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Sunday, March 15, 2009

One Armed Chivalry Fights Against One Armed Chivalry (1977) review


Jimmy Wang Yu (Chi Chu Chang), Liu Chia Yung (Lu Tien Chu), Lung Fei (Lord Hu Ta), Liang Chia Jen (Pan Keung Yan), Champ Wang (Master Chen Yuen Fang), Ricky Cheng Tien Chi (Lama fighter), Wu Hao (Lama fighter), Paul Wei Ping Ao, Hsueh Han, Phillip Ko Fei

Directed by Gam Sing Yan

After failing to overthrow the Manchu rule, the Kuang Wah Society sends one of its best disciples, Chi Chu Chang to recruit new patriots for their organization. Aware of their plans, the Qing send killers to stop Chi from accomplishing his mission. Losing an arm in an ambush by a young woman he had rescued, Chi is framed for raping the girl and murdering members of the Liang Chow disciples, a subsidiary of the Kuang Wah. The enraged members of the Kuang Wah Society then hunt down Chi. Meanwhile, another one armed swordsman, Lu Tien Chu, appears and aids Chi in his quest to clear his name. With both men bearing personal vendettas against the Qing, the two crippled sword masters join forces against the Kuang Wah traitors and the scoundrel, Lord Hu Ta, the leader of the Qing forces.

Director Gam Sing Yan directs this gloriously confusing and outrageous kung fu movie that melds Wang Yu's previous swordplay style films for Shaw Brothers and the Shaolin style actioners in such Chang Cheh heroic pictures like HEROES TWO (1973) and FIVE SHAOLIN MASTERS (1975); the latter of which, this film borrows some of its plot devices. In addition to the veritable hodgepodge of themes and ideas from other movies, the filmmakers even incorporate the proverbial kung fu tournament to fill out an already overflowing martial extravaganza. There's one plot contrivance after another in this character and idea packed feature. The most notable arguably being the usage of the one armed characters.

Of course, the whole one armed story conceit was made famous by Wang Yu and director Chang Cheh in the seminal swordplay classic, THE ONE ARMED SWORDSMAN (1967). Becoming disenchanted with the Shaw style of filmmaking, Wang Yu broke his contract and headed for Golden Harvest. It was short lived, though, as Wang Yu lost a court case to Shaw Brothers when they sued him for breach of contract. The hot tempered actor was not allowed to make any films or television programs in Hong Kong till the end of January, 1973 when his contract with Shaw Brothers expired. He later left for Taiwan in March of 1972 where he continued to make films. The Shaws were unsuccessful in obtaining a court injunction against him while he was there.

Wang Yu assuredly had a major grudge against the massive enterprise that was Shaw Brothers Studio. It would seem that with many of their releases, Wang Yu would counter with an independently produced similar version. Wang Yu had, and still has, a massive following. He was not a real martial artist, but was prone to getting into lots of fights even while he was shooting movies. Wang Yu's characters often mirrored his real personality. Little of that shows through in this picture, though. One thing that is consistent with all of Wang Yu's other movies (minus his Shaw pictures) is his undeniable ability to imitate a piece of wood. Wang Yu seldom emotes although his dubbed dialog gives him (and others) plenty of expletives to spout off at his adversaries. ONE ARMED CHIVALRY (1977) features a high quotient of fight scenes choreographed by the esteemed Liu Chia Yung.

Utilizing the character that made him famous, Wang Yu's star vehicle contains two one armed swordsmen for the price of one. Liu Chia Yung (who also handled the action direction) plays Lu Tien Chu, a mysterious character who has a personal score to settle with Pan Keung Yan (played by Liang Chia Jen). Pan chopped off his arm as a child in addition to kidnapping his infant brother and killing his parents. It is this story arc that intertwines Chi's being framed for a murder he didn't commit. The movie is filled with so many double crosses and back stabbing antics the movie takes multiple viewings to keep the plot straight. If you're not paying attention you will get lost and truly not know just what the hell is going on. It's basically a kung fu movie, but tosses in typical swordplay convolution into the mix creating a perplexing pot of Wuxia mystery and bloody and over exaggerated violence characteristic of Wang Yu's movies.

Wang Yu starred in at least eight martial arts movies that saw him battling the bad guys with one appendage. His whole career is seemingly built around his portrayal of a man that loses an arm in some fashion. One of the best of his one arm movies is MASTER OF THE FLYING GUILLOTINE (1975) which also goes by the name of ONE ARMED BOXER VS. THE FLYING GUILLOTINE and ONE ARMED BOXER 2. It's certainly not great filmmaking, but it's no doubt one of the most ridiculously over the top movies ever made. Regardless of his faults, Wang Yu knew well how to entertain an audience and his outrageous nature contributed greatly to his popularity in the United States.

Here, he loses his arm after helping a woman being threatened with rape (or worse) by the successor of the Liang Chow pupils, Hwa Fung Chun (this group features into one of several plot strings). What's funny is that once Chi (Wang Yu) rescues the lady, she attacks him from behind stabbing him with a poison pin. It's not made clear how they knew Chi would pass by in the first place, but either way he cuts off his arm with his sword to keep from dying. Then, he takes on a slew of Manchu soldiers as well as Hwa in a fight; his severed arm with the bloody stump seemingly not the least bit bothersome.

Director Gam directed little in the way of memorable movies, but he assembles a fine cast of big studio and indy performer specialists. There's a little something for everyone here. Perennial favorites, Lung Fei and Champ Wang (Wang Kuan Hsiung) have prominent roles here among many others. Champ Wang is notable for starring roles and supporting appearances in movies such as CLUTCH OF POWER, THE CHIVALROUS INN, THE GOLDEN MASK (all 1977) and BIG LAND, FLYING EAGLE (1978) among his credits.

Lung Fei is an indy fan favorite nearly always playing a villain. Starring in dozens of swordplay and fist and kick movies, Lung Fei can be seen in FURIOUS SLAUGHTER and MA SU CHEN (in flashback footage; also available from Fourth Strike) both from 1972. Lung also appeared as a bad guy in DRAGON SQUAD (1974), SHAOLIN AVENGERS (1976) for Shaw Brothers, TIGER & CRANE FISTS (1976), WORLD OF THE DRUNKEN MASTER (1979) and BORN INVINCIBLE (1978) where he played a rare turn as a good guy.

Among the many recognizable faces, Phillip Ko has a brief appearance and is killed in gruesome fashion by Ricky Cheng Tien Chi (FIVE ELEMENT NINJAS). He has his eyes gouged out and then is impaled by a razor sharp cymbal! Ko Fei (or Kao Fei as well as Phillip Ko) carved a long and fruitful career for himself playing all manner of bad guys and even a few hero roles. Ko would later end up marrying famed 'Girls With Guns' starlet, Yukari Oshima as well as taking on nearly every behind the scenes duties on films such as action choreographer and later becoming a director, producer and a writer.

Ko can be seen in THE HOT, THE COOL & THE VICOUS (1976), INVINCIBLE ARMOR, EAGLE'S CLAW (both 1977), GOOSE BOXER (1978), MAR'S VILLA, THE CHALLENGER (both 1979), TIGER OVER WALL, THE LOOT and FEARLESS DRAGONS (all 1980). For Shaw Brothers he featured in CLAN FEUDS (1982), SHAOLIN INTRUDERS, BOXER'S OMEN (both 1983), THE 8 DIAGRAM POLE FIGHTER, SEEDING OF A GHOST, SECRET SERVICE OF THE IMPERIAL COURT and OPIUM & THE KUNG FU MASTER (all 1984). Ko also directed and acted alongside his wife in films like LETHAL PANTHER 2 (1993), GUARDIAN ANGEL (1994), and POWER CONNECTION (1995).

Ricky Cheng was an incredible acrobat and he had a decent career mostly behind the scenes with an occasional character role. He got some lead roles here and there such as in the Shaw distributed indy, KUNG FU OF SEVEN STEPS (1979). He later got a brief degree of notoriety during the last days of Chang Cheh's career at Shaw Brothers where he had a few character roles in BRAVE ARCHER 3 (1981) and HOUSE OF TRAPS (1982) before landing the leads in FIVE ELEMENT NINJAS and THE WEIRD MAN (both 1982). Ricky Cheng would follow Chang Cheh to Taiwan and star in a handful of forgettable features, the bulk of which, never got theatrical play in Hong Kong.

Another recognizable face is Wu Hao who played the memorable and wacky bandit monk, Boon Tin Fan in the hyper active action of SHAOLIN TEMPLE AGAINST LAMA (1981). Sadly, Wu did very few kung fu movies before apparently leaving the industry after 1983.

With so many dozens and dozens of 'Ming versus Qing' movies flooding theaters during this time, the makers at least tried to mix things up a bit by introducing all the confusing elements usually reserved for Gu Long adapted Wuxia productions. There's far too many characters to keep up with initially and the ridiculous dubbed dialog does the storyline no favors. Seemingly every few seconds a person is saying 'Damn', 'Bullshit' or 'Son of a Bitch'. Surely these expletives weren't in the original dialog.

Nonetheless, the excessive use of invectives isn't unusual for the genre, it's just seldom been used with such rapidity and mostly resigned to the Jackie Chan style of indy kung fu picture. With essentially two plots going on simultaneous, viewers should just focus on the fight scenes and worry about the story later; that is if they decide to give this one a second spin.


Hwa Fung Chun to helpless girl: "I couldn't give a ten cent damn where you come from."

Disgruntled Liang Chow pupil to Chi: "Why didn't you bring Hwa Fung Chun here to speak?!"

Chi: "Uh...I'm afraid you'll have to go to Hell to speak to him now."

Chi to Lord Hu Ta: "You have pointed the finger of death...and now you must die for it."

I'm not the biggest fan of the independent productions, but this is a good enough cinematic endeavor to devote 90 minutes of your time to and the great cast is an added bonus. It should be noted that this fullscreen presentation is not the Ocean Shores version and fans should be pleased with the quality of this release. The many fans of Jimmy Wang Yu will no doubt be satisfied as well.

This review is representative of the Fourth Strike DVD. It can be bought here...

The Fourth Strike website can be found here...

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