CANTONEN IRON KUNG FU - The exploits of "Iron Bridge"
CANTONEN IRON KUNG FU (1979) offers the rather unusual touch of having all of its characters be working men or merchants based in a town in Kwangtung province in the south of China. Leung Kar Yan (aka Liang Chia Ren) plays Liang Kun, a common laborer who finds little use for his kung fu skills except for occasional challenges from other workers. At some point, three fighters show up in town to help a reclusive local merchant take over the trade routes from the north which pass through the town. A local kung fu-fighting merchant stands up to them but dies in his one big fight with the thugs, but not before passing on many of his techniques to Liang Kun, who puts on such a show of force that he's dubbed "Iron Bridge Kun" by the townsfolk. A mysterious stranger shows up also and turns out to be on the trail of the corrupt merchant, who had left a sinister past up north and taken on a new identity in Kwangtung. All this leads to a pair of superb fight sequences in the woods outside of town late in the film.
The plot is rather slight and a bit confusing at times. The fight sequences are well staged and well shot although they come late in the film and are not framed against any interesting backgrounds. There are some good training sequences featuring the star in which he makes use of slender tree limbs, lots of rope and metal bonds. The direction (by Li Chao) is competent but lacking any distinct imaginative touches. The cast is largely unfamiliar, except for star Leung Kar Yan (who's much better used in such films as SLEEPING FIST, THUNDERING MANTIS and LEGEND OF A FIGHTER); Wang Chung (a former Shaw Bros. supporting player), who plays the sympathetic stranger; and the always dependable Kao Fei (aka Phillip Ko) who turns up as the main villain.
The opening narration invokes the famed "Ten Tigers of Kwangtung" (a band of 19th century Cantonese kung fu experts who were featured in a movie of their own by that title), but there is never any mention of them in the film itself.
The real distinction of this film, however, is its availability in a letter-boxed DVD transfer made from a pristine 35mm print. Rarely do we get to see old-school kung fu films in such high-quality editions. The fact that it's a lesser film means less than the fact that such a great-looking print simply has to be seen by kung fu fans anyway.
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