Archive for the Lo Lieh Category

Review: Clan of the White Lotus (1980)

Posted in Gordon Liu, Kara Hui, Lo Lieh, Lui Chia-Liang, Wang Lung Wei with tags , on October 1, 2018 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Gordon Liu, Lo Lieh, Wang Lung Wei, Kara Hui, King Lee

Fight Choreography by Lui Chia-Liang

Directed by Lo Lieh

Executioners of Shaolin is one of the classic kung-fu films, and created the quintessential white-haired-master-you-should-not-dick-with in Pai Mei. Hell, even Quentin Tarantino brought Pai Mei back in Kill Bill, so you know Pei Mei is an asskicker. But he’s dead, so what to do for a sequel? Can it match the insanity of the original?

Then Lo Lieh shows up and says “hold my beer”.

Gordon Lui (who played a character who got killed off in a hail of arrows in the previous film) takes over as Hung Wei-Tien, one of the two heroes who originally sent Pei Mei and his testicles to the grave. The emperor has decreed that the Shaolin were to be left in peace to rebuild their temples. Of course what’s left of the White Lotus clan ain’t havin’ that, and their new leader, White Lotus (Lo Lieh), who happens to be Pei Mei’s bro-in-arms, goes on a killing spree of Shaolin, and eventually attacks Hung Wei-Tien and his partner Wu Ah Bui (King Lee), and of course Hung Wei-Tien survives, along with Wu Ah Bui’s wife Mei (Hui) and in classic Shaw Brothers magic, Hung Wei-Tien must learn a new style of kung fu in order to beat White Lotus…

The film is a fun mix of crazy kung-fu and funny moments not unlike the previous film. Gordon Lui is his normal self (aka the Greatness) and handles both humorous and dramatic moments with the aplomb we are accustomed to seeing. There are so man good moments, like when Gordon Lui shows up to the White Lotus headquarters like he’s arrived at Golden Corral: they’re serving an all you can eat of ass whoopins and Gordon’s got an empty stomach! Kidding aside, one story conceit that I’m happy they turned on its ear is that for once, a woman (Mei) turns out to be the kung fu teacher Wei-Tien needs to defeat White Lotus, and it’s a refreshing take, even though Kara Hui was still woefully underutilized. Lo Lieh is a right bastard as White Lotus, and does a great job of nearly seeming an invincible force of nature that cannot be defeated. There is a confidence to his directing, but with the resources of the Shaw Brothers he had at the time Lo Lieh should be confident, as everyone was experienced in filming the Shaw Brothers Way, from the producers to the set builders.

Lui Chia-Liang is a legend of martial arts fight choreography, and he bring his amazing fight scenes here as well, building each fight in complexity until he cuts loose during the final confrontation at the end, as Gordon Lui takes on not just White Lotus but his lead henchmen as well, and I actually like his fight with the two swordsmen better than his final fight with White Lotus, particularly when he pulls out the bladed three section staff! This isn’t to say the final fight wasn’t good, because it was great, but for pure kung-fu badassery the swordsmen fight was the best.

Some further rambling thoughts:

It’s just not cool to attack someone while they are naked in a bath. Not even if it’s a evil bastard like White Lotus. Bad form, Hung We-Tien!

The Five Point Exploding Heart technique is alive and well.

So many spectacularly badly acted deaths….it’s so good!

Scene where Gordon rips off White Lotus’ eyebrows, and what he does with them is the stuff of legend.

That ending is pure Kung Fu gold! The Greatness gets to celebrate!

 

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 9

Clan of the White Lotus is a worthy sequel to Executioners from Shaolin, and Lo Lieh makes for an entertaining villain while Gordon Lui does Gordon Lui things, which is always a great thing. Kara Hui is a breath of fresh air as the kung fu master!

Advertisements

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: The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978)

Posted in Gordon Liu, Lau Kar Leung, Lo Lieh, Simon Yuen with tags , on June 25, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Gordon Liu, Lo Lieh, Wang Yu, Simon Yuen, Hoi Sang Lee, Chia Yung Liu, John Cheung

Fight Choreography by Lau Kar-Leung

Directed by Lau Kar-Leung

Somewhere around 1978 Lar Kar-Leung, veteran stuntman, actor, and fight choreographer was unhappy with the way that martial arts films were portrayed onscreen, and set about to do a film that would show the philosophy and logic behind the movements. With the help of his Kung-Fu brother Gordon Liu, they would craft a tale of revenge and enlightenment within the form of something that wasn’t well represented in film at the time: Shaolin Kung-Fu. Thus the 36th Chamber of Shaolin was born, and a new gold standard would be created.

The film begins as a group of rebels attack a convoy transporting General Tien Ta (The always great Lo Lieh), and oppressive Tartar general sweeping across the land taking over. Tien Ta engages and defeats the lead rebel in what is a pretty good fight, but very, very weak when compared to what’s to come.  Enter San Te (Liu), a young student whose teacher Mr. Ho works for the rebels, and before long San Te and all of his classmates become couriers for the rebels. This is short-lived, however, as General Tien Ta and his cohorts, General Tang and Lord Cheung find out about this and kill off many students, and arrest all others. San Te and his best friend escape, and only later does San Te find out that his father was killed trying to protect him. San Te and his friend agree to go to the Shaolin temple to learn kung fu so they can take revenge, but they are ambushed by General Tang on the way, and San Te is injured in the escape, but his friend is captured and presumed killed.  San Te arrives at a nearby town where the monks come for supplies, and hides in their cart, and before long finds himself at Shaolin Temple, and after a long time begins to learn Kung-fu, and in the process learns so much more…

The opening of this film alone, showing Gordon Liu going through the forms is one of the best scenes of this ever. Other films did it before, but this one did it the best. The film is at its core one giant training film, and as San Te’s skills grow so does his maturity. The chambers are each magnificent for what they show, particularly the first chamber, the Dining Chamber, where he must make his way across a set of wooden logs floating in a pool of water in order to get to the other side, where dinner awaits. When he falls in he finds he is unable to enter the dining hall until he is dry, but in the time it takes for his clothes to dry the food is eaten up. It is here that one of best lessons for any aspiring martial artist is learned. San Te must master stances, balance and movement here, the foundations of any style one studies.  Without that, your skills can never improve. San Te then does the most important thing anyone can do who looks to becoming a great martial artist… PRACTICE. Only through practice can you reach your full potential, and it is the constant practice that enables San Te to become successful and get past that chamber, as well as all of the others.

The other chambers are brilliant, especially the wrist chamber (painful!) and the staff chamber. You can see San Te’s skills grow as he goes along, mastering each one. Look for the great Simon Yuen (Drunken Master) as the monk who is in charge of the Boxing Chamber.

The best series of fights occur after these scenes, as the skeptical Justice Abbot challenges San Te to a fight with whatever weapon San Te chooses, and each time the Abbot uses a pair of Butterfly swords. The fights here are choreographed masterfully, as San Te is defeated again and again, until he ponders the fights and invents the 3-section staff, which he uses to defeat the Justice Abbot in the best fight of the bunch. The movement and choreography are in great sync here, and both Liu and Hoi Sang Lee do a fantastic job pulling it off.

The graveyard fight is also a stand out as it shows San Te’s skills in relation to the training he’s undertaken. Everything he does makes sense, and the audience knows exactly why he makes the moves that he does because of the training sequences earlier in the film.  Gordon Liu became a star with this film, and it’s not hard to see why. He plays a great San Te, able to show his immaturity and the beginning of the film and then his maturity toward the end, even as he sees his revenge standing right in front of him.  He fights for the people, not for revenge, and Gordon is able to embody this brilliantly. Lau Kar-Leung’s camera work is fantastic, and the composition of each scene is incredibly well done. The camera shifts exactly where it should to showcase the fights in the best manner, pulling back when it needed to and to get closer when it was best, and you always know the space between fighters and their relation to the environment.

The 36th Chamber is a kung-fu classic, considered one of the greatest of all time, and with good reason. All of the parts come together beautifully to form a great cinematic experience. Gordon Liu would become a huge star after this, and Lau Kar-Leung would cement his place as one of the best fight choreographers and kung-fu film directors ever.

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

CHOREOGRAPHY: (10) Not a bad fight in the bunch, and simply gets better as the film goes along. Lau Kar-Leung went into a very deep bag of tricks for this one, and they all worked.  The speed and complexity of the choreography is astounding. As good as it gets.

STUNTWORK: (8) These guys do a pretty good job. Nothing death-defying, but well done.

STAR POWER: (9) Gordon Liu became a big star after this, and Lar Kar-Leung jumped to the top of the heap as a director. Lo Lieh is as good as always, as was John Cheung.

FINAL GRADE: (10)  One of the greatest kung-fu films of all time.  The gold standard many would, and should be judged by afterward. If you want to introduce someone to the world of martial arts in film, this is where you want to start.


Review: King Boxer (aka Five Fingers of Death) (1972)

Posted in Bolo Yeung, Lo Lieh with tags , , on September 11, 2012 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Lo Lieh, Wang Ping, Bolo Yueng, Chao Hsiung, Jin BongJin, Tien Feng, Chin Chi Chu, Chung Ku Wen, Chan Shen, James Nam (Kung-Hsun Nan)

Fight Choreography by Liu Chia Yung and Chen Chuan

Directed by Chang Chang Ho

The moment you hear the opening siren, you know that 1.)You heard this same siren to signal when Uma Thurman was going to go nuts on someone in Kill Bill, and that 2.) Damn does Tarantino have an original thought in his head? King Boxer is widely considered to be the film that started the kung-fu craze in the States that paved the way for Enter The Dragon, which followed the same year.

The film stars the great Lo Lieh as Chih-Hao, a martial artist whose training has gone as far as it can, and is sent with his friend Ta-Ming to study Kung Fu under Master Suen. Chih Hao travels to the town of Ko Kui, where the town is being run by a rich bastard Meng Tung-shan (Feng) and his even more bastard son, who, after witnessing a fight between a mongolian (Yueng) and the mysterious fighter Chen (Chu), are able to convince Chen to join them. No sooner does Chih-Hao arrive in town than he pisses off the gang controlled by Meng to save a local entertainer, Miss Yen. Soon he arrives, and after a year is allowed to fully train under Master Suen, who sees the promise the young Chih-Hao has, and teaches him the Iron Palm technique, so brutal it turns his hands red and anyone hit with a strike from his fists dies in what looks like a pretty painful death. Meng finds out, and tries to destroy the Suen school, and Chih-Hao with it, and mutliple betrayals leads to a satisfying and brutal climax…

The story here is what makes this film great. The fall of Chih-Hao and his betrayal at the hands of a friend, who pays a terrible price for his betrayal by having his eyes plucked out, and the final act, where revenge is paid out to different characters on several levels is classic in the way the plot is constructed as cascading events lead to this inevitable conclusion.  Lo Lieh, who had made a career playing mostly bad guys, is good here as the good guy Chih-Hao, and Tien Feng, always a great performer in Shaw Brothers films, is as good as always as the villainous Meng, especially toward the end when Meng makes a tragic mistake. James Nam is also good as the betrayer Han Lung, who pays a heavy price and becomes a sympathetic character who meets a tragic end with the woman he loves.

The fights here are actually not very good compared to many other Shaw Brothers film, but this truly a “blood capsule” film: whenever anyone is in their death throes they bite down on that capsule and let the blood flow from their mouths to simulate massive internal injuries. The choreography looks almost clumsy at times, as if the fights were put together quickly (they probably were). The camera work does a great job of framing the fights, and this film has no shortage of fights, even if they aren’t as good as they could be.

The final fight between Chih-Hao and Okada turns unto something we’ll see years later in The Matrix films as Chih-Hao starts punching through wooden posts and one strike sends Okada flying into a cement wall, causing a small crater. The effects bring a lot of fun to all of the fights, and could have come off cheesy but work well within the world they created. The camera work does a great job of framing the fights, and this film has no s

On a side note, Kill Bill uses the siren music and other notes from this film, and of course the eye plucking scenes.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 9

King Boxer started the successful influx of kung-fu cinema into the United States, and internationally brought the Shaw Brothers film style to the masses, with a great story and hallmarks that would define old-school kung-fu films of the 70’s.

NEXT: Two brother battle it out in New Orleans in Brawler!

Click the pic below to purchase!

Review: Executioners From Shaolin (1977)

Posted in Chen Kuan-Tai, Gordon Liu, Lau Kar Leung, Lo Lieh, Yu Wong with tags , on June 28, 2011 by Michael S. Moore

starring Lo Lieh, Kuan Tai Chen, Lily Li, Yu Wong, and Gordon Liu.

Fight Choreography by Lau Kar-Leung

Directed by Lau Kar-Leung

The film begins as we center on two fighters: Shaolin Master Zhishan (played by Hoi Sang Lee, the Justice Abbot from The 36th Chamber of Shaolin ) and Pei Mei (Lo Lieh, and yes, it is the same Pei Mei Quentin Tarantino used for Kill Bill) Pei Mei has been ordered to kill all of the Shaolin, and Master Zhishan stands in his way, but not for long as Pei Mei dispatches him after Master Zhishan tries to crush Pei Mei’s testicles and get this:

Pei Mei is able to pull his testicles into his groin. I am not kidding you.

He will pull this trick over and over the entire film. You’ll hear a little popping sound to know his nuts are somewhere within his body. Now THAT is kinda F***ed up. I mean, what happens if they get stuck up there? Do his guys suction them back out with a plunger or something?

I digress. We then follow Hung Hsi Kuan (Chen) as he leads a group of shaolin fighters escaping Pei Mei’s army, when they run into fellow brothers led by Brother Tung (Liu) who, with a small group of men run a diversion so the others can escape. This is Gordon Liu’s one and only scene, and he has a great fight with the soldiers, moving fast and gracefully before he dies in a hail of arrows.

Hung Hsi Kuan, along with his brother Hsiao and the remaining men acquire red boats they use to disguise themselves as an acting troupe, and sail all over China performing while at the same time aiding any rebels they happen across. They come across one town where a kung fu perfomer, the beautiful Wan Yun-Chun (Li) and her uncle, are tired of the red boats, not realizing who is on it. She challenges Kuan to a fight, and her uncle stops it once he realizes who they are, and he and his daughter join them. Months pass and Hung Hsi Kuan and Wan Yun-Chun fall in love, and are soon married. Months later Pai Mei discovered that the Red Boats are what the rebels are using, and has his men attack them wherever they are found. Hung Hsi Kuan takes the now pregnant  Yun-Chun and with his brother abandon the boat, hiding in a small village. Time passes and Yun-Chun has a child, Hung Wen-Ding. As Hung Hsi Kuan grows up, he sees his father training day after to day to finally avenge the Shaolin by killing Pai Mei…

Executioners From Shaolin is a film that spans more than a decade, which is pretty ambitious. Lo Lieh is fairly one note as Pai Mei, but his fights are great, making Pei Mei look like a formidable opponent. Gordon Liu has only one real scene, but he is fantastic in it. Hung Hsi Kuan does a great job playing a man obsessed with killing Pei Mei, even as time passes and he has a family. Lau Kar-Leung has a good cast, but not a very large budget as the camera quality and sets are not very well done, ShawScope or not. A few areas of the film actually blur up a bit.

The fights are well done but I was a bit underwhelmed. The opening fight with Gordon Liu was great, and the Pei Mei fights were fairly good, but the final fight between Pei Mei and Hung Wen-Ding was terrible. There was no flow to it, and it seemed they saw the running time of the film and were like” we gotta wrap this up quickly!” and Wen-Ding easily defeats Pei Mei, which doesn’t jive with the 80 minutes prior of seeing Pei Mei kick all kinds of ass, not to mention the fact that it isn’t Hung Hsi Kuan who defeats him.

The ending mars what is otherwise a fairly decent kung-fu film. Pei Mei is a great bad guy character, but his defeat at the hands of an immature boy just makes me feel as if I was cheated out of a better film somehow.

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

CHOREOGRAPHY: (7) Some of the best stuff belonged to Gordon Liu, but the Pei fights were great. This falls short of anything better because the final fight was simply not up to par. Lau Kar-Leung has done better than this.

STUNTWORK: (7) The fight on the stairs leading to Pei Mei had many stunt men falling down them, and they made it look fairly good. They performed their duties as cannon fodder well.

STAR POWER: (8) Lo Lieh is the bigger star here, and a cameo by future star Gordon Liu and Kuan Tai Chen, veteran of many Shaw Brothers films gives the proceeding the gravitas it needs.

FINAL GRADE: (7) This film is famous for the villain Pei Mei, whom Quentin Tarantino had Gordon Liu play in Kill Bill. The film itself has its moments, which makes it worth a watch, but the final fight is too disappointing to overlook.