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Above-average kung fu movie with good story and cast
THE HOT, THE COOL AND THE VICIOUS (1976) is a plot-packed kung fu movie, made in Taiwan, that pits some relatively unsung kung fu stars against a pair of formidable villains. It's got solid fight sequences, a fast-paced narrative and lots of attractive performers, including a trio of impressive leading ladies.
The main plot thread is actually less interesting than the subplots. Pai Yu Ching (Wong Tao/billed as Don Wang) plays a wandering `South Fist' fighter with a reputation as a killer who enters a town where the righteous Northern Leg fighter Captain Lu (Tan Tao Liang) runs the police force under the auspices of iron-fisted town boss Yuen (George Wang). We learn early on that Pai is actually an undercover agent seeking to root out a counterfeit ring run by Yuen. When Yuen's wastrel son causes the death of Lu's fiancee's mother, Captain Lu incurs Yuen's wrath by demanding he turn over his son. Meanwhile, a Miss Lee (Sun Chia Lin) dresses in a ninja outfit at night to try to kill Captain Lu to avenge the death of her brother, the former Captain, who was killed, through no fault of Lu's, while trying to arrest Lu for killing a man in self defense. There's also a very sexy landlady (Leu Shou Jen) with her sights set on Pai Yu Ching, but with a hidden agenda. Whew!
It's essentially a police drama with elements of the western (including a ghost town with weed-strewn streets) transposed to the kung fu film. It works because all the characters and their interactions are consistently interesting and the actors are very good. (It helps that the English dubbing is well above par for this kind of film.) Pai and Lu are seemingly on opposite sides but become solid allies once the various truths are known. Yuen is the tyrannical town boss and a worthy villain who lashes out at Lu once his son is in trouble. Yuen's partner in crime is the blond-wigged albino Mr. Lung, played by the film's fight choreographer Tommy Lee (no relationship to the rock star of that name!).
There are lots of fights, most highlighting Tan Tao Liang's phenomenal high kicking. Few of the fights, however, are extended ones, until the last two bouts in which Tommy Lee opposes first Tan and then both Tan and Wong Tao.
A number of cast members are worth singling out. Tan Tao Liang (aka Delon Tam) is tall and long-limbed and executes some amazing kicking and leg power. Wong Tao is only a competent fighter but has classical movie star looks and a winning smile. (Think Tyrone Power doing kung fu rather than swashbuckling.) Tommy Lee is a flamboyant villain and a good fighter. The three lead actresses are all quite beautiful, especially Leu Shou Jen (also in SECRET RIVALS), who plays the landlady. Sun Chia Lin, as Miss Lee, gets to do some fighting.
The overall plot is not the most compelling but it does make for a thoroughly enjoyable kung fu film, maybe not one of the greatest, but certainly above average. A follow-up of sorts can be found in CHALLENGE OF DEATH (1978) with several of the same cast members and the same director (Lee Tso Nam).
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