Friday, June 12, 2020

Junesploitation 2020 Day 12: Kung Fu!

See the most violent, bloodspurting fight ever filmed!


  1. THE VENGEFUL BEAUTY (1978, A.Prime, A Casual Listener: 6/22/2019)
    Don't plan any bathroom/fridge breaks during this fat-free 80 minute flick (remastered in crystal clear high-def) or you'll miss either awesome fighting or glimpses of female full frontal (a rarity for Shaw Bros. at the time). A martial arts-trained widow (Chen Ping's Rong Qiu-yan) wants revenge against the corrupt traitor (Lo Lieh's Gang-feng) who killed her interrogator hubby, but a 2/3-month pregnancy forces her to flee. Since director Meng Hua Ho also did "Master of the Flying Guillotine," this spiritual sequel throws ten times as many beheadings and constant threats of danger to our heroine and allies she picks along the way. It's non-stop stunt-driven action set-pieces one after another. Things get rough and almost gynecological at one point (yikes!), this is that rare road revenge movie in which the destination and getting there are equally entertaining. FIVE BACKWARDS-ACTED REVERSE-FILMED ROOF JUMPS (out of 5)

    THE EIGHT DIAGRAM POLE FIGHTER (1984, A.Prime, Paul Calvert: 6/4/2016)
    The Yang clan's king and five of his seven sons are killed in deadly battle against the Mongol army (as seen in a very theatrical, shot-indoors opening), leaving the matriarch and her two daughters distraught. While brother #6 survives but goes insane, the fifth brother (Gordon Liu) hides in a monastery and forces the monks to teach him their unique fighting style. A lot of build-up slows things down, but the last 15 minutes deliver some of the most intense, well-choreographed and ass-kicking martial arts stunt work you've ever seen... 'I guarantee it!' (TM) And the quality HD transfer... Buddah's name be praised, indeed! :-) FIVE BAMBOO-POLE HUMAN MACHINE GUNS (out of five).

    DEATH MACHINES (1976, Tubi, Patrick Bromley: 6/6/2017)
    A SPECTRE-like organization creates three racially-balanced, kung-fu-trained, chemically-enhanced and zombie-like (but still good lookin') killers who can't be stopped by bullets or physical pain. Think "Silent Rage" without cowboy hat-wearing Sheriff Norris, just some dumb city cops whom the filmmakers happily forget about constantly (even after a "Terminator"-like precinct assault). While the bad guys corner the lucrative 'hired assassin' market by eliminating the competition (uh?), the hand-chopped-off survivor of a karate school massacre (the fuck!?) has girlfriend trouble when his masculinity is shamed during a bar brawl (WTF?!?!). Fizzles at the end, but this crazy train is worth boarding. FOUR UNWRITTEN POLICE REPORTS (out of 5)

    CITY NINJA (1985, Tubi, hibachijustice: 6/1/2019)
    If aliens from a distant galaxy came to Earth, watched TV, switched between Skinemax softcore porn and a kung-fu/ninja marathon and then decided to smash those genres into one 90 min. incoherent film that tries to tell a story... then "City Ninja" might start to make sense. In reality Hong Kong and South Korea flicks were combined into one crazy tale of the search of a WWII necklace, with hero "Jimmy" either dispatching ninjas like a pro or using girlfriend Linda's legs as deadly weapons. Lots of cool fights (park full of multi-colored exploding ninjas!), but shame the misogyny/rapey vibe come through loud and clear. 3.25 ROWING EXERCISE MACHINE THRUSTS (out of 5).

    1. City Ninja really is something else man

    2. I could have written a 4,096-character review (the limit of each posting) on just the sex scenes. It ends up entertaining, but at the 30 minute mark I gave up trying to keep up with anyone or anything. And it's not until 30 min. left that "Jimmy" and the tattooed fighter from the other movie finally meet. AAAAARGHHH! No joke, at several points I wanted to rate "City Ninja" as low as '1' for the incomprehensible narrative and as high as a '4' for the quality of the fights. '3.25' is my poor man's attempt to compromise somewhere in the middle. :-P

  2. ONE-ARMED BOXER (1972, dir. Jimmy Wang Yu) on Amazon Prime

    If you are looking for cartoonish kung fu, this is an ideal film. Characters perform all kinds of strange feats and take absurd levels of punishment. If you turn off your mind and go along for the ride, you will likely have a good time.

    Starring and directed by Jimmy Wang Yu, One-Armed Boxer is, surprise, a revenge story. (So many of these kung fu films have revenge plots.) When a criminal group destroys his martial arts school in an epic fight, Tien- Yu’s character- finds himself without a home and minus one arm. With the help of the people who take him, Tien will become stronger than he was before and challenge those who killed his master.

    Incidentally, this film is the predecessor to the phenomenal Master of the Flying Guillotine.

    THE EIGHT POLE DIAGRAM FIGHTER (1984, dir. Liu Chia-liang) on Amazon Prime

    By all measures excellent and entertaining kung fu, yet I still have the sense of a film going through long-established motions.

    When the original star of the film died in a car accident, The Eight Pole Diagram Fighter was rewritten to focus on Gordon Liu’s quest for revenge for the wronged Yang clan. It is a simple story with elements drawn from past films, including The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (one of my favorites). As usual, Gordon Liu is terrific, and the final confrontation is both intense and creative. Though unmistakably in the Shaw Brothers style, a certain staleness had crept in to that style by the early 1980s. Even the sets had probably been used for countless films by then. People like Jackie Chan and John Woo, who had started out working in these period films, were poised to create something new in Hong Kong cinema by the time The Eight Pole Diagram Fighter came out.

    There is, again, that issue with the dubbing. The way the characters are referred to (5th Brother, Eighth Sister) is ridiculous. The dubbing for Fifth Brother is especially terrible.

    With so many kung fu movies on offer on Prime, here are a few recommendations.

    King Boxer (1972) – One of the first international kung fu successes

    Lady Hermit (1973) – Fantastic film with two strong female leads, including the great Cheng Pei-Pei

    Masked Avengers (1981) – A Venom Mob film with a bloody finale.

  3. Iron Fists and Kung Fu Kicks (2019, dir. Serge Ou)

    A documentary about the history and influence of Hong Kong kung fu movies, edited for viewers with ADHD. A pretty basic approach with talking heads and plenty of clips from movies, but it's a formula that works when the subject matter is interesting.

    The trouble is, this kind of a doc always makes me want to add a few dozen movies to my already packed watchlist. Case in point:

    Five Fingers of Death aka King Boxer aka Hand of Death (Tian xia di yi quan) (1972, dir. Chang-hwa Jeong)

    The movie that (at least according to the above documentary) was responsible for kickstarting the kung fu film craze of the 70's in America.

    I'll be honest, the plot largely passed by me while I focused on the fight scenes, which are numerous, meticulously choreographed and at times brutal. The highlight is a fighter gouging an opponent's eyes out with one swift move. The final ten minutes is pretty amazing, almost non-stop action. Also, loved the use of that short clip of the Ironside theme, which Tarantino undoubtedly lifted into Kill Bill from this.

    1. I want to learn that Iron Fist technique, Mikko.

      The more I watch Lo Lieh, the bigger fan I become. I particularly like his villains.

    2. Lo Lieh's baddie in "Vengeful Beauty" (sending his sons and daughter to clean-up his mess and keep it hidden from the emperor) makes his eventual final battle against Chen Ping such a treat.🧐🤓☠

  4. Five Element ninjas (1982)

    Really loved this one. A simple story structure (ninja clan gets ass kicked by rivals who use the elements , ninja clan trains to beat them, comes back and kicks their asses) and cool use of the whole element gimmick made this one a very fun and breezy watch. Also, the first and last 30 minutes are basically just nothing but fights and it’s awesome. Highly recommend this one.

  5. The Chinese Boxer (1970)

    Pretty basic story but the fights and acting by Jimmy Wang Yu really sell it.

    It's a shame that our medical workers often couldn't get PPE as good as Lei Ming wears in the last 45 minutes.

  6. Beach of the War Gods

    1973, dir. Jimmy Wang Yu

    Once again, thanks Elric and Brian (Tarantino too, I guess). This was a fucking blast. Exactly the kung fu banger I was looking for, full of tropey shit, badass characters, and wild, non-stop fights. Jimmy Wang Yu recruits a squad of specialized badasses to lead a peasant resistance against invading Japanese raiders. Everyone gets a scene to tease their specific weapons or fighting styles - huge sword strong guy, dark and edgy merc with throwing knives, guy who only fights with two shields, spear guy - and then it’s non-stop shenanigans for the last half of the film. I definitely yelled “FUCK YEAH!” with a pumped fist on several occasions as characters fully posed out or when key villains were dispatched in victorious slow-mo. Oh, and the best part is that the main samurai warlord villain is played by Fei Lung, aka “Evil Betty” from ‘Kung Pow: Enter the Fist’. Not a complicated film but certainly an entertaining one that’s definitely in need of a solid BluRay release.

  7. Kill or Be Killed (1976)

    That was fun! I can’t go so far as to call it a good movie, but it was a fun movie and frankly in today’s climate that’s pretty much all I can ask for. It’s the age-old story that you’ve heard time and time again: a nazi and a Japanese warlord recruit fighters to have a tournament in an ancient castle to determine....something. Ahhh, who cares as long as people are kicking each other in the face.

    It clearly wants to be Enter the Dragon but it’s barely even Enter the Gecko. It’s absurdly cheap (the “castle” is more clearly a model than Camelot in Monty Python and the Holy Grail) and to call the performances (particularly James Ryan in the lead) amateurish would be giving them a touch more credit than they may deserve. Even still, it’s entertaining enough that none of that matters, and some of the fighting is surprisingly solid. Looking forward to checking out the sequel, Kill and Kill Again, though maybe the RiffTrax version is the way to go.

  8. Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (1993) - I know it's not a "real" Kung Fu film, but I can't think of any other movies in recent memory that succeed on three different levels. This works as: 1. a standard biopic, 2. an homage to the films of the subject portrayed (the alley fight with the restaurant workers, the opening scene with the sailors, etc.), and 3. a meta-theatrical "supernatural" element that allows the movie to comment on events that have transpired since the story depicted (the death of Brandon Lee, etc.). Am I wrong? Are there others movies that do this?

    1. They're a bit more common in Hong Kong and China, especially when it comes to Bruce Lee. This is definitely the biggest Western movie to try this kind of mythologizing though

  9. The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978)

    With most of the run time dedicated to the training and dedication needed to be the best - and seek revenge - this movie never drags. Super well made.

    If you haven't seen, do for it.

  10. Crippled Avengers (1978) Textbook Shaw awesomeness and another in the How did I miss This pile. I’m more a Lau Kar-Leung guy than a Chang Cheh guy, but I definitely can appreciate Cheh. I think I had this confused with that Crippled Masters movie that’s always on trailer comps, so avoided it (Is that any good?) This was a lot less exploitative than I thought it would be, never really being a freak show. The disabilities add character dimension- They are punished for their hubris through their disabilities- Wei’s big mouth leads him to being deafened, Wang Yi’s pride at his kung fu knowledge leads to him being mentally disabled,etc. More importantly though, they work to break down the elements of a total kung fu master- sight beyond sight, awareness beyond what the senses reveal. In its’ way, it’s as profound about the transformative power of the martial arts as 36th Chamber of Shaolin is. It helps the copy I watched is gorgeous. Every other Cheh/Venoms movie I’ve seen in washed out, cropped, awful dubs, but this was a nice rip off a Blu with subs and widescreen. The Shaw production value really shine through when you watch a decent copy. The sets are as much a little idealized diorama of the historical time as a John Ford western set. This was a nice surprise today, I expected to enjoy it as trash but I got a lot artistically and intellectually out of it. Great kung fu too- The last fight is jaw dropping. The Venoms had real chemistry and seeing them fight together is a thrill.

  11. 5 Deadly Venoms(1978)

    Come for the kung-fu. Stay for the muffled Bane mask voice over of the Scorpion. Toad style-4-life

  12. Invincible Shaolin (1978, dir. Chang Cheh)

    I think I've seen this before but I can't remember. It's awesome either way. I love all these Venom Mob movies. Thank you, Junesploitation, for making me a better kung fu fan.

  13. Dreadnaught (1988) Amazon Prime

    Getting in another Woo-Ping Yuen for the month, this time with Yuen Biao as the lead. The movie is in a lot of ways similar in tone to something like Magnificent Butcher (the writer here was co-writer on Butcher) and both feature Tak-Hing Kwan playing his best known role as Wong Fei-Hung.

    As one would expect there are some excellently choreographed and imaginative action sequences here. It's a shame this movie hasn't been released on blu ray. While it looks good on Prime there is no subtitled version of the movie. It's not too terrible as it doesn't detract from the broad comedy but given that it's harder to find movies that feature Yuen Biao as the lead (without sharing the spotlight with Jackie or Sammo) it would have been nice to actually be able to hear him. Very much recommended though.

  14. Death Promise (1977, dir. Robert Warmflash)

    I'm sure this would have been way better in a packed house at the New Beverly Theater, but I thought it was just ok. Starts out very slow with way too many scenes of landlords debating the bureaucracy of tenant laws and rental real-estate concerns etc. (what is this The Phantom Menace?). But in the second half once the revenge starts happening it's pretty great. The Kung Fu is not very good, but the bizarre energy behind it is a sight to see. Reminded me of Miami Connection. Recommended.

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  16. The Delightful Forest (1972)

    Nothing gets me more hyped than the Shaw Brothers opening logo and the theme song.

  17. Black Belt Jones (1974)

    This movie's got it all: bad acting, cheesy dialogue, cartoonish villains, cheap sets, ridiculous fighting choreography, shoddy editing, a plot that manages to be both silly and confusing - in other words, it's perfect. I enjoy a lot of movies, but not every one manages to make me genuinely happy. This one did.

    Some personal highlights include:
    - Sydney "doing the dishes" with the help of a .38;
    - Pop's insta-death (I know Matt Sollenberger pointed this one out yesterday, but it really bears repeating);
    - Pinky getting hit with a pool ball in the teeth (after trying to do the same to another dude in an earlier scene - that's karma for you!)
    - Black Belt apparently working as a trampoline instructor who teaches teenage girls (?);
    - an elaborate Looney Tunes-worthy heist plan that hinges on a polaroid being placed in front of the security camera lens;
    - an insane romantic sequence on the beach, which includes Black Belt punching balloons and karate chopping a tent support, as well as a hippie guy's guitar getting smashed to pieces;
    - Black Belt stopping Sydney from putting her panties on not once but TWICE in the span of two minutes while the're running from the mob;
    - the climactic fight scene in a foam flooded car wash with bad guys getting loaded onto a garbage truck one by one (by Sydney who, it should be stressd, courtesy of Black Belt's sudden aversion to underwear still has no panties on).

    1. Haha glad I didn't oversell it! That "romantic" beach sequence was something. It was so weird and went on so long. Heck, I wouldn't mind a feature length movie of just that.

    2. I hear you. That beach love scene (or love chase? or love fight?) was the moment the movie jumped from "this is great" to "holy shit, what is even happening?" for me. LOVED it.

  18. Crippled Avengers (1978) dir. Chang Cheh

    What can I say that hasn't been said, watch it today. Make sure you stick around after the credits for the War Machine stinger.

  19. Man of Tai Chi (2013, Keanu Reeves)

    Dan picked this. I wasn't expecting an actual Martial Arts movie. I really liked it. I don't think it all comes together, and maybe we didn't need the police sub plot. There's too much going on but there's some really interesting stuff going on. Chen Lin-Hu is great and I love the whole blending of the traditional and spiritual fighting with the Master, the contempoary with the tournaments and what was happening in Keanu's anything goes 50 shades of gray room.

    Also Keanu really leans into everyone is watching, the cops are watching, people watching the tournaments, Keanu watching the people watching the tournments. We're watching Keanu watching the people watching touraments, and also watching the police watch him. There's a lot of watching.

    Man of Tai Chi was a surprise. And it's usually my favorite kind of surprise during Junesploitation.

    You Owe Me A Life.

    Disciples of Shaolin (1975, Chang Cheh)

    I get it man, it's always about the shoes.

    Just a fun time sitting on your couch watching a movie. Alexander Fu Sheng is such a likeable everyman. I had a blast.

    The trailer for this movie made it look like the Shaw Bros. doing Romeo and Juliet, but that’s not quite the movie. A beggar gets involved with a martial arts school, and then finds romance with a magical girl who lives in the woods. That might sound simple, but there are a ton of other characters and factions, and everybody has some elaborate backstory. I gave up trying to follow the plot after a while. Then the third act introduces a… thing that changes the tone considerably. The movie is bright and colorful and beautifully filmed, so there’s that at least.

    30 days of HELLO MARY LOU: PROM NIGHT II, day 12
    Toady’s viewing was to concentrate on Kelly, the mean girl. While Mary Lou wanted to be prom queen to pull one over on everybody, Kelly seems to think being prom queen is genuinely important. Her arc is doing anything – and I do mean anything – to be prom queen. She’s an antagonist, yet Kelly’s final scene is disappointing in comparison to the other, more over-the-top kills. The earlier scene where Vicki slaps her, though, is terrific, and always gets a big reaction from anyone I’ve shown the movie to.

  21. Tiger Claws (1992) Amazon Prime

    Fairly typical for a Rothrock movie, she gets paired with some uninteresting male lead (in this case Jalal Merhi) who proceeds to take up a lot of the focus. At least she gets to fight the villain (Bolo Yeung) a couple times, but this is not a particularly great movie.

  22. The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978):

    I kept imagining each chamber as a Willy Wonka challenge. Like if Charlie Bucket had to move a cinder block with a bamboo stick to prove his worth as a chocolatier, that’d be cool.

    Five Fingers of Death (1972):

    Hard to tell much of anything on Amazon’s amazing non-anamorphic VHS transfer, but I’ve seen a lot worse.

    1. Five Fingers of Death is also available as King Boxer on Prime. It it fully restored and widescreen.

    2. Yes thank you. I would love to see what most of it looks like especially the sequence towards the end that is in the DARK!! lol...great movie though, i cant wait to unleash it on my friends

  23. One Armed Swordsman (1967, dir. Chang Cheh)

    This was a lot of fun. Sword Lock, never park your car without one.

  24. Iron Fists and Kung Fu Kicks (2019, Serge Ou)

    An Australian produced docuentary on the history of Kung Fu movies. It's awesome. It goes from Shaw Brothers Come Drink With Me till Today, it rushes by everything but it's fun. Though what I loved about this doco is that it not only gives a context to the Kung Fu genre, but also about Exploitation in general is great. The movie really digs into the influece of Kung Fu how people took it remixed it and served it back, whether exploiting is for profit or making a whole new genre out of it. Also the movie digs into how Kung Fu movies were watched, 42nd Street, VHS, or Youtube. As I said it gives context to Kung Fu and now I want to watch all the movies

  25. The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978)

    "I should have learned Kung-Fu, is instead of ethics! What good is that?"

  26. Day 12

    Five Fingers of Death (1972)

    A terrible print on Amazon Prime couldn't kill my liking this great kung fu revenge flick. Two rival houses go to war before they must fight in a tournament. The kung fu was more violent then I was expecting but seeing the rival house get the payback they deserve always suck me.

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

    This was the first movie I ever watched for a Junesploitation Kung-Fu day, and I just felt like revisiting it. It succeeds most on how fun the characters are, and the fights are a blast. I've always watched Shaw Bros flicks for this day, but now I feel ready to move on to something new.

  28. Mystery of Chess Boxing (1979) w/live commentary from RZA and Dan via 36 Chambers. I'm just really starting to love Kung Fu, and already feel the final fight of this film is something to be reckoned with.

    Great coincidence having just watched snake in the Eagle's Shadow last week as this film is so very clearly trying to capitalize on what Chan brought to the genre. So much overlap, yet does it's own thing enough to make a worthy double feature.

    RZA is done for the month, but the format is such a great time and so worth the price of admission. Feels good, as someone living in CT, to be able to engage in fun film events like this.

  29. Fist of Fury (1972)

    Great fun! Totally surprised by the James Bond-esque title song.

  30. 14 Blades (2010)

    Fun, well choreographed fights. Quite stylish. I dig it.

  31. Ninja III: The Domination (1984, dir. Sam Firstenberg)

    Ninja possession through the lens of Cannon Films?! Sign me up! Just in time for the new How Did This Get Made? episode as well. The stars always align during Junesploitation.

  32. Reign of Assassins (2010)

    Pay attention because between the double crossing, face changing, constant flashbacks, surprise I'm-not-dead reveals, and the 20 characters to keep track of, you're in for a doozy. Wire-fu work with direction help from John Woo. Given a day to process, an enjoyable film.

  33. The Big Boss (1971)

    Somehow, I had never seen a Bruce Lee movie. I gotta say...he's pretty great!

  34. The One-Armed Swordsman (1967)

    This was a good time. I can't even imagine how great this film would be if he had 3 arms.

  35. Ip Man (2008)

    Besides Rogue One, I had never seen a Donnie Yen. I now have and he's terrific. I got to see him save a nation!

  36. Warriors Two (1978)

    Sammo Hung for president!

  37. The Way of the Dragon (1972)

    Kinda boring. Big Boss was much more entertaining.

  38. Bloodsport (1988, dir. Newt Arnold)

    Not my favorite Van Damme film: it seems like he hasn’t really figured out how to play to his strengths as an actor, and the formulaic plot takes a bunch of goofy unnecessary digressions. Still, more splits than a bowling alley! And Bolo Yeung totally crushes it...I lost my mind when he nonchalantly clears his nostrils while preparing for a fight. The level to which he doesn’t give a shit is some next level non-verbal comedy.