Fei du juan yun shan (1978)
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This is one of the more interesting Jackie Chan movie that I've seen. Jackie plays a bodyguard who is hired to accompany a woman through a dangerous stretch of countryside. Jackie is hired yet agrees to do the job for free...this is just the start of a complicated story line.
Unlike his more humorous movies this movie is out-and-out action from the very start. The fighting scenes are good and frequent. The story line has a few twists and isn't just the standard `I will revenge my father/brother' plot. Interesting things to note are the 3D effects, at one point they enter a monastery that has swastikas on the wall, then when the team are trying to pass through a valley they start to play the Star Wars theme!!!
Overall this is quite different from most Jackie movies in that the story line is rich, the action is frequent, and the twists rival Fight Club.
Not the best movie he's ever done, but well worth a look.
Chan is asked by a young, wealthy lady to take her sick brother to a specialist doctor. To reach him, Chan and a handful of traveling companions must pass through bandit-infested wild country. They encounter and kung-fu-fight several gangs of thugs along the way.
Some minor interest is maintained as there's a quest involved, and the group journey through some nice locations. Also, the musical score has a surprising range of dynamics.
On the downside, the version I saw was poorly dubbed and the script had a lot of problems.
None of the many fight-scenes reach the heights of "Snake in the Eagle's Shadow", "Snake and Crane Arts of Shaolin" or "Drunken Master" (Jackie Chan vehicles made immediately before and after Magnificent Bodyguards).
Also, there is a twist near the end which I felt was a cop out and undermined the nature of the film, but by that point I wasn't too bothered anyway.
I would recommend this to die-hard Jackie Chan fans only. The casual fan would do well to stick with his 80s and 90s output (with a few exceptions).
Basically, Jackie and cohorts - the magnificent bodyguards of the title - are hired to guard and transport a valuable cargo over some dangerous, bandit-infested mountains. Of course, nothing is what it seems, no-one can be trusted and there appears to be a lost tribe of American Indians wandering the hills.
The version I saw was subtitled - it was fun hearing the original Chinese. Maybe that let the humour come out more. The movie doesn't take itself too seriously and only gets serious at the very end.
Well worth a watch.
1 - The acting is very, very, very bad. The actors in the "nazi" monk scene were laughing during the fight. The fighting scene is very bad.
2 - As this movie was shot in 3D you'll see some knives, rocks and even snakes flying over the camera, to create that 3D effect. If you are watching this movie in a TV, this will look silly.
3 - The fight scenes are quite bizarre. The make up and the fake blood are very odd. The final fight scene is indoor and outdoor almost at the same time (watch carefully the final fight scene and prepare to laugh with the final "the end" scene)
If you want to see this movie, I must say: May the force be with you! You'll need it.
Toss in some seriously bad foley, a "deaf" character who can obviously hear, a little... familiar... incidental music, and some monks whose ultimate technique is to make a moderately loud noise, and it's really no wonder that the subtitling is so shoddily done.
The "Stormy Mountain" theme song is a real gem. Make up your own verses and sing along!
Things open in the thick of action as we witness a long-haired Jackie fighting off a gang of pole-wielding warriors. It turns out that this is his way of applying for a job! Jackie is Ting Chung, dubbed "the world's fastest boxer", and he's quickly employed by the mysterious Lady Nan to act as a bodyguard for herself and her sick brother (who is confined to a sedan chair) as they cross through the bandit-ridden Stormy Mountains to reach a distant city. Jackie picks some hired help from the townsfolk and also chooses an additional bodyguard for the expedition, a deaf tanner played by the film's second kung fu star, Bruce Liang.
The rest of the film chronicles the adventures of the party as it set offs through the Stormy Mountains. First stop is a ghost town inhabited by a strange old woman and two rival fighters – the God of Darts and Tsang, whose catchphrase is "I'll skin you alive!". In Tsang we have the film's third and final kung fu star, James Tien, and he quickly joins Lady Nan's party on its journey through the mountains. Soon the travellers are fighting with the various bandit chiefs in the vicinity, including the Scholar – a man who dresses in pink, wields a fan as a weapon and has a small box on his head (?), Lady Liu, the Old Wolf and the Fake Monk.
There's an engaging interlude as the three bodyguards seek refuge inside a booby-trapped Shaolin Temple only to be attacked by bloodthirsty monks, deafening bells, and poison gas, and a little respite at the Peace Hotel. Finally the party is ambushed by every bandit in the region and trapped in a valley. Jackie sneaks out to find help, but is double-crossed and taken to the palace of the mountain ruler, Lord Chu. Once there, the others join him, there's a twist as the identity of Lady Nan's "brother" is revealed, and all hell breaks loose in a final massacre as Jackie and his buddies fight for survival.
The one unique thing about this particular film is that it was made in 3D, a process by which objects were seen to 'pop' out of the screen when viewing a special print with supplied glasses at the cinema. Two of the 'biggest' 3D films of the era were JAWS 3D and Friday the 13th Part III, but MAGNIFICENT BODYGUARDS came first, approximately five years before. Essentially, the viewer will notice that many different things seem to jut out at the screen as they watch the film. These include poles flying out of the screen, swords slashing towards the viewer, pots flying toward the camera, and even freeze-frame shots of snakes at one point. Of course there are also plenty of fists and feet hurled toward the viewer and, in my favourite effect, polystyrene rocks smash down into the camera – the most effective 3D moment in the whole film!
One of the notable things about MAGNIFICENT BODYGUARDS is that Jackie shares the limelight with two other action stars of the period. Bruce Liang was a popular Bruce Lee impersonator who appeared in many rip-offs and he proves to be pretty nimble in his fight scenes, using lots of strong leg work. Meanwhile, James Tien was always something of an under-appreciated actor – probably because he was a lot older than the co-stars in his films – but he does very well here as a tough, sword-wielding warrior. It goes without saying that Jackie shines in the various action scenes and the focus is on his hand-to-hand combat throughout.
The film has a general feeling of weirdness to it that is not helped by the inclusion of some music from STAR WARS – some Chinese films were notorious for their disregard of international copyright laws. A jolly song pops up as the heroes trek through the mountains and is quite amusing. However, the almost complete lack of humour sets it apart from Jackie's funny later movies and some elements of the story border on the fantastical (I'm thinking of the six-fingered man and the Red Indians). There's also an extremely gruesome moment late in the film in which Jackie tears off a female opponent's face, an effect that comes as a total shock and seems very out of place considering the film's genial tone elsewhere. Still, the final, lengthy three-on-one fight scene is very well staged and helps the viewer to overlook this misjudged gore effect.
When I watch terrible movies like this I try to find a "moment". Even the worst movie can have a special moment, not necessarily scripted, that hits a nerve, sparks a memory, or just creates something special out of the nothingness. Not all movies have a moment but this one does. At about 47 minutes James, Bruce and Jackie are standing next to each other thinking. Then James gets this expression on his face "What the heck is going on here?" and he walks off. Then Bruce does the same thing, then Jackie. Yes, that was the defining moment of the movie – what the heck is going on here!- then they all leave!
Round-Up: This movie was directed by Wei Lo who brought you movies like the Big Boss, Fist of Fury, New Fist of Fury, Killer Meteors, To Kill With Intrigue, Spiritual Kung Fu and Dragon Fist and he has made a lot of movies which I can't pronounce and I doubt that you have heard of them. He is a highly respected director who died in 1996, due to heart failure and is mostly known for the work that he had done with Bruce Lee. I liked the fact that he didn't add comedy to the action scenes but it still looked like the Kung Fu was pretty basic in this movie.
I recommend this movie to people who are into their action/martial arts movies starring Jackie Chan, Pang Cheng and Siu-Lung Leung. 4/10
Jackie may be top billed in order to help sell the movie, but in truth this is just as much Tiens' and Liangs' movie as it is his. It certainly does contain some comedy, but not to the extent that would characterize Jackies' best known vehicles from this period. Of course, it would probably play a fair bit better were it not for the cheesy dubbing and dialogue in the English language version, rendering it rather goofy much of the time. The fight scenes are fairly breathless and numerous - but the movie does focus on plot a substantial amount of the time. Viewers can take some amusement from the fact that this is pretty violent, with some priceless, tacky gore as faces actually get sliced off. The production does look to be on the cheap side, but the widescreen photography of some very nice scenery still works pretty well.
Jackie shows off a natural, easygoing charm, although, as said, he doesn't get THAT many opportunities to strut his stuff. Other performances are similarly engaging.
I'm guessing that the film was picked up by 20th Century Fox for distribution in America, which may account for the liberal use of John Williams' classic "Star Wars" soundtrack. Since this music is so intimately connected to that Hollywood blockbuster, it merely becomes distracting after a while.
Overall, this is decent enough entertainment, but it gets kicked up another notch for the hilarious, twist-laden climax.
Six out of 10.
After watching many brilliant Jackie Chan movies in Mandarin with English subtitles, this was a dreadful disappointment.
I cannot believe the poor quality of the dubbing, makes the whole film appear wooden. If we must have dubbing, why is it not done with Chinese accents? American accents and a poor standard of dubbing is just dreadful.
The acting is also disappointing, far short if the usual Jackie Chan standard.
Maybe if release in the original language with English subtitles, it would be far more interesting and make up for the poor dubbing.