THE RAGE OF WIND - rare martial arts film with Chen Sing as the hero
THE RAGE OF WIND (1973) is an early work from Ng See Yuen, a producer-director who later gave us such exemplary kung fu films as SECRET RIVALS, INVINCIBLE ARMOR and RING OF DEATH. It's not a polished work at all and features some unusually sloppy cinematography and is available to us only in a poor-quality DVD edition from World Video offering a full-frame English dub and one of the scratchiest prints I've ever seen offered on a legit release.
Still, it's a film that holds some interest for kung fu fans. For one thing, it's a rare case of perennial kung fu villain Chen Sing (HEROIC ONES, LEGENDARY STRIKE) playing a good guy, in a 20th century setting no less. For another, he has a white American wife (played by Irene Ryder), who has returned with him to his home village in 1930s China after he married her in the U.S. where he had some success as a boxer. The wife is quite a forceful character in her own right and is always at her husband's side, an equal partner in the marriage. Normally known for his evil grinning in kung fu films, Chen is quite the romantic lead here, regarding his wife with tenderness and affection. No one in the village seems at all fazed by Chen's marriage to an American and they seem to accept his wife as one of their own. (Soon after arriving, she trades in her American fashions, which seem curiously 19th-century in style, for Chinese garb and hairstyle, which actually suit her quite well.)
The plot is the standard one of Chinese villagers-vs.-wicked Japanese occupiers. After Chen's return home, the local fishermen look to him for help in opposing the Japanese, but he's reluctant to use violence, bearing shame for having killed a man in the ring in America, and seeks to negotiate with the Japanese boss, played by Yasuaki Kurata. The action consists basically of escalating Japanese abuses which finally push the hero into a position of having no choice but to fight. In the last 20 minutes, Chen lets loose a ferocious display of Chinese boxing against his karate-practicing Japanese opponents. It helps a great deal that two such capable performers as Chen and Kurata handle most of the fighting chores. Kurata was a skilled Japanese performer/martial artist who played Japanese roles in dozens of Hong Kong kung fu films, including three memorable non-villain roles: SHAOLIN CHALLENGES NINJA, LEGEND OF A FIGHTER and FIST OF LEGEND. (He also turned up in 2003 in the female-themed action thriller, SO CLOSE.)
While the poor quality of the available DVD edition is an obstacle to one's enjoyment of the film, it's still recommended to fans of Chen Sing and Yasuaki Kurata and those whose interest is piqued by the unique multicultural mix of Chinese, Japanese and American characters in a Hong Kong martial arts film.
On the subject of kung fu heroes having foreign wives, I remember Gordon Liu having a Japanese wife in SHAOLIN CHALLENGES NINJA (HEROES OF THE EAST, 1979) and Jet Li living with a Japanese girlfriend in FIST OF LEGEND (1994), but I don't think I've ever seen a kung fu hero in a Hong Kong film with an American wife in China before.
The music score is patched-together from all sorts of other soundtracks including Isaac Hayes' SHAFT and dollops of Ennio Morricone.
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