|The Mystery of Chess Boxing (1979)|
|Writers:||Chiang Ping Han|
|Starring:||Mark Long, Jack Long and Li Yi-min|
|The Plot: Ah Po (Li Yi Min) is a young man in search of kung fu instruction. When he finds the school of his dreams, he unfortunately runs into a great deal of trouble. Ah Po, on the day before he reached his school, stirred up some trouble with a local ruffian, and it turns out that this local ruffian was also a very important student within his chosen school! As he begins his rigorous lessons, this same student looks to make Ah Po’s life a living hell. After being ostracized by all of his fellow students, Ah Po finds himself spending a lot of time with the school’s cook (played by Simon Yuen). This cook, however, is also an exceptional martial artist, and he soon begins to teach Ah Po all of his skills under the guise of training him to be a cook. Before long, Ah Po is better than any of his fellow pupils! When he displays his new talents, as well as the crest of the Ghost Face Killer (Mark Long), he is expelled from the school. This crest, which Ah Po has held onto for years, is merely the last thing that his father had passed on to him. With no teacher at his disposal, he follows the advice of his former chef/teacher and searches out a wandering chess-master who is supposed to be even more powerful. After Ah Po begins his training, we discover that the Ghost Face Killer is the man who killed Ah Po’s father, and he is on the prowl! Ah Po, seeing that his new master is the next on Ghost Face’s hit list, refuses to let another person he cares about die at the hands of this sadistic killer. Ah Po intensifies his training, and he is determined to finally put an end to the Ghost Face Killer.|
Despite being a independent filmmaker, Joseph Kuo often worked with the best in the business. Born Invincible, for instance, featured both the amazing Carter Wong in its lead and even featured choreography by a young Yuen Woo-ping. Although The Mystery of Chess Boxing doesn’t factor in a big name behind the chorography, it does feature two decent stars in the front. Li Yi Min is still best known for his roles with the Shaw Bros. studio, in titles such as Heaven and Hell as well as Life Gamble, but here he gets to show off his charisma to its fullest extent. Min manages to show off his knack for comedy, which is something that I am not familiar with seeing from him. Although the kung fu comedy was still yet in its infancy, Li Yi Min proves to be a very solid comedic lead. When the drama becomes necessary he is also quite convincing, but throughout much of the film he is very over-the-top, and generally silly in his tackling of everyday situations. Continuing the discussion of big stars, one has to mention the immortal Simon Yuen. Best known as both Yuen Woo-Ping’s father as well as the drunken “Beggar So” character from both Jackie Chan’s Drunken Master and Snake in the Eagel’s Shadow. Yuen essentially plays the same role here, but he does so with all of the charisma that audiences expect of him. His role is actually fairly limited, which is unfortunate, but the time that he is present on screen is classic.