""Five Fingers of Death"(original title: "King Boxer") is most emphatically NOT the "greatest martial arts movie of all time" or whatever it says on the box. It's a fairly typical early 70s Shaw Brothers film that became famous--or infamous--as the first kung-fu flick to be shown in American theaters. There had been many, many films like this before...American audiences just hadn't seen them. Also, some sources list prolific Shaw moviemaker Chang Cheh as the director of "Five Fingers". This is incorrect; it was directed by Chang Chang Ho. So, if "Five Fingers" is not, after all, the yardstick by which all other martial arts films are measured, what IS it? It's an enjoyable, corny kung-fu programmer, very much a product of its time. The fights are choreographed in fine old Hong Kong style, on a par with Bruce Lee's first two movies; they are not sped up and there are no computer effects(which you weren't expecting in the first place, since this was made in 1971...right?). The climactic battle is a little underwhelming for a Shaw film, but it's adequate. The story is your standard, Chinese-good-guys-versus-Japanese-bad-guys fare, but you have to remember that "Five Fingers" was one of the first movies to make use of this storyline--even before Bruce's "The Chinese Connection". Above all, you should see it for two reasons: it's one of the few Shaw Brothers films readily available on DVD in the United States(even their average movies were miles ahead of standard Hong Kong fare in terms of martial arts choreography and production values) and it stars Lo Lieh, who passed away three years ago. As the hero, he's holding back just a little here(he was always better in villainous roles), but Lo was one of the true superstars of the genre. Buy "Five Fingers of Death" and get to know him."
A classic finally gets its due
Cubist | United States | 06/19/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"King Boxer (aka Five Fingers of Death) came out in 1973 and is a classic example of a Shaw Brothers kung fu film - a genre they helped pioneer and perfect with this movie being one of the finest efforts from this time period. It also has the distinction of being the first kung fu film to be released in the United States, just ahead of Bruce Lee's equally influential Enter the Dragon. In the 1980s, it inspired filmmaker John Carpenter to make Big Trouble in Little China and more recently was a huge influence on Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill movies.
The filmmakers maintain just the right level of pacing with very short lulls between action sequences. Let's face it - we're not watching King Boxer for its thoughtful characterization. That is not to say that this film is not well made or doesn't take itself seriously because it does, but it is hardly Shakespeare either. Director Cheng Chang Ho employs sudden zoom in and outs and even the occasional freeze frame during many of the film's dynamic fight scenes. This is a beautifully shot movie with expert use of the 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio with superb compositions of every frame. The use of shadows for dramatic effect in one scene, and a brief fight that takes place at sunset that looks like something right out of 1950s Technicolor era, is part of the reason why this film is so revered among kung fu film fans.
King Boxer features betrayal, torture, revenge and even some heroic style redemption thrown in for good measure - all heightened to melodramatic levels making for a very entertaining ride. Our hero has to deal with a devastating injury and his own self-doubts before he can face the bad guys and use the Iron Palm technique to save the day. You soon find yourself rooting for Chi-Hao to win the competition and the cute woman he loves as well. Even though our hero triumphs at the end, it is a terrible cost with friends, family and his mentor dead or horribly maimed all because of a petty rivalry between two martial arts schools.
There is an audio commentary by filmmaker Quentin Tarantino and film critics Elvis Mitchell and David Chute. Love or hate Tarantino, the guy knows his film history, displaying an impressive encyclopedic knowledge of kung fu cinema. For example, he not only talks about how it was the first kung fu film released in America but then rattles off 5-6 other films that came after. This is a very entertaining, information-packed track by three guys who are fans of the film and display a genuine love for the genre. Highly recommended.
"Interview with Chang-Hwa Jeong." He talks about how he got involved with the film. Initially, he found the script to be "common" and studied Chinese history and literature in order to make improvements. He talks about some of the techniques he used to make the action sequences so exciting and visceral.
"Interview with action director Lau Kar Wing." Kar Wing was the kung fu director on the movie and speaks about how he approached the many fight scenes, including the challenge of matching the actor with their stunt double seamlessly.
"Interview with film critic/scholars David Chute and Andy Klein." Chute gives the film a historical context in terms of American cinema including its shocking level of violence at the time. They point out that the soundtrack was a pastiche of music ripped off of other film and that this would often hamper its distribution because of rights issues.
Also included are two trailers and alternate opening sequence that features very crude opening credits.
Finally, there is a "Stills Gallery" with poster and promotional photographs."
A woman's slant on this movie
Sophia Bezirganian | NY United States | 10/16/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was surprised to see some reviewers give this movie a lukewarm rating--not for the fighting as much as for the movie's plot. I've seen maybe 12 martial arts fliks--fewer than many reviewers, so maybe I'm a bit green. But I thought the plot was FASCINATING, and the acting outstanding. Although the plot features very typical outcomes for the good and the bad guys, and predictable subplots (like the hero's faithfulness to his first girl back home in the little village in spite of the very hot but proper second girl who tempts him),the magic is in the details--we can guess that A will lead to B, but HOW THIS MOVIE GETS FROM A TO B is VERY WELL CRAFTED. As for the acting, the hero truly manages to be subtle at the same time that he is passionate. He shows a nice mix of the old-fashioned vs. the flashy (though still understated) hero. I loved the clever switch from his playing the role of submissive reserved student who crawls out of the bar after being humiliated by the newly arrived fearsome bad guy one day, to his return the next day to the bar in an oustandingly heroic and funny payback scene. The women were stereotyped, but managed to play their roles with that sexy Asian girl grace, and with a sweetness that didn't seem overdone. As for the fighting? Who am I to say, but my eyes feasted. There was always a nice balance between the fighters so that it wasn't obvious till the very end who would win. And the transitions from one fighting scene to the next in the last half hour were done so well, and with such surprising plot twists and drama that I was on the edge of my seat!"
MASTER OF THE IRON FIST !!
The Critic | Windsor | 07/02/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Kudo's to the Weinstein Company and Dragon Dynasty for finally releasing this Kung Fu classic on DVD. The audio and video restoration that went into this DVD release is absolutely incredible and Martial Arts fans won't be disappointed. "King Boxer" is presented in it's 2.35:1 Widescreen format and enhanced for 16x9 television's. The films colors are incredibly sharp and vibrant and the mono sound is clear and crisp.
The video transfer of "King Boxer" is the absolute best version I have ever seen and fans of the Kung Fu genre will be amazed by the quality of this release. Sound options include original Mandarin and English dubbed version and choice of subtitles. The special features are an added bonus, specially the Trailer Gallery. This movie has it all, non-stop action, fierce fighting and plenty of blood. Watch the magnificent Lo Lieh as he masters the Iron Fist technique and exacts his revenge. "King Boxer" is five star Kung Fu entertainment at it's very best. Highly recommend !!
The DVD Features Include: * Feature commentary by filmmaker Quentin Taratino and film scholars David Chute and Elvis Mitchell * Interview with director Chang-Hwa Jeong * Interview with action director Lau Kar-Wing * Interview with film scholars David Chute and Andy Klein * Stills gallery * Trailer gallery * Commentator biograhies "
A great classic of the genre
J. D. Hudnall | Las Vegas, NV | 11/26/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This may have been the first Kung Fu movie I saw. It made a big impression on me at the time. While the martial arts are stagy and the music swiped from American movies and TV (Ironside and Diamonds are Forever) it is a seminal film for it's clever script.
Unlike the hackneyed plots of other such films, this movie throws some real curve balls at you. It also has a delicious villain who is much more clever than we're used to seeing in these movies. Even to this day I find some of the stuff he does disturbing, and I'm pretty jaded at this point. It's all in the nature of his underhanded methods.
The transfer on this DVD isn't that good. But this is an important film in the Kung Fu canon and should not be missed. It's also one of the many influences on Kill Bill 1. Notice the Ironside music and smash zoom close ups in that movie area direct swipe from 5 Fingers of Death."