Archive for the Chen Kuan-Tai 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: 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.

The Water Margin (1972)

Posted in Chen Kuan-Tai, David Chiang, Ti Lung, Wu Ma with tags , on December 12, 2014 by Michael S. Moore

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Starring Ku Feng, Chin Feng, Yueh Hua, Fen Mei Sheng, Ti Lung, David Chiang, Lily Ho, Cheng Lei, Lui Tan, Wu Ma, Wang Chung, Peng Peng, Lo Wei, Chen Kuan Tai, and pretty much anyone who has ever been in a Shaw Brothers film.

Fight Choreography by

Directed by Chang Cheh

THE MOUNTAIN BROTHERS ARE ALL HERE!

Those words reverberated through me at the age of eight, as this was the first martial arts film I over watched with my Dad, the first of many during Kung-Fu Saturdays, and I had visions of characters with such awesome names as Young Dragon, Red-Haired Devil and moves with names like the 13 Throws of Young Dragon, The Triple Kick Of Death. I had never seen anything like it. I found it so much more interesting than any cartoon or comic book at the time. Little did I know who much this film would help forge who I am today. So is it as good as I remembered it?

The film starts with introductions for each character, and dang it, it’s an hour into the film before they are done with them! It’s actually kinda funny and would make a great drinking game. “Drink every time you see a Chen or Feng on screen!” You’d be drunk ten minutes into the film!

We are introduced to the 108 bandits who are more freedom fighters than anything else: the Liang Shan fighters. We pick up where their leader, Chao Gai, is hunted down and killed by Shi Wen Gong for the Zeng Family, a powerful and corrupt family aligned with the government. The other LiangShan fighters vow vengeance, but first they must find a fighter who is the equal of Shi Wen Gong. They find such a fighter in Lu Chun I and his protege , Yen Ching but Lu Chun I is in trouble himself as he is betrayed by his wife and her lover, his own steward. The rest of the film deals as the fighters of Liang Shan take their revenge and save Lu Junyi as well…

The film itself it as epic a Shaw Brothers film as you’ll ever find. You’ll probably find every location on the Shaw Brothers lot has been used, casts of hundreds (cannon fodder baddies, but whatever) and colorful characters with names like The Timely Rain, Red-Haired Demon, Black Whirlwind, The Rash, The Pallid, and so so many more. The film mostly concentrates on Lu Chun I and Yen Ching, but that’s okay because everyone is larger than life in this film, and it reminds me of the American Film All Quiet on The Western Front, which starred most of the actors of the day. The deaths are all operatic and funny to watch as characters are skewered multiple times but have enough gumption to say something or do something before expiring, even with things like spears, arrows, and axes in their bodies! Chang Cheh is the best of the Shaw Brothers directors, and his skills are on full display here, using every camera angle and style in the book to deliver an epic film, at a time when “epic” and kung-fu movies were not synonymous.

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The music deserves a mention here as well. It’s a different animal all together, and has some really funky themes, like the Chiga-Chiga-Cha! whenever Yen Ching shows up, and the soulful singing that occurs throughout the film. It all fits perfectly, but on paper you wouldn’t think so.

The fights are pretty good, but it’s the finale of the film where it all comes together and shines brightly. It’s all full of Shaw Brothers goodness. Ti Lung gets the most work here, and looks great doing it. It’s actually funny to see the Shi Wen Gong call out the moves for his students to watch out for…right before the move actually happens, which winds up killing his students! There are better fights in other Shaw Brothers films, but it’s the story, not the fights, that is the winner here.

I know this may be a biased review by me, but…

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 10

One of the absolute best of the Shaw Brothers library. Full of operatic acting and epic battle sequences and fights, Chang Cheh pulls out the stops to deliver an epic tale of honor, loyalty, and justice!

Philip Ng kicks ass in Once Upon A Time In Shanghai! (2014)

Posted in Andy On, Chen Kuan-Tai, Philip Ng, Sammo Hung, Yuen Woo Ping on December 6, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

Once Shanghai

What can I say? This movie looks like 2014 is gonna get started the right way! With this, Police Story (it’ll be 2014 before we get it in the states) , The Protector 2, The Raid 2: Berandal and perhaps Unlucky Stars (Dennis Ruel, I gotta see this, man! At this point I feel like a junkie looking for his fix!), plus a new film from Michael Jai White, Jeeja Yanin, more Tony Jaa and Jason Statham on the way 2014 is shaping up to be something special, if all expectations are met. Philip Ng is a great martial artist, deserving of stardom that has eluded him, but I think this will get him into the big time. With Sammo Hung, Andy On, and Chen Kuan Tai on hand, and fight choreography by Woo Ping, I think this film will be…awesome.

 

 

 

Review: The Flying Guillotine (1975)

Posted in Chen Kuan-Tai, Norman Chu on August 12, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

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Starring Chen Kuan-Tai, Ku Feng, Frankie Wei, Norman Chu

Fight Choreography by Hsu Erh-Niu

Directed by Ho Meng-Hua

The Shaw Brothers was my gateway drug into martial arts films, as I’m sure it was for many fans like myself. I’m not sure which was the first Shaw Brothers film I ever saw, but this one was the most memorable. A crazy weapon, kung-fu, and a great performance by the legendary Chen Kuan-Tai.

The film begins during the Ching Dynasty, and Yung Cheng is the Emperor, a cruel man who would do anything to make sure even the slightest thought of rebellion against him is squashed. This includes two unfortunate government officials who try to defend a scholar who broke the law trying to teach the uneducated. The emperor decides to have both popular officials killed, but needs a way to have it done that doesn’t come back on him and cause the people to rebel. Xin Kang (Ku Feng) is ordered to come up with a way to kill them. After some colorful thinking, he comes up with, and you guessed it: The  Flying Guillotine, an spinning disk attached to a chain that once thrown, can wrap around the head of a target and with a simple pull chop the head clean off. The emperor, impressed by his new beheading device, (once he sees it in action, taking off the head of a dog!) orders Xin Kang to teach his twelve best personal guards, as they would never betray him. Enter Ma Teng (CKT), a loyal guard who quickly figures out that yes, he does work for a douchebag. Man quickly becomes the best of the guards at using the Guillotine, and after a few kills questions the fact that all the men killed were good men. After the death of a friend, Ma Teng escapes the compound, but is harassed by his former friends. Time passes, and Ma Teng takes a wife and has a child, but the Guillotines finally catch up to him. Ma Teng must now kill them all to ensure his family’s safety…

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This movie is really a campy film. The effects are laughable, the beheading scenes downright hilarious, and without a doubt this is a terrific film. Chen Kuan Tai gives a great performance as the guard with change of heart, and his fight scenes are great. Ku Feng quickly becomes sympathetic as the leader, a man who wishes to serve his emperor but not understanding the douchebag his boss actually is, until it’s far too late. The story moves at a good pace, and the moments before the Guillotine strikes are well done and lend an air of suspense to many scenes. My favorite kill doesn’t actually involve the Guillotine itself, but CKT throwing a sword. It’s one of those “ Oh no he won’t! Oh shit, he did!” .  

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The fights are well put together, and mixes up the combat with the guillotine strikes well. One of the better fights was actually the scene were Ma escapes the Guillotine compound. Another good tussle involves Ma versus two guillotines as his future wife plays music to cover up the sounds of Ma’s fight so the local officials don’t intervene. The end of that fight and the use of the guillotine was really well done. The entire end sequence was just a series of well put together fights. There isn’t really one absolute standout fight, but many small (but good) ones, but it’s all wrapped around the concept of the guillotine, and so the whole is greater than the parts.

I will say this: Norman Chu has one of the best death scenes ever. No one has a better look of ‘awe mixed with pain as he dies’ than Norman Chu.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 9.5

The Flying Guillotine is an absolute classic Shaw Brothers film that allows Chen Kuan-Tai to cut loose and kick ass with one of the best kung-fu weapons ever!

NEXT: Is the remake of The Flying Guillotine better than the original? Here comes the Guillotines!

Review: The Man With The Iron Fists (2012)

Posted in Andrew Lin, Chen Kuan-Tai, Corey Yuen, Cung Le, Daniel Wu, Gordon Liu, Grace Huang, Leung Kar Yan (Beardy), Lucy Liu, Rick Yune, RZA with tags , on November 3, 2012 by Michael S. Moore

Starring RZA, Rick Yune, Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu, David Bautista, Jamie Chung,Byron Mann, Cung Le, Daniel Wu, Gordon Liu, Chen Tai Kuan, Leung Kar Yan (Beardy), Grace Huang, Andrew Lin, Dennis Chan, Pam Grier

Fight Choreography by Corey Yuen

Directed by RZA

The Wu Tang Clan is without a doubt one of the best hip hop groups of all time, basing their music on their love of kung fu films, and even their names professed their love for the genre, all taken from kung-fu films: RZA, GZA, Ghostface Killah, Ol’ Dirty Bastard (ODB), Method Man, Raekwon, Masta Killah, and U-God. The 36 Chambers, of course taken from Gordon Liu’s 36 Chambers of Shaolin, is considered one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time, and even some of their music videos show off Shaw Brothers inspired kung fu fight scenes. So of course when word came that RZA was making his own kung-fu film excitement spread among his fans due to his love and pedigree. With an assortment of current and old school stars, we now have The Man With The Iron Fists.

The film follows the exploits of three heroes: Blacksmith (RZA), an escaped slave that came to the small town of Jungle Village in China after his ship crashed, and becomes a renowned weaponsmith, who hopes to make enough money to buy prostitute Lady Silk (Chung) whom he is in love with from Madame Blossom, who runs one of the best whore houses in China.

The second hero is Jack Knife (Crowe), a vulgar British man who arrives to Jungle Village, waiting on a shipment of gold to arrive sent from the Emperor.

The third hero is Zen Yi (Yune), son of Gold Lion (Chen), who is the head of the Lion Clan, who comes to Jungle Village to avenge the murder of his father at the hands of his lieutenants Bronze Lion (Le) and Silver Lion (Mann) and Poison Dagger (Wu).

Jungle Village is soon overrun with men who arrive to attempt to steal the gold shipment when it arrives, and the Lion Clan succeed in doing so, killing the Gemini Clan who had been sent to protect the convoy. The Lion Clan is also joined by Brass Body (Bautista), a man who can actually turn his skin into actual brass, so weapons have little effect on him. The Emperor, enraged at the theft, sends his soldiers with a new weapon from America: The gatling gun, with order to raze the village to the ground if the villagers don’t turn the gold over to the soldiers. Now Blacksmith, Jack Knife and Zen Yi must enter the Blossom and face the Lion Clan, the prostitutes who are far more deadly than they seem, and a metal man in an attempt to get their revenge and save the town at the same time…

A football analogy may best describe this film: That of a wide receiver jumping up in the endzone covered by two cornerbacks and makes a spectacular catch only to have the ball slip through his fingers just as he’s touching down. This film has a lot of problems, but also has quite a few things that the RZA did do really well. The cast was well chosen with the exception of one cast member. Russell Crowe was actually really good as the crude, rude Jack Knife (the character was modeled after the late ODB), Lucy Lui also does a fine job as Madame Blossom, bringing a lot of personality and deadly beauty to the role. Cung Le is also very good as baddie Bronze Lion, and the list of supporting characters is just awesome: you have the great Gordon Lui, Beardy, and Chen Tai Kuan all looking great to see on screen again. Special recognition to Grace Huang and Andrew Lin as the Gemini Twins. They had a short amount of screen time but were two of the most interesting characters in the film, that I really wanted to see more of, and seeing Dennis Chan (Kick boxer) and Pam Grier rounds things off nicely. Daniel Wu was miscast as the main villain as Daniel doesn’t know much in the way of martial arts and it shows, but he can look menacing. I wish they had gotten someone like a Yuen Biao or Lo Meng or hell, why not Wang Lung Wei to play his part. Rick Yune does fine job with the action but his acting is very one-note, but of all the cast members, one sticks out as the worst, and it brings the film down a lot.

That would be the RZA himself.

He’s really not very good as an actor, and he’s not a martial artist, and that is a bad combination (he did use Marrese Crump as his martial arts stuntman, which causes problems of its own) . For his character to work he had to be good at one or the other. As the film goes on that becomes a problem as he simple can’t pull off the dramatic scenes. This is a role that should’ve gone to a Michael Jai White or Wesley Snipes, men who are good at both acting and martial arts. The RZA gets so many things right, but this one piece of hubris brings everything down as he can’t carry the film in his scenes.

The directing by the RZA is decent, and the production values are top notch, and the music is absolutely fantastic, featuring the Wu Tang Clan at its best, and really fits with the look of the film (showing once and for all that yes, hip hop music in a martial arts film can work if done correctly). The first 30 minutes of the film is absolute top notch, from the old school opening credits to the first fights, but after that the story settles down and becomes a been-there-seen-that affair as nothing new is brought to the table, except gore on the level of Story of Ricky, so this film is not for the squeamish. The climactic fights at the end of the film for the three protagonists is resolved so simply it brings down the level of threat the villains ever had to begin with. The camera work is well done, but another culprit rears its ugly head, one common to American action films: editing, but I’ll get to that as part of my next problem with the film.

That would be the fight choreography by Corey Yuen. Tons of unnecessary wirework, and dammit Corey goes slumming again. I thought Romeo Must Die would be his low point, but he manages to nearly hit that point again. The fight scenes are not very well done. There is no complexity to the choreography, no grace, even for those who know martial arts. This is the biggest sin this film commits. The editing does nothing to help, as it is editing in typical American MTV style quick cuts and extreme close-ups to the point where you can’t see where the hell anyone is at in relation to each other. It is also here that the RZA’s camera work (or that of the 2nd unit director if there was one) really let the film down, as they don’t know how to shoot or follow action very well. This may be due to the fact that things had to be edited to appear as if RZA knew martial arts and to hide his stunt man. If Corey Yuen directed these scenes, then shame on him. Either way this wouldn’t have passed mustard in a Hong Kong production.

I did love the Shaw Brothers-inspired closing credits, though.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 6

The Man With The Iron Fists falls short of greatness, but isn’t a terrible movie, and fun may be had if you see it at matinee prices. The RZA’s heart is in the right place, but in the end it’s just an American film pretending to be a Shaw Brothers film.