Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Rebel Boxer (1972) review


Jimmy Wang Yu (Ma Yung Chen), Nancy Yen Nan Hsi (Ma Su Chen), Chiang Nan (Japanese Master), Ma Kei (Cha Chin Pai), Tsai Hung (Yamasaki), Sally Chen Qu Li (Chai Fong), Lee Keung (Japanese fighter), Shan Mao (Thug), Pan Chuen Ling (Watanabe)

Directed by Ting San Si

Ma Yung Chen is nearly killed by the vicious Axe Gang. He manages to hide out and recuperate escaping the killers grasp. Not long after, a motley clutch of ruthless Japanese swordsmen seek out the injured Ma to avenge the death of one of their comrades, Mr. Mayaki. After being alerted to her brothers apparent demise, Ma Su Chen sets out to find the Paradise Club, the notorious gambling hall where Ma was said to have lost his life. Along the way, Su Chen gets into violent confrontations with the Japanese invaders and members of the Axe Gang. Cha Chin Pai, the owner of the Paradise Club, sets a devious trap for her. Now captured, Yung Chen must now come to his sisters rescue. The forces of good and evil converge on a warehouse for a final bloody battle.

Director Ting San Si helms this sloppy kung fu quickie, a sequel to his own FURIOUS SLAUGHTER (1972). In late 1971, Chang Cheh began working on BOXER FROM SHANTUNG. Around the same time, respected Shaw director, Yue Feng was working on a script for a movie entitled MA SU CHEN. It was a fictional account based on the exploits of real life peoples hero, Ma Yung Chen who took on gangsters in Shanghai in the 1920's. Once Chang Cheh began his movie based on the actual historical figure, Yue Feng seemingly gave up on his fictional version.

Furthermore, this didn't stop Jimmy Wang Yu from starring in his own version from First Films Organization Limited. Since he broke his contract with Shaws, he was unable to make films in Hong Kong till early 1973. Both FURIOUS SLAUGHTER and MA SU CHEN appear to have been shot back to back with the latter film suffering from a rushed production schedule. At just 78 minutes, about 10 to 15 minutes of that is footage from the first film seen in flashback recounted by various cast members.

Even though Nancy Yen is the title character, Wang Yu is still the center of attention and his name appears first in the credits. Yen isn't at all memorable as the fighting sister, Ma Su Chen. She has a nice look about her, but she has little charisma and seldom emotes. Her actions are rather lazy having little impact. She isn't very limber and seems disinterested during the combat sequences.

After a long recap of the previous films finale detailed to the teacher of a Japanese school, we are introduced to Ma Su Chen at the ten minute mark. She's a doctor who at first doesn't know anything of his whereabouts. Hearing the possibility that he may be dead, she plans to avenge his death on those responsible. The villains know he is alive and soon find out about the sister and plan to use her to get to Yung Chen. This plot device could have made for a highly enjoyable movie, but the jumbled and rushed appearance of the picture prevents MA SU CHEN from being anything more than mindless entertainment for close to 80 minutes.

Along with the slapdash approach to the material, there is an over abundance of zooms seen here. Several scenes repeatedly show zooms on both antagonist and protagonist over and over again accompanied by the same musical sting. This becomes tiresome quickly and coupled with all the flashback scenes from the previous movie, MA SU CHEN (1972) is a pretty weak movie all around.

Director Ting would also tackle one of the most unusual Shaw Brothers pictures, FLIGHT MAN (aka THE FLYING MAN OF MA LAN 1973) as well as an unreleased to DVD Shaw production, IMPERIAL TOMB RAIDERS (1973). Ting San Si also directed Wang Yu in KNIGHT ERRANT (1973), a modern day movie with a similar plot to MA SU CHEN wherein Japanese fighters travel to Hong Kong to find Wang Yu to avenge a wrong.

A couple of the supporting players would also be prominent villains in Shaw Brothers productions. Shan Mao and Tsai Hung would both feature together in Chang Cheh's massive big budget picture, SHAOLIN TEMPLE (1976). Tsai Hung played one of the lead Manchu officials while Shan Mao was the traitorous monk who helped the Qing successfully enter the temple. Some other Shaw Brothers movies he featured in were other Chang's Company productions like SHAOLIN AVENGERS, NEW SHAOLIN BOXERS (both 1976) and Chang's poorly made NAVAL COMMANDOS (1977). SHAOLIN TEMPLE will arguably be one of his most memorable roles.

Tsai Hung (middle;Tallest actor)

Tsai Hung is one of the most imposing villains in HK cinema possessing a face perfectly suited for a bad guy. He had a somewhat lengthy stint with Shaw Brothers although he did appear in other pictures outside of the famed studio at the same time. His formidable frame can be seen in FIVE SHAOLIN MASTERS (1975), the aforementioned SHAOLIN TEMPLE, SHAOLIN AVENGERS (both 1976), CHINATOWN KID, BRAVE ARCHER (both 1977) and BRAVE ARCHER 2 (1978). Hung was also a hero(!) in the David Chiang directed THE CONDEMNED (1976). He's appeared in countless indy movies like BLOOD TREASURY FIGHT (1979) and THE HEROES (1980) among lots of credits.

The fights are, for the most part, very well done; at least the ones involving Wang Yu. The choreography was the work of Chan Shih Wei and belongs to the basher school of martial arts cinema. They have a ferocity about them akin to the Shaw films being helmed by Chang Cheh during this time. The brawl where the Japanese find Ma Yung Chen is an exciting one as he has barely recovered from his brutal stabbing and beating he took at the closing moments of the previous movie.

The one fight with Su Chen that is reasonably good is the one in which she tries to kill Cha Chin Pai in his club. Fooled, she discovers too late it's all a trap. Su Chen is attacked by the mobsters and the Japanese killers. Trapping her, the leader of the Japanese prepares to deliver the killing blow when Cha stops him preferring to use her to lure Yung Chen to their location. Another good fight is the 18 minute final fight inside the warehouse.

Wang Yu is cornered and attacked by dozens of Axe Gang members brandishing torches. He goes to work on them with a pick axe. While that is going on, Su Chen breaks out of the villains dungeon and after cutting down the grunts left behind, Chai Fong takes her to Yung Chen's location.

The concluding battle is also well handled and utilizes any object that's handy. Yung Chen suffers even worse than he did at the conclusion of FURIOUS SLAUGHTER (1972). The violence doesn't quite reach the typically over exaggerated levels of Wang Yu's movies, but the last couple minutes stretch the boundaries of credibility past their limits. After watching MA SU CHEN (1972), one gets the impression the film was made with left over funds from FURIOUS SLAUGHTER. Her character is fairly unremarkable and Nancy Yen brings relatively nothing to the table to make her interesting.

When we see Ma Su Chen the second time, we see a lone horse charging down a road accompanied by the main theme from Tonino valerii's spaghetti western, DAY OF ANGER (1969). She then pops up atop the horse having been riding off to the side of the animal the whole time. This is really pointless and must have just been added for showcasing Ma's additional skill levels. Again, this does nothing to enhance the character. This film needed a stronger presence to pull off the feisty female fighter.

MA SU CHEN (1972) isn't as good as FURIOUS SLAUGHTER (1972), but it will provide a quick fix of action for those who like lots of fights with little thought behind them. It's a wasted opportunity for this story which possesses a lot of possibilities. Even still Wang Yu fans will want to see it. Despite the title, this is still a Wang Yu movie and he has enough fight scenes to satisfy his followers. For those who haven't seen the first film in a while, the recycled footage provides a good refresher course.

This version, the most complete yet available, (widescreen and presumably uncut), is the one to get for fans of the picture. There are approximately 2 minutes of subbed dialog scenes and the entire opening scene was missing from some prints. Wang Yu completists will no doubt want MA SU CHEN in their kung fu collection.

This review is representative of the Fourth Strike DVD.

The DVD can be bought here...

The Fourth Strike website can be seen here...

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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