Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Turbans, Blue-Eyes & Clichés!
Another of those historical "epics" abusing the white-people-in-turbans approach. When it comes to Italian sword & sandal dramas, I prefer the more fantasy-themed ones with two-fisted muscle-men and the occasional monster. Unfortunately, THE CONQUEROR OF THE ORIENT replaces the more imaginative elements with enough clichés to make every plot-twist visible a mile away. Not only has the story been told many times before and since, but it's usually more entertaining in other variations of these often repeated themes (i.e. palace intrigue & conspiracies, avenging the death of one's father). It's dialog-heavy and most of its action scenes are pretty bad: Flimsy swords and dreadfully bad swordplay. I don't know if these weak (and few) duels were exciting back in 1960, because I'm seeing them through 21st century eyes. In short, the movie doesn't stand the test of the times and even in its English dubbed form, THE CONQUEROR OF THE ORIENT just isn't interesting.
Even so, I enjoyed it more than Ridley Scott's GLADIATOR (2000). But then, I enjoyed getting a route canal more than I enjoyed GLADIATOR. To be fair, THE CONQUEROR OF THE ORIENT has its good points: The costumes aren't bad, the sets (curtains help cover the walls' lack of props) are okay, and them harem girls put Barbara Eden "Jeanie" to shame. Though not cheap by Italian 1960s standards, its resourceful budget cuts add unintended humor: A night-time cityscape is an obvious matte that looks like a cartoon. In one scene, the obligatory tyrant (Paul Muller) looks out the window of his lavish palace, to see revolting peasants carrying torches. It's so obvious that these 'torches' are lit matches that it's actually quite cute!
When I watched this average tale of tunic-attired hero Nadir (Rik Battaglia), I had to tolerate a badly restored VHS tape with abrupt cuts (severing many sentences mid-word), scratches, and the "Something Weird Video" logo throughout. Anyway: I don't think there was any finger-printing or DNA testing back in the old primitive Middle East, so when an exiled prince(Battaglia) wants to prove he's the rightful heir to the throne, they have tests. One test is simply to hit a board using his sword! Oncethis feat is accomplished, our hero leads the rebellion to rescue Princess Fatima (Irene Tunc) and her cleavage. The reluctant bride was held captive by evil ruler Dakar (Paul Muller), until the palace is attacked by heroic Rik Battaglia. The final (and only) fight between Muller & Battaglia is decent, or at least better than the other action scenes in this slow-paced drama. In one decent stunt, the good guy swings on a vale and kicks Muller's stunt-double. Naturally, Rik Battaglia wins and gets the girl (and the country).
Magic Kombat (1995)
unwatchable spoof of videogames
It took over a month to watch this talky, stupid, boring, cheap comedy from the Philippines. I could only stomach this cinematic ineptitude for 15 minutes at a time! Needless to say, I was disappointed, because I'm always curious to see a sci-fi movie from a country not known for science fiction. Of course, I'm also not a fan of videogames (I've never played MORTAL COMBAT), so if there are in-jokes, I'm not getting them. Language is also a factor, because MAGIC COMBAT was never intended for those of us who are Tagalog-impaired.
Infantile slapstick and childish sound FX 'highlight' this pathetically cheap farce about college or high school students Mario & Luigi. These annoying geeks go through a number of dumb comedic bits before something magical brings video game characters to life. Its action scenes are limited and won't impress fans of even the worst martial arts films! If you want to see an obscure movie's take on video games, seek out the Korean oddity STREET LAWLESS instead, and let MAGIC COMBAT rot into obscurity.
Super Hong Kil-dong (1988)
Cheap fantasy...almost entertaining!
Korean fantasy which reminded me of Chinese stuff Wu Cheng En's Journey to the West novel, but with the occasional usage of a gyonsi (Chinese vampire). But "Hong Gil Tong" (AKA Hong Kil Tong) is a famous Korean folk hero from long ago, there are a lot of different movies, cartoons & TV shows about himunfortunately, very few are available outside Korea. I doubt any were ever given English translation of any kind, which is unfortunate because they're not much worse than HK's kung fu comedies of the late 1970s.
This is only one of the SUPER HONG KIL TONG films; there are at least three films in this series. The FX in this movie are dirt cheap (i.e. rubber animal masks on stuntmen are supposed to depict forrest demons!), the comedy is infantile, and the script is down right boring. But its crudeness adds unintended chuckles, and the grand finale has some nice tae kwon do action; the fights nearly save this dumb farce.
Shao Lin xiong di (1977)
Night of the Leaping GORPS?!
I watched an old Korean VHS release from 1980, titled LEGEND OF LIVING GORPS. They mean "corpse", of course. But the original title, THE SHAOLIN BROTHERS (1977) is equally inaccurate; the movie lacks any "Shaolin brothers" and the "living corpses" turn out to be hoaxes-- people disguised as vampires.
With stock music from PLANET OF THE APES, Ching Dynasty oppression, bad subtitles and plenty of swordplay, it's a typically unremarkable kung fu film. But a subplot deals with gyonsies (Hunan's legendary hopping cadavers). So its is ahead of its time the whole gyonsi genre didn't kick in until the 1980s. The opening subtitles explain how a Taoist wizard is hired as "corpse driver", and despite cut-off cropping on the sides, I was able to read "died in a strange land", "herding corpses", "corpse would have to be returned" and that the movie is "based on legends, true events and real people". These subtitles were what introduced me to the whole Chinese vampire genre many years ago, and explained more than otherwise superior gyonsi movies (i.e. the MR. VAMPIRE movies) ever did.
The script is about jewel smugglers and revolutionaries going undercover as gyonsies, to sneak passed evil imperial guards lead by Carter Wang. It's based on the same legend that formed the script for another Chinese mystery movie, VOYAGE OF THE DEAD (1954), believed to be a lost film. Though THE SHAOLIN BROTHERS is intriguing historically, it's only a so-so movie. Much of it deals with rebels trying to defeat villainous Carter Wang and his "soul breaking needles". At the end, a hero sacrifices himself in order to hold the bad guy underwaterand they both drown. Though just another kung fu movie, it's an interesting precursor to the Chinese horror fantasies about to grace the 1980s.
You huan dao shi (1985)
Infantile, but Entertaining
Back in the 1980s, the illiterate Chinese title was typed "Hello! Dracular" on the VHS box, and it's been known as HELLO! DRACULAR ever since; except by the Japanese, who cut the movie up into half hour segments to form the TV mini-series YUGEN DOUSHI 2.
Just how many of these childish Taiwanese fantasies were made in the 1980s?! Oh well, at least it's flamboyant, action packed, outlandish, way too exotic for most non-Chinese, and it's basically a wild & crazy thriller. With all these elements in play, you would think I would give this colorful martial arts/horror fantasy higher praise.
But its childishness gets really annoying at times. My god, these antics irritate me! Basically it's the same kung fu kids as in HAI TZU WONG (a Chinese movie so obscure it lacks an English title!), since this five-or-so (?) movie series seems related; the similarities are striking, but continuity between them is terrible. In this one, the kids are again dealing with robed, hopping vampires and that lovable tyke dubbed "Baby Kyonshi" by the Japanese. Plenty of special effects and kung fu, but most interesting of all are some Americans (speaking English) who want to take the gyonsi vampire, which they pronounce "jiang-shi", back to America. How this Catholic priest learned kung fu a hundred years ago is never explained, but over-all, it's dumb yet fun entertainment.
Fight! Dragon (1974)
Japan's TV show becomes a Hong Kong movie!
HK 'villain' actor Yasuaki Kurata finally got respect in his own country and stars in this excellent, 26-episode Japanese TV show: TATAKAE! DRAGON ("Fight! Dragon")! A decade before Junya Takagi's KUNG FU CHAN (another Japanese kung fu TV series of half-hour episodes) came this exciting program. It helped the prolific martial artist's career and made a TV star of him in Japan.
With episodes being very simple and 30 minutes long, it seems the show is for children. It reads like a 'traditional' Japanese superhero program (minus the sci-fi elements & FX), right down to the little kids and a bumbling wannabe hero. Our heroic protagonist (Yasuaki Kurata himself) takes on several henchmen throughout each thrilling episode, before squaring off against a main, episodic guest villain to kill at the grand finale of each chapter. I recognized the music as being by the one and only Shunsuke Kikuchi and the theme song is sung by Masato Shimon! Anybody who's ever seen a Japanese superhero program that matters has heard his voice. I won't name all the Japanese sci-fi programs he's nearly burst is lungs for, but international audiences might remember him for singing the Jet Jaguar song at the end of GODZILLA VS. MEGALON (Toho; 1973). So: With the music and plot structure, TATAKAE! DRAGON must seem pretty typical of Japanese '70s kiddy TV. But without the fantasy & monster elements, it concentrates exclusively on martial arts. So TATAKAE! DRAGON seems violent for kiddy fare, even by Japan's 1970s standards! With no inanimate robots or mythical creatures, it's obvious that real humans are killing real humans in every episode! Knives are thrown, bones are broken. So if ever there was a TV program that made you want to say "They just don't make 'em like that anymore!", it's this obscure, nearly forgotten classic, TATAKAE! DRAGON!
Even by '70s kung fu standards, TATAKAE! DRAGON is cheap. It's no worse than the Hong Kongese Bruce Li movies coming out at the time, but sometimes it's evident and the writing suffered. For example, in episode #3, our investigative Dragon (Yasuaki Kurata) is in HK watching a Peking opera performance. The idea being that one of the on-stage acrobats is that episode's main villain Red Scorpion, in disguise. We only see the guy's face in tight insert- it appears the performance wasn't intentionally part of the series. Then when the typically impressive show ends and the actor is proud and takes a bow, there's no audience applause! It's silence, probably because not enough budget was put into the sound. Also, limited planning went into the action scenes, resulting in confusing and moments where it's hard to tell what just happened.
But despite its budgetary flaws, I still think it's a superb program. Kurata is a great performer and I sometimes rooted for his evil characters in HK movies because he usually out-shined the good guys. TATAKAE! DRAGON is his show, and he goes all out: Not only are there entertaining karate fights in every episode, but he did a lot of his own stunts: Sliding down stairs (ouch!) while grappling a villain, scaling many walls using no wires or mattresses in case he falls, narrowly missing getting run over by a jeep, and clinging to the roof of a speeding car (a good ten years before Jackie Chan did these things). The choreography is definitely Japanese. Though the first couple episodes take place in HK and utilize familiar Chinese actors (i.e. Yang 'Bolo' Sze & Bruce Liang), the style of action does not look like the work of HK choreographers. The battles aren't that long, and tend to minimize the endless exchange of HK arm-blocks. Fortunately, the photography evades the sloppy, hand-held work that plagued so many Japanese karate movies of the time, and TATAKAE! DRAGON's karate spats thrilled me far more than those in Chiba's gritty STREETFIGHTER stuff.
From what I've seen, I found the series to be consistently entertaining even in Japanese-it helps to have a script so simple it's virtually non-existent. All you need to know is that Yasuaki Kurata is a good guy, and members of Shadow (a gang of extortionists who hire colorful assassins) are anything but! That's pretty much it, though there is the typical "avenging-my-teacher's-death" premise, & there are always formulaic clichés like damsels-in-distress, who are often tied up as a hostage (if only to instigate the climactic rescue mission & battle).
This exciting show deals with Dragon (Yasuaki Kurata). He helps run an orphanage, but is also a righteous martial artist, so he spends more time battling the evil 'Shadow' gang than counseling kids. The course of the show has him traveling all over Asia (from HK, to Macau, back to HK, to Japan, to the Phillipines, etc.) to battle the extortionists of Shadow: Villains with names like Red Scorpion, Blue Cat and Red-Faced Tiger.
There are occasional familiar faces who play the villains: Yang Sze is in the first couple episodes, and a later episode features a villainous Tetsu Sumi (the karate expert in Gordon Liu's CHALLENGE OF THE NINJA). It all depends on the country the episode was filmed (on-location) in. This also applies to the occasional guest heroes: When Kurata is in HK, he teams up with Interpole agent Bruce Liang, but when he's in Japan, he gets help from fellow martial artist Tetsyua Ushio (best known as the heroic samurai who changed into KAIKETSU LION MARU and FUUN LION MARU).
Five episodes were spliced together to form the badly dubbed kung fu movie, THE FIGHTING DRAGON (Ocean Shores; 1980). If nothing else, this English version is entertaining. I gotta' give the Filipino (?) dubbers credit for renaming the villains 'Black Panther'. After all, the bad guys wear panther emblems, so it makes more sense than 'Shadow' (their original name).
Power King (1995)
Korean-American splice job: OUTLAW POWER
Korean audiences know this superhero movie as POWER KING (Zero Nine Entertainment; 1995), but international audiences are more familiar with it under the title OUTLAW POWER (Master Film International; 1996). In the unfortunate tradition of POWER RANGERS and other Saban hybrid superheroes of the 1990s comes this equally unfortunate rip-off: OUTLAW POWER, ARMICRON, ARMICRON IN OUTLAW POWER or whatever you choose to call it. In this case, it's the FX battles of Korea's POWER KING which get gutted, butchered and randomly spliced with American actors for the non-FX scenes. I've seen both the untranslated Korean print (POWER KING) and it's more 'user friendly' OUTLAW POWER. Surprisingly, I preferred the Korean version, even though I didn't understand the dialog. The original POWER KING came off as an action-packed, entertaining sci-fi adventure, while it's Americanisation (OUTLAW POWER) is awkward and dumb.
OUTLAW POWER full of bad acting, embarrassing comedy, cheap sets, and is padded out with long stretches of stock-footage (ranging from volcanoes, to disaster films to seemingly endless scenes of army jets). Director/producer/actor Hyung-rae Shim's bumbling "Young Gu" character (an idiot he's played in countless films) is replaced by American actor Michael Bunata, who's of the typical "put-glasses-on-him and-now-he's-a-college-nerd" school of unconvincing casting. OUTLAW POWER has a few nice spinning-back kicks & explosions, but it seems needlessly padded out with American soldiers; characters which slow down the pace.
One of the things I liked about cybernetic space hero Power King was his unexpected brutality: Not only would he sneak up and snap a guy's neck, but when a rude motorist yelled at Power King, he gave him a bloody nose! His watered-down alter-ego, Amicron isn't as gutsy; though he does fight a couple G.I.s who got in his way.
Both versions have basically the same story: Earth is invaded by an alien ('Lucas' in Korean, 'Ankar' in America) who looks like Nosferatu. His helpers look like Darth Vader-- but the STAR WARS imitations don't end there (there's an exciting chase through a forest not unlike stuff in RETURN OF THE JEDI). Fortunately, two alien princesses (Kim Young Eon & Kim Suek Hyun in Korea, but replaced by Jodee Anderson & Helen Miya for English audiences) have come to Earth to befriend the most unlikely hero: Hyung-rae Shim or Michael Bunata, depending on which version. Either way, you get plenty of stupidity before the buffoon gets turned into heroic Power King/Armicron. In the Korean movie, Hyung-rae Shim clowns around for the first 20 minutes, and in the Americanisation, we have to stomach all these teenagers who keep high fiving each other. Either way, you get to see some decent superhero action and martial arts. There are three Klingon-like warriors who jump up and cling to trees (in one scene, the suspension wires are visible).
Bi hu (1972)
Steals from the Foriegners and Gives to the Poor
Sometimes them Shaw Brothers are better at making large sets than kung fu movies, as THE LIZARD reminded memore than once. If you think seeing a fat lady go cross-eyed is state-of-the-art comedy (even for 1972), or if you haven't seen enough crooked casinos get exposed, then THE LIZARD is your cup of tea.
Granted, THE LIZARD is offbeat and the inventiveness of our heroes has its moments. But the title hero is Yue Hua, and the main villain is Lo Lieh. So you can imagine how bad the martial arts are! The hidden trampolines, reverse-film jumps, occasional bloodshed and martial arts direction by Yuen Cheung Yan and Yuen Wo Ping at least make the battles entertaining. On the whole, THE LIZARD is slow-paced and pointless enough that it won't make converts out of non-fans. But if you're a die-hard kung fu completist who can't get enough of the classy Shaw Brothers chop-sockeys of the 1970s and want to see a movie which avoids much of the genres' more typical clichés, then maybe you can buy this DVD from me before I list it on Ebay. Actually, nevermind; I just now sold it for a buck.
SPOILER WARNING: I don't actually know what a spoiler is, so there's the risk that I might give something away in this synopsis: The setting appears to be 1930s Shanghai, and Yuen Wah plays a 'Chinese Robinhood' called The Lizard, who steals from the rich (which includes rich foreigners like the Caucasian couple having sex at the beginning) and gives to the poor. This black-hooded vigilante rigs up explosions to cover his tracks while being pursued by corrupt cop Lo Lieh, who would rather run fixed casinos and sell women into prostitution. Fortunately, Yueh Hua and girlfriend Connie Chan (her last film before retirement) take on and defeat Lo Lieh and his helpers, despite the latters' use of knives and guns.
Yang gui (1982)
Not great, but interesting & Scary
Grim, bleak sometimes sleazy horror movie from HK. This script is interesting and the music is eerie. There's a slow pace and the emphasis is more on mood and strange Chinese cultures than special effects or action. So I was bored more than once. GHOST NURSING didn't particularly impress me, but die-hard horror fans might like it, so I can recommend it to them. If there's a cleaner print, and preferably a dubbed one, I would like this creepy tale more.
The story is about this innocent girl called Jackie, who committed atrocities in a previous life, and so her current life is full of tragedy (payback!). She consults a wizard to cure her. The cure involves a petrified fetus from long ago, and by taking care of it (via daily rituals) for about a year I guess, the problems in her life will end. Then one day, some nosy friends uncover this little 'guardian devil' and tamper with it. One of the friends is killed by this evil statue, and the other (Norman Chu) gets possessed by it. Norman Chu kills Jackie's friend and turns on Jackie herself. So she requests the assistance of that same wizard. There's some sort of magical chase in a forest, but then the wizard subdues the zombie guy, and like many older Chinese flicks, there's an abrupt ending.
Lao jia lao nu lao shang lao (1978)
Bruce Li as a chauffeur, and NO Kato mask!
For pure entertainment, this HK movie entertains, and that's the bottom line. I admit to enjoying cheap kung fu movies of the late 1970s, and most of the time, I'm not too ashamed of this. There are long gaps between the kung fu skirmishes, but because protagonist Bruc Li endures injustice and an occasional beating, it's hard not to cheer him on when he finally lashes out with his trademark tae kwon do kicks. This was the middle of his career, so he's beyond his Bruce Lee phase and allowed to flex his own muscle.
Li is a chauffeur, whose employer turns got framed for drugs & executed (via Malaysian firing squad). It's a suspenseful mystery, as Li gets accused of being involved with the drugs (which he's oblivious of), and how the dealer's deceitful, gold-digging widow fights to change her husband's last Will & Testament. The wife is pretty unlikeable (so we shed no tears when she commits hari-kiri near the climax), but is played by the beautiful Dana Tsen (INFRAMAN, IMAGE OF BRUCE LEE), here credited as "Danna". While she fools around and even goes topless briefly, Li rescues his kidnapped girlfriend (Michelle; no last name in credits) takes care of the dead man's son, and also wastes mobsters sent by the evil Mr. King (Yasuaki Kurata), somehow involved in the whole conspiracy. The bad English version might dissuade some people from watching this fairly decent movie. Though it's well written with interesting characters, it features the same familiar voices which have been in countless inferior films-- so there are those who might not give EDGE OF FURY A CHANCE. Also, the lack of a few full names ("Danna", "Michelle") in the credits makes it seem amateurish. Complete with the standard bell-bottoms, this average kung fu movie is amusing.