the syndicate, he is given $100,000 and, in turn, gives it to his wife and mother as a ways to make amends for disgracing them.  He begs his loved ones to forgive him, someday, and leaves them forever.

    A beautiful woman named Yoma is second-in-command of the Hong Kong mob, and becomes romantically linked to Lo.  The spiteful, scar-faced third man of the mob wants total power.  Scarface, let's call him, kills the mob's boss and takes over.  He almost kills Lo and Yoma.  Enter Bobby.

    Bobby, secretly an Interpol agent, poses as a crook and teams up with his longtime enemy in order to get the 10 million dollars and kill the gangsters.  Feigning friendship, Bobby knows he must kill Lo when this is all done.  Until then, Bobby needs all the help he can get in killing the army of notorious gangsters that plot to use nuclear bombs to keep innocent people living in fear.  Bobby and Lo follow the Hong Kong mob to Japan, where they team up with Japanese gangster Sasaki's crime syndicate.

    In the middle of all this, the master's blind daughter finally tracks down Lo and attempts revenge.  The woman is aided by a small girl, named Yuri, who helps direct the blind woman.  How this woman knows Yuri is a mystery.  Is it a relative?  Friend?  In either case, we know it's a close relationship.  Lo kills the child out of anger.  Once he's realized what he's done, he runs away from the blind woman, disgusted with himself.  Personally, I think it was stupid for the woman to bring a child with her to a dangerous fight, anyway.  But she cries about it.  Bobby learns about the death of Yuri and is more convinced than ever to kill Lo when this is all done.

    It's pretty much one big battle after another once Bobby, Lo, and Yoma arrive in Japan.  Yoma is captured and tortured by Sasaki.  Bobby and Lo kill all the bad guys and get the money.  A time bomb is set to blow up Sasaki's headquarters and destroy the much-talked-about weapons.  Lo is forced to leave Yoma, who is already close to death, in Sasaki's headquarters only moments before the place explodes.  After Bobby and Lo make their way to freedom, Bobby challenges Lo to a final confrontation.  Bobby finally calls upon his special, supernatural power of strong wind and powerful kicks to kill the evil Lo.  Only moments before death, Lo confesses that "You did not kill me...it was my own wickedness that killed me.".  And that's pretty much where the movie ends.

    The only detail not attended to was the relationship between Bobby and the blind woman.  That would have been nice to see resolved, one way or another.  Other than that, this movie was well-filmed and boasts an interesting story.  The direction, pretty much due to the technical limitations of the filmmakers, makes this movie hard to follow for some people.  I've seen enough of these movies to know that flashbacks are rarely announced on screen; there's no nifty fade-ins or text.  Hey, they did what they could.  I still think the filmmakers made a watchable, entertaining product.  I really enjoyed the helicopter chase scene where Scarface is pursuing our three heroes with guns, grenades...basically anything he can use on them.  That was pretty well-done for a low-budget Asian action flick.  I also enjoyed all the fight sequences.  The martial arts moments look pretty believable.  The throwing stars/knives scenes are a bit fakey but, again, we're talking about very limited special effects techniques.

    This movie would definitely be Rated R.  It's a pity, because with only a few small edits, this could be a PG-type movie that kids could see.  What makes this NOT a kid-friendly movie?:

    Personally, I don't even like the things mentioned above.  The directors should have either omitted those scenes entirely, or filmed them in a different way so it wasn't so graphic.  Limiting the violence in this movie would have made it more accessible to all audiences and it would have done better in theaters.  I think it would also do better in video sales, too, if it were toned down.  That gory stuff works for Sonny Chiba's movies; not so well in this light-hearted action fare.

Cast:

Lieh Lo as ?
Bobby Kim as Dae Ho

Directors- Young Nam Ko, Lieh Lo
Writer- Sam-yuk Yoon

Alternate Titles:

Fun Facts:



The Death of Bruce Lee (1975)- Ron Van Clief.

OVERALL SUGGESTION: OKAY
RATING EQUIVALENT: PG-13

    This movie is also widely known as "Black Dragon's Revenge".  There were a lot of kung fu movies that played off the mysterious death of Bruce Lee in its storylines.  I've never been entirely comfortable with that notion.  The movie, "Kung Fu Fever" (1979), was acceptable because it didn't really concentrate on Bruce Lee's death; it was merely a plot device.  Bruce Lee died, and everyone was looking for a valuable book he wrote.  That story never got into the details of his death.  This movie, "The Death of Bruce Lee", almost seems disrespectful.  They're flat out saying he was murdered, and Ron Van Clief was hired to find the killer.  In addition, several of Bruce's students also look into what they believe was his murder.  As a fan of Bruce Lee, I think this movie was insensitive, and it came way too soon after he died.  Still a cool story idea, but maybe they shouldn't have done it.

    As far as the movie itself goes, it wasn't great, but it wasn't terrible.  I like Ron Van Clief.  He's an incredible martial artist and a likable personality, even though he isn't an outstanding actor.  He does good for the material given to him.  The plot of the movie is very floaty, even though it has an interesting premise.  The story and the fight scenes drag on too long.  Even Ron admits, in the audio commentary to this movie on its DVD release, that he thought there were too many moves that didn't mean anything.

    This was the second of the Black Dragon movies, filmed in 1974, but released in 1975.  Ron does confirm that this is the SAME Black Dragon character from the first movie.  In the first movie, he basically had to do what the fight choreographer told him to do.  In this movie, he had proven himself to the crew and was allowed to do all the really neat stuff that he was able to do.  That was a smart move, because this movie's greatest strength is Ron's fighting ability.  This movie also benefits from the fact that Ron is now the main player, and not just a tagalong character.

    The violence and occasional language make this about PG-13 quality.  It has been Rated R, but back then it didn't take much to secure an R rating.  There's nothing real sick or gory about this movie.  Kids can see it.  I recommend this film to fans of Ron Van Clief, because he's certainly the coolest part.

Cast:

Ron Van Clief as Ron Van Clief
Charles Bonet as ? [credited as Charles "La Pantera" Bonet]

Director- Chin-Ku Lu
Writer- Norbert Albertson, Jr.

Alternate Titles:

Fun Facts:




Dragon Lee vs. the 5 Brothers (1978)- Dragon Lee.

OVERALL SUGGESTION: RECOMMENDED
RATING EQUIVALENT: PG

    This movie's official title is "Wu da di zi" and is a South Korea/Hong Kong joint-production.  Dragon Lee is awesome!  He looks and fights almost exactly like the real Bruce Lee, and that's no easy task.  He's cool in this movie, and he fights excellent, but other characters in the film are more interesting.

    This movie is set in ancient China.  Story?  Well...maybe.  This movie is a very thinly-disguised excuse for seeing a bunch of interesting characters beat the h*** out of each other.  That isn't necessarily a bad thing.  When it comes to lower-budget, foreign productions such as this, that's about all you can hope for.  DO expect interesting characters, DON'T expect character development.  This is a fast-moving, heavy-action martial arts film with lots of pretty scenery.  Entertaining, but a simple story of good vs. evil.  The bad guys are called the Ching.  The "Brothers" this movie refers to are not related brothers, but comrades in the Shaolin martial arts world.  Four of the "Brothers" are evil, one is good.  The good Brother is actually a fiery female by the name of Miss Ha.

    Miss Ha is one of the two most interesting characters in the movie.  She is a mysterious heroine with a short fuse and an expert martial artist.  Her hat is blade-rimmed and she can throw it at people.  Ha is also a source of humor for the show, giving us her catty personality.

    The primary villain of this movie, Chin-Chang, is also a "Brother".  He is tall and lanky, with a prosthetic right hand, razor-sharp fan, and is a master of disguise.  He is second-in-command to Master Lee, the top bad guy of the film.

    I think it's funny the top villain in the movie is called "Lee" when the star is Dragon Lee.  This movie presents a lot of cool visuals between Dragon Lee's fighting, and the characters of Miss Ha and Chin-Chang.  Other cool elements are the special effects like Lee's chair that shoots darts, and little bombs.

    If this movie were rated, I'd say it was PG.  There's a little swearing, but not bad.  There is really no gore, and it's a fun little story about good guys fighting bad guys.  Kids could see this, and adults will love it.  Take this movie for what it is and you'll have a good time.  It's very entertaining.


Drunken Fist (1978)- Simon Yuen, Casanova Wong, Yeung Pan Pan, Jackie Chan.

OVERALL SUGGESTION: NOT RECOMMENDED
RATING EQUIVALENT: PG

    This movie's official Hong Kong title is "Jui kuen," of which "Drunken Fist" is the literal English meaning.  It is also known as "Drunken Master (probably the most popular name for it)", "Challenge (India, English title)", "Drunken Monkey in the Tiger's Eyes", "Eagle Claw, Snake Fist, Cat's Paw, Part 2", and "Zui quan (Hong Kong, Mandarin title)".  In 1996 this movie was released on VHS by Eastern Heroes Video under the title of "Drunken Fist Boxing".

    This movie:  BORING!  It's hard to understand the poor English dubbing and makes it kind of hard to follow what little plot they have.  Jackie Chan is given top billing in this movie, and he's barely in the darn thing!  And then only in flashback sequences, which would greatly imply to any viewer that it's recycled footage.  Jackie's very few fighting scenes are very funny and interesting to watch, as always.

    "Drunken Fist" is not completely bad.  The highlight of this film, certainly, was Yeung Pan Pan who has incredible flexibility and is otherwise a cute, girlish actress.  The way she can move with plates is amazing.  I also like Casanova Wong as a martial arts actor, and he has a significant part, but he is given very little to do besides being a supporting player.  The main character of this movie, if anybody, would be Drunken Master, played by Simon Yuen.

    Watch this movie for the Jackie Chan parts and the Yeung Pan Pan parts.  I think the rest of it is pretty uneventful and dismissible.

Yeung Pan Pan  Yeung Pan Pan
Yeung Pan Pan and her plate!

YouTube Video:


CHECK OUT THE PBDEN CHANNEL ON YOUTUBE FOR THIS AND OTHER GREAT VIDEOS!


Fist of Fear, Touch of Death (1980)- Bruce Lee, Adolph Caesar, Fred Williamson, Ron Van Clief, Aaron Banks, Bill Louie.

OVERALL SUGGESTION: NOT RECOMMENDED
RATING EQUIVALENT: PG-13

    This "Bruceploitation" movie is pretty awful.  After the Ron Van Clief segment, it's not even watchable.  A very odd movie, indeed.  Actual martial arts superstars portray themselves in this fake television documentary about a 1979 World Karate Championship held at Madison Square Garden.  Bruce Lee is shown in stock footage, but dubbed over very badly for fake interview segments.

    Adolph Caesar is the announcer.  At the beginning of the movie, Aaron Banks makes the controversial announcement that he believes Bruce Lee was killed by the "touch of death".

    Fred Williamson is then highlighted in his own segment.  I'm a fan of Fred Williamson, but this movie didn't do him any favors.  However, I liked the recurring gag of people thinking he's Harry Belafonte.  That's pretty funny.  In this movie, Fred thinks the idea of the contest is pretty stupid, because there was no such title for "Successor of Bruce Lee".

    Ron Van Clief is up next.  In this movie, Ron says he thinks Bruce was murdered.  In real life, Ron believes quite the opposite.  He thinks the combination of Bruce's extreme exercise routines and growing drug use proved too much for his system to take.

    The middle section of the movie presents Bruce Lee's "story", a largely fictitious account of Lee's life scripted more to serve this movie than anything else.  They say his grandfather was one of "China's greatest samurai masters".  China didn't have samurai masters; that was Japan.  When they flash to Bruce Lee's early Hollywood days, they actually show Bill Louie dressed as Lee's Kato character from TVs "The Green Hornet".  Kato saves two women from being raped.  Since when does Kato have a mustache?

    The final part of the movie shows more fake karate fights.  Louis Neglia wins the championship.  Adolph Caesar concludes the film with a final thought.

    There was so much bad to this movie that it's not even worth exploring, but since the idea of it is that Bruce Lee was killed by the touch of death, I would like to have seen that confirmed, and his killer brought to justice.  This story just doesn't go anywhere.  The Williamson and Van Clief segments, however, are very corny and funny.  The movie was actually rated R at the time.  However, I feel this movie rates a strong PG-13.  PG-13 didn't exist back in 1980, and some of the bad language was more than a PG film was allowed, so it was bumped up to an R.  The action of this movie is really just PG kind of stuff, but we do hear the F-word a few times.  Since many PG-13 movies nowadays have the F-word a few times, I'd say that this movie would more accurately be a PG-13 film.

    This is one of the most notorious of all martial arts movies.  Many Bruce Lee fans are upset when they find out Bruce had no involvement with this movie.  Bruce's likeness is used for all the promotional artwork, misdirecting people.  The movie basically takes a dump on Bruce's name and memory, which I don't like.  It's also just very badly done.  The filmmakers upset audiences by telling them this is a Bruce Lee movie.  This movie might have done better commercially if it was honestly billed as an ensemble cast picture.

Fun Facts:




Fists of Bruce Lee (1978)
- Bruce Li.

OVERALL SUGGESTION: OKAY
RATING EQUIVALENT: PG-13

    The title for this film in China is "Fu ji".  In Hong Kong, the Cantonese title is "Fook gik".  It was filmed in Hong Kong.

    This is another film that does not star or have anything to do with Bruce Lee.  It stars incredible Bruce Lee lookalike, Bruce Li, a Taiwan-born martial arts actor.  Even stranger is the fact that Bruce Li is credited in this film as Ho Chung Tao.  And the character he plays is called Lee Min-Chin.  The Americanized name of this film is another very obvious attempt of cashing in on the late Bruce Lee's popularity.

    Bruce Li is a great lookalike to the real thing, but his fighting style is not a match.  In reality, the man greedy movie bosses called Bruce Li admired the real Bruce Lee very much.  He DID try to emulate the real Bruce's appearance and actions, but still wanted to go by his own name because he was a legitimate actor.  It upset him when he was credited as Bruce Li, or referred to as Bruce Lee in the movies.  He prefers to be called by any name other than Bruce Li.

    This movie is not bad, but it is not one of Bruce Li's best.  It looks like a rushed production.  However, there are enough spontaneous fight scenes and guys looking mysterious to make this watchable.  The story is really not very coherent.  Is Lee (the hero) an undercover cop, or spy?  And just what is the objective?  Bruce Li gives a solid acting performance, but the movie around him doesn't hold up.

    Something I found interesting was the fact that so much well-known, American music was used in the soundtrack of a low-budget Chinese movie.  Was their use of this music legal?  For instance, the movie opens with Van McCoy's funky disco instrumental "Hey Girl, Come and Get It".  Throughout the movie, you'll hear many samplings of theme music from the James Bond films, including Wings hit, "Live and Let Die".  And, at one point, you hear Henry Mancini's "Pick up the Pieces".  Their application of this better theme music was great, but it seems out of place for a film of this sort, and out of their price.


Golden Dragon, Silver Snake (1979)-  Dragon Lee, Johnnie Chan.  Directed by Godfrey Ho.

OVERALL SUGGESTION: OKAY
RATING EQUIVALENT: PG

    The title for this film in China is "Yi xiao yi quan".  An alternate title for this film, in the USA, is "Dragoneer 5: The Indomitable".

    Dragon Lee is a good enough reason as any to watch this movie.  He is certainly one of the better Bruce Lee "clones" to pop up in 1970s martial arts movies.  He ranks right up there with Bruce Li.  Still, this isn't one of the best Dragon Lee films I've seen.  Acting wise, he's done better.  The strengths of this movie is that it's brightly-filmed, has plenty of action, and is never boring.  Johnnie Chan, as Dragon Lee's sidekick, is another plus.

    Like many Asian martial arts actor, Johnnie Chan is just one name of many possible names for this actor.  I think somebody called him "Johnnie Chan" in the credits to play off the popularity of Jackie Chan.  The guy we know as Johnnie Chan is very talented.  The things he can do with chicken eggs are incredible!  How come he didn't become more popular?

    The name is somewhat of a misnomer.  The characters are never referred to as "Golden Dragon" and "Silver Snake".  It just sounded cool, so they went with it upon international release.

    This movie opens with an awesome action sequence.  The hero we see at the beginning gets killed soon after his big victory.  We then see Dragon Lee, who has come into town to investigate the death of his brother.  "Golden Dragon, Silver Snake" is set in present-day, which I think always works better for these kinds of movies over ancient times.  It's a bit easier to watch and understand because you don't have to stretch your intelligence.  You can just watch this and let your mind go to fudge.

    The black fighter we see early on in the movie is hilarious!  His voice is overdubbed by some Chinese man who tries to make him sound like one of those old-time, ignorant black movie characters like Stepin Fetchit or Willie Best.  It's just so out of place.  Could be construed as racism by the filmmakers.  In reality, we know that this man is pretty muscular and talented in martial arts, but that certainly isn't what's relayed when his voice comes out.

    There is a lot of action, but this movie has its funny moments, intentional and unintentional.  What I don't care for so much is all the Bruce Lee mimicry in this movie.  Yes, Dragon Lee was always supposed to look like Bruce Lee, and even act like his onscreen persona, but this is different.  There is so much outright and over-the-top copying of Bruce Lee in this movie that it's almost like the filmmakers are picking on Bruce Lee, and that's not cool.  Dragon Lee is normally a smooth personality within himself, but when he overdoes the Bruce-isms, it makes him look dopey.

    This movie has some visually interesting things to see.  At one point in the movie, the lead henchman throws his hat into the air, which then releases a net.  Cool idea!  The farm, which is one of the main locations of the film, actually looks very nice.  It certainly isn't an impoverished farm.

    Although this film is unrated, I'd say it falls under a solid PG rating.  There is no sex or bad language.  The violence is mild, but there's tons of it!  And there are a few times that we see blood, but nothing overly gruesome.  Kids can still watch it, but teens and up will most likely enjoy it better.

    As far as the story goes, it's a pretty simple revenge story without any real twists or turns.  It's rather predictable that the police detective is really the crime boss.  That could have been handled better.  All in all, this is a fun little martial arts movie.  It probably won't appeal to all American audiences.


The Guy With Secret Kung Fu (1981)-  Fei Meng, ?.

OVERALL SUGGESTION: OKAY
RATING EQUIVALENT: PG

    The title for this film in China is "Cai yang nu bang zhu".  "The Guy With Secret Kung Fu" is an English title developed in Hong Kong, and later used for international release.
   
    Shouldn't this be "The Guys With Secret Kung Fu"?  There's two of them.  Okay, the name of this movie is ridiculous so I bought the DVD at a garage sale for 75 cents expecting a good laugh.  I got it.  Hey, the title could have been worse.  They could have called it "Bad Kung Fu Dudes" or "The Man From K.U.N.G.F.U.".  The best title would have been "Two Guys That Kick The S*** Out Of Everything".  That's basically the thrust of this movie.  

    Well, this isn't the worst Chinese martial arts film I've seen, because it's not boring.  There is always some activity.  The bad thing is that there is no rhyme or reason to anything that happens in the movie!  This movie is bad.  So hilariously bad that I think it was made this way on purpose.  That's not to say that this isn't enjoyable.  The only things that save this movie are the continuous martial arts sequences and the goofy characterizations.  The two main heroes show a shred of acting talent and have personality.  No one else does.

    Two guys (brothers? friends?) take it upon themselves to go around kicking the crap out of everything that moves.  Hey, isn't that what "good guys" do?  Somewhere along the lines their archenemies become The Dragon Gang.  Both of our heroes wear matching white karate outfits, so we know they're supposed to be the good guys.  Both of them have long braids, but one has two pigtails.  I think these guys have spent a LOT of time together.  Good thing they meet some girls in this movie.  No one in this movie has any memorable character name.  For all I know and care, the heroes with the three-part names could have been called "One Hung Low" and "I Gotta Pee".  The writers could have done a better job with the script.  This movie works better as a visual.

    This martial arts epic would be fine for young children, except for a few profanities.  There is no gore.  I'd give this a PG-rating at the strongest.  Films of this sort set in "Ancient China" can be very good or very lazy.  I prefer the movies set in modern-day because they're grounded in some kind of reality.

    The strongpoint of this movie is that it's one of the few Chinese martial arts films that DOESN'T try to be like Bruce Lee.  It has its own identity.  For one thing, there are two main heroes in this movie, and they're both equally important.  No one is made to look, act, or otherwise emulate Bruce Lee.  There isn't even any name association with Bruce Lee in the movie or the title.  "Kung Fu" is in the title, and that's Bruce's thing, but that was only in the American version so it doesn't really count.  I love Bruce Lee, but I do get tired of the ripoffs.  This movie is not a ripoff so it really stands alone.  It's worth watching for fun, but don't expect a legitimate action film like "Die Hard".



Image of Bruce Lee (1978)- Bruce Li, Bolo Yeung.

OVERALL SUGGESTION: VERY RECOMMENDED
RATING EQUIVALENT: PG-13

    The title for this film in China is "Meng nan da zei yan zhi hu".  This is actually a good movie.  Ignore the voices dubbed over in English.  The story is good, as is the filming, and there's never a dull moment.  The martial arts action is pretty constant.

    This does not star Bruce Lee, nor does it have anything to do with Bruce Lee.  Instead, it stars Bruce Li, a Taiwan-born martial arts actor. 

    Bruce Li and Lik Cheung star as Dragon and Inspector "Mustache" Wang, two cops determined to bust a counterfeit operation.  Bolo Yeung plays one of the major bad guys...Japanese at that.  Bolo, as Kimura, still has a powerhouse build, but doesn't get to show it off much as he is almost always fully clothed.  He does, however, get to show off his martial arts might and does quite excellent.  Kimura gets killed by the two other major bad guys, Han Tin Lung and son Steven (played by Ying-Chieh Han and John Cheung).

    An interesting character is Donna, later revealed as Agent 7.  For most of the movie we think she is involved with the counterfeit operation, until we learn she is an Interpol agent.  She is played by an actress named Danna (big stretch, huh?), who did six movies in the late 1970s and bowed out after 1978.  She is a very important part of this movie and adds a lot of humor and sexiness.

    Bruce Li, although you cannot compare him with Bruce Lee, does extremely well in fight scenes and does a great job of emulating the look and mannerisms of onscreen Lee.  Lik Cheung is also an exceptional fighter and likable actor.  He made two dozen movies, his last in 1982.  It is surprising that Cheung has not garnered the extreme popularity of his martial arts contemporaries such as Bruce's Lee and Li, Bolo Yeung, Jackie Chan, or Sonny Chiba, but he is a very respectable personality in the genre.

    This is one of the very few Chinese-made action films that can be put on the same level with big-budget American features.  I recommend this movie to anyone who says they do not like Chinese movies.  This movie will surprise and entertain.



Kung Fu Fever (1979)- Dragon Lee, Ron Van Clief.

OVERALL SUGGESTION: RECOMMENDED
RATING EQUIVALENT: PG

    I love Dragon Lee!  He was always meant to be an imitator of Bruce Lee, but he made a lot of movies that are more watchable than some of Bruce's films!  This isn't one of Dragon's greatest movies, but it's certainly not bad.  The greatest flaw is with its muddled plot and overall execution.  Its greatest strength is the story idea itself.  Although released in 1979, the story is set in 1973, shortly after the death of Bruce Lee.  It was known by many within the martial arts community that Bruce wrote an extremely informative training manual concerning a "finger technique".  After his death, the book went missing.  Everybody, good and bad, was looking for it!

    As it turns out, Bruce Lee gave the valuable book to his best friend, a non-martial artist, shortly before his death.  This is the man everyone is looking to, including the hero of this picture.  Dragon Lee plays Ricky Chan, Bruce Lee's top student.  Ricky Chan is about the only one who wants the book for an honorable purpose.  Ron Van Clief, the legendary black martial artist, plays the unusual role of a villain in this movie!  A lot of kung fu movie buffs find this odd, as Ron typically played heroes.  Dragon Lee squares off against Ron Van Clief a number of times, and Ron always comes out the loser.

    The story idea is cool.  The movie itself is fine for young kids to see.  There's nothing gross or otherwise perverse about it.  One great drawback, however, is finding a copy of this movie that's a decent print!  The DVD copy I have was apparently taken from a very poor quality VHS tape.  A lot of these kung fu movies are rare, so you take what you can get.

    Dragon Lee is usually a "Bruce Lee-inspired" martial arts actor.  In this movie, he tends to overdo Bruce's mannerisms.  It works out okay, because he's supposed to be Bruce Lee's top student.  We would imagine Bruce Lee's best understudy to act a lot like him.  What's eery is that Dragon Lee LOOKS so much like Bruce Lee.  He's a little shorter and a bit more muscular, but his face and movements are pretty convincing.

    This is worth seeing for fans of Dragon Lee, and is one of Ron Van Clief's more entertaining movies.

Cast:

Dragon Lee as Ricky Chan
Ron Van Clief as Ron

Director- Ke Kao
Writer- Kuang Ni

Alternate Titles:

Fun Facts:



Kung Fu, the Invisible Fist (1972)- Chen Sing, Yasuaki Kurata.

OVERALL SUGGESTION: VERY RECOMMENDED
RATING EQUIVALENT: PG

    Oh, my gosh!  This is actually a good movie!  For being a Hong Kong-made film dubbed in English this is surprisingly watchable, even for the most casual movie-watcher.  It's set in WWII, but feels more modern.  Only the cars and the story itself really allude to the time period.  A Chinese officer (Chen Sing) learns of invasion plans by the Japanese while investigating a white slavery, drugs, and arms ring.  The Japanese send their best man, Captain Jai Tai (Yasuaki Kurata) to Shanghai where he ultimately mixes it up with our hero.

    There were a number of Chinese films made around this time that depicted the Japanese as being truly evil.  I think some Japanese people may have a problem with the attitude of this movie.  It's really just an action movie about good guys versus bad guys.  Reading any more into this will ruin the enjoyment of the movie.

    Unlike many Hong Kong action movies of this period, this one actually gives our major characters some personality quirks.  It isn't just a big fight every five minutes.  There is some amount of character depth.  The story, as well, is pretty intriguing.  I think this movie could be remade into something very polished and entertaining.

    Lee Ching is nicknamed, "The Crazy Dragon" to Jai Tai's "The Hungry Tiger".  Jai Tai is quite a character.  He "doesn't approve of women".  Could he possibly be gay?  We also learn that when it comes right down to things, Jai Tai is very much a coward.  He isn't at all an easy win, but if someone else manages to sneak a punch, he's off and running like a scared little rabbit.

    Joker and Du Ba are a couple of bums who happen to cross paths with our heroes and end up helping them take down Lin Sun Tai's gang AND the evil Japanese invaders.  There is a subplot of Joker looking for his sister, who was kidnapped by Lin's gang.  His sister's name is found on a list taken from the dead Jai Tai and will be rescued, but Joker dies from injuries sustained before he is reunited with her.  It sucks that they killed Joker.  He was the comedy relief of the movie, and a genuinely good guy.  It would have been better to see him live and meet his sister.  At least his sister was rescued, though, so the story wasn't left unfinished.

    This is a pretty well-made film for the genre.  It's filmed largely outdoors.  The acting is decent, and the fight choreography is awesome.  People who have seen this film always praise the final fight between Sing (Lee) and Kurata (Jai Tai), and for good reason.  It is actually two separate fight scenes, but you could lump them together into one long sequence.  The first time around, Jai Tai escapes the hands of Lee Ching's justice.  In the second and final fight, Jai Tai nearly takes the boat back to Japan but is stopped by our hero.  The fighting is pretty long and intense, but never boring or dragged out.  Unlike a lot of movie fights, this one looks real.  When hands and feet get them nowhere, the men take to weapons.  Jai Tai uses nightsticks, while Lee uses three-pronged sai daggers.  Eventually they lose their weapons, but Jai Tai starts using some other kind of blunt weapon I can't explain.  Lee destroys Jai Tai by breaking his arm and giving him a deadly punch to the heart.  All this is cool, but what makes it really great is the fact that they're jumping up and down buildings and other structures, and it's all very real.  There's no wire-fighting crap, and we see close-ups as well as far away shots.  For all its realism, the movie avoids using gross-out, bloody violence.  I approve of this, and it makes the movie more watchable for a wider audience.

    There are some goofs in this movie, largely due to limited budget concerns.  It's hard to make a period piece on a low-budget, but you have to respect what the filmmakers tried to do.  The music doesn't seem to fit the time period.  For instance, music from the James Bond film, "Diamonds are Forever" (1971) can be heard in the beginning and I think other music from the Bond films is sampled throughout.  Some of the cars are definitely more current than 1940s.  Some of the clothes and other fashions are straight-up 1970s.  Anna is supposed to be a Russian girl, but was dubbed in a non-Russian accent.  The film itself was not properly preserved and has plenty of warps and even some missing footage.  For instance, there was supposed to be a fight between Lee Ching and Kurata's partner, which is cut off almost as soon as it starts.  Next thing we know, it's Su Dong fighting the bad guy, and Lee Ching is apparently off somewhere else.  You've got to take this movie for what it is.  If you're not a real stickler for detail, you can enjoy, "Kung Fu, the Invisible Fist".

Cast:
Chen Sing as Lee Ching, our hero
Yasuaki Kurata as Captain Jai Tai [credited as Cang Tian Bao Zhao]
Bruce Leung as Su Dong, Lee's partner
Irene Ryder as Anna, the Russian girl
? as Jai Tai's partner
Kwok Choi Hon as Joker, the shoeshine
? as Joker's friend
Chiang Nan as Lin Sun Tai, boss of the gang
Director and Writer- Ng See Yuen

Alternate Titles:

Fun Facts:



Lone Shaolin Avenger (1980)- Casanova Wong.

OVERALL SUGGESTION: OKAY
RATING EQUIVALENT: R

    The official title for this movie in Hong Kong is "Bruce Against The Odds".

    This movie is so bad that it's funny!  So it has comedy going for it, albeit unintentional.  But it makes it watchable, which is nice.  A good point to this movie is that it's almost solid action from beginning to end.  A lot of it is cartoony, unbelievable action.  And it's incredibly violent, besides.  But Casanova Wong shows some real martial arts skill and is quite a fighter.  He is as entertaining to watch as Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan.

    The way the major bad guy talks is funny.  Of course, this movie is dubbed over very poorly in English.  Besides that, all the cursing, the corny dialogue, it's very funny and takes the edge off an otherwise very serious revenge story.  Between all the swearing and the really violent action, I'd say this movie is of PG-13 standards.  Don't let really, really young kids watch it.

    I also really liked Casanova's teacher.  That guy is supposed to be a master, and towards the end of the film you see why.  He REALLY moves!  Another plus is the leading lady, Casanova's bride-to-be.  She just looks cute as a button and is funny.  This is one of the better "bad" martial arts films made.  If you're someone who's just getting interested in watching Asian cinema, I think this would be a good movie to start with.

Casanova Wong
Casanova Wong.  He's just THAT good!

Lone Shaolin Avenger
The bad guy!  Ha!  Ha!


Master With Cracked Fingers (1971)- Jackie Chan, Simon Yuen.

OVERALL SUGGESTION: RECOMMENDED
RATING EQUIVALENT: PG-13

    This early Chan movie is actually one of Jackie's personal favorites.  For a film of this sort, it's actually pretty good.  It has a great story that pulls you in.  A remake of this film should be made.  With better filming technology and a more polished script, this could really be something spectacular.  And I think a more contemporized version of the same basic movie would be in order.

    The fighting action is incredible.  None of that phony fighting stuff like you see in so many Asian-made martial arts films.  In this movie, a lot of the blows look like they really connect.  I think they probably do.  Jackie Chan is a remarkable martial artist with a strong reputation of doing all his own stuntwork.  This movie is where you can really get an eyeful of what he can do.

    Simon Yuen plays an early version of his "Drunken Master" character sans the drunkenness.  The basic look is the same, except for his hair is not gray.  He wears the same basic beggar-man clothes and even has the same happy-go-lucky mannerisms.  To top it all off, he smokes the same kind of pipe!  But he doesn't drink at all in this movie.  I actually think Simon Yuen's character was more interesting in this film than in a lot of the "Drunken Master" films.  He's funny, and the formula of him playing teacher to Jackie Chan just works.

    It's hard to put up with the poor English dub job, but it makes the movie funny (even in the non-comedic parts) and watchable.  You have to take this movie for what it is, but I really enjoyed the action and the characters.  And, of course, any excuse to see Jackie Chan do what he does best is a good reason to watch a film.


Militant Eagle (1978)-  Barry Wai, Nancy Yen Nan-See.

OVERALL SUGGESTION: RECOMMENDED
RATING EQUIVALENT: PG

    I think it's fair to say that this movie is just one big fight scene after another.  The story is interesting.  A bit more in-depth than we get in most movies of the genre.

    "Militant Eagle" is a Taiwan-made martial arts movie, and one of the best that country has produced.  While not flawless, it is mostly entertaining.  I don't know how the title "Militant Eagle" applies and, like most movies of this sort, the dialogue and music is pretty corny.  Where this movie succeeds is in the well-choreographed fight sequences, good production values (for Taiwan in the 1970s), and memorable characters.

    A civil war has ended.  The good guys won.  Wang, a general, asks to humbly resign so he can be with his family.  His request is granted.  It's now ten year later.  Wang is a street performer with a group of children.  It's never explained if this is his family, if he adopted them somewhere along the lines, or what happened to his family.  At any rate, Wang and his kids live in the same vicinity as Pai the butcher.  They didn't really know each other, but they had a common link.  Both men, and everyone living in this area, were being oppressed by an evil faction of the new government.  Wang and Pai, both no pushovers, make enemies of these corrupt officials.

    Pai the butcher finds his family murdered.  His niece Hsu, just having returned home from learning kung-fu, finds her parents murdered.  Pai and Hsu team up with Wang to fight the bad guys.  These three join Envoy Lu Hung, Wang's high-ranking friend in the new government and former commanding officer.  Together, this main group of four fight the evil rebels that threaten to take over the land.

    Lord Fang is the major bad guy here.  His chief assassin is a mysterious man in white named Hsiao.  Throughout the movie, Hsiao comes to realize that he's done evil, terrible things and slowly comes to attone for his actions.  Hsiao eventually joins the good guys in their fight.

Cast:

Barry Wai as Wang Chi Er (Former General, Current Street Performer) [aka Barry Chan]
Nancy Yen Nan-See as Hsu Yun Ju (Kung-Fu Woman, Niece to the Butcher) [aka Nancy Yen]
Sit Hon as Pai Jung Chi (Butcher)
Liu Ping as Envoy Lu Hung Chi (Former General's Commanding Officer and Friend)
Ling Yun as Hsiao Chu Lang (Kung-Fu Man in White, Alleged Henchman to Evil Warlord)
Yeung Sau-Guen as Shang Ching (Evil Warlord's Daughter, Has Designs on Former General)
Pai Ying as Lord Fang Shih Kung (Evil Warlord)
Siu Gam as Yen Chi (Evil Giant, Henchman to Evil Warlord)
Kong Ching-ha as Evil Warlord's Wife, and Kung-Fu Man in White's Sister
Director- Ho Wai-Hung [action sequences], Gam Kim, Lee Ga-Chi
Writer- Lee Ga-Chi

Alternate Titles:

Fun Facts:




Rage of the Dragon (1979)
- Dragon Lee.

OVERALL SUGGESTION: OKAY
RATING EQUIVALENT: PG

    "Mission for the Dragon" would be the more appropriate title, as "Rage of the Dragon" would indicate our hero is really angry.  Dragon Lee, who plays the hero of the film, is on a mission to find his missing father and clear his good name.  As we know from early in the film, Dragon's father is killed over a valuable artifact, which has been seized by the leading member of another martial arts family.  Carter Wong, who is the chief villain in the film, poses as friend and ally to Dragon Lee until the truth is revealed.

    This South Korean kung-fu epic seems to have been made with a family movie sensibility.  The fighting, language, and story are all mild.  A lot of the fighting is done for comic effect, with funny sound effects added.  The whole script is terribly muddled with big gaps and continuity errors, but that might have happened when this film was edited for international audiences.  It looks like there are scenes missing, and a lot of things don't tie together that well.  I'm terribly confused on one point:  Is this movie set in the ancient past or not?  Everything would point to this movie being set in the "olden days", but then you see things here and there like sunglasses and photographs.  If this was supposed to be set in modern times, I'm surprised we didn't see a gun somewhere along the lines...or a car.

    I did get some cheap laughs over the corny dialogue.  Especially the moment where the enemies of Dragon Lee are talking about getting revenge.  There are a lot of shining moments throughout the film i.e. "I will kill you!  And then you will be dead!"  Errr....duh!

    The finale is the best part.  We learn early in the movie that the main villain has an eyesight problem and has to wear sunglasses to protect himself from glare.  Dragon Lee reveals, under his shirt, a suit of mirrors.  This proves to be Carter's demise.  The whole "suit of mirrors" idea is a pretty cool visual, and it's easily the most memorable moment from the film.

    This isn't a terrible film, but Dragon Lee has starred in much better films.  "Rage of the Dragon" is definitely on the lower ebb of his work.

Cast:
Dragon Lee
Carter Wong
Director- Godfrey Ho

Alternate Titles:




Rage of the Master (1975)
- Jimmy Wang Yu, Tiger Yang.

OVERALL SUGGESTION: NOT RECOMMENDED
RATING EQUIVALENT: R

    This movie sucks!  The only thing that carries it is Jimmy Wang Yu and all the martial arts action.  The story, if there was one, stinks.  Pretty much standard stuff of Hong Kong kung fu cinema.  A school of bad martial artists kills a school of good martial artists.  Only one boy and one girl student (brother and sister) of the good school survives.  I guess this is such a fly in the ointment of the bad guys that they spare no time or expense in trying to hunt them down.  The brother and sister are joined by their servants, a middle-aged father and teenage son, and consequently seek the services of a legendary martial arts master.  The master is Tiger Wong, played by Jimmy Wang Yu.  Tiger Yang, however, plays an entirely different character.  Confused?  I am.  Why the heck would they call Jimmy Wang Yu's character "Tiger Wong" in a movie where Tiger Yang was also an actor?

    For the vast majority of the movie, master Tiger doesn't fight at all, due to the wishes of his domineering mother.  The good guys pretty much sit around and feel sorry for themselves as the bad guys kick all the a**, and we have to see a bunch of stuff that had absolutely nothing to do with anything.  The only interesting story element is the budding romance of Tiger and the karate cutie that survived the onslaught at the beginning.  We'd like to see them get married or at least fall in love.  Instead, Tiger is absent when she is killed, along with her brother, the elderly servant, and Tiger's mother.  Well, it took all this for Tiger to finally get pi**ed so we can see the "Rage of the Master".  For what it's worth, the title is appropriate.  Tiger goes on a killing spree and takes out every one of those suckers in very vivid ways.  This is a pretty solid "R" type movie for violence and certain thematic elements (cock-fighting, prostitution, etc.).

    He kills all the bad guys.  I guess that's good.  But the movie just ends after the last bad guy (Tiger Yang) is killed in the ocean.  There's no closure of any kind.  So much of what happens in the movie is left unfinished.  Did the son of the servant die, or was he just left for dead?  Did Tiger ever find out what happened to his sweetie?  She did, after all, fall off a cliff.  And what about all the women taken prisoner by the bad guys?  Were they ever released?  There were too many unfinished subplots that distracted from the primary story.

    I recommend about the last twenty minutes of this movie.  Everything else is totally dismissable.

Cast:

Jimmy Wang Yu as Tiger Wong
Tiger Yang as ? [tough henchman of gang leader]

Alternate Titles:

Fun Facts:




The Real Bruce Lee (1979)
- Bruce Lee, Bruce Li, Dragon Lee.

OVERALL SUGGESTION: OKAY
RATING EQUIVALENT: PG-13

    It's not that interesting of a documentary.  Nowadays it serves more as a timepiece to show the impact Bruce Lee made on martial arts cinema with his numerous imitators.  The imitators spotlighted by the producers/distributors of this film are Bruce Li and Dragon Lee.

    A small part of this movie, at the beginning, is a documentary on Bruce Lee.  It's rather unfocused.  We see clips of four films that had little Bruce Lee as a featured player: "Kid Cheung", "The Bad Boy", "Carnival", and "Orphan Sam".  They're not very interesting clips, nor do they show Bruce as a martial artist.  These clips more or less settle a curiousity; that Bruce Lee DID work in films before his kung fu heyday.

    The few minutes after the last film clip is a lot more relevant to the life and career of Bruce Lee.  It talks about what we'd like to know and even features funeral footage.  The only problem is that it's all too brief!  And how come we can't see clips of Bruce Lee in action?

    The second part of this movie is really just a demonstration of Bruce Li.  There are a lot of different clips of Bruce Li strung together.  Most interesting are the clips of Bruce Li as Kato, the real Bruce Lee's character on "The Green Hornet" TV series.  The Kato scenes do not appear to be part of any movie.  Rather, I think they were just "thrown in" this movie.

    The third part of this movie is the bulk of this movie.  As a matter of fact, the documentary approach of this movie just seems to be a sleazy way to whore in this Dragon Lee movie, which seems to be a ripoff, or at least homage, of Bruce Lee's film, "Fist of Fury".  I'm a huge fan of Dragon Lee, but I don't like this movie at all.  The action is so phony, the story is nonexistent, and I don't enjoy any of the acting.

    If you're going to see "The Real Bruce Lee", watch it for the Bruce Lee and Bruce Li parts.  The Dragon Lee portion of the film is disappointing.  Fans of the Bruces might appreciate the novelty of what is shown here.

Fun Facts:


Samurai Reincarnation (1981)- Sonny Chiba, Kenji Sawada.

OVERALL SUGGESTION: NOT RECOMMENDED
RATING EQUIVALENT: R

    A more accurate title would have been "Samurai Resurrection" as people are brought back from the dead; no one comes back to life as a butterfly.  This film is known in Japan as "Makai tensho".  It's bad.  Not one of Chiba's finest.  Sonny Chiba is very good in it, as he is good in every role he plays, but the film is mostly awful.  Sonny Chiba, the star, doesn't even appear until about halfway through the film.  And the movie doesn't even start getting good until Sonny Chiba's character meets the swordmaker.  Even from there, the movie is spotty.

    A Christian samurai named Shiro Amakusa (pronounced "Shee-to" in the English version, and played by Kenji Sawada) is mortified by the massacre of many Japanese Christians at the hands of the Tokugawa people.  He denounces God for not preventing these attrocities, and sells his soul to Satan.  Satan gives Shiro fantastic supernatural powers.  One such power is the ability to resurrect dead people to make them join his evil army against the Tokugawa.

    A samurai by the name of Jubei Yagyu (played by Sonny Chiba) discovers his master was killed and resurrected as an evil spirit.  He vows to destroy his now-evil master, and the man who did this to him: Shiro.  Jubei finds an exiled swordmaker, noted for being the best swordmaker in all of Japan, but blacklisted because he is believed to be evil for making such excellent killing swords.  The heroic samurai makes an odd request: a sword that can not only kill the living, but evil spirits as well.  Jubei gets his sword and takes down Shiro's evil spirit flunkies before he gets to Shiro, himself.

    The movie ends stupid.  Jubei cuts off Shiro's head.  Now beheaded (not killed, though), he swears vengeance on Jubei and the Tokugawa before vanishing.  So nothing really conclusive happens.

    The character of Jubei, played by Sonny Chiba, is cool enough.  He has a patch over his left eye and the traditional samurai hairdo.  I also like his basic personality.  But this movie is too bizarre.  It's not at all for kids.  I don't know who this movie is for, but I do know I'd never show it to children.  It has a lot of edgy themes.  Extremely violent, this movie shows many decapitations, violence against women, sexual assault against women, homosexuality, a ton of Satanism, a duel to the death between father and son...and that's not all!  But as exciting as all this sounds, the movie actually drags.  It doesn't even start to move until you see Chiba.  The way they cut into flashbacks it's hard to tell they're in a flashback sequence until they get back out of it.  I do not care for the direction at all.  Sonny Chiba and the swordfight scenes between him and the other characters are entertaining.  But I wouldn't seek out this movie specifically.  You'd be better off getting in a boxed set with other films.  Don't pay top dollar to watch "Samurai Reincarnation", but it does have its moments.



The Screaming Tiger (1973)- Jimmy Wang Yu.

OVERALL SUGGESTION: OKAY
RATING EQUIVALENT: PG-13

    I like Jimmy Wang Yu in his movies.  Forget about the off-screen controversy.  He's a likable on-screen personality, and he really knows how to move!  What I like about Jimmy Wang Yu is that he's not a Bruce Lee imitator.  Jimmy is his own person.  He's not as well-known as Bruce Lee, Sonny Chiba, or Bolo Yeung, but he should be.  Thanks to affordable DVD releases in the 2000s, his movies are a bit more common to find and is name is being spread around more due to the Internet sub-culture.  As far as fighting ability goes, Jimmy Wang Yu is really something to see!

    The premise of this movie is pretty interesting.  Jimmy Wang Yu is a Chinese man who comes to Japan to find the ones responsible for murdering his entire fishing village!  Our hero holds an extremely racist attitude towards Japanese people at the start of this movie, and learns along the way that there are good and bad people in any race.

    Like a lot of kung fu movies, this one also suffers from an incoherent storyline.  Things happen that aren't explained.  Sometimes this happens due to edits made for the international releases.  The true movie, in its original form, might include more scenes that make it easier to follow.  But what really makes this movie hard to follow is the fact that it has three different stories going on, all involving the same top villain.  The only one of these stories that's important to the movie is the one involving Jimmy Wang Yu's character.

    The title of this movie, "The Screaming Tiger" has no significance!  The character is not called "Screaming Tiger", nor is anything in the story referred to as "Screaming Tiger".  This movie also suffers from too many unnecessary characters.  Only three characters are important, Jimmy Wang Yu, his female companion, and the top villain.

    This movie has three things going for it.  The first is Jimmy Wang Yu, himself, who is an excellent martial artist as well as an actor with expression.  Also a plus is Jimmy's female counterpart/love interest.  I believe the actress' name is Ching Ching Chang.  Credits in many Asian films of this era are almost nonexistent at times, but from my research I'm sure this is her name.  She plays a funny, spunky gal who ultimately gets killed trying to save Jimmy from an arrow.  I don't like the tragic romances so often played out in these kung fu movies, but at least the actress gave us a great character.  The best part of this movie, however, is the climactic fight scene between Jimmy Wang Yu and the top villain.  The fight takes us from the hills, to a moving train, to a bridge, and finally a river.  Jimmy kills the bad guy and sends him down a waterfall.  The end.

    I say the movie is PG-13 because there is some blood, but nothing overly gory.  The language is mild without too much profanity.  The subject matter is frequently dark.  They're talking about the massacres of many people, as well as showing the murder of a young girl in an early scene.  Young kids can see this, but is it worthy of being shown in schools?  Heck no!  I'd say the only part worth rewatching is the finale.  Overall, it's a good enough movie to see if you've got some downtime, but I wouldn't invest a whole lot in the experience.

Cast:

Jimmy Wang Yu as ?
Ching Ching Chang as ?

Director- Lung Chien
Writer- Pi Yen Wang

Alternate Titles:

Fun Facts:




Sister Street Fighter (1974)-  Sue Shihomi, Sonny Chiba.

OVERALL SUGGESTION: RECOMMENDED
RATING EQUIVALENT: R

    This is the first of four "Sister Street Fighter" movies starring Sue Shihomi.  The first three are the "real" movies, all following the same character and continuity.  The fourth film, "Sister Street Fighter, Fifth Level Fist" (1980) is a "Sister Street Fighter" film by name only.  Sue Shihomi plays a different character in that film.

    "Sister Street Fighter", although not a bad film, is not as good as "The Street Fighter" (1974).  You can put Sonny Chiba's classic film up against any American action movie of the time, or any time.  There was a bit more realism to "The Street Fighter".  "Sister Street Fighter" is not as well scripted.  All that you'll get out of this movie is seeing Sue Shihomi kick a lot of a**.  Story-wise, the film falls short.  The brother she searches for the entire movie ends up getting killed.  Her uncle gets killed.  Sonny Chiba appears sporadically with little to no explanation other than to give him screen time.  I like Sonny, and he played a good character in this movie, but he isn't the male lead in this film, contrary to what DVD packaging tells us.  The worst thing, I feel, is how they closed the film.  I've never favored how most Asian martial arts films end so abruptly, right after the last fight.  I don't feel the story was properly ended.

    This movie also has its advantages.  It is filmed well and moves along quickly.  Sue Shihomi, besides being attractive, is actually a great on-screen martial artist.  She has an engaging heroine in Tina Long.  The villains are very interesting visuals.  I also like the fact that this movie is set in present-day.  I've always felt present-day opens up an action film, where martial arts flicks set in the ancient past are rather limited.

    Overall, "Sister Street Fighter" is not the best of the Japanese martial arts films, but it isn't the worst, and it's better than most.  I still recommend it, and I think Sue Shihomi is wonderful in the film.



Snake-Crane Secret (1976)


    This is typical, but at least it's good typical.  Most Asian martial arts movies play off of a few different formulas.  This is one of those, "something bad happened long ago, and now the hero is going to right the wrong" kind of movies.  Also a familiar plot device, bad guys want a secret book about kung-fu (the snake-crane technique, in this film) for their own evil purposes.  This movie just happens to be a bit better done than most.

    The fights are well-done, the story moves along pretty well and, as a side note, there are some very pretty Chinese girls in this movie.  Where did they get them?

    "Snake-Crane Secret" is one of your better kung-fu movies of the 1970s.  There is enough humor here and there to make it entertaining, but this is still a very straight film.  I think this movie could have been more successful, commercially-speaking, if it had at least one really established star but, personally, I was pleased with the cast.

Alternate Titles:
Fun Facts:


The Street Fighter (1974)- Sonny Chiba.

OVERALL SUGGESTION: VERY RECOMMENDED
RATING EQUIVALENT: R

    This is a Japanese-made movie with a very American feel.  It's completely watchable.  Even the voice dubbing is pretty decent.  But you don't really pay attention to dialogue in this movie.  The intriguing story and savage martial arts action keeps you distracted from beginning to end.  At the time, this movie shocked audiences all over the world with graphic violence never before seen on film, especially to such a level.  It's even pretty bloody by today's action movie standards.  This is the first movie ever to be given an X-rating for violence.

    But the violence is not the main attraction.  Sonny Chiba play Terry Sugury (in Japanese version, Takuma Tsurugi), one of action's most interesting anti-heroes.  He's not a bad guy per se, yet not a good guy, either.  Terry is muscle-for-hire; a mercenary.  He does things for money using his incredible martial arts skills because, frankly, it's all he really knows how to do.  Because of this, Terry often works for unscrupulous people.  Being double-crossed by his employers is a regular part of his day's work, but he gets his pay one way or another.

    In this adventure, Terry fights the Yakuza (Japanese mafia) which is led by a beautiful, yet wicked woman, while protecting a beautiful heiress to an oil tycoon's fortune.  All the while he is assisted by goofy, fat little Ratnose, his faithful sidekick.  Ratnose is killed by Terry's enemies near the end of the film, sending the Street Fighter into an all-out rage.  The final fight sequences are awesome!  He kills off all the remaining Yakuza, one by one, with extreme prejudice.

    But the movie, at least the American version, ends stupid.  Street Fighter kills the enemy he made at the very beginning of the film.  And allegedly, he gets the girl back.  But why would the one remaining Yakuza swordsman just turn her over?  Was there a part cut out for the American version?  I'm curious.  Overall, though, it's not enough to mar this as a good action movie.  Definitely worth seeing!

    The title for this film in Japan is "Gekitotsu! Satsujin ken".  The English-dubbed, American version was released in November 1974.

    The literal meaning of the Japanese title is "Clash! The Killing Fist".  This has also been called "Sudden Attack! The Killing Fist".


Street Fighter's Last Revenge (1974)- Sonny Chiba.

OVERALL SUGGESTION: VERY RECOMMENDED
RATING EQUIVALENT: R

    This is the third and final installment in Chiba's successful Street Fighter series where he plays opportunist Takuma Tsurugi.  "Sister Street Fighter" is NOT an entry in this film series, even though Sonny Chiba appears.  In that film he has a small role as a different character.  THIS is the actual third movie of the Street Fighter series.  For those who are new to the series, Chiba's character in the Street Fighter films is not necessarily good, but most certainly not evil.  He just does things for money using his incredible fighting skills.  This time he declares war on a group of employers who cheated him.

    The title for this film in Japan is "Gyakushu! Satsujin ken".  The English-dubbed, American version wasn't released until 1979.

    The literal meaning of the Japanese title is "Revenge! The Killing Fist".  This movie also goes by the title "The Street Fighter Counterattacks!".

    The action is awesome.  Despite the martial arts displays, there is also a bit of gunplay and explosions.  Worth watching!



Tattoo Connection (1978)- Jim Kelly, Bolo Yeung.

OVERALL SUGGESTION: VERY RECOMMENDED
RATING EQUIVALENT: PG-13

    This movie is also known as "Black Belt Jones 2".  The title for this film in China is "E yu tou hei sha xing".

    AWESOME!  Jim Kelly is probably the first popular black martial artist in films.  It's a shame he's known to most people only for his role in "Enter the Dragon" (1973), a movie where his hero gets killed.  He actually did over a dozen movies and proves to be a martial arts actor with onscreen charm, a quality lacking among most of his peers.  Jim Kelly is a pretty likable guy in shows.

    What I love about this movie is that it's set in modern-day, which I always prefer in martial arts movies over the ancient epics, and that the action is constant.  This movie holds up and is worth watching even by today's action standards.  An extremely valuable diamond called the North Star is stolen by a ruthless gang.  The insurance company recruits the help of CIA agent Lucas (Jim Kelly) in recovering the treasure.  So Lucas goes to Hong Kong and turns the place inside out in his quest for the diamond.  Chinese muscleman Bolo Yeung has a small part as one of the gang's thugs.  There are two fight scenes between Kelly and Yeung, the second ending in Yeung's death by strangulation with chain.  I'm surprised, as popular as Bolo Yeung was at the time, that he wasn't cast as the major villain.  Still, it was a good performance.

    "Tattoo Connection" is worth watching and one of the best-made of the Chinese martial arts action films of the 1970s.  Although its alternate title is "Black Belt Jones 2", this film has NOTHING to do with "Black Belt Jones" (1974) except the fact that Jim Kelly stars.  Asian films released in America often go by many different names, usually to capitalize on already popular features and their actors.