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Archive for December, 2010

The Invincible Armor

Posted by Josh Samford On December - 25 - 2010

The Invincible Armor (1977)
Director: Ng See-Yuen
Writers: Lu Tung
Starring: Hwang Jang Lee, John Liu and Phillip Ko



The Plot: John Liu plays General Chow, a well respected military man who has been placed on guard duty around one of the leaders of the Ming rebels. The Manchu’s Minister of State, a monster by the name of Cheng (Hwang Jang Lee), sends out his most trusted student, Hu Lung, to infiltrate the rebellion and assassinate the aging rebel leader. He does this by winning a fight in front of Chow and impressing him with his martial skill, which causes him to bring him inside of the compound in order to meet the Ming rebel leader. The old man, once he hears of this fantastic fight, immediately wants to have a fun sparring session with the student. During the midst of this sparring session however, Hu Lung lets his intentions out of the bag and kills the old man. General Chow is then accused of committing the murder and must flee in order to prove his name as honorable. To do this he’ll have to catch Hu Lung and then he’ll have to take on Cheng, but this won’t be easy because Chen practices the Invincible Armor technique. This technique makes him invulnerable to any attack, even from knives and swords. How will General Chow prove his name and what will he do to combat this Invincible Armor?

The Review
The Invincible Armor has cover art that no fan of oldschool martial arts could dare say “no” to. There are few things within this amazing genre quite as alluring as the white haired fighting master, especially when we have several of these masters and at least one evil one! The white haired master is what initially made Executioners From Shaolin and Fists of the White Lotus such alluring titles (at least for me), aside from the master work of Liu Chia-Liang, and The Invincible Armor continues this tradition. Featuring a stellar cast, some amazing martial arts action and at least a few peculiar moments that surprise and boggle the minds of Kung Fu fans the world over, this film ultimately ends up being a success. The only problem you’re going to have is the amount of plot you will have to sit through to get to those points of interest. Although the movie isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, The Invincible Armor turns out as a entertaining, albeit flawed, piece of Kung Fu cinema.
The first movie of John Liu’s that I ever had the opportunity to check out was Kung Fu Ace, which was something I found on one of my many cheap martial arts box sets. Apparently part of the public domain, Kung Fu Ace is one of the few titles I have ever really liked from those massive sets. Like our movie today, it suffers from a very traditional Kung Fu movie plot that acts as a linear rope that leads us from one fight scene to the next, but I find myself very impressed with John Liu’s fighting style. In case you haven’t put it together by this point, I am a big fan of flashy over the top kicking styles and John Liu delivers that with gusto! John Liu’s fighting style is actually quite different from the average and the exact background of his martial art is the object of debate in many communities. Liu’s style, which is referred to as Zen Kwun Do, is a combination of Karate and Kung Fu, with some claiming that he had extensive training in Tae Kwon Do originally as well. Regardless, his style certainly seems to have the emphasis on kicking that the Korean Tae Kwon Do system does, which is the art of fighting that his rival Hwang Jang Lee was actually a well respected teacher of.

Director Ng See-Yuen certainly knew that he had a winning ticket when he placed these two on screen together. He was actually the man responsible for bringing Hwang Jang Lee to the Hong Kong film industry in the first place, in fact. He started off Hwang Jang Lee’s career by helping him land pivotal roles in the early Jackie Chan classics Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow and Drunken Master, but also featured him in several notable titles that featured both he and John Liu. These two A-Class kickers don’t get to spend a tremendous amount of time on screen with one another, but once the final showdown rolls around you can expect fireworks. Their utterly bizarre final fight sequence is easily THE reason to actually track down this movie. As we watch on, we see a martial artist trying earnestly to smack another man in the testicles and at this point it should dawn on you as a viewer that this movie has lost some of its credibility as a serious piece of drama, but has delved down into the world of strange and hilarious cheesy action entertainment. That certainly seems to be my interpretation of the film at least.
Focusing on a story that seems slightly influenced by the concept of spirit possession from the Boxer Rebellion era of Chinese history, this is a movie that isn’t afraid to delve into some strange territories. The movie seems to have nothing to do with the actual historical context of the Boxer Rebellion mind you, but instead shows us another situation where martial artists have trained their body with such ferocity that they are no longer able to be physically hurt. The invincibility mythos was often a popular source for Kung Fu cinema, and The Invincible Armor showcases a lot of the elements that made the idea so popular, aside from the obvious. Despite this style being nearly impenetrable in any way, like it is said, there’s always a style that can beat your own and John Liu’s character soon discovers it in the film and begins training so that he can find the weak points in Hwang Jang Lee’s defense. As it turns out there are five pressure points that can hurt someone who wears the Invincible Armor style and one of those points just happens to be the testicles. The final fight sequence is almost too much fun, as we watch John Liu try his best to smash the berries of Hwang Jang Lee. Although the rest of the movie is rather ho-hum in most regards, this fight sequence stands out for its ridiculous nature as well as the intense action spurred by having these two amazing kickers on screen at the same time.

A Kung Fu independent, The Invincible Armor looks good for what it is. There are a few decent sets throughout, but much of the action seems to take place outside which was obviously the cheaper and more effective way of shooting things for a limited production. Ng See-Yuen does a good job of keeping the action perfectly centered and he provides a visual palette that doesn’t show off the limited means of his production. Ng See-Yuen certainly knew what his audience wanted to see. Lots of action and lots of mythology, with the invincibility gimmick being focused on along with a near invincible version of Eagle Claw Kung Fu. There are also a few small touches throughout the movie that I found entertaining, such as small moments when various important characters are introduced and the camera free-frames on their face. The only thing that could have made the idea more entertaining would be if there was a subtitle that could have popped up with a character’s name to go along with it. Quite possibly there might have been such a thing in the initial release of the movie, who is to say?


The Conclusion
I liked The Invincible Armor, I won’t lie, but the fact of the matter is that aside from a few entertaining spots throughout it is a rather by-the-numbers affair. Aside from the fact that the movie features a small cameo from future Three Brothers clan member Yuen Biao, all of the really good elements have been mentioned thus far. For fans of either Hwang Jang Lee or John Liu, it is a must see as these two artists really give their all for the movie. John Liu does more vertical splits than you can shake a stick at and Hwang Jang Lee is sporting full Pai-Mei level attire, so of course you would want to see this! For everyone else however, if you missed out you probably wouldn’t kick yourself too hard. I give the movie a three out of five. It’s above average, but not by much.




Kung Fu Christmas #17: Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires

Posted by Josh Samford On December - 24 - 2010
Third review for the night! I hope that Varied Celluloid sees just as much action tomorrow as well, don’t worry folks! We have to make the most out of this Kung Fu Christmas! Anyway, Prof. Aglaophotis lends us this excellent review for the immortal Hammer Kung Fu film Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires which features the immortal Peter Cushing as well as David Chiang. Can you believe these two shared screen time together and the world didn’t explode? I can hardly believe it myself. A fantastic film and I highly recommend people check out Aggy’s review for the movie!

The Plot: Our little tale begins in 1904 Transylvania where a man named Kha plans on asking Count Dracula to grant him his powers. Kha is a Chinese warlord who is keeper of the Seven Golden Vampires and hopping zombies of Ping Kwei in the Szechwan province of China; once Kha obtains this power, the age-old Golden Vampires will wake up and continue their reign of havoc on small villages in China. However, Count Dracula alters the proposition slightly by taking over Kha’s soul and controlling his body, thus continuing his halted reign of vampiric terror in China. In the meantime, Dr. Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) lectures about the legend of the seven golden vampires in the Chung King university and how there are only six of them left thanks to a dead villager (Okay, so they’re the Six Golden Vampires, but the S.G.V. acronym still works), but 99% of the audience leaves the room. The one remaining student who believes him is Hsi Ching, a villager who has lived with the terror of the S.G.V. and believes that by teaming up with Van Helsing, Helsing’s son, a local (busty) Scandinavian aristocrat and the student’s seven martial artist siblings, they can all finally put an end to the Golden Vampire’s reign.



CONTINUE READING HERE!

Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires

Posted by Josh Samford On December - 24 - 2010
 
Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974)
Director: Roy Ward Baker & Chang Cheh
Writers: Don Houghton
Starring: Peter Cushing, David Chiang and Julie Ege



The Plot: Our little tale begins in 1904 Transylvania where a man named Kha plans on asking Count Dracula to grant him his powers. Kha is a Chinese warlord who is keeper of the Seven Golden Vampires and hopping zombies of Ping Kwei in the Szechwan province of China; once Kha obtains this power, the age-old Golden Vampires will wake up and continue their reign of havoc on small villages in China. However, Count Dracula alters the proposition slightly by taking over Kha’s soul and controlling his body, thus continuing his halted reign of vampiric terror in China. In the meantime, Dr. Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) lectures about the legend of the seven golden vampires in the Chung King university and how there are only six of them left thanks to a dead villager (Okay, so they’re the Six Golden Vampires, but the S.G.V. acronym still works), but 99% of the audience leaves the room. The one remaining student who believes him is Hsi Ching, a villager who has lived with the terror of the S.G.V. and believes that by teaming up with Van Helsing, Helsing’s son, a local (busty) Scandinavian aristocrat and the student’s seven martial artist siblings, they can all finally put an end to the Golden Vampire’s reign.
 
The Review
It seems to be mankind’s natural desire to seek out two-for-one deals and in movies its no exception. When one combines martial arts mayhem with ghostly Eastern vampires, it’s easy to see why: Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires is an exciting and entertaining Action movie with its own Horror theme that it ultimately stands out as fun Kung Fu/Martial Arts film. As an Action-Horror film it’s unintentionally hilarious and as a Martial Arts movie it’s The pace of the movie is well laid out and it has an credible feeling to it as the fights are easy to follow and the exposition never too long.

Typical of a Hammer movie, the cinematography is great: the movie is very well shot and it’s easy to tell what’s going on through most of the movie. The lighting wasn’t the best though as it seemed a little too bright and cheery in the brief introduction scene with Dracula and Kha; yes all of the scenes were very clear, crisp and the coloring effects in later scenes were rather effective, but I don’t expect turquoise to be thematic for someone as evil as Dracula (nor did I expect Dracula to wear lipstick). Also the prop/effects weren’t the best either as rubber bats were swung on strings in Drac’s castle and the Chinese hopping zombies were often replaced with bobble-headed dummies whenever they were shot at.

The vampires themselves look totally goofy in their semi-mummified state with long hair wearing flashy clothes and bearing gold face masks that enable at least one of their eyes to bulge out. Really, the design of these vampires is outright silly; it’s one thing to have golden vampires say perhaps with golden skeletons making their fangs gold,* but it’s another matter to have aged vampires that wear golden masks, golden bat medallions and flashy garbs. Nevertheless, all of the negative aspects here do make for a very funny experience and rich colorization combined with sharp cinematography lights up the screen even when there’s no action.

I have to say that the soundtrack to this movie is pretty funny at times. It’s an orchestrated score that sounds very typical to an Asian Action film, but some times it overdoes certain sounds to the point where you expect someone to slip on a banana peel during a fight. It’s hard to describe, but imagine a trombone player so used to using their instrument for comedic musical stingers being hired to do a serious Action score. Seriously, just listen to the opening credit sequence and try not to laugh.

The acting and dialogue was pretty decent and mainly consisted of English lines with very little dubbing; the only dubbed moments in the movie consisted of action grunts that never matched the actor’s expressions. It’s hard not to point out Cushing’s performance in these movies, but he’s always got great screen presence. Julie Ege was kind of fun too, but she didn’t have a big enough role in the movie. David Chiang plays a very likable martial arts master and is the film’s primary bad ass until the end. Watching his fighting style in action is a lot of fun especially when he ends up driving a fist or finger into someone’s body. Honestly I was hoping Hsi Ching would fist fight Dracula in the film’s climax, but no such luck.

It’s interesting how the movie takes into consideration the regional difference between European and Asian vampires in context to the film; it makes Ching and Helsing’s struggle to fight the Golden Vampires seem the more tasking. It’s a little too hollow how some of the romantic interest characters develop, mostly in the relationship between Mei-Kwei and Helsing’s complaining son Leyland. It seemed to make more sense for Hing and Von Buren to hook up, but Leyland and Mei-Kwei feels more like on-the-spot attraction and protection. That… and the character of Leyland sucks.

Most of the action is well directed thanks to late Kung Fu director Chang Cheh, who directed Heaven and Hell as well as Two Champions of Shaolin. The action itself was pretty well choreographed and is really the true gold of the movie. There are a few moments where the choreographing shows like when a one of the brothers misses a great opportunity at striking a vampire’s back and instead sweeps for his legs, just the vampire notices he’s about to be attacked.Such little flops do little to wear down the action sequences. There’s tons of hacking and slashing in the movie and the way its shot quickly but lucidly makes the sequences mesmerizing and exciting. The movie ends just under 90 minutes, yet the pace of the film makes the experience feel shorter.

This is a movie where you’ll watch at least forty armed mobsters get slaughtered by the eight siblings with their own various weapons and techniques. The brothers and sister’s fighting techniques are pretty cool, especially the twins Hisu Sung and San as they fought literally bracing their free arms and slicing anyone within their perimeter. Sadly, a lot of the fighting brothers are forgotten about near the end as most of them face rather predictable fates. Even the dispatching of the vampires is toned down near the end when a bunch of villagers mob up on a vampire and they just beat him to death! In all honesty, the only action scene in the movie that really sucks is the climax. Now this being a vampire movie, it’s bound to have a weird take on the rules of dispatching vampires. As I mentioned earlier, I liked the difference between Eastern and Western vampires’ weaknesses but it always bugs me when most of the rules of vampire hunting are evident except for the one that involves saving those cursed by Head-Vampires. I understand the purposeful mystique given in the movie as a European vampire hunter tries to find a connection to Asian and European vampires, but the rules of normal people getting affected by older vampires getting ignored here just made for a weak part in the script. Besides, I didn’t watch Monster Squad and Lost Boys as a kid for no reason, dang it!

Oh crap! I almost forgot! This movie has some nudity in it, too! Yep, the vampires don’t like tops on their ladies. Why they like them on Julie Ege though… I don’t know… except maybe she didn’t have it in her contract.

The Conclusion
If you ever wanted to see a Kung Fu flick with vampires and zombies sword fighting each other and Peter Cushing, then this is your movie. It will make a great Christmas gift and is one of the best kinds of Action movies to play during a party… that and maybe Raw Force.

* Although nowadays that sort of design would make them look like alternative rap artists.




The Taint – Free For Christmas!

Posted by Josh Samford On December - 24 - 2010

Hey folks, it’s like they always say: it’aint your jingle-bells, and it’aint your corn shoot – it’s just The Taint! And if you follow me on Facebook you may have seen when I posted up the trailer for this bizarre new sleazefest a couple of weeks back. The Taint looks to be one of he most out-there slices of indie filmmaking currently making the rounds, and if you have not seen the trailer yet then it is about time you dropped everything that you are currently doing and go take a gander. You can find it at the official website located HERE.

While fans of Varied Celluloid await our eventual review for the film (which should be coming in short order), you can actually check the entire movie out for yourself! This opportunity will only last for Christmas day and once it is over – that’s it! You’ll have to pay up and support the filmmakers, you lazy bum! So, while you’re getting ready to stuff your belly, enjoy some Christmas movies and watch the kids unravel their presents; load up The Taint and wait for a moment of peace so that you can enjoy the sleaze on this most special day! It’s your chance to see the movie that has been hailed with criticisms such as this most eloquent Twitter update: “the most deplorable, disgusting, trashfest I’ve ever seen. I fucking loved it.

 

Do yourself a favor and go watch that trailer. I guarantee you are going to be interested in the movie after you see that. Then, for only a short time, you can actually see the movie for yourself. So, don’t be so quaint and get with The Taint!

 

 

WATCH THE FULL MOVIE HERE!

Kung Fu Christmas #16: Kung Fu: Punch of Death

Posted by Josh Samford On December - 24 - 2010
We have our second review for tonight! This comes from our dear friend Prof. Aglaophotis who decided that it was too much of a temptation to lay off of the Kung Fu Christmas festivities! Can you blame the guy? Well Aggy decided to take on the famed Kung Fu: Punch of Death! Read on to find out what the good man thought!

The Plot: It’s ancient China. We start our story with home-trained martial artist and gambler Fong Sai-yuk, a young man living with his wealthy father and Kung Fu trainee mother. One day while gambling however, Fong gets in a fight with and consequently kills a favored local martial arts student named Mei. Mei’s teachers – Iron Fist Tan and his apparently nameless brother – hear of the tragic news of their favorite student’s passing and set out to get their revenge. By payback, the brothers beat Fong’s father to death. After coming back from another day of fighting to find his father dead and his home broken into, Fong vows to avenge his father’s death… even if it means training to be the best martial artist in the country.



CONTINUE READING HERE!
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Varied Celluloid is a film website intent on delivering views on movies from all genres. Started in 2003, the website has been steadfast in its goal and features a database of over 500 lengthy reviews. If you would like to contact us about writing for the website or sending screeners, please visit the about page located here.

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