The Hot, The Cool and The Vicious (1976)
Director: Lee Tso-nam
Writers: Chang Hsin Yi
Starring: Don Wong, Tommy Lee and Dorian Tan

The Plot: Pai Yu Ching (Don Wong) is a killer fresh in town, and he is immediately roped into a fight at the local teahouse. Captain Lu (Dorian Tan) sees the trouble that he brings with him, and at first hopes to see Pai leave town. However, Lu has misjudged Pai, and the real problem is with those from his quaint city. Man Shan, the rebellious son of the mayor, who actually made Lu the captain of the police force, begins to harass Lu’s very own wife. When he breaks into their home one day and threatens her, he shoves Lu’s mother-in-law down causing her to smash her head into a table and die. Lu demands that Man Shan turn himself into custody, but the mayor immediately begins to hide his son and sends off for any martial artist who may be able to assassinate Lu. He assigns Pai Yu Ching to protect his home, but Pai has no problems with Lu and refuses to go out in search of the lawman. He simply promises to protect the mayor’s home. This causes the mayor to bring in the deadly Mr. Lung (Tommy Lee), who is a golden-haired monster of a martial artist. As it eventually turns out, Pai Yu Ching has a secret reason for aligning himself so close to the mayor and he is soon seeking Capt. Lu’s help. Will these two team together in order to defeat the nefarious Mr. Lung?

The Review
Coming off of my review for The Secret Rivals, it only seems fitting that I would further explore the works of Don Wong. A name that I was not familiar with until having seen that movie, he impressed me to a great degree. As it turns out, he is one of the leading stars in The Hot, the Cool and the Vicious, a kung fu flick that I have had sitting around my house for years at this point. Like many film fans, I have a knack for collecting movies and leaving them on the backburner. With Kung Fu Christmas being a big part of what we do here at Varied Celluloid, I sometimes set these movies aside just with the intention of visiting them during this singular celebration. This film is certainly one that has some notoriety behind it, and I feel sort of silly having waited so long to get around to watching it. However, here I am, and I am happy to report that the film turns out to be a very solid romp. Featuring some tremendous martial arts, a talented cast and a strong script, The Hot, the Cool and the Vicious is a kung fu title that may not offer a tremendous amount in its originality, but it remains a strong entry into the genre.

Although made by different filmmakers entirely, there are some definite influences from the very successful Secret Rivals. Made in the same year, it would seem that The Hot, the Cool and the Vicious was aimed at capitalizing on Don Wong’s newly found fame. The similarities between films seem obvious, once you put some thought into it. For starters, this too is a movie that focuses on a three-way duel of sorts. Tommy Lee and Dorian Tan substitute for John Liu and Hwang Jang Lee, but the only kicking specialist of the trio is Dorian Tan. Not as well known as even John Liu, Dorian Tan is a martial artist who also appears to come from a Tae Kwon Do background. His kicking abilities are on full display within the film, and his lanky frame gives his body the appearance of even fuller extension. Tommy Lee steps into the film replacing Hwang Jang Lee’s notorious Silver Fox, but the only real comparison comes in the fact that he too is covered up with white hair and is nearly unrecognizable. Don Wong, however, plays a character who is very similar to his work in Secret Rivals. His role is slightly more mysterious, and even brooding, but he retains that same cocky arrogance that made him such a likable sort of jerk in Secret Rivals.

A kung fu potboiler, The Hot, the Cool and the Vicious might be a bit slow in developing its plot, but it keeps things simple enough that audiences can easily keep up with the interchanging motivations. It doesn’t hurt that the necessary characters are both interesting and likable. Written by kung fu film veteran Chang Hsin Yi (Militant Eagle), he establishes all of the important elements early in the film and then fleshes the story out in a very responsible manner. If there’s anything I’ve noticed from the hundreds of kung fu titles that I have watched, it is that the weaker films often develop plot twists at the very last minute. The characters in our film today, however, are developed very early on. Even though this title may, on the outside, look like a ripoff of Secret Rivals, in many ways it does much more to play with narrative devices. In the most important aspects, however, it does lack in comparison. The cast isn’t as outrageous, the characters aren’t quite as zany, and the movie does lack in the comedy department.

The Hot, the Cool and the Vicious may lack character combinations as bizarre as the Russian boxer and The Silver Fox gang from The Secret Rivals, but it does have its own very peculiar moments that should pop up as noteworthy for any kung fu aficionado. There is a rather notorious bit of “tickle-torture” found in the film, which may be one of the biggest “WTF?” moments throughout the movie. Quite literally, one of Don Wong’s men ties up and tickles a villain in order to get information from him. Tickling isn’t the most masculine form of torture, but I particularly liked the back and forth banter during this scene. The torture victime exclaims, “Why are you doing this to me?” His inquisitor then retorts with, “Because I’m a money-hungry villain, of course.” It is hard to imagine this movie getting any more surreal, but then we are introduced to Tommy Lee’s main villain Mr. Lung. A hunchback albino with blonde hair and a echo chamber on his voice, this is our film’s version of Silver Fox. Only, this version of Silver Fox is just slightly more bonkers than Hwang Jang Lee’s much more subtle character.

The Conclusion
The movie can seem a bit slow at times, but for the most part the plot is interesting enough that it holds the viewers’ attention. The film could have used a bit more of Tommy Lee’s character, because then it would have stepped right out and above the average. I kid you not, the character is so creepy that he totally dominates everything that came before it. However, the project does suffer in terms of its originality. The movie comes close to being “great,” but just barely misses that mark. I give it a equatable rating, a four out of five. Almost a seminal title, but not quite there. It is simply a great martial arts film.