I finally got around to seeing this, and it will be a while
morgoth | omaha, NE | 05/05/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Sammo Hung stars as Butcher Wing, the famous student of Wong Fei Hong, and Master Wong is played by Kwan Tak Hing! Kwan would be the standout performer, except for the fact that he only has a cameo and the rest of the cast does such a good job. When Sammo's brother comes to town, he gets fooled by Fung Hak-on and has to fight for his life when he doesn't give Hak-on his money. His wife gets kidnapped for Hak-on's own personal pleasure, and Sammo goes to take down who he thinks the kidnapper is, a drunken master character (played by Fan Mei Sheng) based on Simon Yuen from Drunken Master. When the drunk tells Sammo all that has happened, Sammo goes to rescue his brother's wife. He also rescues a girl who is actually Master Ko's daughter. Ko is the master of the rival kung fu school of Wong Fei Hung and Sammo must now battle Master Ko's men after Hak-on frames Sammo for killing Ko's daughter.
The story is good, but the action is out of this world. This is Sammo's best fighting performance of his career, but the rest of the cast is just as good. Lee Hoi San gives maybe his best performance ever, Chung Fat's Cat's Claw puts even Jackie Chan to shame, and Lam Ching Ying (he uses a fan to fight with) shines brightly in his first major fighting role. After making about 100 movies playing Wong Fei Hong, KWan Tak Hing is probably the brightest spot in the whole movie. He is old, but his single fight scene is just as good as the others. Similiar to Drunken Master and Dance Of The Drunk Mantis, the stunt doubling for Fan Mei Sheng's drunken character is very fun to watch. Usually when I watch a movie that everyone says is great, it rarely meets my expectations. 'The Magnificent Butcher' is one of the rare exceptions. It is a kung fu fan's dream movie. The cast also includes Yuen Biao and Wei Pai (the snake from Five Deadly Venoms), and a lot of character actors from Sammo and Yuen Woo Ping's other movies. Yuen Biao has maybe the best fight of the movie against Lam Ching Ying, but there are so many great fights to choose from.
Make sure you get the Deltamac or Fox/Fortune Star version. Both have very good sound and picture quality."
Skeptics rejoice! We were wrong! Oh, and was that chicken
Mantis Lake | Detroit, MI USA | 04/26/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Though this movie is considered a classic, I had seen the first few minutes of it about a decade ago, and really wasn't interested. There are a few of the so-called classics that I never really cared for: "Drunken Master" comes to mind. Don't hate it, it just does nothing for me. Knowing that this movie was made by the same director (Yuen Woo Ping) that made "DM", I figured that it didn't deserve a 2nd chance. Knowing also that it starred Sammo Hung, who was famous for kung fu comedies, strengthened my assertion that I was right. After watching and enjoying Sammo's "Prodigal Son" and (to a lesser extent) "Warriors Two", I decided to give "Magnificent Butcher" a serious try. It also helped that I had seen and loved Woo Ping's "The Buddhist Fist", from around the same time period. I applied the "grain o' salt" method and finally watched it. All I can say is "Holy Crap!" Why did I waste so much time not loving this movie?!?
Sammo plays Lam Sai Wing, one of the more famous students of Chinese healer, pugilist, and hero, Wong Fei Hung. It's very difficult to get into the story (though it is easy to follow) without giving anything away. So I ain't sayin' nothin' 'bout that. What I will tell you is that the fights and styles represented here are crazy, cool, and a whole lotta fun. Wild Cat was my personal favorite, though it's not too easy on the ears. For every one thing in this film that annoyed me, there were about 50 other things that I absolutely loved. Most interesting is the casting of veteran actor and White Crane master Kwan Tak Hing as Wong Fei Hung. Known for his many portrayals of Master Wong (he holds the record for one actor playing the same role ALL-TIME, in around 70 films), he still shows his chops with a calligraphy brush at just under the age of 75! The entire cast is recognizable to old-schoolers and many of the actors deliver some "best-ever" moments.
20th Century Fox gives us a well-remastered picture and an audio option of an English or Cantonese soundtrack with, or without, subtitles. Some silly bonus features are also included, but likely won't excite fans. Goofy as this movie is, it has moments of deadly seriousness. Some things would be better left hinted at and not shown, but I have seen worse and it's a minor complaint. I don't have an official top-ten (my list is in no particular order), but if I did, "Magnificent Butcher" would certainly be included. 4.5 out of 5 and HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
"You have a very limp wrist and no strength." -- Wong Fei Hu
Shawn McKenna | Modesto, CA USA | 07/01/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"After the major success of Snake in Eagle's Shadow (1978) and Drunken Master (1978), both directed by Yuen Wo-Ping, the comedic template that fueled these films would be remade over-and-over again with the sifu/student relationship in the forefront (often starring Yu Jim Yuen students like Cliff Lok in Choi Lee Fat Kung Fu) and often employing an elderly beggar who is adept at drunken kung fu (the art of Zui Quan). Golden Harvest's Magnificent Butcher (1979: Chinese title is Lam Sai Wing) follows this pattern with Yuen Wo-Ping as the director and co-action director with leading man Sammo Hung as the student Lam Sai Wing, the venerable Kwan Tak-Hing in his most famous role as sifu Wong Fei Hung and Fan Mei-Sheng (Postman Strikes Back (1982)) in the Beggar So type role. In fact, the biggest negative attribute about this movie is it is a byproduct of not only the sifu/student/beggar films, but it incorporates many elements from Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan films of that era -- which I will detail later.
Sammo Hung is the perfect actor for Lam Sai "Butcher" Wing -- a real-life portly (not as rotund as Sammo though) butcher by trade and student of the legendary Wong Fei Hung -- because of his physical adroitness and personal affability. I might have problems with the plot, but not with Sammo Hung's performance. Butcher Wing, as portrayed in this film, is a student who gets in trouble and shames his master (analogous to Jackie Chan in Drunken Master). He happened to overly, excessively and somewhat unintentionally beat up an elderly man (Fung Ging-Man) who had just stole a Chinese chess piece in a rage for losing the game. The chess player goes to Master Kao (Lee Hoi-Sang, Warriors Two (1978), The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978)) to get even against Wing (though who could blame him) by making up lies about Wong Fei Hong and Butcher Wing.
Master Tao confronts Wong Fei Hung about his student's (erroneous) lack of respect for Tao and his school and engages in one of the highlights of the film -- a calligraphy duel. Without spoiling the scene by explaining it, it is quite exquisite in its use of a very flexible Kwan Tak-Hing (good to see him stay in shape in his later years) even though he is doubled for the more difficult actions. Needless to say who won, but later Wing gets the full wrath of Hung by being disciplined to do a tortuous horse stance (much like in Drunken Master).
Meanwhile, chubby Lam Sai Kwong (Chiang Kam, Drunken Master (1978), Choi Lee Fat Kung Fu (1979)) is looking for his "skinny" brother (using a real old picture of Sammo Hung), but gets tricked into losing his wife May to a lecherous Tai Hoi (Fung Hak-On in a role similar to his one in Iron Fisted Monk (1977) just not as nasty). Concurrently, a beggar (Fan Mei-Sheng is also doubled a lot; sometimes it looks like Sammo Hung) with great drunken boxing skills comes to town stealing inebriated chickens and barely prevents the attempted suicide of Sai Kwong. Sai Kwong gets the beggar on his side and he goes off to confront Tai Ho. Tai Ho being much more brilliant than the beggar and Lam Sai Kwong gets those two to fight each other -- in that fight you will see a Popeye gag that was used before in Half a Loaf of Kung Fu (1978).
Eventually the good get together against the bad (Tai Hoi and 5 Dragons School) though Master Kao is treated as bad, but he really is not, it is just his hubris and tragic belief in his son that leads him to the wrong path. However, the biggest positives of this film are certainly not the storyline. The action scenes directed by Sammo Hung and Yuen Wo-Ping are excellent. Lam Ching Ying starting with a fan and ending with elbow knives has an excellent battle with Yuen Biao. Also during this same scene, Yuen Miu with his mad monkey kung fu skills has an excellent fight with Wai Pak. Also there is a great finale with Lee Hoi-Sang versus Sammo Hung. Hung does an excellent flip move (not doubled during that move) during this melee that has to be seen. Sammo was in top physical form during this era and the amount of martial art must have movies from this period he is in is extraordinary. Plus the use of Kwan Tak-Hing is quite commendable and works perfect for this film. This was originally the first time I saw him perform and was later made aware of his awesome reputation in earlier Cantonese Hong Kong films (now when will we see these Wong Fei Hung films come to DVD?).
For me there are enough negatives to keep this from being a classic martial art film. Too much of the film is derived from other martial art films (even more than I mentioned above in the previous paragraphs, including a Knockabout (1979) reference ala what happens to Sai Kwong) and the script has too much of the Wong Jing (co-writer with Edward Tang) touch with the uneasy mix of violence and slapstick comedy not melding well (though I did like certain gags like the pig trotters one). But for fans of Kung Fu action, much will be forgiven or ignored with the excellent martial art scenes taking precedence as the main impetus to watch and own this movie. I like this film, I just do not love it. However, there are many scenes I do not mind watching over and over again.
I have the R1 Fortune Star/Fox release which has a good transfer but mediocre extras including trailers, photo gallery, quick biographies, production notes and "amazing" Sammo Hung music video. The big minuses are the dubtitles and no original mono. Here is another example of a Hong Kong R1 release that does not match the Hong Kong Legends R2 release for extras including a Bey Logan commentary (unless you do not like him).