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Enter The Fat Dragon

Ah Lung is a country bumpkin who works on a farm feeding the pigs. An opportunity arises for him to go to the big city (Hong Kong) and help out in his uncle’s noodle shop. Just as he is settling down to working there, a gang of thugs who is making a nuisance of themselves in the area starts some trouble. Being a devoted Bruce Lee fan who can fight like his idol and imitate the great man, Ah Lung sends them all packing. However whilst Ah Lung is out on an errand the gang return and demolish his uncle’s restaurant. As a result he is out of work but with the help of two friends he gets a job cleaning dishes. It’s not long however that Ah Lung is embroiled in a plot by a gang who kidnap a woman he likes and wants to sell her to a billionaire named Pai. Ah Lung sets out to rescue his girl but first he must defeat 3 of Pai’s deadly bodyguards…..

After the death of Bruce Lee in 1973, a slew of Bruceploitation movies were released in Hong Kong that tried to cash in on his name and featured many actors trying to copy his style. Sammo Hung who was a very good friend of Bruce and worked with with him on Enter The Dragon wasn’t very impressed with these johnny come lately’s shamelessly cashing in on his friend’s name so he made this comedy tribute movie to him. Sammo might not look like Bruce Lee but my word he can imitate him superbly. Probably the best person to do it. He even strokes his nose exactly the same way that Bruce did, delivers his noises and is pretty much a master of nunchuks like his friend. Sammo even uses Jeet Kune Do with some kung-fu in the fights. The storyline is mostly episodic in nature and is about how Ah Lung’s fighting keeps getting him into trouble. The fight scenes on display is exciting, fun and fast and get better as the movie wears on. You’ll never see a more agile fat guy than Sammo Hung. It’s hard to believe how good a martial artist he really is. I’m not sure if the climatic showdown in which Ah Lung faces 3 foreign fighters was Sammo’s homage to Game of Death but it features a funny scene of a Chinese man who is blacked up with an afro wig (obviously a parody of Jim Kelly) going one on one with Ah Lung. You can’t help but laugh at the scene. There’s a telling scene in the movie in which Sammo delivers a scathing criticism of the copycat Bruce Lee movies produced at the time when he visits a film set and gets into a fight with a second rate Bruce Lee impersonator and promptly beats his ass and the film crew as well! His put-down comment of “amateurs” after the fight is brilliant. The slapstick comedy is a little bit hit and miss but when it works well it makes you smile. Sammo even has time to poke fun at Jackie Chan’s Drunken Master! His character of Ah Lung comes across as lovable and charming and you can’t help but like him.

Enter the fat dragon clip

Animal lovers might get a little offended in the opening scene as Sammo’s character practices his kung fu on some pigs. It’s hard to say whether the pigs were hurt by Sammo’s kicks. From a lot of HK movies I’ve seen from the 70’s and 80’s, animal welfare wasn’t a high priority on any film set!

All in all, a fantastic early Sammo Hung production considering it was done on a very low budget and a must see for fans of martial arts.

No trailer but here’s a clip where Sammo fights a Bruce Lee impersonator

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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The Queen’s brother Pan Bao is killed in a tournament by one of Yang Ye’s sons. Furious at this, she orders her father Pan Mei to destroy the Yang clan at the battle of Jinsha. All goes according to plan but for the fact that the 5th and 6th sons manage to escape from the trap that had been laid for them. Pan Mei must track down the remaining sons or he won’t be able to continue with his bigger scheme which is to overthrow the Emperor. The 5th son returns home but the stress of what has happened has turned him insane. Meanwhile the 6th son vows to become a monk at a temple but has a lot of anger inside of him. The temple refuses to take him in but he insists on being a monk. He takes a razor and shaves his hair off. Reluctantly the lead buddhist monk takes him in but he does not train with any of the other trainee monks. Back at the Yang clan residence, the mother hears that the 6th son is alive and sends her 9th daughter off to seek him out but Pan Mei’s spies are everywhere and follows her. She is captured at an inn below the temple that the 6th son is training. When the 6th son hears that his sister is a prisoner of Pan Mei, he vows revenge on Pan Mei once and for all.

This is a classic HK Shaw Brothers movie starring Gordon Liu. It’s a period piece set during the Sung Dynasty packed full of action and incredible swordplay fights. I would say this is probably the finest showcase for pole fighting you’ll ever see. It was a troubled production at the time of filming and it took 2 years to complete the movie as one of it’s stars Alexander Fu-Sheng had a serious injury which resulted in both his legs being broken. When filming resumed, Fu-Sheng was involved in a terrible high-speed car accident which claimed his life. It was Fu-Sheng’s character that was supposed to be the main focus in this movie but due to the tragic circumstances that happened, the plot shifted onto Gordon Liu’s character. The compelling storyline has no humour at all which considering that a lot of 70’s HK martial arts movies had at the time may be more to the fact that it would have been inappropriate due to Fu-Sheng’s death. If it’s action you’ve come to watch in this movie then you’ll have plenty to enjoy here. Each fight that follows just gets better and better and the final melee involving Gordon Liu’s character taking on Pan Mei’s forces at the temple with his pole is impressive. A visual spectacle in athleticism containing fantastic choreography with swords and poles. Just watch as the 6th son has his sister strapped to his back whilst fighting off the hordes of Pan Mei’s army. There’s some gore involved as Pan Mei’s army is decimated and a lot of the blood comes from seeing them lose their teeth!! This is to do with the training at the buddhist temple which rather than kill their enemies outright, their beliefs is to defang them instead. The weaponry on show is great and I loved the poles that Pan Mei’s army have which have a twisty grappling device on the end which is supposed to counter the threat of the Yang family’s poles.

It’s sad to see Fu-Sheng in this movie knowing it would be his final role. It is said he had a bright future ahead of him as a movie martial artist. A hell of a shame his career was cut short like it did. His character for the majority of the movie acts like a man whose mind has been irreparably damaged by witnessing his brothers and father being killed. He shouts a lot and even attacks his own mother and sisters thinking they’re Pan Mei’s troops. What can I say about Gordon Liu in this movie that hasn’t been said about him elsehwhere. He is just amazing. It’s painful to watch as he shaves his hair off with a sharp razor which results in his head being bloodied and then uses several temple candles to burn 6 dots on his head signifying how serious he is about being a buddhist monk.

This isn’t called one of the best martial arts movies for nothing. Everything you’ve ever wanted in a classic Shaw Brothers movie is in this movie. Do not miss out on watching this if you’re a serious martial arts fan. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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Big John and Little John are a couple of swindlers who are on a streak of bad luck. When one of their intended victims The Silver Fox beats them up badly, the duo realise they need to sharpen up their kung fu so Little John asks The Silver Fox if he’ll be their Master. Turning down their offer at first, he eventually relents and starts teaching them a new style of kung fu. Things are going well for the duo under their new Master until Little John discovers his tutor killing a man. It seems The Silver Fox is a wanted criminal and has been using the pair for his dirty deeds. The pair try and fight him but he uses a deadly style of Snake kung fu which ends with Big John paying for his life and Little John barely escaping. He winds up staying at the home of a wily beggar who is also skilled in the art of kung fu. Little John asks the beggar to train him up so that he can take on The Silver Fox and avenge his friend’s death.

Knockabout is a classic martial arts comedy movie which has been rated highly by Hong Kong movie fans. It brings together 3 of the biggest names in the late 70’s of HK movie makers in Sammo Hung (who directs and acts in this movie), Ka-Yan Leung and Yuen Biao. Even though Yuen Biao would never get the acclaim that his brothers in the Peking Opera (Sammo and Jackie Chan) obtained, he is still widely appreciated by martial arts fans. This would be his breakout movie role. I actually didn’t think I was going to like this movie as the first 40 or so minutes is just a rather silly story with some routine slapstick comedy which falls flat and so-so martial arts but once The Silver Fox turns on the 2 swindlers and Little John teams up with the beggar the movie improves with the martial arts fights getting better and better. In hindsight this was probably a ploy by Sammo to show that the swindlers had much to learn in their kung fu skills so that is why the earlier fights in the movie are so underwhelming. You just have to see the training scenes that the beggar puts Little John through – Yuen Biao is bloody amazing in these scenes. The guy was a gifted martial artist and was well known for his kicking and acrobatic prowess. Sammo’s beggar character makes him backflip, somersault and do some cartwheeling whilst using a skipping rope and just the training scenes alone makes it worth seeing the movie. It makes you forget the silly comedy that took place earlier on. The training scenes are topped however by the 12 minute final fight that sees Little John and the beggar combining their monkey style kung fu skills and squaring off against The Silver Fox. The moves that Yuen Biao pulls off in the fight are breathtaking. It rounds off what was eventually a very satisfying movie experience.

A big part of why this movie is such a success is down to Sammo Hung and under his direction Yuen Biao is outstanding. The intricate martial arts fight sequences he employs in this movie was a typical trademark of his and they’re a joy to watch.

Fans of old school HK martial arts will love this movie. It’s an entertaining movie you shouldn’t miss out on. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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‘Fatty’ Lung and ‘Baldy’ Mak are two gung-ho officers in the HK police force who are trying to bring down a powerful cocaine drugs lord known as Prince Tak. Nicknamed the ‘7-11 Cops’ as they provide a service 24/7, they create chaos whenever they go due to their habit of bending some of the rules. Their unorthodox style brings them results much to the delight of their boss. The police commissioner might not like what they do but the duo’s boss usually smooths things over so the pair can escape scott free from any punishment. Whilst trying to arrest a lady-boy who is smuggling drugs, they are accused of sexually molesting a woman at a shop (she’s a member of the criminal gang) and then to confound things even further whilst running after a suspect they completely wreck the Police Commissioner’s wedding. The duo are ordered to take a holiday whilst things cool down and go over to Singapore when they meet a couple of women. They are convinced to quit their jobs and start a karaoke business with the woman funding their venture. On coming back to Hong Kong and giving their resignation notices to their boss, they are drawn back to the Prince Tak case when Baldy’s girlfriend is threatened by his goons. Baldy and Fatty vow to take down Prince Tak, his brother and their workers once and for all setting up for an explosive climax.

Skinny Tiger, Fatty Dragon isn’t one of Sammo Hung’s most celebrated works thanks to the thin basic plot and so-so comedy. It’s your standard HK ‘buddy cop’ movie which is elevated above average thanks to the fantastic fight action on show. It doesn’t help that the main plot comes to a grinding halt about half-way through the movie and goes on a pointless diversion when our two heroes go to Singapore. It hinders the story. Thankfully things get back on track when they arrive back in Hong Kong. Depending on whether you like Karl Maka’s silly comedy, you may find him getting on your nerves after a while although some of the humour is well done. I did laugh when the duo break into a suspect’s apartment and come face to face with a fierce alsation dog. Baldy tells the dog to put his paws up and face the wall. Seeing the dog actually do that is very funny. The real highlight is the action scenes especially when performed by Sammo Hung. He does a very good impression of Bruce Lee and the way he fights considering his bulk frame is amazing. It’s obvious that some of the fights are a tribute to Bruce Lee himself. The choreography for the action alone is worth checking the movie out such as Sammo battling a gang of jewel thieves who are all wearing Sesame Street masks, the trashing of a restaurant and the superb finale which sees him taking on the baddies with some nunchukas. The climatic fight between Sammo and the knife-wielding chief villain played by Lau Kar Wing is superb. You can see that Karl and Sammo are comfortable in each other’s company as it shows on screen. They have great chemistry due to having worked together in the past on some rather good martial arts movies.

This is still a great light-hearted comedy action movie to watch despite its flaws thanks to the excellent martial arts action on display and some hilarious comedic moments. Well worth having a look.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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A Korean man Mun and his family consisting of wife Mi-ja, elder son Tae-yang, daughter Tae-mi and younger son Tae-Poong have settled down in Bangkok, Thailand where the father runs a Taekwondo school and the mother runs a restaurant. An expensive Thai treasure valued at $30 million dollars called the Kris Of Kings (basically an ancient long dagger) has been returned to the country and already a gang of Korean thieves take the opportunity to steal it but luckily the Mun family is nearby and manage to thwart the robbery. The gang of thieves escape and the family gets to be famous thanks to their efforts. However, the leader of the gang refuses to accept that the family have humiliated him and sends some of his thugs to the Mun restaurant but again they come away defeated. Mun decides to send his kids away to an old family friend who runs a small zoo in the countryside thnking that it’ll be safer for them there. Eventually though the gang find out where they are and kidnap Tae-Poong. The only way Mun and his family can have him back is to steal the Kris and hand it over to the gang leader. Will they be successful in stealing the Kris and rescuing their young son?

Whilst there are plenty of action movies from Korea, Korean martial arts movies are few and far between. This movie tries to readdress the balance but is it any good? Well, the answer is not really. This was the first joint movie project between South Korea and Thailand. The plot is nothing new, in fact the story is wafer-thin and just an excuse for the continuous action and whilst there are a few decent martial arts fights, it just wasn’t enough to make the movie rise above anything else than plain average. There’s even a dull side plot about Mun pushing his elder son to succeed at martial arts because he failed at the Olympics 20 years previously but all Tae-yang is interested in doing in taking part in dance auditions. It didn’t help the movie one bit that terribly cheap CGI effects was used at times such as a scene in a crocodile pit. It just looks bad. The villains aren’t even that menacing, there’s a distinct lack of any drama and the comedy I thought was lame. The highlight for me is near the end in a fight inside one of Bangkok Zoo’s enclosures where Tae-yang jumps on top of empty animal cages and has to fend off the villains all the while trying to avoid several spinning metal fans dangling from the ceiling. Quite an inventive scene and very exciting but sadly that was the only scene that really got me going. Maybe I was expecting director Prachya Pinkaew to come up with the goods seeing as he gave us the excellent Ong Bak, Chocolate and Tom Yum Goong but he doesn’t come close to emulating those movies with this one even if it does feature a dancing elephant!!

The cast I didn’t think was particularly good either apart from the 2 young Koreans who played brother and sister. Na Tae-Ju as Tae-yang is probably the best actor in the movie and I enjoyed his fighting style. He’s very nimble and acrobatic. He incorporates some dancing moves in keeping in line with his character and some taekwondo to kick some ass. Kim Gyeong-suk as Tae-mi who plays his sister fares well in her fighting scenes as well. That’s to be expected as both are major Taekwondo stars in South Korea. The rest of the Korean family is a bit bland. Thai martial arts star Jeeja Yanin is horribly underused and doesn’t get the chance to really show off her skills. After all, even though the movie is set in Thailand, it is mostly a Korean production (they funded 75% of the movie) and the filmmakers obviously didn’t want Jeeja to overshadow the main stars. Those expecting her to feature in some bone crunching action like in her 2 previous movies (Chocolate/Raging Phoenix) will definitely be disappointed. I know I was!

The Kick might have it’s moments but overall I found the whole movie very underwhelming. Instantly forgettable.

Sadako’s Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

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Kazuma Higaki and his daughter Yumi are attacked by a rival karate master Nikaido who wants the man’s job as top karate master. After cowardly teaming up with four other masters they manage to disable one of Kazuma’s arms and stick a kunai knife in his eye. Leaving him alive but crippled Kazuma trains his daughter Yumi to avenge him and the death of a friend. In New York City, years of hard training follows with Yumi beginning to hate karate. After Kazuma’s death, his daughter Yumi goes to Tokyo to kill her enemy. She enters into a karate tournament which is being run by the very same man Nikaido who killed her father. As this tournament is attracting some of the best fighters from across the globe, Nikaido sends his 4 assassins to destroy them all in order that his students will win the tournament. It is left to Yumi and another karate student to stop them but after Yumi’s arm is severely injured her revenge mission seems to be over. But Yumi isn’t one to give up that easily and nothing will stop her in killing her father’s murderer.

Billed as a Sonny Chiba movie and he has top billing, he’s only onscreen for about 15 mins before Etsuko Shihomi takes over as the main character for the movie. This is a fairly decent martial arts actioner. It won’t be the best you’ll ever see but you’ll find enough here to entertain you for an hour and a half. It’s more or less your standard revenge plot with it’s usual cliches. There’s plenty of fights and some gore but the main problem during the fights is with the camera. The action is obscured by bad camera angles and some shaking which is rather annoying. It will spoil your enjoyment of the fights that’s for certain. I felt the story was stretched too much even for 90 mins and could have been cut by a good 15 mins. For some inexplicable reason an erotic dance scene featuring a topless woman and a man has been inserted into the movie. The 2 characters have no relevance to the main plot whatsoever. It’s just stupid things like that which brings this movie down. Etsuko Shiromi makes for a good heroine and is pleasant on the eye. She fights well and one of the highlights of her performance sees her taking on a couple of vicious rottweiler dogs.

The DVD version I watched of this was pretty awful. The print was terrible – very grainy and washed out. The dubbing was also horrendous. I don’t know if there’s a better DVD print available which has been cleaned up but I would tell people to avoid the Movie Ventures DVD I saw. It would be nice in the future to see how the original Japanese version looks and if it’s any different to the American dubbed version.

There’s little to surprise you in this movie and whilst it has some good martial arts scenes (though short) at times, I can’t really recommend this to anybody especially with the shitty print on the DVD.

Sadako’s Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

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Kyoung-su Kim is a newly transferred student to Volcano High. He’s a gifted teenager with special telekinesis abilities but these powers have done nothing for him except get him expelled from a succession of schools. This latest transfer is basically his last chance. His transfer to the school comes at a turbulent time with the vice principal who conspires with a student Jang Ryang managing to overpower the principal by a poison and framing another student in the process for the incident as he wants to acquire the Great Manuscript – an ancient document which gives it’s owner the ultimate power. However the location of the manuscript eludes even the vice principal so in order to get any information out of the school’s students as they might know its location, he recruits a 5 strong group of teachers who will stop at nothing to bring discipline even if it costs a student’s life. But they didn’t count on the resilience of Kyoung-su Kim………

Although Volcano High looks great with it’s special effects, I wasn’t that impressed overall with the movie at all. The storyline just wasn’t good enough and I felt like it was just written to show off the SFX effects. It’s nothing new either as we’ve seen these kind of effects before in The Matrix and I’ve never been a fan of wire-fu which is used a lot here. To be perfectly honest I thought the filmmakers at times were trying too hard to top The Matrix with the effects. Perhaps if this kind of movie hadn’t been done before it might have been groundbreaking. On saying that it is fairly entertaining if you like this sort of thing. You don’t get bored watching it at all as the pace is fairly brisk with some fairly decent action sequences but they could have been improved. There is some kind of comedy element in this movie which I didn’t find funny. Whatever you do, don’t try and make any sense of the plot or your brain might fry. It’s probably best to just sit back and park your brain by the door before watching it. Director Tae-gyun Kim has obviously tried his best to make this movie exactly like an anime as the story is based on a manga.

Jang Hyuk is likeable enough as the goofy Kyoung-su Kim with his silly faces and I’m not sure how the character of Yoo Chae-I is the most beautiful girl at the school as I think her best friend So Yo-seon is far better looking than her. The performances of the cast are exagerrated deliberately to enhance the anime-like feel of the movie.

If you’re going to watch this movie with the notion that this is just mindless entertainment you’re sure to get something out of it otherwise those expecting a coherent plot with some great fight sequences are likely to be found wanting. Volcano High was just average to me.

Sadako’s Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

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