Tag Archives: Kung Fu

Kung Fu Theater: Shaolin vs. Lama

This year’s pride parade got a little…out of hand.

  • Title: Shaolin dou La Ma
  • Year: 1983
  • Availability: There is a commonly available, English-dub only DVD on the market.

As a Kung Fu fan, I have a truly tremendous pool of material that lies before me. The modern form of the industry has gone through no less than EIGHT distinct “periods” in the 50-odd years it has existed, and as mentioned, some of the studios and directors were remarkably, terrifyingly prolific, putting out near to a dozen films per year for decades. And this is compounded by the immensity of the “Shovel-ware” subdivision, as I like to call it: the quick, made-on-a-buck schlockfests that were put out in the industry’s prime to make a quick profit with as little effort as possible.

Although entertaining in a sense, you generally want to avoid these. You’ve seen them; terrible actors, awful martial arts featuring men flailing at each other stiffly in some sad facsimile of combat, and occasionally whipping out plastic “weapons” to assault the air with. Pretty much, the quintessential “chop socky” flicks that, to this very day, relegate the Kung Fu flick to niche status in the eyes of the general public.

There are telling signs: improper use of a camera, leading to everyone being slightly off-center. Terrible, repetitious dialogue in both English AND Chinese. Bad sets, costuming, fighting, it all just looks terrible. And look out also for a generic (well, more generic) title: any combinations of “Master”, “Shaolin”, “Temple”, “Monk”, “Killer”, “Vs.”, “Fighter”, “Deadly”, “Bloody” and “Bruce Lee” are all big red flags. The best of these tend to be hilarious in their way, and the worst are awful, boring affairs that will just hurt to look at.

“Bruce Lee: Big Red Flag” ironically also the name of an energy drink, coming to you this fall…

But, what happens when those red flags are wrong? What happens when, despite all the signs saying the piece should be terrible, it in fact turns out amazing? It still has all those terrible pieces, sure, but it manages to be amazing in that one, all-important way, and pulls itself up to where its flaws become charm points, and it’s strengths colossal victories? Oh, it can happen, dear readers. It can happen… Continue reading

List76: Hachi’s Top 24 Kung Fu Fights

If you are like me, then this is one of the most wonderful sights in the world...

It may have come to your attention by now, but I like Kung Fu movies. As a matter of fact, I love them. I love all the cheesy, epic, glourious, laughable, jaw dropping, awe inspiring, heartwarming, heart pumping beauty of the genre itself. Directors like Yuen Woo-ping, Chang Cheh, Lau Kar Leung, Corey Yuen, John Woo, Tsui Hark, Tong Gai, King Hu, Sammo Hung, and everyone in between and beyond. But most of all, even beyond the mood, the fondness for the sets and the actors and the directors, the thing I love most is the fights.

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Kung Fu Theater: Bloodsport

Jean Claude Van Damm: kicking Chinese people in the throat since 1988

The “American Martial Arts Flick” is certainly a unique creature. It exists as an imitation of its China-born brethren, and is typically held in far lower regard by the general fandom. However, if one were to delve into the world of these misfit animals, they would find a fanbase there just as loyal as the legions of the Hong Kong faithful. And you might even find yourself growing a certain fondness for them as well, if you give it a chance. The way I see it, the American breed can almost be seen as the “store brand cereal” of the Martial Arts world. They lack mascots, uniqueness, and generally cannot recreate the combination of taste and texture that makes “Lucky Charms” and the like so popular. But in tasting it, you understand why there are fans of it, as the cereal has it’s own unique charm.

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Kung Fu Theater: Opium and the Kung Fu Master

Kung Fu will change your life! Side effects may include yelling, punching things, justice, punching things, a tendency towards monologuing, and punching things. Ask your doctor is Kung Fu is right for you.

God, that’s a silly title isn’t it? It sounds like the single greatest buddy cop show ever: “Veteran detective Craig “The Kung Fu Master” Kavorsky teams up with hot young cop Andre “Opium” Andorhal, and together, they solve the cases no one else can” *cue Isaac Hayes-style opening theme* Then again, the title it was known by upon arrival in the U.S. back in the day, “Lightning Fists of Shaolin”, isn’t much more dignified.

Nah, but great title aside, “Opium and the Kung Fu Master” is a shockingly dark, well made film from the twilight years of Shaw Bros. Studios, and shows that, even if it is corny, a Kung Fu film can deliver a good story alongside its kick-ass fights. Starring several all-time greats at the top of their game, including legendary leading man Ti Lung and future Gallants star Chen Kuan-tai (who I wish so hard played a character named “Opium”), and featuring immensely satisfying fight scenes choreographed by six (yes, SIX) fight directors, O.A.T.K.F.M. (I am not typing that whole thing again) is a worthy send off for Shaw and an amazing film in its own right.

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Kung Fu Theater: Fight! Dragon! (aka Tatakae! Doragon!)

Two rape faces, and what appears to be the opening to Japanese "Little House on the Praire".

While roaming the aisles at an FYE I frequent, my eyes came upon a most curious little treasure. A kung fu television show. Now, of course, such an idea is not unheard of. The classic David Carradine TV show aptly named “Kung Fu” is one of the most popular examples. And other shows like “The Green Hornet” had elements of Kung Fu in them, with that show having a pre-stardom Bruce Lee. But this item was different. It was a genuine production from Japan, and starred people who were (gasp!) actually Asian. The box proudly proclaimed that it was “available for the first time in the U.S.” and that it starred Bolo Yeung (most well known as Chong Li in Bloodsport) and Yasuaki Kurata (numerous Shaw Bros. movies and probably known to more modern audiences as the Kung Fu master Fumio Funakochi in “Fist of Legend“). After seeing that I could get my Kurata on, and that it cost only twelve dollars, I bought the show immediately.

Getting home, I realized a few things: First, the box art was…odd. It had a picture of Bolo, true, but it was one of him from Bloodsport. And there was some random dude who was not Yasuaki Kurata posing behind him. Moving on from that, I would find out that Bolo’s character lasts a mere 2 episodes of this 26 episode show. Despite these early issues, I can gladly say that “Fight! Dragon!” is one of the best investments I ever made, and is a grand example of schlocky, Kung Fu action at its best.

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Kung Fu Theater: Gallants (2010)

Yeah, these are our heroes. AKA the coolest old people you will ever see.

Note: This review will contain minor spoilers. Nothing you couldn’t see in the trailers, but if you want to be completely surprised by what you see, then don’t read until after you have watched the film.

There’s an old, very popular saying :”You can never go home”. For those who are extremely thick or just don’t want to think too hard about it, the quote is (for my purposes) talking about the unstoppable march of time, and how no matter how much we might want to return to certain periods in our life, we cannot, and must simply accept that.

Even sadder, this refers to the mundane as well as the temporal. In gaming, I’m sure everyone reading this has had the experience of trying to play an old favorite, anticipating a repeat of that glorious initial rush, and were crushed to find that their rose tinted memories were nearly incommensurable with what was before them. Sure, it was probably still fun, but was still a mere shadow of the ecstasy they once provided.

This proves true of movies as well. For the purposes of this review, let us talk about how it affects Kung Fu flicks. Now, it is true, Kung fu movies actually can weather the test of time better than most. Good action choreography is still good whenever it’s watched, and the classic stories and character types still provide just as much joy as they did in the lost days of yore. But despite the well aged aesthetics, the soul that was so paramount to these movies, that impalpable enthusiasm and spirit, faded with the mid-80’s.

So what does this have to do with Gallants? Because, of all it’s many achievements, the best thing it did for me is showing that, even though you can’t go home permanently, you can still visit a lost time, if only for a few hours.

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