THE DUEL OF THE CENTURY (1981) - This film falls under the wuxia genre, which focuses on martial arts heroes. Not being familiar with that genre, I do not have a frame of reference to judge DUEL by. One thing I can say is that this is the most convoluted plot I have ever encountered in a Shaw Brothers production. There are conspiracies, imposters, fights that start out of nowhere, and multiple subplots that had me guessing how characters fit into everything. There are also a lot of comedic elements, which was not uncommon for late Shaw Brothers films. What moves the plot along is the character Lu Xiaofeng, who is trying to determine why a duel is supposed to take place. I read that he was a popular character in a series of novels. The best sequence is undoubtedly the final duel, which is beautifully choreographed and photographed. THE VENGEFUL BEAUTY (1978, dir. Meng-hua Ho) Available on Amazon PrimeDirector Ho made Master of the Flying Guillotine (a great choice for Junesploitation) before this, and The Vengeful Beauty partially seems like a sequel to it. There are a lot of flying guillotines at the beginning of the film. Another similarity that The Vengeful Beauty has is strong exploitation elements. There is the flying guillotine action with heads being lopped off. Perhaps the most striking element, though, is the female nudity, which I cannot recall in any earlier Shaw Brothers productions. The story of The Vengeful Beauty is of Quiyan, a woman who is the lone survivor of an imperial court official’s family that was massacred. As she tries to elude her pursuers and get her own justice, she finds allies in a man who shares her enemies and an acquaintance from her youth. The villain of the film is another memorable performance from Lo Lieh. A complicating factor for her is that she is pregnant, which becomes, quite tastelessly, an exploitable element later in the film. A tale full of adventure and fight sequences, The Vengeful Beauty is extremely entertaining. I am very partial to these films with female leads. What sets Quiyan apart from other female heroines I have seen in kung fu films is that she is presented as more of a traditional woman with a focus on family than a fighter. The cinematography is among the best for any Shaw Brothers productions I have seen. I did not find any out-of-focus shots and the location shooting was beautifully executed. The camerawork is also very smooth in its movements.
Amazon Prime is full of Shaw Brothers films to watch today. Here are couple of recommendations from the selection on there.THE LADY HERMIT - This features a strong starring role for Cheng Pei-Pei, one of the the original female martial arts stars. Cheng brings a charismatic intensity to all her roles I have seen. There is a bit of romantic intrigue to get through in the middle, but the final showdown is well worth the wait. KING BOXER - One the early kung fu worldwide hits, King Boxer features a very satisfying revenge story that still feels fresh. Lo Lieh is a pupil who must learn the Iron-Fist technique to defeat fighters from a rival martial arts school. Basic but extremely entertaining.
The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974)Finally I get some Cushing into my #Junesploitation2019 diet.For some reason I was expecting something more like Vampire Lovers not a full blown Shaw Brothers movie. It's a rgeally entertaining movie, especially with the action sequences and monster make-up. It is a much stronger movie than it's reputation suggests.
Awesome! I’m dying to see it but haven’t had the chance yet.
Volcano High (2001)A gang runs the school and the Principal no longer has any control. He calls in, "The Substitutes" incredibly powerful fighters to retake the school. Our hero must challenge and defeat the cruel teachers to save his fellow students.The main characters have been over dubbed by hip-hop artists, making this a unique experience. I have a lot of affection for this film, specifically the MTV dub.
The Legend of Drunken Master aka Drunken Master II (1994, dir. Jackie Chan)It's safe to say this is Top 5 Jackie Chan and one of the greatest action movies ever made. Absolutely incredible action/stunts/choreography. Also really works as a comedy. Everyone should see this.
Enter the Ninja (1981)Finally, I get some Franco Nero and Christopher George in my #Junesploitation2019 diet. This movie is delightfully demented, though I wouldn't have expected anything less from Menahem Golan. My new standard for success is now having a 100 pool in my office.
I mean 100 meter pool.
WARRIORS TWO (1978, dir. Sammo Hung) – The Shaw Brothers was not the only studio making martial arts films in Hong Kong. Golden Harvest was also prominent, and this might be the first kung fu production by that company I have knowingly watched. It is also my first Sammo Hung film. There is certainly a different style to Warriors Two. The fight choreography is a little more brutal than I am accustomed to with the Shaw Brothers, and the emphasis is as much on the comedy as the fighting. The general story is about a conspiracy of a criminal gang to take over a Chinese town. The heroes, played with great chemistry by Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung, make sure that does not happen. Although the 1980s era dubbing was a little painful to listen to at times, this proved to be a very satisfying entertainment. The widescreen version on Prime looks terrific.
My mistake: It was not Yuen Biao, but a Korean actor billed as Casanova Wong as the main hero.
'POLAR OPPOSITES KUNG-FU' DOUBLE BILL!KUNG-FU MASTER NAMED DRUNK CAT (1978, 83 min.) on Amazon Prime for the first time.Imagine if the production crew, fight choreographers and stuntmen working in the Hong Kong film industry in the late 70's made a set-in-contemporary-times kung-fu flick on their own free time by "borrowing" the studio's equipment, truck and a couple of performers when nobody was using 'em. There's an irreverent and relaxed 'let's blow off steam and put on a fun show' vibe in "Kung-Fu Master Named Drunk Cat" that makes its many excellent fight sequences more enjoyable than they should. The title refers to the character that then-66-year-old Siu Tin Yuen played in Jackie Chan's first "Drunken Master" (also from '78), who has a small but memorable role as a mischievous teacher who loves to punish students who are late with their fees. Yuen playing keep-away with someone's watch is one of the film's many highlights. Fight choreography is so good it makes tolerable that our young co-leads (a waiter who learned his techniques from watching movies and a neighbor lady who loves to spar) spend the first act just goofing around and getting into trouble. There's even a full-on "Benny Hill" sped-up fight with muggers in a park, not to mention making out with a dog and a kid peeing in Chan's face! x-DIt takes until minute 42 for an actual plot to kick in: gangsters smuggle diamonds in a jar of candy through airport security, and our protagonists (who just happen to conveniently have an identical-looking candy jar) accidentally get a hold of the loot. Cue the gang boss with a giant cyst on his neck, a henchman with a Hitler 'stache, an unexpected shotgun wedding, wooden robots coming to life and some impressive fights in train tracks, a quarry, etc. All that and a zoomed-in, clearly-dubbed-from-VHS soft video transfer that matches the typical-for-the-era, entertainingly crappy English dub. Highly recommended, as close as a Junesploitation! winner comes to get my 'DING! DING! DING!' without earning it. Because, you know, forcing a little person to crawl like a turtle just isn't cool. :-OAng Lee's CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON (2000, 120 min.) on Netflix Ultra HD.I don't revisit this one often (fourth time in 19 years), but I like it more and more with every new watch. Yes, there's a good 20-30 minutes of story (primarily the 20-minutes-stranded-in-the-desert backstory of Jen Yu falling in love with "Dark Cloud") that slows the narrative to a crawl. Yes, the fighting-atop-swiveling-tree-branches works better as symbolic context than actual execution. And yes, at its core this is another typical Ang Lee story about characters desperately wanting something and repressing their need for that perceived conduit to happiness. As a serious and expensive attempt to make the ultimate awards bait wuxia epic with worldwide appeal (four Academy Awards, over $200 million box office haul worldwide, etc.), "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" has yet to be topped. Yuen Woo-Ping's fight choreography is worth hitting the slow-motion button to admire/study the movies/poses, an excellent cast (a never-better Michelle Yeoh, still-in-his-prime Chow Yun-Fat, Cheng Pei-Pei wearing her age with pride, Ziyi Zhang looking both delicate and mean, etc.) brings well-developed characters to life, epic music (by composer Dun Tan) sharing the spotlight with intimate tunes (from busy-at-the-time Yo-Yo Ma), and so on. Only the underwhelming 4K transfer streaming on Netflix disappoints (looks good but not Ultra HD good), but since most of the movie was shot with practical effects and/or wires it still counts as old-school epic filmmaking. And two decades before it was fashionable, "CT,HD" had strong female characters as leads who were both badass and not afraid of wearing their emotions beneath their silky robe sleeves. Highly recommended.
Cheng Pei-Pei was kicking butt over three decades before Crouch Tiger, Hidden Dragon was made. Check out The Lady Hermit or Come Drink With Me for that.
That's what I meant when I said Pei-Pei wears her age with pride. She's the oldest of the main characters, but damn if Cheng doesn't hold her own and takes a meaty role and crushes it.
Five Deadly Vemons (aka The Five Venoms) 1978 - first watchClassic Shaw Brothers. It seemed like this movie had a bit more going on story wise than most Shaw Brothers, with a pretty solid mystery at the center of it. The fighting was good, but more acrobatics than anything resembling real fighting, as was the style at the time. Fun movie.
Kid with the Golden Arm (1979)I was a little underwhelmed by the arm. I don't even remember his arm being golden. I'm sure it was but I was having trouble paying attention. I want to love you, kung fu, but I find you quite boring.
I am not surprised by your reaction to KID, Brent. The Shaw Brothers' brand of kung fu was getting stale around this time. Except for a film called Masked Avengers, I have not warmed up to the group of actors you watched in Kid. While there were still some great films being made by Shaw Brothers then, I find the ones made earlier in the 1970s more engaging.
I was being a little cheeky. I haven't seen as much of the Shaw Brothers as I should. The Boxer's Omen and The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires are probably my favorites.
People born with golden arms are just like us. Please don't draw attention to it; it makes them uncomfortable. I haven't seen many Shaw Bros movies, but I think this one is my favorite of the ones I have seen. I remember it being so colorful and vibrant. The movie Hero needs to recognize!
The Dragon Lives Again aka Deadly Hands of Kung Fu (Li san jiao wei zhen di yu men) (1977, dir. Chi Lo)Have you always wanted to see a movie where Bruce Lee and his friends (including Popeye the Sailor) fight Zatoichi, Dracula, James Bond and The Man with No Name for control of Hades? Well you're in luck.In a totally tasteful move, only a few years after his death, a company named Goldig Films made a Brucesploitation comedy where Bruce Lee (played by Bruce Leong, one of many impersonators at the time) dies, finds himself in a weird version of Hades and opens a gym, while a group of fictional characters (the aforementioned ones as well as Vito Corleone, Emmanuelle and... the Exorcist?) hatch a plan to take over Hades.Hard to justify calling this a good movie, but it's such a weird one that its mere existence is entertaining. The version of the film I found on YouTube was cropped to 4:3 and badly dubbed, which just enhanced the experience.
Bloodsport (1988)Not only was this a first time viewing, but this is my first viewing of any Jean-Claude Van Damme film. I guess my question is: Are they all this bad? I mean, I enjoyed it for what it was, but from an objective standpoint, this is not a good movie. It's not so much the wooden acting, but they make no effort to even pretend the outcome is ever in question. (As annoying as Adrian screaming "You can't win!" is in the Rocky movies, at least it serves a narrative purpose.) And, isn't this movie just, beat for beat, the exact same plot as The Karate Kid (just with more slow motion yelling)? I'm assuming the hook that it's a "full contact" mixed martial arts tournament where people can get hurt or killed played better at the time, but this kind of thing now gets broadcast on ESPN. And, why is the kid in the flashback wearing a San Francisco Giants baseball hat and a knockoff New York Giants football jersey? Does he just really like giants?
It's one of his earliest movies. JCVD's acting chops definitely improved over the next few years, as did the budget's on the movies he did. Bloodsport only had a budget of ~$2m but by the mid 90's movies like Sudden Death and Timecop had budget's of ~$30m, so the production quality is obviously much better. All the same, Bloodsport is an entertaining watch. Check out his movies from 90-95 for peak Van Damme.
I am of the opinion that this movie kicks fuckin ass.
I can't tell if this is a joke or if you are Jackson Murphy.
I’m with Brent. Bloodsport is amazing.
My favourite part is when Ray Jackson has almost beaten Chong Li...almost, but not quite, and he turns his back to him and is just yelling his own name. "Jackson!! Jackson!! Jackson!!"
Special ID (2013)Yes, the plot is nothing new (cop goes undercover as a criminal, how deep is too deep, what happens once he’s exposed, etc etc) but the kicks to the face are somethin’ else. Donnie Yen takes the lead to do what he does best: wreck dudes who get in his way (and play mah jongg).It’s not his best movie, but it’s still super entertaining. I don’t understand why Yen’s not a bigger name in the states, he’s so compelling to watch and his physicality is unmatched (also his English is decent, though this one is in Chinese). Thankfully this one is shot well enough so that we can see a lot of what he can do, and that lack of modern shaky-cam nonsense makes a big difference. Even a big car chase setpiece is exciting, and those are usually prime zone-out material for me. It ain’t Ip Man, but you could do a whole lot worse. Fun stuff.
THE GUY WITH THE SECRET KUNG FU (1981) Plot? Who needs plot? Something about two brothers fighting to rid their village of a criminal gang. We’re here for the fights, though, and they have that great chop-socky feel, rough around the edges rather than perfectly choreographed. And all the punches and kicks come with the old-school “whoosh-SLAP!” sound effect. Then the villains summon an actual demon for our heroes to fight, except the demon makes mechanical noises when he moves, so is he cyborg demon? Does this even count as a movie? Bonus #Godzillasploitation: GODZILLA VS. DESTOROYAH (1995) Allegedly, this was going to be the last-ever Godzilla movie, hence him burning up with nuclear energy the whole time. I must admit, his final scene really is affecting. Along the way, we get some action scenes delightfully ripped off from Aliens, and Destoroyah (not “Destroyer”) is another formidable foe once he gets the make-my-monster-grow treatment.
"Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen" 2010, Dir. Andrew LauThe amazing Donnie Yen kicks all the asses in sight, but the film is a bit of a snooze whenever those asses aren't being kicked. Having said that, minor Donnie Yen is better than no Donnie Yen.
The Vengeful Beauty (1978, dir. Meng-hua Ho)Chose this one after reading Casual Listener's review, and I'm glad I did. It's 80 minutes of pretty much wall-to-wall fights, with a story that's surprisingly engaging. I really liked this one. Thanks for the suggestion.
Glad you liked it, Patrick. With so many martial arts movies on Prime, The Vengeful Beauty is easy to overlook. It would also be an appropriate pick for Revenge Day.
Wheels on Meals (1984)I owe Kung Fu an apology. I took you for granted, said you were boring. You're not boring. You seem like a really nice genre. Jackie Chan helps. Great stunts. Beautiful prostitute pickpockets are being targeted everyday. Will no one put an end to their suffering?
I watched this one for this day too! Not my favorite of the early Chans, but still had a hell of a good time with it. And that fight scene Jackie has with Benny Urquidez towards the end is so much fun. Nothing is better than Jackie Chan being a cocky smart ass and then getting punched in the face for it. Not that I want to see him punched in the face, cause I am an unapologetic huge fan of Jackie Chan, I just love his humor. The best. Then I followed that up with Jet Li's Black Mask and boy is that movie all 90's and not necessarily in a good way.
Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky (1991)You think you've got everything figured out. Nothing surprises you. You've seen it all. Not unless you've seen this movie. I did an actual standing ovation after it was over. This is probably my favorite of Junesploitation, so far. I didn't want it to end. I'm sorry I doubted you, Kung Fu. You deserve better. Ricky deserves better.
Good choice. I cannot think of another film with a character who gets strangled with his/her own intestines.
I am a changed man.
I have been meaning to track this movie down for a while. Sounds more than insane.
Just saw it too (streaming on Con-TV, an Amazon Prime subsidiary). I honestly don't think it belongs in Kung-Fu! day because what little actual kung-fu fighting there is feels tertiary to everything else around it. But holy Christ on a prison yard, "Riki-Oh" is a one-stop Junesploitation! machine. It's as if young Takashi Miike had a bad dream and decided to have young Peter Jackson direct most of it. What an effin' trip! :-D
Lindsay, you will love this movie. I agree, JM, but I'm glad it was on the Kung Fu list!
Encounters of the Spooky Kind 2 (1990)Less slapsticky than the first, but the humor is still aplenty, and the fights still kick so much ass. For anyone looking for a good kung fu/comedy/horror blend, I cannot recommend these films enough. It's almost criminal how under seen and under appreciated they both are.
Ong Bak: Muay Tai Warrior (2003)It's not strictly "Kung Fu", but it's close enough for me.Tony Jaa is amazing to watch in this film. His physicality is very impressive.I love the boxing scenes, especially his first fight, when he lays the opponent out with one well placed knee. Very amusing.If you like martial arts movies, this is one I recommend.
I liked this one a good bit when I watched it last year. My only issue is they take the gimmick of showing every major blow in slow mo and at different angles to the Nth degree. It would slow down the pace of the movie and sometimes you would clearly see shots missing by a mile. Just a small gripe from me.
HOUSE OF TRAPS (1982): Every single outfit and hair style in this movie is work of art. I was so distracted by the clothes that I don't even remember what happens.