Saturday, June 10, 2017

Junesploitation Day 10: Kung fu!

Karate Kung-fu! The new screen excitement that gives you the biggest kick of your life!

55 comments:

  1. Tso Nam Lee's TATTOO CONNECTION, aka BLACK BELT JONES 2 (1978, 90 min.) on Amazon Prime for the first time.

    Ruthless Chinese crime boss Lu (Sing Chen) and his men steal a valuable diamond from a carrier in Hong Kong. The insurance company sends Lucas (Jim Kelly), a former CIA operative in their payroll, to retrieve it. It's going to take several days for the diamond to be cut into smaller pieces by the horny old man Boss Lu hired to do so. Lucas' publicized reward offer of $100K for information gives some of the men working for the boss (like Fu Hung Cheng's 'Fat Dog') ideas about how they could cash in. Boss Lu's main henchman, an orphan he raised to obey him named Tung Hao (Tao-Liang Tan) whom he has personally trusted with the diamond's whereabouts, only wants to finish the job so he and his prostitute girlfriend Louisa (Shu-Ying Cheng) can leave their life of crime behind. Not gonna be that easy.

    It's a testament to Jim Kelly's screen charisma and willingness to get dirty (that's him performing his own stunts atop a speeding car) that he headlines an all-Asian production in which he's the man. Back in '78 this acceptance of a black actor as the hero of a Hong Kong kung fu flick must have felt fresh, unique and empowering for martial arts-loving black folks. Fights range from 'meh' to awesome, especially when sadistic henchman Bolo Yeung (Van Damme's final opponent in "Bloodsport") and Boss Lu are unleashed. I lost count of the number of times "Tattoo Connection" shows women taking off all their clothes (AS-ABOVE-SO-BELOW-SPLOITATION! :-O). Jim Kelly cannot act worth shit, but his embodiment of blaxploitation cool when he takes off his shirt and starts kicking ass is overwhelming. Worth putting up with the umpteenth generation cropped-to-full-screen transfer on Amazon Prime, which appears to be as good as this film has looked since it left cinemas. :-(

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  2. The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974, dir. Roy Ward Baker & Cheh Chang)

    Professor Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) travels to China to learn about their kung fu vampire legends, but unbeknownst to him, Count Dracula (not Christopher Lee) got there first and is commanding the seven powerful kung fu vampires of kung fu legend, plus a kung fu zombie army (because why the hell not throw zombies into the mix as well). A local kung fu family of seven brothers and a kung fu sister accompany Van Helsing, his son and a Scandinavian beauty on their kung fu quest to vanquish the kung fu vampires.

    After eight Dracula movies, Hammer went a totally different direction, making a co-production with Shaw Brothers, combining horror with kung fu (shared universe-sploitation?). It's not a particularly good Dracula movie and an okay kung fu movie, but it's still a fun curiosity and an entertaining mix of the two. The mass fight scenes are at times a little muddled and hard to follow, but overall pretty well done. The final confrontation between the big names is bland compared to the rest of the movie. Cushing is excellent as always and Julie Ege as young widower Mrs. Buren is charming.

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  3. Kid With The Golden Arm (1979)

    Okay, this movie is awesome. I had a lot more fun than I thought I would. It has this off kilter quality that I responded too. This was movie that had a lot of heart, especially from the drunken warrior (wine is my best friend), his performance was just gleeful. In fact the whole movie was gleeful. You could feel the movie just rubbing it's hands together in excitment, espeically during the fight scenes, which of course are pretty soectacular. Junesploitation just might turn me into a kung fu fan yet.

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  4. The 14 Amazons (1972)

    So far this has been my favorite movie that I've watched this Junesploitation. It's a Shaw Bros. movie and maybe a bit more of a war movie than a martial arts movie. The fight scenes tend to be larger battles as opposed to one-on-one fights where the choreography would be the focus.

    Based on what I understand to be Chinese folklore, after the death of General Yang Tsung Pao in battle his widow and four generations of the women of his family lead a small army in revenge. The youngest and only offspring of the General (played by Lily Ho) is referred to as a boy throughout the movie but from what I've read it's a nuance lost in the English translation that because the General has no living male heirs his daughter is constantly referred to as a son. Everyone knows the truth but due to the gender politics of the time and culture they go along with it.

    The Matriarch of the family, Tsung Pao's widow, and his "son" get the most development as well as a couple side characters and as a whole they're likable enough to get the audience invested in their success. With 14 women and an assortment of other characters though a lot of them don't get a chance to develop personalities, and especially once they're in uniform a lot of them are indistinguishable from one another in battle. There's also a sequence involving characters forming a human bridge that's a tad ridiculous which is one of the only other flaws I found in the movie but it's short and the Shaw Bros. have never shied away from a bit of silliness.

    I watched this on Amazon Prime although I'd have much preferred finding a subtitled version somewhere as I always find dubbing distracting and I think pretty much every Kung Fu movie on Amazon I've watched has been dubbed. Regardless though I'd recommend it even if it isn't necessarily the fun kind of martial arts movie like Kid with the Golden Arm.

    Against the Drunken Cat Paws, a.k.a. No One Can Touch Her (1979)

    This one is a little bit more fun. It's got fight scenes between a child and a little person who shoots poison darts, a little bit of drunken fighting, German Mauser pistols, and a could bad guys who get taken out by having large nails punched into them. The editing seems a little wonky though either due to translations or possibly missing footing (it's clear they didn't have any completely non-damaged film to work with).

    After her father is killed and she is blinded by bandits, the protagonist seeks revenge. She also drinks a lot as that is apparently the cure for the poison that's blinded her. She's got a little kid sidekick who calls her mother but I couldn't figure out if there was any actual relation there. It's entertaining but a little rough. Another Amazon Prime movie.

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  5. Raw Force aka Kung Fu Cannibals (1982)

    Thank you Daniel Epler. This movie is insanely nutty. With the 30th birthday party in the middle of the movie, and the male stripper character, it's amazing. Everytime the Hitler look alike said anything, espically schtupid son of a bitch I couldn't help giggling.

    I wished I watched this with a group of people, my partner caught the last 20 minutes and he kept asking what are we watching again, and was completely confused by the experience. But I loved it, it feels like it has no idea what it is doing but it is better for it!

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  6. Police Story (1985):

    Undeniably a great movie with great action set pieces, but there's not quite enough comedy in the action for my taste. This is more "leading man Jackie" which is okay, too.

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    1. Those action set pieces are just crazy good. That bus scene!

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    2. Yeah I think this is one of the top 10 action movies ever made.

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    3. It's great! I think I just prefer something like Drunken Master that lets Jackie's brilliance with blending action and comedy come through a bit more. I definitely plan on making my way through the Police Story series, though.

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    4. The Armour of God series is pretty rad! It's got amazing stunts and sometimes it leans a little too much on goofiness, but it definitely has that looser classic Jackie vibe. Plus the whole thing is a homage to Raiders so that's great.

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  7. The Legend of Drunken Master (1994)

    Glorious Jackie Chan film finds him playing Chinese Folk Hero Wong Fei-hung, a master of a kung-fu style that imitates a drunk. Only in Chan’s case, he actually needs to get drunk to fully unleash his power (sort of an alcoholic Popeye, with booze instead of spinach). Here he must battle an evil British ambassador (sorry Gabby) who is stealing precious Chinese artifacts. Chan finds just the right balance of comedy and action, and the action scenes are spaced out enough to keep the movie from dragging. All the action is great, but the 20-minute finale must be seen to be believed. As with most of Chan ‘s films, the end credits feature outtakes of stunts that did not quite work out. Talk about suffering for your art…

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    1. I enjoy this movie! There are so many evil Brits in movies. We must keep Rey safe at all costs! We must have a good Brit in a big American movie! #NotAllBrits
      Seriously though yay Rey. And Jackie Chan is awesome :)

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    2. I have been meaning to track down this movie for a while - thanks for the reminder.

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  8. Master of the Flying Guillotine (1976)
    This movie has everything you could ever want in a Kung-fu movie, and so much more. I could talk for hours about it, but just see it for yourself.

    Side note: Took way too long to realize that the blind man was wearing a swastika apron the whole time.

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    1. This is one of my favourites! The long armed man is crazy.

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  9. Raw Force (1982)
    Oh you crazy fools with your wacky recommendations, thanks! What a fun, silly ride that was. The best way to experience it is to watch now.

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  10. The Street Fighter (1974)

    Bless you, QT. As I'm sure is the case for many people on this very site, my introduction to this insane series of movies was Clarence Worley going to a marathon screening of them for his birthday in True Romance. That Tarantino Seal of Approval was enough to make me want to check them out and, appropriately, they blew my mind right out of my ears. I hadn't seen this first entry since then (probably a solid 20 years ago at least) and I'm glad to say that not only does it hold up, it is still thoroughly next-level bonkers (™ & © Jason Mantzoukas).

    Sonny Chiba plays Terry Tsurugi, a man you do not want to mess with. Not only is he a deadly badass, but I'm pretty sure he could beat Bruce Lee in a "flex and make all kinds of crazy noises" contest. The story is pretty simple, people piss Terry off and/or disrupt his life, Terry wrecks them 342 different ways. Bones are broken (the cut to an x-ray of a dude's skull as Terry shatters it is maybe the ultimate Junesploitation moment), blood (or possibly tempera paint) is shed, and a throat is ripped out in a scene that would make Dalton from Road House have to look away from the screen for a moment. This movie rules.

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  11. The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978)

    On Canadian Netflix (as well as the sequel Return To The 36th Chamber). I'm surprised I hadn't seen this before. It's a very simple story and a great deal of the movie is just a series of awesome training sequences. Mark Ahn describes why it's so renowned better than I could in his review. I loved the quick "change-up" of the rice miller in the last second of the movie! It condensed the idea of the 36th chamber into one motion one screen.

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    1. Yes, it is mostly training sequences but they something else - the choreography is something else

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  12. Gymkata (1985)

    This movie is terrible but sometimes so bad it's good. More often though it's just bad. Gymkata star vehicle for Olympic gymnast Kurt Thomas that is sort of a cross between The Hunger Games and Mortal Kombat and set in a medieval village. It's all very strange. The fighting is goodish (there's a funny sequence where Thomas beats up about 50 people on a stone pommel horse that just happens to be there) and the last two minutes are so bizarre it makes the movie almost worth watching. I wish the actors had any sort of charisma. I think that's what holds Gymkata back from being a guilty pleasure. If you're going to watch it it's probably best to do so with a group of friends.

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  13. The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires (1974)

    Dracula, Grand Mof Tarkin, Zombies, King-Fu! This movie was awesome. The action wasn't the most engaging but come on... it's a Shaw/Cannon joint, that's amazing. It's got everything you'd want in a Junesploitation pick!

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    1. This is going to be my pick for next year!

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  14. Fearless (aka Huo Yuangia, 2006)

    This movie has held up well, and is perhaps my favourite Jet Li movie. It's a period movie, and works equally well as a drama (about a broken man that must find himself), and a martial arts movie. The action is very well done, with minimal use of wires, and incorporating different weapons. Jet Li's acting has come a long way, and very convincingly portrays his character through the different stages of his life. The ending is sweetly tragic and I'm not going to wait 10 years to revisit this one again.

    Also, it was directed by the same man who did Freddy vs. Jason, and Bride of Chucky?!?

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    1. I own this on HD-DVD and it's as good as Paul says. :-)

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  15. Wheels on Meals (1984)

    2 friends, who practice martial arts and run a food truck in Spain, help out a woman who has a lot of bad dudes after her.

    This is definitely one of my favorite Jackie Chan movies. Directed by Sammo Hung, who also stars, it has plenty of ridiculous humor and some great action and fights. If you love Jackie Chan movies, you have to see this one.

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    1. I love this movie so much! Great pick Angela!

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  16. Gymkata (1985)

    I'm pretty sure every idea you can think of was probably made into a movie during the 1980's. Take this one for example. A gymnast/martial artist must go to a place called Parmistan to play "The Game" (pretty much a competition where you have to go through obstacles and be chased after by a bunch of Parmistan warriors) for the Special Intelligence Agency. What sounds like an early Jackie Chan film actually stars real-life American Olympic gymnast, Kurt Thomas. I don't know whose idea it was to cast him, but it's fucking brilliant. Yes, it's probably a terrible film is most people's eyes but OH MY GOODNESS is it entertaining. Watch. It. Now.

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  17. The Kung Fu Instructor (1979): Well this was okay. I liked the relationship between the teacher and his favourite pupil. But a lot of the other stuff was kind of a blur. Watch Wheels on Meals like Angela instead!

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  18. Game of Death (1978) (First Time Viewing):

    The Bruce Lee movie with barely any Bruce Lee! Since he tragically died before it could be finished, a body double was used for almost the entire movie. And it shows. This is barely a movie, but at least the real Bruce Lee fights Kareem Abdul Jabbar at the end, and it is pretty darn cool. I have now completed his filmography and it's pretty sad that there isn't more Bruce Lee in the world.

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  19. Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)

    I'm probably a bad parent for showing this to my 2.5-year-old but I thought it would be a relatively tame way to get him involved in his first Junesploitation - he loved it and kept reassuring me that he wasn't scared so as long as he doesn't start kung-fuing the other kids at his daycare we're probably alright. I enjoyed seeing him grasp the concept that the baby panda they keep flashing back to is Po. And goddamn I found it quite a touching little number with the child abandonment/adoption stuff - some good lessons are learned and it's got a lot of heart - not sure how well-regarded it is critically but I'm a fan!

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    1. I am a fan of it too! I really like 1 & 2. I have not seen 3 yet. Like you, I think 2 has a lot more going on than you might think from the poster :)

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    2. Just saw 3 recently actually. It's blast as the other two are.

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    3. Nope all I can see is a good parent :)

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    4. Thanks! :) I haven't seen 3 yet either but if it's more of the same I'm in!

      Hey Gabby - feels like it's been awhile! How's it going?

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    5. It has been a while! I will drop a message on fb!

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  20. The 36th Chamber Of Shaolin (1978)

    This was a first time watch for me. It was interesting. Not as fun-oriented as much of the other Shaw Brothers stuff is. But I still thought it was great. The training sequences carried more weight than in pretty much any other movie which I thought was brilliant. And you can't go wrong with crash zooms.

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    1. There are SO MANY crash zooms! I was disconcerted at first, but they were bringing a big smile to my face after a while.

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  21. Sister Street Fighter (1974)

    Kick-ass Etsuko Shiomi goes after the drug kingpin who kidnapped her brother and face the many martial artists employed by him. The original "Street Fighter", Sonny Chiba, is there to pass the torch with what amounts to an extended cameo. It regrettably contains a lot of the more sleazier exploitation elements(i.e., rape) and a very bad dummy fall. However, it has several fantastic over-the-top kills and never really slags. I can't wait to start watching the sequels.

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  22. The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter (1984, dir. Chia-Liang Liu) on Amazon Prime

    Excellent fight choreography and a compelling story make this serviceable viewing for Kung-fu Day. The final fight scene is wall to wall humanity, I need to watch it a third or fourth time to catch even half of the details. Big thanks to Paul Calvert and Patrick Bromley for the recommendation.

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  23. MAN OF TAI CHI (2013)
    A talented young athlete gets caught up in an impossibly lavish underground fighting ring. Keanu Reeves both directs and casts himself as the bad guy, seemingly living out his fantasy of being a Bond villain. I was kind of bored, to be honest. This is one of those movies where every fight scene feels like the same fight scene over and over.

    UNDISCOVERED TOMB (2002)
    Two female thieves head into the jungle in search of an ancient treasure, picking up a couple of goofy dudes and getting into a lot of fights. There’s a bunch of kung fu movies that are also Indiana Jones ripoffs, and I’d thought it was a no-fail subgenre, but this one just doesn’t do anything new. It’s not bad, just ordinary.

    CITY HUNTER (1993)
    An attempt to combine Jackie Chan’s signature action/slapstick with Naked Gun-style broad comedy, culminating in an elaborate parody of the Street Fighter video games. It doesn’t work, as there’s such a thing as TOO wacky. It’s always fun to spend time with Jackie, but he has so many movies better than this one.

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  24. The Way of the Dragon 1972

    It gets off to a rough start trying to be a comedy but once the fighting kicks in it gets pretty good. I always love Bruce Lee more than the thing he's in but this might be my favourite.

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  25. Headshot (2016)

    The new Iko Uwais vehicle currently on Netflix. I'll be honest, through no fault of the movie itself, I fell asleep like 6 times during this. But from what I did see....it's fine. It's an okay approximation of the Raid (or Raid 2 more accurately). The choreography is on point, but it's constantly undercut by the camera work. The camera isn't wide enough to let the stuntwork be center stage. Add in a whole lot of CGI muzzle flash and blood and you got yourself a "it's fine."

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  26. The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978)

    I picked this up a while ago after reading what a big fan Tarantino is. Today I finally got around to watching and I really loved it. Not much to add that hasn't already been said by others posting about it today. It's a blast and makes me want to watch nothing but kung fu movies for a while.

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  27. Kung Fu Triple Feature tonight! Thanks to the Bromleys for organizing!!!

    3 Ninjas (1992) - It's not perfect but neither are you. I had a lot of fun catching up with this one. It brought back all of the nostalgia feels. The three Home Alone guys are a definite setback but it's hard to beat Rocky Loves Emily, a "We'll spot you 9pts" pickup basketball game, diarrhea cup and sick ninja action. Tum Tum has always and will always suck. I'm Team Colt!

    Crippled Avengers (1978) - Fucking amazing are the two words that come to mind. The actors are all fantastic from their fight scenes to the bits of comedy. Highly recommended. Shaw Bros!

    Kid with the Golden Arm (1979) - Really good if not as good as Crippled Avengers with much of the same cast. The plot is all over the place (as if that matters) but the fight scenes are of course incredible and make it worth a watch. I'm looking forward to diving into more kung fu movies later this month :-)

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  28. Kung Fu Killer (2014)
    Donnie Yen is the man. This Kung Fu serial killer movie is A good solid Kung Fu film, full of great fights. It feels like a throwback to the 90s (in a good way).

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  29. 3 Ninjas (1992, dir. Jon Turtletaub)

    We had a little FTM get-together tonight for Kung fu day and wanted to let the kids watch something, so this was the first feature. I had never seen it. This is not meant to be viewed for the first time as an adult. The kids have impressive fighting skills and the movie certainly carries over that weird thing from the '80s where young kid characters are constantly hurling pretty harsh insults at one another. It's super early '90s and there was one diarrhea scene too many, but the kids and Adam Riske liked it.

    Crippled Avengers (1978, Chang Cheh)

    This is one of my favorite kung fu movies ever so I really wanted to introduce it to everyone but Mark Ahn, who already saw it and wrote about it for the site. I love the story, I love the characters, I love the fighting. The boss battle at the end blows the fucking doors off.

    The Kid With the Golden Arm (1979, dir. Chang Cheh)

    Like Adam said, it's not as good as Crippled Avengers but it's another great Venom Mob movie from the Shaw Brothers. I love it, primarily for Kwok Chun-Fung's performance as Hai Tao, the drunken fighter. Long Axe and Short Axe are awesome, too. I picked this one mostly for the runtime (it's like 80 min.), but I could watch it over and over. Kung fu day has become one of my favorites of Junesploitation.

    Dragon vs. Needles of Death (1976, dir. Kuo-Heng Chung)

    Not part of the FTM triple feature and not as good as either of the Shaw Brothers movies I showed, but still a pretty fun movie about a fighter who doesn't quite fit in and learns how to throw nails at his opponents (he's dubbed the Needle Avenger, another title for the movie). Almost the last half is a continuous fight, which is cool. At one point, the hero's love interest is standing against a tree; he pins her dress to the tree by throwing nails and then pulls her out of it while the dress remains pinned. BALLER MOVE.

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  30. Who Am I? (1998)

    Jackie gets a bad case of the forget me's after a particularly nasty fall out of a helicopter. He's as charming and funny as always.and there are some unbelievable stunts. There is a lot of delightfully schlocky dialogue as well, would definitely reccomend.

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  31. I have been into HK action and martial arts movies since the early 80s, and I would suggest that the following are "must-see":

    Dragons Forever -
    Samo/Yuen/Jackie trio project, kind of slow in parts but the actual fights are at the top of the heap. The major conflict revolves around narcotics trafficking, and the big fights are angry and intense. The big boss is a familiar face from back in the day, and he's a great bastard in this movie. The super-henchman is Benny "The Jet" Urquidez, and his drug fiend antics vs. Jackie are GREAT.

    Drunken Master II -
    The fights are just too entertaining. Also, the fights are surprisingly brutal.

    Five Element Ninja (AKA Chinese Super Ninja) -
    This is IMO the peak of Chang Cheh's ultra-violent 70s Shaw Bros, but it came strangely late in their history. Essentially two rounds of elaborate fights vs. elemental enemy ninja, the second time around is when the vengeful (and quite sadistic) heroes enter the fray. Real cringe moments related to gore and outright twisted ideas. Tough to oversell this one, but getting an actual official Blu-ray seems difficult. But IIRC they do exist, made by Celestial. I would not watch it unless you can find the real uncut Celestial BD, it's too special.

    Ong Bak II -
    Made me rethink things a bit with its interesting blend of stylized visuals and seriously impressive action. I'm not sure I ever really connected with the Thai/Malaysian MA scene, but this one has amazing action.

    Flash Point -
    Getting kind of modern here, but you need to check out Donnie Yen in some form. I like this one because it's hardcore, free of swords and supernatural stuff, and features an incredible and diverse end fight.

    Pedicab Driver -
    Samo Hung joint, it's pretty goofy but ends with SAMO RAGE.

    IMO the best way to quickly figure out what you are looking for is to find this documentary:

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0099126/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

    Hosted by John Saxon, this is essentially a narrated clip collection which draws from a surprisingly deep selection. It will show you tons of great scenes from the 70s and 80s and is generally accurate with credits and other info. Oddly hard to find these days, but a shiiiitty rip is probably on YT or something.

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  32. 5 Venoms Versus Wu Tang aka Vampire Kid II (1988, dir. Wang Chih Cheng)
    Venom Warrior aka The Dancing Warrior (1985, dir. Cheh Chang)
    Challenge of the Tiger (1980, dir. Bruce Le)
    Master With Cracked Fingers aka Snake Fist Fighter (1973, dir. Mu Chu)
    Way of the Dragon aka Return of the Dragon (1972, dir. Bruce Lee)

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  33. The Boxer's Omen (1983)

    Barely a Kung fu movie but close enough. I loved this silly thing. So many weird ideas mashed together that you really can't believe they fit it all in. I've seen a couple of Shaw Bros. movies and I've found at least a little joy in all of them. This one is probably my favorite. 8 out of 10

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  34. Kung Fu Killer (2014)

    Did I get Animal day and Kung Fu day mixed up? Maybe. Did I watch Kung Fu Killer this morning and have a blast? definitely. Nothing really special about it, there is a Kung Fu serial killer and Donnie Yen has to stop him, but it is fun, with numerous and varied fights.

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  35. Raw Force (1982)

    I've owned this movie for awhile waiting for a good time to watch it and I think it was worth the wait. It's page on Wikipedia has no plot. Which is pretty close to being correct. This has the same kind of humor that She has. I so wanted that 3rd grade teacher to get lucky. The hair of the bartender in the ship was magical. I just wish there was a little more nudity. I feel like I could watch it again right now. 9 out of 10

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  36. Police Story 2 (1988)

    Perhaps not Kung fu in the traditional sense, nor is it as good as its fantastic predecessor, but still Jackie Chan on top form with some excellent action set pieces.

    I vote for a Jackiesploitation day.

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