Archive for the Chang Cheh Category

Review: Crippled Avengers (1978)

Posted in Chang Cheh, Chen Kuan-Tai, Chiang Sheng, Dick Wei, Lo Meng (Turbo Law), Philip Kwok, Sun Chiang, Wang Lung Wei with tags on August 18, 2016 by Michael S. Moore

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Starring Philip Ko, Lu Feng, Wang Lung Wei, Dick Wei, , Sun Chien, Chen Kuan Tai, Lo Meng, Chiang Sheng

Fight Choreography by Sheng Chiang, Lu Feng, Robert Tai

Directed by Chang Cheh

The opening of Crippled Avengers is a bit different from the Shaw Brothers norm: We see the son and wife of To Tin Tao (Chen) attacked by an evil group called the Tigers of Tian Nan. The wife has her legs cut off and dies, while the son has his hands cut off but lives as Tao returns and straight up kills the three attackers led by the great Dick Wei. What’s cold about this is he actually tells them he’s got 3 kung fu moves, one for each of them, that will kill them, and does exactly that. Tao then vows to give his son mechanical arms and train him in Kung Fu. What’s different about this opening is that many times this is the start of the hero’s story, but here we see the origins of the villains instead.

This is cold, man. Just cold.

This is cold, man. Just cold.

Years later we find that To Tin Tao has become a despot, using his son To Cheng to take over the town they reside in, and they cripple anyone who gets in their way. They start with the sons of the very men who killed Tao’s wife and maimed To Cheng by simply crippling rather than killing them.

Soon they run the town like gangsters, and start their terror by putting out the eyes of a hawker Shun Chen (Ko), making the loudmouth blacksmith deaf and dumb (Meng), A poor nobody named Hu (Chien) who got in their way loses his legs, and the warrior Wang Yi, who tries to take vengeance for the three crippled men is made mentally incapacitated in a method that makes no damn sense. All four men go to Yi’s kung fu Master who teaches them the hawk style, giving each man a method to overcome their disability and kick so, so much ass. They train for years, before returning to town to face To Tin Tao, To Cheng, and Mr. Wan (Wang Lung “finger wag” Wei) for a final showdown…

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This is a classic Chang Cheh film down to its bones. Each actor brings themselves to the parts, and it’s fantastic. The story itself is quite good, and while I was sympathetic toward To Tin Tao and To Cheng, it quickly passed as their acts of evil became more and more cruel. Audiences are then given a group of heroes we really want to see win. Philip Ko leads the group and does so well despite the fact he has to act blind, which he does a good job of. But it’s Chiang Sheng who is the standout here, as once he’s injured, he has the mind of a child and fights in a way not unlike Jackie Chan did in films like Young Master and Drunken Master. His acrobatic work is astounding, and he brings a lot of energy into the fight scenes that really didn’t need more! I wasn’t impressed with Chen Kuan Tai or Lu Feng. They are both good villains, but just that. I had hoped after the beginning of the film they would be more complex characters, but they aren’t, and the acting here is pretty one note.

The training sequences of this film are great, and a real standout, as are the various fights were Mr. Wan tries to trap the Avengers only to have them outsmart him at every turn, whittling down his dozens of men until they finally face To Tin Tao. Each fight has a suspense-building mechanism that is appreciated and kept me invested in the fights, and the fights have the trademark Chang Cheh fast paced cadence, so there is no fight that is ever one note or boring.

Yes, The Man With The Iron Fists was influenced greatly by this film. Wish they had paid better attention to the far, far better fights. ( I didn’t have to go there, but I yes did.)

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 9

Another piece of greatness from the Shaw Brothers and Chang Cheh. Philip Ko and company deliver an exciting kung fu film! One of the classics!

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Review: Five Elements Ninjas (1982)

Posted in Chang Cheh on May 23, 2016 by Michael S. Moore

It’s ladies night at La Bare’s.


Starring: Lo Mang, Cheng Tien Chi, Michael Chan, Chen Pei-Hsi, Kwan Fung

Fight Choreography by Cheng Tien-Chi

Directed by Chang Cheh

Shaw Brothers films have ranged the gamut, presenting Kung fu fighting in all its forms, but this film is one that presents Kung fu differently: Ninja insanity.

The film begins as two of the best martial arts schools engage In a little competition. Meaning they manage the order of their fighters and pit them against each other like a game of Magic the Gathering. Chief Hong’s students are getting owned by the students of Master Yuan Zeng, until Hong introduces a fighter from Japan, who defeats one of Zeng’s students, and after a comment about how a loser in Japan would kill themselves, the student suddenly kills himself without anyone verifying if what the samurai said was indeed true. Methinks he really jumped the gun on that one, but Sheng (Lo Mang) uses his bare hands to defeat the samurai, causing him to commit ritual suicide, but not before tossing his ring at Master Zeng, who catches it, realizing too late the ring was poisonous. Weeks later the brother of the Samurai, the head of a ninja clan arrives to take revenge for the death of his brother (even though it was a fair fight, and he killed hims–oh let’s not think too hard on this). He does so by first using his five element ninjas to lure Zeng’s best fighters to a dual that’s anything but fair, and then attacking the Master himself. The ninjas succeed in killing off the entire clan except for Hao, a young fighter who had learned a little bit of ninja skills from a local retired ninja master. He saves himself from the massacre and runs to the ninja master, who agrees to train him and three others in styles and weapons that will defeat the five elements ninjas…

This movie is nonsensical, with giant plot holes and some really fake looking scenes, but dammit I had crazy fun watching this! This is not one of Chang Cheh’s best films, but it is one of his most entertaining films. Cheng Tien Chi is great as Hou, the only real student of Zeng’s who has any common sense, and I love anytime you can give me some Lo Mang, who doesn’t disappoint as a fighter who prefers to use “dem hands” rather than a weapon. Michael (Wai-Man) Chan is sufficiently evil and posturing as the leader of the ninja clan.

The effects work is laughably bad, even by Shaw Brothers standards. Some sword stabs are hilariously bad as you can see the sword just going by their side, and some of the final battles had limbs that tore off a little too easily

The fight scenes are fast paced and rather excellent, as each Element comes with a new way our heroes have to adapt to fight them. The initial attack on the school is well done and showcase some great ninja scenes, but when the elements take over it gets tossed aside for some strange but cool shots of ninjas posing as trees, ninjas not remotely blending in with the water in a stream, and flashy gold ninjas that look like something from Power Rangers.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 8

Is it the best film in Chang Cheh’s filmography? Hell no, but it is a fun film to watch. I’m sure drinking games already exist for this one!

Review: Shaolin Martial Arts (1974)

Posted in Alexander Fu Sheng, Chang Cheh, Fung Hak-On, Leung Kar Yan (Beardy), Simon Yuen, Wang Lung Wei with tags , on November 20, 2015 by Michael S. Moore

Shaolin Martial 3

Starring: Alexander Fu Sheng, Chi Kuan Chun, Gordon Liu, Leung Kar Yan (Beardy), Wang Lung Wei, Fung Hark-On, Simon Yuen

Fight Choreography by: Chia Tang and Beardy

Directed by Chang Cheh

Here we have yet another film that proves that Alexander Fu Sheng was taken from us far too young. his onscreen demeanor made him an instant star, and he kept getting better with each film, and I think this film sits high on his small filmography…

At the Temple of the God of Chivalry, both Shaolin and Manchus are having a annual ceremony paying tribute, but things go south as the leader of the Manchu’s, Master Yu, complains that he should lead the tribute rather than the representative from Shaolin, younger master Cheng, who is there because the Shaolin leader has taken ill.  Of course you know the Manchus want to start crap just to start crap, and one of their men obliges, taking a perceived insult as a reason to gut one of the Shaolin. This begins a brawl that ends with the authorities showing up and for all intents and purposes taking the side of the Manchus. We soon find out that the General of the Manchus wants to wipe out the Shaolin permanently, and brings in two men to do it, both of them with seemingly invincible marital arts.

As their numbers dwindle, it’s up to a small group of Shaolin fighters to defeat the two invincible fighters by learning new styles of kung fu, but time is running out, and the bodies of the Shaolin are piling up…

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For anyone who is a fan of Shaw Brothers films, this plot line is repeated again and again in many of their films albeit with a tweak here and there. That doesn’t mean the film isn’t entertaining, though. The film does manage to be suspenseful as they are not afraid to kill off a slew of good guy characters. Fu Sheng is his normal playful onscreen persona, and as per usual in the these films (Gordon Liu isn’t The Greatness Yet) Gordon doesn’t stick around as much as I’d like. Of course Simon Yuen makes anything he’s in a better film, and the Old Dirty Bastard once again arrives to raise the film up in the middle before things slow down too much, even though he’s more subdued here as a cantankerous kung fu master.

The fight scenes are really good here, comparable with some of the best moments from Chang Cheh’s many films, particularly the final fight between Beardy and Fu Sheng, which seemed to move faster than the typical Shaw Brothers fights,  but the Mortal Kombat-style finishing moves here are something special, from a disembowelment to eye gouging to absolute testicle destruction that just looked painful as hell. Actually kudos to every actor for making their death scenes look so painful I think I’d rather be eaten by a wild animal than die by kung-fu move.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 8.5

Alexander Fu Sheng leads an All Star cast of badasses in a fun but familiar kung fu tale, with a ton of action scenes and memorably bloody deaths.

Review: All Men Are Brothers (1975)

Posted in Bolo Yeung, Chang Cheh, Chen Kuan-Tai, David Chiang on March 20, 2015 by Michael S. Moore

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Starring David Chiang, Ti Lung, Chen Kuan Tai, Wai- Man Chan, Lo Wai, Tatsuro Tamba, Lei Lung, Danny Lee, Bolo Yeung, Chin Feng, Zhu Mu, Fan Mei-sheng, and still pretty much anyone working for the Shaw Brothers not named Wu Ma.

Fight Choreography by Liu Chia-Liang

Directed by Chang Cheh and Wu Ma (he’s still there)

Chiga-Chiga-Cha!

That is the theme music whenever Yen Ching (Chiang) shows up in this film. All Men are Brothers is the direct sequel to The Water Margin, itself one of the Four Great Classics of Chinese literature, once again bringing us back to the adventure of the 108 Outlaws of Mount Liang, as we pick up after some time with the giant cast, as Yen Ching is approached by the Emperor, who offers amnesty to the outlaws if they do a job for him, mounting and assault on an impregnable fortress of invaders called Fang La in a campaign that is suicide even at the best of times. So of course the 108 outlaws take the challenge, and mount an epic battle to the end to defeat the invaders and with their amnesty.

Things don’t go as planned as the outlaws find that Fang La lives up to its reputation, but a small group led by Yen Ching enter the fortress in disguise, but things still go wrong, and the assault on the fortress must begin within, as the rest of the 108 outlaw are en route, needing the gates to be opened to mount a proper assault or be slaughtered. Thus, the group that entered into the fortress lead an attack that makes them legendary…

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The acting here is great, and it’s fantastic to see the 108 outlaws again, but it’s bittersweet, as this is truly a Heroic Bloodshed movie, and the majority of those that survived The Water Margin don’t make it here, but go out in a whirlwind of heroic actions. David Chiang is the more up-front star here, and while Ti Liung is touted a lot, he really doesn’t show up as much. Fan Mei-Cheng actually shows up quite a bit more as the lunkhead Black Whirlwind, and his character, whom I loved in the first film, I screamed at in this film as he is the one who truly messes things up and starts the road to death that claim the majority of the cast. Chang Cheh once again brings his “A” game, as all of the Shaw Brothers actors, and the story moves along briskly enough. It was also great to see the great Bolo Yeung, although having him defeating in a wrestling match with David Chiang stretches the limits of all believability.

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The fights here are good, exactly what one expects from Liu Chia-Liang. This film is more of a war film than anything else, and there is no real standout except for maybe the battle between Chen Kuan Tai and the two generals. Weapon fights rule the day here, mostly consisting of swords and spears, and a ball and chain in once scene. All expertly done, but no real standout sequence.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 8

A well made sequel to my favorite of all the Shaw Brothers films and brings the story of the 108 Outlaws to a spectacular blood-drenched end.

Review: Golden Swallow (1968)

Posted in Chang Cheh, Cheng Pei Pei, Jimmy Wang Yu, Lo Lieh with tags , on December 30, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

Golden Swallow Cheng Pei Pei

Starring Cheng Pei Pei, Jimmy Wang Yu, Lo Lieh

Fight Choreography by Tang Chia and Liu Chia-Liang

Directed by Chang Cheh

Golden Swallow is the sequel to Come Drink With Me, and Cheng Pei Pei returns as Golden Swallow, a warrior woman who has now found peace with her friend and potential lover Iron Whip Han To (Lo Lieh) who only fights as a last resort. Of course their peaceful existence doesn’t last long, as Silver Roc (Wang Yu) an old lover of Golden Swallow, starts killing members of the evil Golden Dragon Clan and leaving evidence that Golden Swallow was responsible in order to draw her out of hiding for reasons to be revealed. Add to to all of this an evil kung fu lord and dozens of inept bad guys, and what you get is a drastic reduction in the population of China. Oh yeah, and Golden Swallow is torn between both men as she loves them both.

Golden Swallow Lo Lieh

Chang Cheh is very much in his operatic form here, and it’s okay, not great, but shows the greatness that’s to come in his future features. There is some great scenes here, particularly right before Silver Roc’s attack on the Golden Dragon Clan headquarters, as they punish three unfortunate henchmen for sucking really badly, and later as they accuse a young boy of theft, and the fate of the boy and his father really shows how bad the Clan actually is. Jimmy Wang Yu is an unlikeable prick as Silver Roc, and plays that to the hilt, making one wonder what Golden Swallow saw in him to start with. Lo Lieh is his always cool self as Iron Whip, and seems to take a zen approach to everything, which is good considering all the death and violence that will surround all of the characters before the end of the film, and Lo Lieh is able to pull it off with ease. Golden Swallow surprisingly takes a little bit of a backseat to the proceedings here, but she is still the main character, and Cheng Pei Pei plays her as beautiful and fierce, but this time torn between her love for two men, and her confusion is well played.

Golden Swallow Jimmy Wang Yu

The fights are better here than in the previous film, and the choreography has improved, if not the “fighting speed”. The fight at the Peace Tavern (heh) was good, and Cheng Pei Pei did a great job here, and looked much more comfortable with the fight choreography, which is still very dance-like, but showed a little bit more grit than Come Drink With Me. The finale with Jimmy Wang Yu versus a horde of Golden Dragon henchmen is terrific, and a fitting Heroic Bloodshed finale for the film.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 7

Golden Swallow is a fun Heroic Bloodshed film that was a taste of the things Chang Cheh had in store for audiences everywhere featuring a fierce performance by the first lady of Kung-Fu, Cheng Pei Pei!

Next:  Jean Claude Van Damme’s splits make their first appearance in No Retreat, No Surrender!

Review: Blood Brothers (1973)

Posted in Chang Cheh, Chen Kuan-Tai, David Chiang, Ti Lung with tags , , on January 30, 2012 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Kuan Tai Chen, Ti Lung, David Chaing, Ching Li

Fight Choreography by Liu Chia-Liang, Tang Chia

Directed by Chang Cheh

Chang Cheh is widely considered the “Godfather of Hong Kong Cinema” and for a good reason. He’s had over 100 films within the Shaw Brothers stable, and helped to create the Shaw Brothers “brand”, making some of the most recognized old school kung fu films out there, but few costumed epics are as dark and unforgiving as Blood Brothers.

David Chiang and Kuan Tai Chen star as Chang Wen Hsiang and Huang Chang respectively, two thieves during the Ching dynasty who try to rob the wrong man in Ma Hsin I (Ti Lung). Ma’s kung fu turns out to be far better than they expected and so they decide to team up with Ma to defeat some of the other bandit gangs and bring them under their banner, or more to the point, Ma’s. The seeds of evil are planted as Ma begins to covet Huang’s wife Mi Lan (Ching Li) who also falls in love with Ma. Ma decides to take the officer’s exam to gain more power as an official, and has Chang and Huang watch over the gang until he calls for them. Some time later finds Chang and Huang being called to take the gang to Ma, who will now make the soldiers for his army. Ma still covets Huang’s wife, without Huang noticing, and Ma hatches a plan so that he and Mi Lan can be together forever with unforeseen and tragic consequences…

One note: This is one downer of a film, a greek tragedy in many respects. It’s dark and only gets darker, mainly due to the performances of the leads. Ti Lung, in one if his few villain roles, really does a fantastic job as Ma Hsin I, an ambitious man who wants to climb higher and higher, and isn’t afraid to step on his friends to do so. He never sees himself as a villain, but as a man who believes that he is deserving of anything he tries to attain. Kuan Tai Chen probably had the easiest role as happily ignorant Huang Chang, a fun loving man who doesn’t truly understand the depths of his wife’s and Ma’s betrayal of him until it is far, far too late. David Chaing also gives one of his best performances as his cousin and friend, and the one who figures out what is going on and is too late to stop it. He carries the weight of the world on his shoulders as the film progresses, and his burden is painted all over Chaing’s face in every scene.

The genius of the film rests with the fact that we know early on Ma’s ambitions in regards to Mi Lan, but the suspense is in waiting for the dominoes to fall as Chang and Huang realize what’s been happening, and what their response will be to their betrayals. Chang Cheh’s cinematography shines in freeze frames and quick zooms that never takes us away from the action. The fight choreography is good but not great. The fights are mostly weapon fights, but what sells them are the actors. Of all of them Kuan Tai Chen has the best fights, particularly toward the end. The final fight of the film is also good but better fight choreography can be found in other films, but the acting during the final fight is exceptional. both David Chiang and Ti Lung sell those scenes as two men who know that no matter what happens the endgame of the fight will remain the same, but it doesn’t matter.

Blood Brothers is a look into a bond between men that is destroyed by one brother’s envy. One of Chang Cheh’s best.

(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best):

CHOREOGRAPHY: (8) The fights are good and carry the story along. The weapon scenes are done well, as are the giant battles between any of the main stars and the cannon fodder.

STUNTWORK: (8) Also good work by all involved. The giant battles really show the dedication of these guys to making it all look good. Especially scenes where they roll down hills, and they do this a few times.

STAR POWER: (10) David Chaing, Ti Lung and Kuan Tai Chen reached new heights of stardom after this film, and cemented their place as Shaw Brothers stars.

FINAL GRADE: (9) Blood Brothers is a film that features good fights, but the operatic story and acting are what make this movie a martial arts classic.