A Fistful Of Kung Fu

Or maybe a double-fistful... I got a little carried away, just so I can have something to point to if I feel like slacking some week. Now, onward to the grindhouse...


Crack Shadow Boxer (C, 1979) aka Crack Showdown Boxers, Mang Quan Quai Zhao. If this were a Western, Don Knotts would be starring in it. A couple of wandering conmen get in numerous slapstick fights (usually with dissatisfied customers) as they go from village to village selling "iron strength pills." One village they come to mistakes them for a couple of expert fighters they hired to chase off the evil Tiger Gang that's been squeezing the village for protection money, unaware that the real hired fighters have already been caught. The con men are getting money, food, and sex with nymphomaniacs, so they go with the scam. Luckily the bandits are idiots and mistake the con men for great fighters. One of them manages to win fights just by being clumsy, and he dubs that "stumbling style kung fu." He also wraps himself in rubber tubing (even though the movie appears to be set in the distant past, before such things were invented), and gets a lot of silly fighting out of that. There are more "sad trumpet" wah-wah-wah's and goofy sound effects in this than any cartoon I can think of. Lots of fights, but all of them silly, and only for those with a high tolerance for kung fu comedy.

Death Duel of Kung Fu
(C, 1979) aka He Xing Dao Shou Tang Lang Tui. Two stars from Secret Rivals are reunited in this classic. Wang Tao is a Ming patriot who infiltrates the invading Chings so he can cut the head off of their leader. He escapes, and their new leader decides that the only way to keep the army from losing what little morale it has left is to hunt down Tao and kill him. His kung fu is too good for them, though, and he mows down all their forces, no matter how many they send. Nobody's luck holds out forever, though, and eventually he's wounded and rescued by John Liu. When Tao recovers, he and his rescuer plan a duel just to see who's the best fighter, but the Ching leader (Eagle Han) shows up in the middle of the fight, and Wang Tao thinks that John Liu is working with them. Liu leaves Tao to face Eagle Han, who's nearly unbeatable, and Tao is beaten again. He soon recovers and starts training extra hard, but he still may need Liu's help to defeat the Ching leader. The fighting in this one is frequent and amazing, with John Liu's amazing leg control getting a real showcase here. He often stands on one leg and fires off several strong kicks without ever putting his other foot down. And Wong Tao and Eagle Han are no slouches, either, with Han's form so expert they couldn't resist having him display it without an opponent in several scenes. Music stolen from Hang 'Em High is used to great effect. Top kung fu film.

Whole movie online here.

Double Dragon In Last Duel
(C, 1985) A bad guy with a white stripe in his hair like a skunk poses as a friend to a local magistrate, so he and his gang can steal a gold shipment. In so doing they kill off most of the magistrate's family. He takes his young son into hiding, where a white-haired monk trains him in kung fu. Then he grows up and goes out seeking vengeance, with help from a stranger who sides with him, apparently because they both have the same ridiculous bell-shaped hairstyle. Things escalate to Shakespearean proportions, but they aren't really capitalized on. Average (other than being South Korean) but entertaining, with even worse dubbed dialogue than usual and a lot of grandiose gesturing to make up for a lack of skill. And ya know a ponytail used as a whip that can shatter trees is just goofy already.

Enter The Invincible Hero
(C, 1977) aka Heugpyobigaeg. The always-entertaining Dragon Lee and a rare appearance by the incredible "Human Tornado" Casanova Wong give a surge to this otherwise-average kung fu flick from lackluster director Godfrey Ho. A sinister bald guy who has a medallion around his neck that lights up when his "chi" gets intense has been scamming a money-delivery agency he's working for. He arranges to have the shipments robbed by some scurvy bandits (including a hunchback who uses his hump as a weapon and a guy who butts everyone with his stomach) and splits the take. Dragon is hired by the agency and gets ripped off by the bandits. It's his responsibility to pay it back... and the only way he can do that is to get to the bottom of the whole crime ring and then shut it down. And that won't be easy since there are some incredible fighters amongst the opposition. One guy (the one in the red suit) has kicking prowess that almost shows up Casanova's (he's the guy with the white glove), and that's really saying something.

Whole movie online starting here.

Executioners From Shaolin (C, 1977) aka Hong Xi Guan, Executioners of Death, Shaolin Executioners. Lo Lieh plays Pak Mei, an invulnerable White Eyebrow Priest similar to the one he played in Fists of the White Lotus. Chen Kuan Tai (from the 70's Iron Monkey) is a resistance fighter, sworn to kill Pak Mei to avenge his destruction of the Shaolin temple. The only problem is, Pak Mei has only one vulnerable spot, and it only exists between 1 and 3 o'clock. Chen trains while raising a family, and he practices on a bronze statue full of grooves with rolling metal balls, so he can get the knack of chasing down Pak Mei's vulnerable spot. But he stubbornly refuses to learn his wife's crane style to supplement his own tiger style. Eventually he comes to regret this, and it's up to his son to correct the mistakes (by developing a style that would become Hung Gar) and get revenge. Classic kung fu; the first half hour's a little sloppy (despite a guest appearance by Gordon Liu) but after that it's top notch stuff.

Whole movie starting here:

Fist Full of Talons
(C, 1983) aka Hu Ying, Wind Forest Fire Mountain. The underrated Billy Chong stars as a young martial artist who has a hobby of collecting the braided pigtails of Ching-loyal Manchurians who are trying to re-take the country after a revolution. He eventually goes into hiding at an abandoned temple with a stranger who, using tactics from Sun Tzu's Art of War, teaches him how to improve and best utilize his kung fu skills in order to defeat the Manchurians. He gets extra help from a little bandit and his seriously-gorgeous falconer fiance. And he'll need help, because the chief bad guy has armored legs... Well-done kung fu with better production values than usual.

Flag of Iron
(C, 1980) aka The Spearman of Death, Tie Qi Men, The Spearman. The plot of this Shaw Brothers classic starring the Venoms contains Shakespearean levels of treachery. The Iron Flag Clan (so named because they use huge flags as weapons) have a feud with the Eagle Clan, and during a peace talk the Eagles ambush them. In the ensuing fight ten Eagles are killed, and someone kills the Iron Flag chief. The Eagles press charges and one of the Iron Flags, Brother Lo, agrees to be a scapegoat and is exiled for a year, working a menial job as a waiter. The new Iron Flag chief acts grateful and promises to send him money, but the money never comes. Assassins show up instead, but Lo manages to kill them all first... even the guy who uses an abacus as a weapon, and The Dangerous Kid, who uses a sword that seems comical at first. Lo makes it through all the assassins but is finally wounded in a trap/torture device, but, with the help of a spearman and some true brothers, he manages to get revenge. I held off on getting this for a while because I thought flags would make for silly weapons, but actually they're pretty impressive, and there's tons of fighting without them, anyway. Bloodier than usual, and with better dialogue. Really good.

Whole movie online starting here:

Half A Loaf of Kung Fu
(C, 1980) aka Dian Zhi Gong Fu Gan Chian Chan. If you couldn't guess from the title, the credits sequence with Jackie Chan parodying lots of kung fu archetypes should let you know you're in for something silly. A young Jackie, sporting a long ponytail on an otherwise-awful haircut, gets a houseboy job at a palace, has dreams about being Popeye, then loses his job by being a peeping tom. While running away he happens upon two men who are fighting. They kill each other and Jackie takes the credit since there's a $500 reward. Everybody (in a town where everyone seems to twitch or stutter or fart) thinks he's a hero named Lu Lu Long, so he tries to pick up kung fu tricks to live up to his new reputation, but still gets by mostly on luck. It starts running out when he gets int he way of a gang of bandits led by a "witch woman" who is after some magical evergreen jade and "soul pills." Because Jackie has more guts than brains, an old beggar agrees to train him in kung fu. And, as usually happens, he learns enough to engage in a big climactic battle against the bad guys. Too silly and slapstick to work as a real kung fu movie, and not slapstick enough to be one of Jackie's best, but it's still okay viewing for real Chan-fans. Will disappoint the new jacks who ware expecting crazy stunts and stuff, though.

Here's the opening with the parodies (gotta love Jesus!):

Kung Fu Genius (C, 1969) aka Tian Cai Gong Fu. Cliff Lok has mastered all kung fu styles -- including a few he made up -- and so he considers himself a genius and, at the urging of his idiot pupil, opens a kung fu school. This puts him in conflict with students at a Spiritual Boxing school in the same town. he doesn't have much trouble dealing with all the attacks (which are pretty constant -- even thought this is a comedy it's heavy on the action sequences, which are well-done), his pupil is beaten up until he goes insane. Because he mows down everyone who goes against him (even a really silly-looking duck fist style is no match), they bring in a very dangerous guy who uses a fan as a weapon. Meanwhile, the insane pupil and another nutcase bond over a melon they've befriended. Yes. Includes music stolen from a wide variety of sources, including Rocky and Lucio Fulci's The Beyond.

Witness... duck style!

Whole movie starting here:

Lord of the Wu Tang (C, 1993) aka Yi Tian Tu Long Ji: Zhi Mo Jiao Jiao Zhu, Kung Fu Cult Master, The Evil Cult, The Swordmaster. A weird combo of a kung fu movie and a shroomhead's feverdream, starring Jet Li. It's hard to follow, because the cheap DVD I got has horrible subtitles and the movie's chaotic to begin with. As a kid, Jet was hit with a poisoned "Jinx Palm," which left him too weak and sickly to avenge the deaths of his parents. But one day he and a female friend find a crazy old monk who rolls around in a boulder he's embedded in, because he has a broken back. He attacks Jet and causes him to spit up things that look like pieces of candy, which cures him, and also teaches him kung fu which makes him nearly invincible. He can fire solar beams out of his fists. There's also a disguised woman named Master No-Mercy who has a magic glowing sword that does all kinds of crazy stuff. He battles her, then armies of Ming who want to destroy both Shaolin and Wu Tang, and he's aided by the power to learn any kind of martial art in minutes. It's difficult to make sense out of this but it's a constant barrage of wire-fu, with people flying around, shooting things out of their sleeves, and all sorts of highly-imaginative weirdness. Plus, several pretty girls. So don't expect regular kung fu -- it's more along the lines of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon -- and don't worry about it making sense, just go with it.

Opium and the Kung Fu Master (C, 1984) aka Hung Kuen Dai See, Lightning Fists of Shaolin, Master of the Hung Clan. The majestic Ti Lung is a skilled teacher of kung fu who begins socially dabbling in opium-smoking and soon regrets it in this Shaw Brothers classic, which emphasizes emotion almost as much as action. The workers in Ti Lung's town turn into addicts when an opium den opens for business, and their productivity drops, if they show up for work at all. Ti tries to keep them in line, but his own opium use is starting to get out of hand and it's affecting his fighting skills. One of Ti's students is disgusted with the tragedy the drug abuse is causing and he tries to burn down the opium den, and then dies trying to defend a weakened Ti from the drug-dealing gangsters. With the help of a blind master, Ti struggles to kick his habit and regain his skills so he can run the dealers out of town. He tries to train in kung fu while going cold turkey, but only more tragedy can give him the motivation he needs. Lots of pathos and an impressive climactic battle make this an unusual, standout kung fu masterpiece.

Whole movie online starting here:

Sister Streetfighter (C, 1974) aka Onna Hissatu Ken, Female Fighting Fist In Danger, Lady Karate, Woman Certain Kill Fist. Sue Shiomi's brother disappears while on an undercover mission, infiltrating narcotics smugglers. Since she's got enough skill in the martial arts to stab flies with toothpicks and feed them to obnoxious punks, she decides to go after him. Even though she can handle the bad guys alone, she gets help from lord-god-king-badass himself, Sonny Chiba (as "Sonny Hibachi"). One of the bad guys is Masashi Ishibashi, who played "Junjo" in the first two Streetfighter films, but here plays a guy named Hammerhead, whose crew all wear baskets over their heads. She'll have to deal with them if she hopes to rescue her brother (who they've hooked on heroin) and stop them from smuggling drug-impregnated wigs (yes, wigs) out of the country. There's also a guy with a mohawk who uses a blowgun, and some Amazons who dress like Fred Flintstone! They all get their asses kicked, and they deserve it! She also sends Rev. Star, a former preacher who uses a speargun, to Hell. And dozens more! Despite getting star billing, Sonny Chiba's only in this for a few minutes. But that's okay, because it means more screen-time for Sue. Decent karatefest that's not really connected to Chiba's Streetfigher franchise in any way.

Whole movie online starting here:

Triangular Duel (C, 1972) aka Tie San Jiao. A rickshaw man who trains in martial arts gets in the middle of struggle between rival kung fu schools. One of the schools wants to take over the rickshaw man's school, but his teacher refuses to consolidate. The other school insists, resulting in a lot of fighting between the students. The rickshaw man also has some training in Japanese fighting styles and is only taken on as a student because he promised not to fight... but of course he does, which gets him in trouble with his teacher. The bad guys make it almost impossible for him to keep his promise, especially when they start interfering with his girlfriend... who's apparently the daughter of the rival school's leader. The intricacies of the plot are pretty tough to follow since this is on a Mei Ah DVD, and they're notorious for terrible "Engrish" subtitles. Ordinarily these can be hilarious, but when you're wanting to actually keep track of the story, it's tedious to figure out what they meant to say when things like "He took up the dull willingly. No man can be blamed even if he died" are the norm. Fortunately there's still a lot of pretty decent fighting going on, especially when the bad guys use their "Iron Triangle" secret -- a guy with super-strong fists, a guy with super-strong feet, and a guy who can take all kinds of beatings without even noticing. The rickshaw guy will have to find a way to defeat it, and the climactic duel goes on for quite some time, veering into mud-wrestling in a lakebed. Good kung fu movie, too bad it's so poorly served by the subtitles.

Unbeaten 28
(C, 1980) aka Wu Dang Er Shu Ba Chi, The 28 Wonders of Wu Tang. An evil kung fu master (played by Mark Long, aka Ghost Faced Killer) murders a whole family except for a baby who gets rescued. He's trained in kung fu since infancy and grows up to be a fighter called Tiger (Meng Fei), and in order to obtain a super-secret kung fu manual he goes through a Shaolin chamber of 18 traps and tests, such as stone men, crushing doors, and other expert fighters. He's nearly killed by the process and it takes him several tries to make it through. When he finally gets the book he's infuriated to find it blank... but his girlfriend discovers that water and heat make the ink appear... but the book only contains instructions on how to beat the obstacles he faced to get the book. Realizing his struggle has taught him all the kung fu he needs, he heads out to face the supposedly-invincible master who killed his parents. Well-done, training-sequence-heavy kung fu film that's another version of 18 Bronzemen... and that's a good thing.

Whole movie online starting here:

Young Avenger, The (C, 1980) aka Ban Ye Xiao Zi, The first thing you'll notice about this rather strange kung fu flick is that it steals lots of the Ennio Morricone score from Sergio Leone's Duck You Sucker, burps and all. But it's probably most famous for being the movie where the guy uses a "Swiss Army spade" as a weapon. A young graverobber with no respect for the dead (he goes weewee in burial urns) gets haunted by a rotting-faced ghost who wants him to track down his killers. During the day the ghost hides under a bamboo hat and demands that he throw death-money around at all bridges and Buddhas, which makes everyone think the guy's crazy. The graverobber's kung fu isn't quite up to the task of wiping out the killers, so the ghost trains him... and tells him that he's not really a ghost, just a guy with a scarred face (it was eaten by ants after he was betrayed by some evil co-workers). Even more surprising, his name is Bud! Pretty good kung fu that knows when to drop the comedy. The Swiss Army spade finale is worth the wait.

Young Tiger (C, 1973) aka Xia Lao Hu. Meng Fei stars as a happy-go-lucky motorcycle-riding kung fu student who's not terribly bright but is highly skilled in martial arts. A gang of thugs try to frame him for murdering a guy he had a fight with, and he makes things worse by escaping and running away when the cops bring him in for questioning. He hides out at his girlfriend's apartment (clever, nobody'd ever think of looking for him there), but the thugs are after him, too, wanting to kill him before he can clear his name. They think they kill him by throwing him over a cliff, but he fooled them and comes back to battle them by the dozens. As a subplot, the thugs run a blackmail ring, taking pornographic pictures of their targets fooling around with whores. The soundtrack treats you to some strange saxophone-and-organ versions of classic rock songs like Led Zep's "Immigrant Song" or "Move Over" by Janis Joplin.

Whole movie online here (the Led Zep song is at the beginning, if that's all you're interested in):

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