23 November 2001 | BrianDanaCamp
Carter Wong defends the China Republic in unsung kung fu gem
THE MAGNIFICENT (1978) is an unheralded kung fu movie that offers four top performers in an action-packed tale that takes place in 1911 China and focuses on a General who hopes to restore the Ching Dynasty after China has become a republic. Carter Wong stars as Commissioner Yao Tien Shan who learns of a plot by General Na Lan Tien Hsiung (Chen Sing) to restore the Chings to power with the help of Lord Lo, whose daughter Wan Ying (Doris Chen/Lung Chun Erh) is sympathetic to the new government. Fu Fung (Casanova Wong) assists Yao whose efforts enlist the support of Wan Ying. Meanwhile, the general takes his ally Lord Lo prisoner and amasses an army of skilled fighters to help his cause.
At some point Carter and Doris realize they need to renew their training in order to defeat the general. So a key section focuses on their training in hitting the body's vital points and how to combat Chen Sing's Golden Bell technique, which makes him nearly unbeatable. Casanova Wong's kicking skills come in handy in warding off the general's numerous guards.
A lot happens and a lot of fighting occurs, all in picturesque locations, including a sprawling temple and palace grounds. Truth to tell, little in this film would indicate that this is set anywhere near the 20th century. Other than Carter's office and uniform (worn only in his office) there are no modern trappings, nothing to distinguish it from most historical kung fu.
Unfortunately, there's also little information on the political background to tell the viewers why the Ching Dynasty should or shouldn't be restored, so the story becomes just a series of battles between good guys and bad guys. The general is bad only because he uses devious tactics and hired killers and because Chen Sing is such a marvelous villain with his thick black mustache and broad, sinister smile. He's also a good fighter and shows his skills to great advantage here. He makes such a formidable villain that it takes three stars to oppose him.
The real surprise here is Doris Chen (aka Lung Chun Erh), who appeared in numerous kung fu films (SHAOLIN INVINCIBLES, EIGHT MASTERS), although not always in fighting roles. She puts on quite a good show here and could clearly hold her own with other fighting femmes of the era. The film is finally being seen in the U.S. in a widescreen print in Mandarin with English subtitles and a gorgeous transfer.