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The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter (1983)

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As the Shaw Brothers film studio business was winding down, resulting in an output of lesser quality than the preceding decades, The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter burst forth, a bellowing send-off for both a voluminous cycle of movies and a star who died too young. Bursting with vigour and capturing much of what made the studio and director famous, it never settles for imitating the past, still refining techniques and pushing new ideas.

This is not immediately evident as the … (read more)

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Dirty Ho (1979)

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Dirty Ho‘s title may inspire sniggering from the back of the class, nowadays, but it’s a very different film than you’d think: the film does open inside a brothel (a floating one, no less!), but the Ho of the title is a male thief and kungfu practitioner (played by Wong Yue), and his dirtiness is conferred by a poisoned wound he receives early in the film. So, if you’re after something more like The Golden Lotus, I’d suggest … (read more)

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The Lady Is The Boss (1983)

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Lau Kar Leung brings Hung Fist kung-fu to the disco in 1983’s The Lady Is The Boss, one of his most uneven films with the Shaw Brothers studio. The basic premise is excellent: an old-fashioned kung-fu instructor clashes with the young American-educated daughter of the school’s founder, who arrives in Hong Kong to take over the school’s management. Unfortunately, some truly woeful over-acting and cheesy comedy make most of the film fairly difficult to watch, even when interspersed with … (read more)

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Tiger on Beat 2 (1990)

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Everything about this in-name-only sequel to Tiger on the Beat feels second rate, but for some reason I found it enjoyable — well kinda. Most of the original cast members return in slightly different roles, the bonus being that Conan Lee can fight Gordon Liu again (though it’s not a patch on their first effort). This is real B grade stuff; it looks like it was reeled off pretty quickly without much care for the end result. Also, for an … (read more)

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Tiger on Beat (1988)

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Tiger On The Beat is a pretty routine Hong Kong take on the American buddy cop genre. Lau Kar Leung must have been strangely out of sorts when he made this — the bloody action and crude comedy seems more akin to Wong Jing than the director that brought us The 36 Chambers of Shaolin. Perhaps he simply feels more comfortable in the martial arts world of old.

Conan Lee doesn’t make much of an impression in the lead … (read more)

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Shaolin Mantis (1978)

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Arguably the best film director for traditional style kung-fu action, Liu Chia-liang (a.k.a. Lau Kar-leung) was a pioneer in exploring authentic martial arts technique and training procedures in kung-fu films. So although David Chiang is a kung-fu veteran, it’s no wonder that in The Shaolin Mantis, where he plays a man who learns martial arts from a praying mantis then seeks revenge for his wife’s death, the movie features some of his best kung-fu fights to date. — (from … (read more)

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Martial Club (1981)

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Martial Club, shot in 1981, is one of action director par-excellence Lau Kar-leung’s later films for Shaw Brothers. It stars Gordon Liu as Chinese historical figure Wong Fei-hung, who’s been brought to the screen many times by many different actors. Notable in this list are Kwan Tak-Hing in some 100-odd Wong Fei-hung films, Jet Li in Once Upon a Time in China and Jackie Chan in Drunken Master I and II. Gordon Liu played him in Challenge of (read more)

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Challenge Of The Masters (1976)

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I’ve been watching mostly Shaw Brothers films for the last couple of weeks, digging through some lesser-known stuff looking for the glint of gold. Unfortunately, I didn’t see anything all that good: sure, there were nice sets and costumes in some, and some interesting comedic characters… but most of what I’ve seen recently has felt sloppy and empty for the most part, not developing characters I cared about and occasionally presenting slow, creaky action scenes that looked like pantomimes.

So, … (read more)

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