This two-disc set contains four movies from the famous Golden Harvest production company, “The Skyhawk”, “The Manchu Boxer”, “The Dragon Tamers”, and “The Association”, all of which look and sound better than they ever have before this release. It’s a who’s who of stars in this set of movies that most of us (myself included) probably never heard of or saw before unless you are a hardcore Kung Fu movie fan.
“The Skyhawk” from 1974 stars Tak-Hing Kwan as the famous Wong Fei Hung, who has been portrayed by countless actors in Hong Kong Cinema including Jet Li and Jackie Chan (although Chan’s portrayal is a much more humorous one). Nicknamed “The Skyhawk”, Wong Fei Hung and his associate Fei Fei (Sammo Hung AKA Fatty in the english dub), are on their way to visiting an old friend, when they rescue a Kung Fu student getting beat up by a rival school. This leads to them getting involved in the local politics, as a mobster is trying to take control of factory workers by any means necessary, and it is up to Wong Fei Hung to sort things out and make everything right. The movie also stars Nora Miao, Carter Huang, and Whang In Sik, with the action scenes directed by Sammo Hung. I am a big fan of Sammo Hung’s work, and his earlier movies still shine as great examples of old and new fighting, and are absolutely worth a watch.
Also from 1974, “The Manchu Boxer” follows a roaming fighter with a dark past that ends up entering a Kung Fu tournament to become Champion of Seven Provinces, but nothing is ever that simple in a tournament, as the fighter must dispose of a crooked family with more sinister plans. Starring Anthony Lau Wing, Sammo Hung (who also directed the action here), and Wilson Tong Wai Shing, the film is a bit slow but when the action happens, it makes up for the long journey it took to get there. Plot heavy but with explosive fights, it’s the typical story of the reluctant hero who refuses to fight until things get personal, and once that happens, all bets are off!
“The Dragon Tamers” from 1975 is notable for being director John Woo’s second film (he both directed and wrote the screenplay for this one), and features Chuan Chen, James Tien, Carter Huang, Ji Han Jae, and Sammo Hung. A Chinese martial artist comes to Korea with the intention of challenging a Taekwondo master. He soon meets a group of people belonging to several martial arts dojos which are localized in the area, and are being attack by a mysterious gang who intend to take control of the schools. If you have been reading this review, I am sure you can figure out what happens next.
You can definitely get a sense that this is a John Woo film, even at this early stage of his career, although it is also clear that the studio must have had some hands in this since there are a lot of random and unnecessary scenes that the movie could do without. Also of note, a young Jackie Chan was an assistant on filming the fight scenes in this movie, which is just a cool note to martial arts movie history.
Lastly, “The Association” from 1975 stars Byong Yu, Tien Ni, Hwang In Sik, Angela Mao Ying, and Carter Huang, and is about a pair of undercover cops that must bust an international prostitution ring that may have ties to police corruption. This movie, which rides the thin line of Kung Fu flick and exploitation movie, has some very stylish fight scenes that were once again choreographed by Sammo Hung. This movie also marks the only time that Byong Yu did a movie, who is a very high-ranking Tae Kwon Do master. It’s a pity he only did one movie, but to be fair, this one is a bit of mess that has awesome fight scenes, but a lagging plot – and frankly, exploitation movies are just not my thing, especially not HK ones.
Overall, “The Martial Arts Movie Marathon” series is shaping up into something pretty interesting. While some movies were definitely better than others, they are all worth watching (even if you do have to fast-forward through a few of the slow parts). While I like my Kung Fu movies to have stories, if you are coming just for the action then all of these movies will give you your fix. These are some hidden treasures that have been unearthed, and are a piece of Kung Fu cinema history that you will definitely enjoy for their cheesiness, and love for the action!
You can order the Martial Arts Movie Marathon Volume 1 DVD set from Amazon.com for around $18, and is a great price for some lost classics that have never looked better.