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Execproducer

The Wong Fei-hung Kung Fu Movie Review.

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Posted (edited)

Film: THE MAGNIFICENT BUTCHER

Picked by: jaedmc

"Tough decisions. Part of me wanted to go with some 90's VHS Trash with Cynthia Rothrock or Don the Dragon Wilson. Maybe something with Benny the Jet. I also could have gone with some of absolute favorites like The Iron Monkey or Sonny Chiba's The Street Fighter. But I felt like going with a safer classic, like Yuen Woo Ping's The Magnificent Butcher just felt right for such a project. 

This movie has so so much. First of all, if you like chubby-fu, this has three round mounds kicking ass at various stages of the film. It's got Sammo Hung getting pissed and farted on. It's got a training montage. It's got a cat-man. It's got mistaken identities and dead family members. It's got Fung Hark-on and his goddamn villainous cheek bones.  Like the Iron Monkey it has a magical palm strike- I'm a sucker for a good magical palm strike. Sammo Hung can be a clown, but I marked out every time he did a slow-mo battle cry PUUUUUNCH.

I'm sure most Kung Fu enthusiasts have seen this, but I haven't geeked out with you all much on martial arts flicks, and I want to geek out on this one."

Reviewed by: nate

Magnificent Butcher 

(Hong Kong, 1979)

Martial Arts

Golden Harvest Company; 108 min

Director: Yuen Woo-ping

Alternate Titles: Lin shi rong (original Mandarin title)

              Up until this point, I really hadn’t watched much in the way of Sammo Hung’s output.  I think I may have caught a few episodes of “Martial Law” on occasion, but I did know that he is quite respected in the martial arts film community.  I approached “Magnificent Butcher” with high expectations.

              My reaction to this film is somewhat mixed.  Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy the occasional comedy in my kung-fu.  However, in large doses, I find that the grossly overarching comedic acting on which some films rely grows quite tiresome, and quickly.  There are elements of that here, especially when Beggar So enters the picture.

              There’s a slightly off-putting, labile quality to scene structure, too.  We go from a mistaken identity scenario played for laughs, to a somewhat serious confrontation scene where two fight masters are locked in a bout of one-upsmanship (which is actually pretty good), to another scene about mistaken identity, to a subplot about the attempted rape, to a scene about a character’s attempt at suicide while a drunkard roofies a chicken, then a murder, then …. This is one schizophrenic film, and this is coming from a man who knows him some schizophrenia.

              The fight scenes are competently laid out, but nothing really got going until that teahouse fight (although the calligraphy fight is a pretty good appetizer).  Also, it’s very much a film only slightly removed from the Jackie Chan style of films of the time, and I can see the influences from “Drunken Master” and “Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow” (a given, of course, since it’s the same director).  Sammo is an incredibly lithe fighter for his size, and I was impressed enough with his acting and athletics here, I’m willing to seek out more of his work.

              Overall, while I wouldn’t say it’s the greatest film, I’m not disappointed.

 

 

Edited by Execproducer
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6 minutes ago, Execproducer said:

Up until this point, I really hadn’t watched much in the way of Sammo Hung’s output.  I think I may have caught a few episodes of “Martial Law” on occasion, but I did know that he is quite respected in the martial arts film community.  I approached “Magnificent Butcher” with high expectations.

Wow, if you didn't enjoy Magnificent Butcher, and your arguments are valid, then I'm not sure what else to recommend you from the Sammo chopsocky era. I guess Knockabout and Prodigal Son but I always think of those as Yuen Biao showcases more than Sammo.

If you haven't watched any of his 80s / early 90s movies, you can't go wrong with very many of them. The humour is going to be dated and probably wasn't great at the time either. His action scenes are off-the-charts though. Like, look at Owl vs. Bumbo, an objectively terrible movie but that 5 minute fight scene at the end of the movie is absolutely smoking.

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25 minutes ago, Execproducer said:

…. This is one schizophrenic film

This is actually pretty common for Hong Kong films. Tonal shifts out the ass. It can make a lot of that output an acquired taste. To piggyback on Setsuna's recommendations I'd add The Victim,  Enter the Fat Dragon , and Pedicab Driver.

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I'm actually not sure I have seen The Victim. I probably should check that one out to be sure. Not the fastest or flashiest on-screen fighter, but I always enjoyed what Leung Kar Yan brought to his movies.

Pedicab Driver is a must.

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WE ARE LEAVING GROUND~!

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Posted (edited)
12 hours ago, Execproducer said:

"Tough decisions. Part of me wanted to go with some 90's VHS Trash with Cynthia Rothrock or Don the Dragon Wilson. 

Why didn't you go that route, man.    Red Sun Rising was right there.

James Lew's perfect mullet is the stuff of legends.

I had a pretty amazing crush on Cynthia Rothrock when I was a kid and this is from a guy that isn't normally attracted to blondes.  It was probably her short hairdo that did it for me. 

That and she had kicks that were not only amazing to watch, they could also decapitate you if they connected for reals.

I'm fairly sure I'd weep for yesteryear if I saw a picture of what she looks like in present day so I will just remember her as she was.

Edited by J.T.

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burbank-international-film-festival-scre

That's 2015, still pretty good to me.

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I stand corrected.  Black ain't the only thing that don't crack.

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Posted (edited)
On ‎6‎/‎6‎/‎2019 at 10:44 PM, Setsuna said:

Wow, if you didn't enjoy Magnificent Butcher, and your arguments are valid, then I'm not sure what else to recommend you from the Sammo chopsocky era. I guess Knockabout and Prodigal Son but I always think of those as Yuen Biao showcases more than Sammo.

Magnificent Butcher isn't my favorite joint, but I am biased towards Shaw Brothers fight choreography vs. Golden Harvest.

There are only one or two Sammo Hung or Yuen Biao movies from Golden Harvest where they just let those guys go balls out and brawl since Ping is very traditional and likes his Wire-Fu, while Chang Cheh allowed the Venoms to just do their thing and only put in enough wire work to put in the gravity defying jumping scenes that are a wu-shu movie staple.

I honestly think that Sammo's fight scenes got better as he got older and that eye for action carried over to his directing ability.  The fight scenes from his movie, Eastern Condors, are fucking insane.

  

Edited by J.T.

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Now you guys got me wondering how much martial arts was in Cyber Tracker as I can't remember. That was my Don the Dragon flick when I was a kid, probably because of the cheapo Terminator ripoff in it.

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, J.T. said:

Magnificent Butcher isn't my favorite joint, but I am biased towards Shaw Brothers fight choreography vs. Golden Harvest.

There are only one or two Sammo Hung or Yuen Biao movies from Golden Harvest where they just let those guys go balls out and brawl since Ping is very traditional and likes his Wire-Fu, while Chang Cheh allowed the Venoms to just do their thing and only put in enough wire work to put in the gravity defying jumping scenes that are a wu-shu movie staple.

  

Golden Harvest, even the late 70s movies, are always going to be seen by me through rose coloured glasses because they were my first love when it came to the genre. The Venoms, on the other hand, I came to much later. I remember the first time I picked up a movie, Kid with the Golden Arm, in a bargain bin Walmart DVD (which ended up being a terrible bootleg of the movie). I was so hyped to finally see the venoms that I ended up being pretty disappointed when I sat down and watched the movie. All of this was so long ago so I can't give an exact reason why, but I'm sure a badly zoomed in and terrible print of the film, combined with the hype, contributed to it. I did eventually get into the venoms, and off the top of my head loved Daredevils and Magnificent Ruffians, but my order would still be Shaw Bros. - Golden Harvest - Venoms. 

3 hours ago, J.T. said:

I honestly think that Sammo's fight scenes got better as he got older and that eye for action carried over to his directing ability.  The fight scenes from his movie, Easter Condors, are fucking insane.

  

You're not going to find any argument from me here. I never use this acronym, but Sammo's the martial arts movie GOAT as far as I'm concerned ( sorry Lee). Just incredible longevity, spanning three fairly distinct eras of martial arts films and has been prominent in each one. And that's just as an on-screen presence. Add in his action directing and he's just had an amazing life and career.

Edited by Setsuna

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1 hour ago, Curt McGirt said:

Now you guys got me wondering how much martial arts was in Cyber Tracker as I can't remember. That was my Don the Dragon flick when I was a kid, probably because of the cheapo Terminator ripoff in it.

Not a whole lot, actually.  There was more shootout stuff in it.  Plus the hilarious ending on how Don beats the Tracker.

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Eastern Condors and Millionaire's Express are choice Sammo/Yuen joints. Just that good action/comedy b;lend. Throw in Jackie for Dragons Forever (a grossly underrated movie) and that isa trifecta for a good afternoon triple feature

James

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10 hours ago, J.T. said:

Why didn't you go that route, man.    Red Sun Rising was right there.

I made up a rule in my head that the pick should have Wong Fei-hung in the movie in some way.

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8 minutes ago, jaedmc said:

I made up a rule in my head that the pick should have Wong Fei-hung in the movie in some way.

I suppose I could re-name it if we do it again next year. It was a solid pick anyway.

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name's fine, i just thought for this first iteration he should be in the movie.  It was just a silly personal rule. i like imposing unnecessary restrictions on myself.

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He’ll show up a couple more times before it is over.

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Posted (edited)

Film: Incredible Kung Fu Mission

AKA Kung Fu Commandos

(Taiwan, 1979)

Golden Sun Films/Yangtze Film Co.

Director: Hsin Yi Chang

Picked by: J.T.

"Probably my favorite non Shaw Brothers chop socky movie.  It even has the stereotypical albino villain.  Keep it classy, Hong Kong."  

Reviewed by: Setsuna

Alright, first time I’ve ever done a movie review so I’m going to do my best here. It’s been a crazy long time since I’ve watched any old-school kung fu. I went through a major phase from like 2000 – 2005 but it pretty much dropped off a cliff after moving away from my hometown/normal HK movie group and giving up weed – not sure which of those was the real catalyst. Having said that, it’s still one of my favourite genres and I’ll go out of my way to watch any modern martial arts flick that gets people talking.

First thing I did was a quick google search as I recognized the name but knew I had never seen it. Hong Kong Move Database is still around? That site was a goldmine back in the early 00’s. I probably spent way too many hours on there going down one rabbit hole or another while making notes on VCDs I wanted to order from China or Hong Kong. Quick old-timer grumble – the amount of HK movies on Youtube is amazing. Would have saved me a lot of time and money and any new fan doesn’t know how good they have it.

I don’t recognize the director and haven’t seen anything else from him but Robert Tai Chi-Hsien is the action director and that bodes well for this movie. Alongside the stars themselves, he was involved in a fair number of the Venoms best movies. The movie stars John Liu who was always my least favourite of the super kickers from the late 70s but I’m not actually sure I went past Secret Rivals 1 and 2. Both of those I would consider pretty early as I preferred the action from 1978-onwards.  Alongside listed is Alan Chui who is my MAN. In fact, I almost picked Two Fists Against The Law as my pick but I didn’t know how obscure to go. We’ve also got Alexander Lo Rei who I only know from some of his early 80s Taiwanese movies and he’s always been great. Looking forward to this one.

Movie starts off with John Liu meeting the big bad Robert Tai, who is decked out in a glorious white wig and moustache combo, whose got his friend locked up. I think it’s the rosy cheeks but couldn’t help but think of Stuart from MadTV here.

Blondie refuses so John Liu just walks over to Alan Chui’s place and is offered some money to break his friend out. Liu says he needs an army for this mission but Chui’s got him covered with five fighters he’s been training. A legitimate army by kung fu terms. Six is a crowd, got to go with five.

John Liu arrives there to find them beating the crap out of each other which is presumably what they’ve been doing forever and ever. No surprises as Liu throws some kicks and tells them to follow his orders from now on. I couldn’t find a subtitled version of this movie but dubs definitely have their advantages. One of the guys asks Liu, ‘Suppose you tell us to kill you. What should we do then?” 

‘You should do it….(pan in), however, I’m unlikely ever to ask you.” (cut to training)

Brilliant.

John Liu’s going for the tough love approach here. Basically, threatening to kill or kick the guy’s heads in if they don’t follow his training regime. After some standard training, the training boys end up in a brothel and get their asses handed to them by another group. Later on, Liu kicks them out but they show up the next morning to show their desire to train. They’re awarded with orange shirts for their resilience.

At thirty minutes in we get our first fight scene as Liu’s student go back to the brothel to get revenge. Maybe it’s knowing that the same guy was involved in both, but I got a Venoms-lite vibe from this fight. Nothing really notable here.

Right after that we get the second action piece as Blondie’s goons jump Liu and his gang. We get John Liu on his first one-on-one fight and I’m reminded why I never dug this guy before. Great flexibility but not a very good scene. Highlights were the gags with his fighters fighting the henchmen.

Around 45 minutes, Liu’s group tries to sneak into the city to get near Blondie but are found out. We get our third fight and it’s the best one yet. We get a sweet back-breaking finisher here where two of Liu’s group on either side pull a man in opposite directions while he’s laying on a rack of spears. Did they tear him in half? I presume so but we only get a freeze frame of his death face and a quick cut of the baddies doing some more plotting.

Alright, things picking up. Two of Liu’s students fight a guy with an umbrella. It’s a short but quality fight and we get an umbrella kill. 5 stars! The other students are involved in a knife vs. sticks fight but not nearly as good. Just going to add on here that umbrellas have to be one of my favourite everyday items that are used in these types of movies. Just so much cool stuff they can do that looks really good visually. Yeah, I’m a geek.

We get a big group fight next and it’s really good. John Liu looks his best so far in the fight and Alexander Lo Rei really shines. Things picking up! The team loses a member and that sets Lo Rei off. He goes off alone but gets beat up and captured. Not much of a fight. Another member dies along the way and we are at the finale.

Blondie’s wearing a cape, which immediately gets grabbed by one of the guys and makes you wonder why you’d want to wear a cape in a kung fu fight. Not long after that we get an absolutely awesome cape moment when he uses it to disguise his attack and rams his fingers through the guys chest. And then he does it again! Like I said with the umbrella, the cape is another of those kung-fu clichés that don’t make a ton of sense but look really good visually. Question for anyone that’s bothered to read this far, has there ever been a protagonist in a film that used a cape as a central part of their fighting style in a movie? I can’t think of any off the top of my head and it seems like it’s always been kept for the main villain or one of his key henchmen.

The finale fight is really good. John Liu and Robert Tai work really well together and their a number of really great cuts. The big bad sets up his finisher, the dreaded ‘hit my cape, then I stab you with my fingers. Alexander Lo Rei knows this trick though so…he hits the dude’s cape to save Liu. Yes, he gets stabbed with the fingers. Standard finish from here as Lo Rei holds on to the cape and allows Liu to finish him. Kind of a weak finish though – after a bunch of really creative Chang Cheh style kills, this one came off as pretty standard for your finale.

But wait…

Alan Chui shows up and IT IS ON! I almost forgot about him. I professed my love for Alan Chui earlier in the review but he’s been miscast here. His style has always been really flowery and acrobatic so matched with Liu, who I also find a bit flowery in his movements, this fight never really gets going. It does pick up in the second half and there are a couple great sequences but pales in comparison to the previous fight. It does, however, give us the ending we were all waiting for - backflip into a nut crusher to finish him!

That rambling was the best I could do for a movie review. I’m always going to watch these movies with an eye for the action first, amusement second, and the plot a distant third. Having said that, I do think the plot added a lot to the movie because it’s not one I remember being used before. Like, I’m sure it’s a ripped off version of a western, but having never seen any of the old western movies it came across as unique to me. John Liu’s voice-dub was consistently great, both in terms of the odd comedy you normally get in these dubs but also in that it really kind of suited his character?

All-in-all, it delivered everything I wanted from a movie in this genre. Long cuts, creative choreography and a memorable villain.  This is the best I remember seeing John Liu look and it’s too bad Alexander Lo Rei was never really given an opportunity in HK proper (to my knowledge). I’m not sure if I’m supposed to rate it but I’d put it somewhere in the 3 ½ - ¾ star range.

 

 

Edited by Execproducer
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Posted (edited)

 

Bonus Review!!

 

Film: The Grandmaster

(Hong Kong/China, 2013)

Block 2 Pictures/Jet Tone Films/Sil-Metropole Org./Bona Int. Film Group.

Director: Wong Kar-Wai

 

Picked and reviewed by: AxB 

 

The Grandmaster (2013) Directed by Wong Kar-Wai, Starring Tony Leung and Zhang Ziyi. Definitely the most Artistically beautiful Kung Fu movie I've seen. In a genre that most people would categorize as being about fast movement and furious action, here is a film that delights in stillness and quietude. Even though it's very much made for the Chinese market* as it's all about Ip Man, it's not a story of an unstoppable all-conquering hero. It's a story of an extremely skilled man who refused to compromise, even when doing so would cost him dear. It's very well shot, and very well acted. It's also well edited. Sort of. The version released in the Western World is 30 minutes shorter than the Chinese release, and it has these Blade Runner original release voice-over sections giving the viewer a precis of Chinese history during the time in which it is set (don't know if these are in the original version; Probably not though. People tend to be taught their own nation's history, as part of their education). The overall mood of the film is contemplative and elegiac, mourning a time that was lost and can never return. It's very slow paced, and arguably a bit lightly plotted (in terms of amount of story per minute of run-time). And I can see how, if someone was unfamiliar with Wong Kar-Wai and his films about the nature of Love, if they expected just to see a Kung Fu fighting movie, they might find this very disappointing. But I thought it was great.

* Although having said that, a big part of the plot is spurred on by the Japanese occupation of China in the late 1930s. And it's well known that the Japanese were not the most gentle of occupying forces, and living conditions for many Chinese people under Japanese rule became unimaginably harsh. Mortality rates skyrocketed. This movie, possibly having an eye on the Japanese market, doesn't really get into all of that. It mentions that it happened, but it doesn't really blame the Japanese at all. Bit of a contrast to Bruce smashing that sign in the park, in Fist of Fury.

 

Edited by Execproducer
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The Grandmaster showing up makes me think I need to re-watch Ashes of Time. Maybe next year I'll review it and Ashes of Time Redux as bonus material.

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I liked The Grandmaster but it might be my 2nd least favorite Ip Mann film. Ip Man: The Last Fight with Anthony Leung is my favorite... and suddenly thinking about Anthony Leung makes me want to do yet another Bonus review this time for The Heroic Trio

No I should stop. I've written 4 of thrse thingsds for this project and should save something for next year

James

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The Grandmaster: Probably the only film to appear in this thread that features a British flag and a portrait of Queen Elizabeth. Liked how at the end, Ip mentions that he left China to go to a foreign land, meaning Hong Kong. Wong Kar-Wai putting words in his mouth, making a plea for Hong Kong independence.

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Posted (edited)

I am happy to see that Setsuna enjoyed my pick.  I did my best to choose a good one.

Lu Ping is definitely one of my favorite antagonists in any old school Kung Fu movie, but one of these days I will have to write an essay on the evil albino stereotype in wushu cinema.

It's like one of the two rules of HK cinema in that the old guy with white hair will always beat your ass and if there is an albino character, he is usually the bad guy.

I can't think of too many martial arts joints before 2000 where there was a heroic albino character.  The only one I can think of is Pei Donglai, the eunach special enforcer played by Deng Chao in Detective Dee & The Phantom Flame, and even that guy was fairly cruel by good guy standards.

Edited by J.T.

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Posted (edited)
18 hours ago, Execproducer said:

Alright, things picking up. Two of Liu’s students fight a guy with an umbrella. It’s a short but quality fight and we get an umbrella kill. 5 stars! The other students are involved in a knife vs. sticks fight but not nearly as good. Just going to add on here that umbrellas have to be one of my favourite everyday items that are used in these types of movies. Just so much cool stuff they can do that looks really good visually. Yeah, I’m a geek.

I should've picked Rendezvous With Death for Setsuna because the protagonist of that movie uses a weapon that functions like an umbrella, but it is clearly deigned to kill people and not keep rain off of your head.

Legend has it that the namesake of this project was the first one to develop an improvised weapon fighting system that specifically uses the umbrella, which is why in most movies where Wong is the hero (and there are shit tons of those) there is usually an obligatory scene where Wong beats the shit out of twenty guys with an umbrella.

Edited by J.T.
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6 hours ago, J.T. said:

I am happy to see that Setsuna enjoyed my pick.  I did my best to choose a good one.I

I think it’s been shown in the past that it can be dispiriting to the chooser if the recipient is not the best fit. 

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