Sunday, January 13, 2019

Cool Ass Cinema Book Reviews: Kung Fu Cinema's Alexander the Great


By Terrence J. Brady

334 pages; softcover; 1st edition 2018

A welcome work in the limited scope of books on Hong Kong cinema personalities not named Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan. Brady's book is well written and accompanied by 15 pages of B/W photos; although it occasionally loses sight of its subject with prolonged passages on other actors and directors that worked with Fu Sheng--feeling at times like a broad analysis of Hong Kong cinema. Aside from various behind the scenes stories and minutiae, the book is at its dramatic best when detailing the relationship between Fu Sheng and his wife, the famous singer, Jenny Tseng. At just $20, it's well worth adding to your book collection; especially if you're a Shaw Brothers Kung Fu Film Fan-addict.

If you're a fan of Kung Fu cinema--and Shaw Brothers productions in particular--than you're well versed in the filmography of Alexander Fu Sheng. A serio-comic actor before Jackie Chan made full-on kung foolery fashionable, Fu Sheng was a handsome actor who rose to superstardom playing iconic heroes in Chang Cheh's movies before branching out to work with other directors by the end of the 1970s.

Much has been written about Shaw Brothers and Fu Sheng in general; but little of substance in English on the actor or any other personality outside of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan.

Using numerous translated articles from vintage Chinese magazines and anecdotes and reminisces from those who worked with him and knew him best, author Terrence Brady has written a thorough biography on Fu Sheng. One of Hong Kong cinema's best-loved, old-school martial arts superstars, you'll learn a great deal about the once shining light of the genre that sadly dimmed on July 7th, 1983 when the actor was killed in a car accident.

All of his films--from early appearances to starring roles--are accounted for (as well as films that never got made); including behind the scenes information, film summaries, assorted trivia, and box office. However, the volume expounds on other areas as well...

Fu Sheng at Shaw Studio in 1982
The book occasionally veers off-topic (most kung fu fans won't mind, though), going into prolonged details about other actors or filmmakers that worked with Fu Sheng in some capacity. It's in these places the book feels less about a biography of its star than it does Hong Kong action cinema in general. There are also unnecessarily lengthy passages where characters the actor has played and the historical significance of them are discussed. Elsewhere, Fu's early productions where he was little more than an extra are discussed in more detail than needed considering in some cases, you have to study the film to find him lurking in the background somewhere.

The book does stay concentrated on its subject when it focuses attention on the relationship between Fu Sheng and his equally famous songstress wife Jenny Tseng (40+ year career with some 160 albums and reportedly 10 million in album sales). It's these areas where the most insight into Fu Sheng the man is revealed; the emotional side of the man who was most known for displaying impish joviality on-set. These portions of the bio yield the most dramatic value documenting their years together--brief as they were.

Along with the spirit of her late husband, Ms. Tseng has remained in the public eye. In 2014 she auctioned off 50 of her personal jewelry items to a Hong Kong based children's charity. Reportedly among the selected pieces was the Jadeite Bangle she wore at her wedding to Fu Sheng back in December of 1976.

As for the Biography of The Chinatown Kid, the book is passionately written, armed with 15 pages of B/W photographs, and a lot of attention to details. In some cases, these details are unnecessary and extraneous. Overall, it's a welcome volume that fans of the genre will undoubtedly enjoy reading. With numerous books on Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, it's time that other famous film stars from Hong Kong's golden age of cinema received their literary Anglo adulation... and a place among Kung Fu fan's book shelves.

You can purchase this book at amazon HERE.

You can also read our own three-part article from October of 2010 on the life and career of Alexander Fu Sheng HERE.

Related Posts with Thumbnails


copyright 2013. All text is the property of and should not be reproduced in whole, or in part, without permission from the author. All images, unless otherwise noted, are the property of their respective copyright owners.