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Walking Tall: Final Chapter

Posted by Josh Samford On May - 19 - 2012

Walking Tall: The Final Chapter (1977)
Director: Jack Starrett
Writers: Howard B. Kreitsek and Samuel A. Peeples
Starring: Bo Svenson, Lurene Tuttle, Leif Garrett and Forrest Tucker

The Plot: In this third and final film in the original Walking Tall series, we follow Buford Pusser (Bo Svenson) once again as he lives out his final days. Still angry after the death of his wife, Buford continues to search for the man responsible for her death. However, he finds nothing but red tape standing in his way. Not only that, but there is an election coming up and the tides are slowly turning against Buford. Many of the residents, seeing the violence that has ensued since Pusser took over, have decided that they would like to see someone else filling his shoes. So, inevitably Buford does indeed lose in his election attempt, but he doesn’t let this bring him down. Even though he and his family are now in great debt, he looks for more answers by looking for employment in the highway patrol. However, a blessing comes his way when a movie producer expresses interest in taking his story and making it into a hollywood film. Although things are certainly looking up for Buford now, his war on crime will not subside!

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Angel Force

Posted by Josh Samford On February - 25 - 2012

Angel Force (1991)
Director: Hua Shan and Simon Chun Yueng
Writers: Johnny Lee
Starring: Moon Lee, Wilson Lam, Shing Fui-On and Wang Lung Wei

The Plot: Angel Force begins by introducing the audience to Herman (Shing Fui-On) who is walking through a underground parking garage with his henchmen who are carrying briefcases full of cash. Before this group can make it to their illegal meeting, two interpol officers, Lung (Wilson Lam) and May (Moon Lee), jump from out of the shadows and begin questioning them. What follows is a brutal fight scene that allows Herman his chance to escape. Skip forward and we watch as Lung and his wife, who are a young couple with a son, preparing to finally head off on a long overdue vacation. Lung is a government agent though, so as you might have already expected, his plans don’t come to fruition. He is immediately called off from this vacation and must instead help find Herman who has now ran away to Burma. Lung is now given the option to put together his very own special team of agents in order to travel into Burma and tackle Herman headfirst. He of course brings along May (Moon Lee), as well as a group of violent and specialized warriors. Will they be successful in their mission, or will Herman walk away free yet again?

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Executioner, The

Posted by Josh Samford On February - 14 - 2012

The Executioner (1974)
Director: Teruo Ishii
Writers: Teruo Ishii
Starring: Sonny Chiba, Makato Soto, Eiji Gô and Yutaka Nakajima

The Plot: Ryuichi Koga (Sonny Chiba) is the heir to the Koga ninja clan. The last in line for the ancient wisdom of his family’s ninja philosophy, Ryuichi unfortunately was a rather rebellious youth. As a young man, Ryuichi wanted very little to do with this family tradition. However, as he attempted to escape his grandfather’s home, the old man would always block his exit and try to instill in Ryuichi the pride of his family. As a grown man, Ryuichi is then adopted by a non-government enterprise who want to use his impressive skills to take down a Yakuza-led drug trafficking ring. The yakuza are using a Latin American woman, who is protected by diplomatic immunity, to smuggle dope in her carry-on bag. Unfortunately, the last time the police took this case on directly, the department was left incredibly embarrassed with multiple dead police officers. With no evidence pointing to this diplomatically protected young woman, the police commissioner retired alongside his best man in order to save face for the department. While in retirement, he organized this non-government funded force that looks to employ Ryuichi in order to operate outside of the system and gather the proper evidence needed to land a conviction. With a sadist leading this drug ring, Ryuichi will have to team with this oddball police force (of sorts) and defeat an army of evil men!

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Fighting Madam

Posted by Josh Samford On January - 17 - 2012

Fighting Madam (1987)
Director: Raymond Leung and Teresa Woo
Writers: Teresa Woo
Starring: Moon Lee, Alex Fong, Elaine Lui and Yukari Ôshima

The Plot: Our film begins focusing on a international narcotics organization who have the appearance of being a legitimate business, but they are anything but a regular board of directors. These drug peddlers are ruthless, however, and have no fear when it comes to using extreme amounts of violence in order to settle such disputes. Sitting on their board is Yeung (Yukari Oshima), who is a woman who may be more ruthless than all other members combined. Moon (Moon lee) is a secret agent who moonlights as a secretary during her offtime. When her boss John Keung (David Chiang) calls her back into action, she is paired with a team collectively known as The Angels. The members include: her good friend Elaine (Elaine Liu), the older and wiser Saijo (Hideki Saijô) and the new young American recruit Alex (Alex Fong). Together, this team will have to form together in order to defeat Yeung and her cronies who are looking to take over the drug trade throughout all of China.

The Review
There’s no question that we here at Varied Celluloid love the Hong Kong girls-with-guns genre. I don’t know for sure whether or not “girls with guns” is an efficient title, since it hardly describes the majority of these movies, but it is the closest thing that I have found to describe these movies. Although this is a genre that certainly needs defining, since it is so obscure that few people have actually written about it, the films are usually spectacular no matter what label you put on them. Featuring some guns, but primarily focusing on martial arts mayhem, these movies can get ridiculously over-the-top. The female leads always seem as if they have something to prove when compared to their male colleagues, and these movies are often innovative and fun because of this rivalry of sorts. Fighting Madam is another Hong Kong actioner that features the legendary Yukari Oshima and Moon Lee being pitted against one another yet again, but it actually proves to be quite unlike anything else I have seen from this genre so far. A cruel mix of outrageous violence and dull spy scripting, this proves to be a film where the good most assuredly outshines the bad.

For starters, when discussing Fighting Madam, the first thing I must point out is the cast. Stacked, from top to bottom with quality names, there was definitely a budget behind this movie. David Chiang is probably the biggest surprise within the cast, as this type of role is one that I am not particularly used to seeing him in. Known for his legendary stint with the Shaw Bros. studio, Chiang is showing his age in this role but he still manages to fit very well into that supervising role. I have seen him in other eighties films where he seemed to be placed in the limelight as a viable action figure, but this time out he really slips into the “Charlie” role in this Charlie’s Angels-esque feature. The cast are all quite brilliant in their positions, however, and Yukari Oshima may be the standout from the main cast. Portraying her most evil villain yet, she sets up murder squads at the drop of a hat, and she is just as apt to do the murdering herself if she is pushed. Physically though, this may be Oshima at her most lovely. Although she is often slightly masculine in appearance, with a fairly muscular physique for a petite woman and always sporting a short androgynous hairdo, she is quite dolled up in Fighting Madame. She plays the socialite psychopath with ease, even though you inevitably start to wish that she and Moon Lee would join forces in more pictures. Moon Lee is of course her usual bubbly self. Deliriously cute, but surprisingly acrobatic and nimble during her fight scenes, the girls get up to some rather ridiculous stunt work in this movie.

There are some slight instances of comedy, but by and large this is a pretty straight forward spy film. Similar to something one might see on Mission Impossible, Charlie’s Angels or any number of James Bond films, there is a ridiculously heavy plot running through this ninety minute feature. Unfortunately, this tends to be one of the movie’s biggest downfalls. It seems to pack in far too much over this small amount of time. With plot details being far too concealed by the strange rhythm of the movie, it becomes difficult to keep track of the varying plot motivations. Even after watching the film, I would be lying if I told you I knew exactly who the Angels force directly reports to. Even the general plot points that actually are covered in the film are usually fairly difficult to mentally navigate and keep track of. Yet, these things are usually forgiven once an awesome action sequence hits the screen. Thankfully, for the sake of Fighting Madam, these action sequences really start to heat up as the movie goes along. When the final twenty minutes beat along and we watch Moon Lee and Elaine Liu sporting machine-guns, while raiding a mansion in true A Better Tomorrow II fashion, everything is most assuredly forgiven.

The stunt work, which I mentioned above, really is off the charts. With many scenes taking place on top of buildings, or hanging off the side of bridges, Moon Lee and company do not disappoint in their stunts. The stunts seem to culminate with a massive jump from a four story building into a group of pine trees that seem to break the fall of our two heroes who brave the massive leap. Unfortunately we do not get to see the entire fall, or the impact that they make on the ground, but the stunt remains impressive. In all regards though, the action that is found in Fighting Madam is bloody, brutal and thoroughly exciting. A blend of Hong Kong action styles, the movie mixes traditional kung fu fight choreography with the heroic bloodshed aesthetics developed by John Woo. In the first thirty minutes, the movie manages to set the tone for the violence that is sure to come. During this initial sequence Yukari Oshima places the order for several of her enemies to be killed, and we watch as this happens in gloriously bloody fashion. A sequence that involves motorcyclists riding around and slicing some poor guy up with kitana swords may be the most ridiculous throughout the entire movie, but it still manages to work due to the “cool” factor.

The Conclusion
How does one even rate a movie like Fighting Madame? Sure, the story is a convoluted mess at times, but the action is so ridiculously great that it hardly seems worth discounting because of this. Surely, most fans will watch a movie like this one solely for the action – and if that is their main reason for watching, I can’t imagine them leaving disappointed. The final fight sequence between the Godesses of Hong Kong action, Yukari Oshima and Moon lee, is enough to secure this movie as a definite watch. Notorious in its brutality, this final fight is off the chain, but it is the other scenes of gratuitous violence and insanity that set it above the rest. I give it a four out of five, but it is a low four due to the quality of the narrative.

Deadly Broken Sword, The

Posted by Josh Samford On December - 21 - 2011

The Deadly Breaking Sword (1979)
Director: Sun Yee
Writers: Ni Kuang
Starring: Fu Sheng, Ti Lung, Ku Feng and Lily Li

The Plot: Our story begins with Tuan Changqing (Ti Lung) ordering a coffin for a duel that he is to have with a speerman name Liu Yinxu (Szu Shih). Tuan, who is a martial expert, takes his duels very seriously. Notorious for his habit of breaking a piece of his sword inside of his victims within each duel, he is one of the most feared swordsmen across the land. He soon defeats the spearman, but Liu runs away before the fight can be finished. Xian Dao (Fu Sheng) is a gambling addict who is more than a little down on his luck. When he is tricked by the young heiress of a gambling den, he believes that he owes a large amount of money. This leads him to becoming a indentured servant, but he doesn’t realize that the entire reason for this servitude is that the young heiress fancies the young lad. Xian Dao eventually meets Tuan Changqing outside of a teahouse, where the young gambler is caught admiring the fancy ruby that adorns Tuan’s horse. Tuan at first assumes that the young man is a thief, and thus a bit of antagonism is felt between them. When the brothel that neighbors Xian Dao’s new home at the gambling den acquires a very famous worker, it seems that she is the toast of the town. However, this new worker has some form of revenge on her mind, but who are the characters that she wants revenge upon? And what about Brother Liu Yinxu, who escaped Tuan Changqing’s wrath in our introduction? How long before he is finally able to begin practicing again and take his own revenge against Tuan Changqing?

The Review
Director Sun Yee may not have the name power of someone like Lau Kar-leung or Chang Cheh, but he too was one of the notable directors working within the Shaw studio during its prime. Best known for his work on Human Lanterns and The Avenging Eagle, he didn’t have the vast catalog that Chang Cheh would create, but his work often speaks for itself. Never afraid to get his hands dirty, the early part of his Shaw Bros. tenure was spent making sexploitation films. He eventually made a name for himself with “female avenger” films such as The Drug Connection (which is touted as a Hong Kong remake of Pam Grier’s Coffy), Big Bad Sis and The Lady Exterminator. After this, he headed towards the end of the seventies by making a string of martial art epics that starred the biggest names within the Shaw Studio. The Deadly Breaking Sword comes from this era of the filmmaker’s career, and has him working alongside Alexander Fu Sheng, Ti Lung, Ku Feng and Lily Li. Although the movie isn’t the very best of its genre, this director certainly proves to be fairly underrated because his visual prowess is certainly felt throughout The Deadly Breaking Sword.

Ni Kuang was never the strongest writer when it came to vast sweeping epics that used huge ensemble casts, but without the harsh historical context that some of these films seem to have, Deadly Breaking Sword remains very linear and straight to the point. Similar to his better known work with Chang Cheh, there is a underlying theme of masculine bravado at work here. Perfectly executed for any Chinese men who were still hanging onto some of their less-than-progressive ideals of the past, Deadly Breaking Sword certainly presents a world that is dominated by men. Both Fu Sheng and Ti Lung’s characters completely reject the wiles of all women when confonted by their sexual advances, and instead they remain committed only to their own machismo, as well as the job that they have at hand. While this isn’t the nicest of concepts within the film, and is certainly not of the politically correct variety, this otherworldly attitude certainly makes the film more interesting to me. Women are shown no mercy throughout the film, with several lines of dialogue outright berating all women as liars and leeches. This might be tough to overlook for those who are sensitive to this subject, but for some others it could very well prove to be unintentionally entertaining. As Fu Sheng barks out lines like “I tend not to trust women, because they’re all liars,” you can either laugh at how childish the film is in this regard or you can allow yourself to get mad. I choose to laugh.

The film is certainly one that doesn’t pander to its audience. Despite being constricted by genre aesthetics, the film does a good job of zigging whenever one expects it to zag. For instance, Ti Lung, who is almost always cast in the role of the never-fledgling good guy, is slightly ambiguous in his role. Although it is hard to imagine him as anything other than the good guy, this is a role that really pushes the boundaries between simple bravado and pure conceit. This character, at some point, really starts to resemble something darker than a general Kung Fu hero, but this is a movie with few shades of white or black. Despite being a chauvinist, and a all around narcissist, Ti Lung somehow still manages to come across as fairly charismatic. He is the sort of man’s “man” that we like to see in our martial arts film, quiet and self-confident, but unfortunately whenever he opens his mouth he proves to be such a totally unlikable character. However, this isn’t necessarily a negative attribute in my opinion. Anything that differs from the norm in a conventional Kung Fu movie generally proves to be valuable.

When Brother Lin emerges again, toward the back end of the movie, we are taken yet again outside of the normal. We are taught throughout the majority of this movie that it takes place within a heightened sense of reality, obviously. With Ti Lung breaking swords off inside of his enemy, the gimmickry of this title certainly isn’t a direct reflection of reality. Even with this, when Lin returns looking like a anime character, the movie defies all established rules of logic. After treating his wounds, caused by Ti lung during the introduction, Brother Lin’s hair for some reason grows out by a foot (as does his beard) and all of his body hair seems to bleach white. Yet, in the midst of his bleached white hair, he has several strips of red that run down his head. Despite looking incredibly cool, what this transformation means, or how it came about, is utterly lost on the viewer. Still, this is where the movie establishes that no set of rules are going to be conformed to. Whatever Ni Kuang and Sun Yee want to do, that is precisely what will be done. For better or for worse, I think most will agree that Deadly Breaking Sword is quite off kilter in comparison to many other Kung Fu titles from this time and era

The Conclusion
The Deadly Breaking Sword is pure pulp. Martial mayhem at its finest, this is a title that should please those fans who know what they are in for. While it remains far from perfect, the chauvinism can be a bit much and there are few “wow!” moments during the movie, but I still remain a fan. I give it a four out of five, and highly recommend it to anyone who thinks the above might sound interesting.





About Me

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.