"I killed a few bums for the sake of justice."
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 02/03/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Back in the early 1970s independent distributor Richard Ellman and film editor Richard Brummer presented American audiences released this Chinese made nugget titled Fearless Fighters, originally released in 1973 by an entity called Sun Wah Motion Picture Company, with the American version released in 1974. I know not who wrote, directed, or even starred in this film, but I will tell you this, I thought it a lot of fun, and worthwhile to anyone who digs on old school martial arts 'B' films featuring a whole lot of crazy, high flying action.
As the story begins we see a man practicing his martial arts skills by throttling a tree, collecting the leaves that fall on his sword blade, and then using said leaves much like one would use throwing stars, impaling them into a target, in this case, a tree, possibly the same one from whence the leaves came, I don't know, but I digress...cut to a convoy, lead by an elderly man on horseback. Some highwaymen appear, and we learn they're members of the Eagle Claw fighting clan. Seems the convoy is carrying a shipment of royal gold intended for distribution to the poor, and the fighting clan, lead by an odious fellow, aims to procure the goods...not very honorable, but soon enough we're knee deep into a fight sequence and we see the old man, who's actually the `All Mighty Imperial Lighting Whip', opens a six-pack of whupazz, as his whip skills are quite impressive (one might even go so far as to say they're da bomb). He manages to fend them off, but the clan returns in greater numbers (and with archers), eventually taking the gold and leaving the old man mortally wounded. Now, the man we saw at the beginning, whose name is something like Napalm (at least that what I kept hearing...actually, it might have been Lei Pong), who is a member of the Eagle Claw fighting clan, being the decent, honorable fellow he is, tries to get his fellow clan members to return the gold and cop to their crimes, but they're having none of that as they frame him, get him arrested, and kill Napalm's entire family (in an effort to get rid of any witnesses), except for his annoying, young son whom I've dubbed `the boy of never ending tears' given his penchant for the waterworks (thankfully, he's not in the movie all that much). Now the old man with the whip bites its, but not before relating what happened to his son and daughter, both of whom team up with Napalm, break him out of jail, hook up with another sword wielding female who looks like a flying nun, all in an effort to retrieve the stolen gold and seek revenge on the clan what caused all the trouble in the first place. But wait, the evil clan isn't just sitting around counting their dough (actually, they are), but realizing the impending danger, they go ahead and hire the most ruthless killers they can find, creating a veritable army of bloodthirsty cutthroats this side of the Yangtze River. Oh yeah, it's go time all right...
Now I'll admit, I don't know the various, different types of martial arts films from a hole in the ground, but I know what I like, and I really dug this film. Perhaps it was the fact that you couldn't go five minutes without a fast and furious fight sequence breaking out, but it was more than that...how could you not enjoy a film with characters with names like Soul Picker, One Man Army, Solar Ray of Death, and Dragon Razor? Well, I suppose you could, if it were poorly done, but I didn't feel that the case here. Most of the action involves the use of weapons, swords, pole arms, spears, whips, bow and arrows, throwing knives, hand claws, along with some unusual pieces like short, curved handheld blades referred to as flying sparrows, and shiny sewer cover sized discs used not only to try and slice opponents, but also to focus and reflect the sun into powerful blasts capable of great damage (perhaps not as effective at night...moon power seems a lot less menacing than sun power, unless you're talking in terms of vampires or werewolves). Also we see items one might normal not associate with as being weapons used as such, including leaves, hats, cups, etc. On the wacky side there's even one character in the film who becomes seriously injured, and has some of his limbs replaced with mechanical type, spring loaded replicas, ones which he can launch and do critical damage to an enemies guts....woo hoo! The Six Million Yen Man...anyway, as I said, the action is virtually non-stop throughout, and, at least I thought, done very well. Most of the characters seem to have crazy go nuts, superpower-like abilities in that they can jump up mountain sides or across lakes, and some can even catch arrows shot at them and throw them back at the archer with such force and accuracy as to kill (there's a great scene where an old man catches a number of arrows shot at him, mostly in his hands, and one in his mouth). I lost count of how many people got killed in this movie, but I'd guess it was near the triple digits as often we'd see a large number of enemies surround a hero character, only to quickly get pared down due to the awesoma skills of the protagonist. Some of the weapons didn't look entirely realistic (some swords had the appearance of being made of wood and covered in foil), but the actual fighting and stunt work looked pretty amazing to me, and one could tell the performers were highly trained in their various crafts. Heck, there are even a handful of bloody deaths, if you're into that sort of thing. There is a story present, one that does get a little convoluted at times, but overall I felt it was easy to follow, and didn't suffer overly from the introduction of pointless and unrelated elements, as I've seen in other films of this type. Once in awhile the transitioning from scene to scene seems a little awkward as things don't always jibe, but overall things work out well. The one aspect that was the goofiest to me was the dialog, specifically in using a very westernized manner of speech during the dubbing of the film. If possible, I'll choose to watch a movie like this with its original audio, and use English subtitles, but that's not an option here as all that's available is the track created for the American release of the feature.
This DVD release of Fearless Fighters marks Image Entertainment's first foray into releasing martial arts films, and I hope they continue, as the widescreen (2.35:1) anamorphic presentation is very good. The picture does have wear, but overall it seemed very clean, and the Dolby Digital audio comes on strong. As far as extras, there's a very worthwhile and entertaining commentary track featuring Richard Ellman, the distributor who brought this film from China, and editor Richard Brummer, who was responsible for editing the American release of the movie. Also included is a rough looking theatrical trailer (with optional commentary from Ellman and Brummer!). As an added bonus, there was a mail-in questionnaire card inside the DVD case, one that states if returned, Image would send back a 16" by 24" poster, featuring the same artwork used on the cover of the DVD case for the film. I mailed the card in and the poster came within a week.
It's NOT a Kung Fu film, really! Here's why:
isfahani | rendale | 01/29/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"While I am glad there's a company releasing films like this in the USA now, I have a concept I would like to share with the discerning reader, and following reviewers of this DVD: THIS ISN'T A KUNG FU FILM. Really.
I sincerely hope that Image will figure out a better way to market the films they put out than slapping "KUNG FU" all over the place, and writing a press release that gives a mistaken impression also...unless of course, it IS in fact, a Kung Fu film!
This film is properly described as "Wuxia" or Swordplay genre. This is the 21st century, let's start getting this stuff straightened out finally, OK? One reviewer here, however much they are a Kung Fu film fan, needs to go do a little reading-up on the history of HK/Taiwanese cinema before doing writeups...no offense.
The film, which is unfortunately without original language and english subtitles, is a fairly average example of this genre, which in the early 70's was still without developed choreo, wirework, and effects that were so dominant in the late 70's and early 80's films (and later, in the over-the-top ones of the 1990's New Wave era) BUT i'll give them credit - they used what they had, and did the best they could. Obviously a low budget Taiwanese film, it will be fairly entertaining if you enjoy, say, swashbucklers, or are familiar with this genre, but if you were expecting "Enter the Dragon" or "Venoms" quality fight choreography, well, sorry! That's a different animal entirely...
As most of the old school Wuxia films are not yet available in the US (unless you're hip to Shaw Brothers and Celestial Pictures' remastered DVDs, and online Asian retailers) this might be a good place to start though IF you haven't seen King Hu's "A Touch Of Zen". Miramax is STILL sitting on some dozens of classic Wuxia and Kung Fu films that they had purchased a few years ago, which is a shame really, THOSE would be the best example of this sort of film for you to look at...
Well, aside from any of King Hu's work outside of Shaw that is.
Also, keep an eye on Image, as I understand they are looking to start bringing out other examples of HK films from the Shaw Brothers (FINALLY!) in the USA, possibly with your choice of Original language and English dubs, and English Subtitles as well. This one, well...Points for putting it out at all, albeit
under a mistaken identity."
Decent movie, very interesting commentary
morgoth | omaha, NE | 09/02/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Now the movie is nothign special, but does have a few fun weapons. Add in some really good acting and you have a decent movie. The fighting is the thing that slows this film down. It is just slow and doesn't look that good. A few of the fights are fun, but that mainly comes from the acting ability. One man Army, the Devil Ripper, you will see what I mean.
Now the thing I found very interesting was the commentary from the people whio originally released in America back in the 70's. They talk A LOT about how they had to cut the film up a ton becasue there was too much dialogue, and they talk about the dubbign extensively. I had almost as good of a time listening to the commentary. So the movie is decent, but the commentary is very interesting for us that want to know how these movies got released, who released them, basically all the info I wanted to know. I couldn't ask for more.
The pictrue is letterboxed with very good picture quality."