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Huang jia nu jiang

Vehicle for Joyce Godenzi
First let's get the point of this film out of the way. Sammo Hung was dating Joyce Godenzi (they married in 1995) and this film was designed one of several he was involved in to make her a star. Though not a bad actress (though she came to attention as a Beauty Queen) she was no fighter and despite Sammo's efforts to teach her the moves, it shows at times like the famous final fight with the Phillipine fighter Agnes Aurelio (who only made a few films). Sammo appears at various times throughout the film but only fights for a few seconds towards the end, presumably not to distract from his 'star'. Carina Lau is good as the sister who first hates Min (Joyce) but later fights with her to revenge the death of her brother (Min's husband - Tony Leung who has little to do except die well). The other sisters do little but special mention should be made of the feisty Matriarch (played by veteran Helena Law) who adds some character. I found the birthday party where she learns of the death of her son moving, though heavy handed for Western tastes at least. Yuen Wah is genuinely scary as the villain but the film would have been so much better id he had faced Sammo at the end and not just been killed rather pointlessly. You'll spot many other minor HK characters in this film. I enjoyed it, but I suspect it would have had a much higher score with Michelle Yeoh in the lead who could really fight. The now defunct Hong Kong Legends disc has a lot of extras.

Wu ye lan hua

Wrong reviews for a distinctly odd film
Most of the reviews here seem to be for a different film, at least from the film 'Faster Blade, Poisonous Darts' released by Vengeance Video. The DVD Talk review is the film I saw and HK Cinemagic have it under the title 'Great Massacre'. The film I saw had Beardy (Leung Kar Yan) and Meng Fei as the co-stars and Philip Ko as the villain who finally appears at the end. A Korean ending included on the Vengeance video confused me as goodness knows who half the characters were. Thw heroine in the main film is not named and spends a lot of time crying, fainting or if the dubbing isn't totally wrong, dead, yet alive. Characters come and go and one fighting female simply disappears before the end though she is prominent throughout most of the film. So forget the plot. Money was obviously spent on the costumes and sets and there is some decent shots of the Taiwanese countryside. The fights are plentiful but except for the end fight, pretty fake and wire assisted. A strange film that is hard to make sense of. *** Supplementary note *** finally dug up that the Vengeance Video version is directed by Wang Yu with Philip So Yun Fung as Action Director. The lead actress is Yeung Gwan-Gwan who made only a few films. The two other actresses (who worked hard on costume and headress changes, and one really tried to fight) will perhaps be for ever obscure - as will some of the plot elements as far as I am concerned, like the lead actress being carried in her bath (discretely covered in foam) by a group of blind assassins ?

Po jie

Angela Mao in top form
This is a real classy film, kung fu or otherwise. Director Jeong Chang Hwa (who also made King Boxer) knew how to frame a shot and with action directors Hsu Hsia and Yuen Woo Ping lead actress Angela Mao is really able to show her abilities. It has nice touches like her use of Scorpions and it is one of those films where the fights just get better and better with few obvious tricks but lots of very good moves. Angela plays her deadly revenge using both her very real beauty and deadly fighting skills. The plot has a few twists and turns to keep you interested and the supporting actors really play their parts well without detracting from Angela's lead role. A film you can watch many times and still see something new. A great film by a great actress and kung fu fighter.

Xue ling jian nu

Naturalistic Taiwanese drama
This is one of those strange cheap Taiwan made films (best known under the title (Vengeance of the Snow Maid) that try to combine kung fu (except that no one actually seems to be able to actually fight) with a simple drama of a daughter looking for the father who tricked her mother, who became pregnant and died vowing revenge and leaving her daughter to the care of possibly one of the ugliest on-screen mothers ever filmed (an unfortunate Tiu Shut). Chen Chen stars at the beautiful daughter opposite Wu Chia Chi. Got Siu Bo is the only bit actor I recognised, though several of the Taiwanese actresses are very attractive. It seems to be so cheaply made that especially when filming in the rather nice countryside they seem to have used a hand held camera. My print is rather dark, not helped by some of it being filmed at night. At the end all is resolved though not everyone ends up happy. The fights are poor and not well staged, relying too much on tricks and angles. This isn't really worth watching except to see the countryside and the pretty lead (who somehow starred in a lot of films).

Hu dan

Raw something that's for sure
I'm surprised how good generally the reviews for this film are elsewhere. I bought it to see the great Cheng Pei-pei in action, but she seems weak in this, often wailing rather than fighting and left to literally carry the baby (Emperor). Lo Wei looks the part of the leader of the loyal Black Dragon Society and Yeung Chi-hing plays a good beggar who helps them to meet Yueh Hua as the expert swordsman. But even his skills can't disguise the wooden acting (especially of Ng Fung, Cheng's cousin), poor script and to my mind sub-standard fighting on display. Not one of my favourite Shaw films I'm afraid - and despite a cast of what seem like thousand's, it needed a stronger story line and better direction.

Dao jian

Better than Average
I have to totally disagree with the poster who really disliked this film. It is certainly not your usual slash and hack, though there are plenty of fights and blood. Li Lihua shows real maturity in her acting and can fight (or perhaps dance is a more realistic term) and Li Ching is wonderful as the very pretty, ingénue student. Kiu Chong as the hero is rather put in the shade by the two strong female leads but Chan Hung Lit is always a good villain and nice to see Lee Wan Chung promoted to be a king for a change. The story is simple but works for me and the Chinese operatic interlude in the middle is unusual in this sort of film - but fun, even if the miming is really obvious. A lot of the rest of the music is ripped off from American Westerns which can be strange in places. The ending is set up for a sequel but I can't find that one was ever made. Despite previous comments, the direction and photography is above average with veteran Yueh Feng having a good eye for a shot. An unusual film, worth watching on its own terms.

Shi zi mo hou shou

A mixed treat
This film by director Ho Meng Hua has a lot going for it. David Chiang in great form, backed up by Michael Chan, Lo Lieh and even Kara Hui (very briefly as a doomed pupil). The background is a beautiful Thailand for a change and several of the fights, particularly at the end are imaginative and pretty brutal, especially in the old warehouse where David and Michael have to defeat every trick Lo Lieh can throw at them (some obvious wire work though). But the let down is the ludicrous plot with more coincidences than a Dicken's novel and some real over acting, especially by Karen Yip playing the blind mother. It was Shum Lee Mei's only film and to be honest you can see why! It seems to be set in the 60's (though made in 1978) but its hard to tell as anomalies abound. Watcheable if you skip to the end scenes. There is a brief full nude scene near the beginning - for no good plot reason that's for sure - though the actual prostitute appears again later to reveal David Chiang's double nature.

Lang tzu yi chao

Not a classic, but above average story line
Any film with Angela Mao, Carter and Cassanova Wong in it, has a lot going for it. Ko Lung wrote a clever story line for it with lots of twists and turns that mainly work. There is good support from Kam Kong as a 'Shaolin Monk' and good to the pretty Lee Ying Ying, although only in a small role. But at the end, although it is above average, you do feel it could have been a lot better. As Brian Camp points out, Paul Chu Kong is not a strong enough lead in such company and the end fights are rather weak. Carter Wong looks great in his robes but gets to do little fighting and disappears for the middle section of the film. Cassanove Wong does a few good kicks but again is rather under used given his abilities. Angela Mao does get to show some expressions and has a couple of fights, but nothing like her best, say in HAPKIDO. I enjoyed the film, the direction and Taiewanese locations are good, but it promises more than it ever quite delivers.

Bai Ma Su che gou hun fan

Just misses the mark
With a host of kung fu stars and what were obviously intended as decent production values - especially for an independent production of this time - it could have been really good. But the story is weak, not helped by poor editing and dubbing, and confusing with characters appearing and disappearing and scenes shifting suddenly as though a much longer film had been made and then badly cropped. Lo Lieh as the martial arts hero dying of TB is wasted and there is a lot of story with action shoe horned in until the final, rather good fights. Don Wong Tao and Meng Fei never really seem to get into and Doris Lung (and whoever the other actress is) just disappear towards the end, leaving the boys to it. I liked the mad monk fighting with what look like orchestra cymbals and some of the scenery is spectacular. The night scenes are rather dark and confusing, but the best joke must be on the Venom Mob DVD cover 'can anyone stop wang-less Wang'.

Chong po gong fu cheng

Slightly strange prison camp kung fu tale
A strange film in that John Liu shows an emotional range and acting skill missing from many of his films but only shows his kicking abilities towards the end. The plot of rural people press ganged into a gold mine is pretty ludicrous and the repeated escapes and punishments get very repetitive. But finally John Liu is trained by the foreman Chui Chung Hei (who is pretty active and has a good fight) and the final fight with the 'Master' (played by Chai Hau Keung I believe) is well done. Paul Wei Ping Ao has a meaty part and Chin Lung plays well Chin Lung really with support from Ma Yue Fung. Not a great film but just watch John Liu doing the splits and controlling his (right) foot has its attractions. Fine if you want to see John Liu in a slightly unusual film. The Pagoda release has a few good extras and is an okay print. The dubbing is pretty horrible.

Gun wang

Stick fest
For fans of stick fighting this is a treat though the actual fighting, though featuring nearly every type of stick (including an iron bar) is not to the same standard as say '8 Diagram Pole Fighter'. But Don Wong Tao, though not a great actor, is athletic and dominates the screen. Chang Yi is great as Lu Tai-yeh, a Silver Fox type figure who for reasons never explained wants to kill every other stick fighter he can find. Ha Kwong Li and Kam Kong help along the way. The story is very ordinary, the comedy more than usually annoying (except for the probably unintentional humour of a teacher's dying words to his idiot son) but the final fight in a bamboo grove is worth waiting for. The Vengeance DVD is a reasonable print with bad dubbing. The only extras are a deleted scene.

Shi er jin qian biao

Good sword drama
Released in a superb new print by Celestial this is not a bad film but probably over dramatic, especially towards the end. Lo Lieh carries the lead role well as the poor son trained by the master (Tien Feng) of the twelve deadly coins who falls in love with his daughter (Jeng Man Jing) but thinks he is not good enough for her and wants to step aside for the master's arrogant, misguided son (played well by Ho Ming Chung). During a major robbery Lo Lieh spares the life of the robber's daughter. A good role for Cheng Li but is defeated by her father (Fang Mien) who has a grudge against Tien Feng. Lo Lieh is captured, tortured, but saved by Cheng Li and both are condemned to be drowned together where they declare their mutual love. They escape, of course, and Lo Lieh has to prove his loyalty to his teacher (in dramatic fashion) and leads him, his son and Chiu Hung (in a good role) back to the fortress of Fang Mien. In an interesting fight in the rain the two masters (of the deadly coins and iron thorns) battle but mainly talk but manage to kill those they love in the process. This is not a happy ending but everyone seems to accept their sacrifices and the females are left to mourn them and to go off into the sunset like a B movie western. I enjoyed this film but it is not a classic with few good fights and too many clichéd scenes.

Ci xiong shuang sha

A mixed treat
Its hard to judge this film. First the Crash DVD uses an old marked print that badly needs cleaning up, and some pretty poor dubbing. Still they can't be held responsible for an unbelievable story and editing that often jumps all over the place. Buts let get to the good bits. First it features Angela Mao, John Liu (on superb form) and Leung Kar-Yan (Beardy) at the beginning and end. Shut Chung-Tin plays The Flying Knife who wants to kill John Liu for reasons not entirely clear. Man Kong Lung plays John Liu's 'brother. Lam Mei Wing plays the beautiful love interest and finally Cheng Sing the great main villain who only really appears at the very beginning and end. There are several twists and turns but no great surprises. I disagree with the other reviewer in that I thought the final fight with John Liu, Angela and Leung Kar-Yan (and their 'master') worth waiting for. John Liu is in real kicking form. The fights are many throughout this film and though not first rate, worth watching for John Liu and Angela Mao (and another I can't identify with a great silver sparkly cloak) in great action. Perhaps one for the kung fu addict but I've seen much, much worse and John Liu in this sort of form is worth 90 minutes of anyone's time.

Zhang bei

Great film, often misjudged
This is one of the great modern kung fu films. A lot of the reviews seem to miss the point that the comedy is based on a quite subtle at times (at other times right in your face) contrast between old and new China. Kara Hui for instance is called a country bumpkin and gets into trouble whenever she tries to adapt to the new but in the end to save her families honour dresses as an old fashioned heroine in contrast to the modern military style of Hsiao Ho. Gordon Liu seems to have played his part for laughs playing off his serious, monk persona with silly wigs and a guitar. The end fight is simply fantastic and ends in a defeat for Johnny Wang rather than death. Kwan Yung Moon should be mentioned for his great playing of a thug with 'invincible armour' - simply terrific. And Kara Hui does some magnificent acting and fighting. A great film.

Top Fighter 2

Does the stars few favours
This strikes you as it could have been so much better. It is good to see the likes of Angela Mao and Judy Lee given the credit they so richly deserve but 1) why are the interviews so poor, often done in noisy, inappropriate locations 2) why are the clips not identified. You see a clip from a film and think, I would like to watch that film, but no title is given within the film, in the credits or as an insert 3) why are some of the clips so poor - Hapkido with Angela Mao for instance looks washed out. Any fan will argue, are the clips the best they could find for a particular star but this may have been limited by rights issues. It was good to see stars like Angela Mao are still alive (and still beautiful I might add) but none of them give much of an insight as to what it was like to be in such films or to work for Shaw Brothers or Golden Harvest at their peak. Interesting but could have been far better.

Zhong kui niang zi

Almost perfect
This is a subtle, clever film that is almost as good as it gets. The first two thirds of the film are strongly character driven with the two strong female leads and Lo Lieh interacting very well. There are a few fights and given Cheng Pei Pei showed herself a master of the whip in SHADOW WHIP it is surprising that it is Shih Szu who uses it here - though she switches to the sword for the almost AZUMI like ending. Here no quarter is given and the set pieces on the wooden bridge and the pagoda are very bloody and terrific action. One of the great martial arts films and worth adding to any collection. Unusual for having two strong, almost equal female leads and a real love story. The Celestial DVD is very well done with for example the fight in the misty bamboo forest showing as well as any modern film. An few interviews would have been nice to give some background as it must have been an interesting film to make. This was Cheng Pei-pei's second-to-last Shaw Brothers film. It is also fun to try and spot Sammo Hung who appears briefly as one of the villains several times.

Qi xian nu

Beautiful fantasy
One of the beautiful huangmei musical films made by Shaw's in the 60's before Chang Cheh transformed Shaw Brothers with his macho heroic bloodshed films. This is not the best and is rated low by many critics for its static sets (I counted five) and lack of Li Han-Hsiang. But Ivy Ling Po (playing a man) and Fang Yin playing a Chinese fairy who wants to come to earth put real emotion into their roles and personally I loved the brocade making sequence where Fang's fairy sisters help her perform an impossible task (very reminiscent of some western fairy tales). The costumes are sumptuous, the songs lovely and Celestial have produced a good print. Pity the extra explaining the background was in Cantonese with no sub titles as these are clearly close to opera style. Apparently the male Opera players of the time thought film a lesser medium and left it to the women to act in them. This is really a theatrical production recorded on film. Anyone interested in Chinese culture and mythology would enjoy this. Note as is typical of Chinese films it has to western eyes a sad ending.

Ruan gu zhen nai

Amazing contortionist kung fu
This is a hard film to really comment on. So much of it is badly done - like the script, editing and most of the acting. Yet it is worth watching for Chi Kuan Chun (who played in many Shaw's classics) playing a unsympathetic character who of course comes good in the end. Kong Ching Ha plays the mistress of the troupe of travelling herbal medicine sellers who also practice kung fu and is always a good actress. But the strange star of the film is Phoenix Yue Shing Fung who only seems to have made this film. She looks very young which makes the villains lusting after her even more distasteful. But even allowing for some obvious trickery she was / is an amazing acrobat. She plays the part as dumb but her character comes strongly through and its a pity she seems not to have been offered more parts. The storyline is very average but Bai Ying (playing the evil Doctor Chang) plays it well and the final three on one fight is well done with an unusual ending. It also contains the classic lines when Phoenix orders her companions not to die as 'what will women do, if men die'. I leave others to answer that! So, not a great film but an interesting curiosity and I will never understand how she managed some of the contortions.

She diao ying xiong zhuan

Magnificent epic start to the series
I can't believe the low score for this Chang Cheh epic. I think it is partly expectation (at least in the West). This is not a kung fu film with a minimal story to hold it together but a sweeping, rich story (based on Louis Cha's 'Legend of the Condor Heroes) that includes fighting and some kung fu. I would like to call this storyfu films. Like a Dicken's book (and most Chinese books) it contains a lot of characters, some of whom are meant to be people, others are attributes and others 'Heroes' in the more than human sense. The sets are wonderful with rich costumes and some very good acting - with Alexander Fu Sheng in top form and even has a romance in this film. If you like Chinese history / mythology watch this film and the others in the series. Magnificent epic with Chang Cheh in full control only spoilt by some editing holes (it probably was much too long originally for the studio) leading to confusion at times as to quite who is doing what to whom.

Tang ren jie xiao zi

Classic but choose your version
The confusion in some of the reviews above is because the Celestial release is a different edit, including a different ending to the longer International version. The Celestial version is a nice print but confusing at times with for example the sub-plot with Alexander's saving the reluctant prostitute Kara Hui in Hong Kong cut completely. The ending is also much softer with Alexander surviving at the end and repenting the path he had chosen. But this is still a good film. Ignore the shaky reconstructions of 70's San Francisco (though it's fun to spot the mistakes) and enjoy Alexander Fu Sheng in a good role as the poor kid who ends up on the wrong path to riches (and a digital watch) playing opposite Sun Chien(in thick studious glasses) who works hard for his success. The fights are frequent but not particularly spectacular or that bloody for a Chang Cheh film. The 'bit' actors are generally poor except for the glimpses of what would become the five Venoms - Philip Kwok has a good role as the leader of the White Dragon gang and a few fights. Shirley Yu Sha Li doesn't do much but shows off the sex appeal that propelled her to immense fame in Hong Kong. An enjoyable film but pity a complete print isn't yet available (the International version apparently has different cuts according to other reviewers).

Yin xiao yu jian cui yu shi

What a waste
I was really looking forward to this : Angela Mao and Don Wong Tao together, but apart from a few scenes this is a disappointment. First the Dynasty print is pretty poor (a VHS transfer ?) and why they didn't change the extremely poor dubbing is beyond me. I'm still not sure if it was the dubbing or poor editing that led to me wondering what was going on most of the time. Numerous characters come and go and who Don Wong was meant to be was lost on me. It starts slowly with a rather stiff acting Angela Mao (with rather strange hair style even for a Chinese film) wandering around looking for her masters missing brother. The fights are mediocre and occasionally contain some strange weapons which seem to work poorly. There is a lot of unnecessary wire work and the settings look cheap and flimsy at times. The beautiful Doris Lung pouts a lot but her fight with Angela should have been a highlight - and wasn't. Man Kong-lung as a poisoned (presumably black mailed) swordsman has several pretty poor fights. HK Cinemagic mentions Ti Lung in the cast but this is either a mistake or he was very well disguised. Definitely not one of Angela or Don's better films. What a shame this could have been so good.

Tian long ba bu

Greater weirdness
This film has it all. Good acting, strong leading ladies and a general weirdness that works well if you just go with the flow. Based on Chin Yung's novel THE DEMI-GODS AND SEMI-DEVILS it features Danny Lee in the lead. He is a good actor and has to display here superhuman strength rather than fighting skills which are left to the two main leading ladies, Lam Jan-kei and her snakes and the masked mystery girl Tim Lei, who wields one of the strangest weapons in any film. The main villain is Yellow Robe Man who is understandably angry after his legs were cut off with a Yi Yang Finger technique (imagine Star Wars, made in the same year) and replaced with extendable well chicken legs best describe them! His main henchman is a man-beast (played well by Kong Do) with a metallic skull and shooting claw hands who likes pretty girls. Throw in lots of snakes, a red Python with blood that makes you superhuman, a very, very fake Gorilla and lots of 'special effects' and you have a mixture that is both exciting and quite frankly funny all at the same time. You could never imagine Hollywood making a film like this. And I haven't even touched the incest theme, great photography (though less good editing) and sets. Only pity is I wish the Celestial release (though a great print) had had more extras explaining the background and making of this film.

Fang Shi Yu yu Hong Xiguan

Two great Heroes
This Shaw Brothers Chang Cheh film always seems to draw mixed responses. In some ways it was used to set the scene for the later Shaolin films but nothing with Alexander Fu Sheng and Chen Kuan Tai can ever truly be dull. Lau Kar Leung (and Tong Gaai) bring the fighting to life with an authentic feel that Lau Kar Leung really pioneered in such films. Zhu Mu and Chen Kuan Tai are great villains, though the latter could have had a better end fight against Alexander. The very pretty Fong Sam has a small but significant part as bait for the traps and Fung Hak On always does creepy villains well. It's hard not to see Feng Yi and not think of his role in Fist of Fury but he plays his part well. Perhaps one of the problems is that this film starts off in spectacular fashion with Alexander fighting amidst the burning temple and then mostly tells a story until the incredible mass fight at the end. I was told that in this fight the screen often goes red as it was so bloody it contravened the sensibilities of the time ? Alexander was nineteen when he made this - his first real starring role, and unfortunately died only a few years later. Not as good perhaps as the later films in the series (see Brian Camp's review) but not a bad introduction either.

Jue quan

One of the best kung fu films
Lee I Min is one of those kung fu actors who never quite made it to the first rank, but combined here with the great direction of Joseph Kuo and action by Corey Yuen it produced a classy film to make kung fu addicts drool. The story has been told above but it can not be emphasised enough that the fights (of which there are many) are superb and wonderfully staged. The ending is fairly obvious but still exciting - with one of the best end fights on film. I liked the understated attraction between Lee I Min and the Masters daughter (the beautiful Nancy Yen) and the believable jealously of the other students. There are a few weaknesses but the story sweeps you along and you look forward to the next fight and twist. The Monkey Kung Fu exponent (Chin Yuet Sang) is an absolute classic. According to the liner notes by Linn Haynes (Media Blasters) this film is based on the life of a real Pai Mei kung fu expert named Cheung Lai-chun who fought and bested top mainland kung fu experts in the mid-1940s at the age of 66. Pai Mei is famous from the Kill Bill films (played by Gordon Liu) but the real story / legend is worth seeking out. One of the best and really worth watching.

Tai ji yuan gong

Hi pitched all the way
Joseph Kuo was one of the best independent directors and teamed here with Yuen Woo ping he produced a classic old school kung fu film. It seems strange to have the two strongest characters Carter Wong and Lo Lieh as the villains (and nasty villains they are too) but the young students of the school (including Jack Long (Lung) and Mark Long) faced with overwhelming odds are inventive and courageous and unlike many films it is not at all obvious that they will win in the end. A special mention to the two evil minions as well, played by Corey Yuen and Yuen Woo-ping's brother Yuen Shun-yi. The fights are not only well choreographed but well shot as is generally the whole film with good scenery well filmed. Carter Wong is brilliant here, from his high pitched voice and white hair - effects of his Tai Chi virtual invulnerability - to his fighting skills and ability to form a Tai Chi diagram with his feet whilst fighting. The end fight is terrific, clever and very satisfying.

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