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Stray Cat Rock: Wild Jumbo

Posted by Josh Samford On January - 24 - 2012

Stray Cat Rock: Wild Jumbo (1970)
Director: Toshiya Fujita
Writers: Shuichi Nagahara
Starring: Tatsuya Fuji, Takeo Chii, Yûsuke Natsu and Meiko Kaji

The Plot: Stray Cat Rock: Wild Jumbo is not a film that follows a very intricate sort of plot, however, at its most basic it is a movie that follows the adventures of a “gang” of teens. The group is made up of several fellas and one lady (the lady is played by Meiko Kaji, who acts as the only returning performer in this sequel). They spend their days rolling around in a dunebuggy on the beach or in the midst of the city. Although this group of hipsters seem rather nice, they aren’t averse to a bit of violence to get what they want. Scams are their forte, and they have acquired a variety of ways to supply all of their needs. When the leader of this group runs into a interesting young woman riding a horse near their headquarters, their lives all take a twist for the more interesting. As we are introduced to these characters, we are also introduced to the Seikyou Society who are a cult that is garnering a great deal of money from Japanese believers. It also becomes apparent that this group will be collecting a huge sum of money at a large meeting that is expected to happen soon. With the help of this new young woman, our gang plans to rob the Seikyou Society of their money and help this new friend acquire some form of hidden vengeance against this cult.

The Review
Ever since viewing Stray Cat Rock: Delinquent Girl boss, I have had a wider definition of the pinky violence genre than many of the diehards would persuade you. Although the strictest definition of the genre should exclude all films made outside of Toei studios, I found within the original Stray Cat Rock film a lively and eclectic feature that, despite being a movie made under the Nikkatsu film studio, still delivered everything that made this genre the wild world that it was. Youthful teens rebelling against the society around them, wearing the most fashionable clothes possible and frequently delving into the criminal world, this is the pinky violence genre through-and-through! Stray Cat Rock: Wild Jumbo is the second entry into the series and it at first looks to continue on in the traditions that the first film instigated. However, this time out veteran director Yasuhara Hasebe is not leading the project and director Toshiya Fujita steps up to the plate. Does the film change drastically because of this switch? Yes. Yes, it does. However, let us not be hasty. Sometimes change can be for the better, right? After all, the worst thing a filmmaker can do is try to replicate what has already been done. So, is Wild Jumbo a step in a progressive direction that adds something positive to the pinky violence genre? No, it isn’t. Sorry, I can’t drag it out any further. I have to be honest on this, as it seems that director Toshiya Fujita’s ideas clashed in heavy opposition with everything else that Hasebe did do and would later do with his precious girl-gang series.

Although discussion on Wild Jumbo has been very minimal, the few mentions that I have ever read for the film have called it the “lightest” movie in the Stray Cat Rock series, and I am obliged to agree. In almost all manners the film deviates from the set path of the original film. For starters, while I have always felt that titles like Girl Boss and Sex Hunter (the first and third movie in the Stray Cat Rock series, respectively) were perfectly fit for the pinky violence genre, Wild Jumbo can only really earn this distinction because of its association with these previously mentioned films. For starters, the movie breaks the most basic cardinal rule of any pinky violence title: it doesn’t focus on women. The only female characters in the film are secondary characters with very few lines. Although Meiko Kaji is a very large presence within the movie, she is still only a part of a predominately male gang. Our story essentially focuses on the inner turmoil of this group and the inevitable “big job” that they stumble upon. Why the filmmakers decided to take this polar opposite approach with the first sequel, I am not sure, but it deflates a lot of the great drama that was established in the first film. The second main deviation from the genre comes in the atmosphere of the movie. Gone is the urban grit and rebellion found in the original movie, and instead this sequel comes across as more of a beach-blanket party movie than it does a slice of life within the inner city.

The movie is rather bizarre, there is simply no getting past it. A mix of sixties era psychedelic imagery and seventies era rebellion, the movie is conflicted in the aesthetics that it wishes to follow. The “gang” that we follow within this film differentiates itself from both cultures, it seems. The group certainly resembles the commune mentality of the sixties-era hippie movement, upon a cursory first glance at least, due to their willingness to help each other and their general fun loving attitudes. However, they quickly separate themselves from the sixties by displaying their overwhelming sense of greed as well as their attraction to scams and violence. While most of the time their rebellion generally makes them seem like a nuisance to all of the “straights” around them, they occasionally delve into some truly questionable antics. When the time comes, and the film makes its transition into a serious “heist” movie, they finally progress into having a yakuza-esque edge. This “edge” is surprisingly gone throughout the majority of the movie, and seems very out of place when the movie finally attempts to present a harsher tone during the final half hour. Viewers can never really know what to expect from Wild Jumbo, to be honest. It is a mix and match sort of movie that seems as if it may have been put together on the fly. The introduction for the movie seems to hint at it being a more direct sequel to the original Delinquent Girl Boss, as it actually features a very tiny cameo by Akiko Wada (sultry soul singer who was a star in the original movie). Wada is soon completely abandoned, however, and we find that Meiko Kaji has been transformed into an entirely different character. In the cinematic “crime of the century,” Kaji is actually left in one of the smallest parts of her career.

Although the real facts behind the production of Wild Jumbo are unfortunately lost in translation, much of the blame will inevitably fall upon director Tatsuya Fujita. Although Fujita would go on to direct the more-popular Lady Snowblood movies, his work here is incredibly disjointed and most assuredly rushed. No doubt, Nikkatsu was likely looking to capitalize on the popularity of the original Delinquent Girl Boss and they probably wanted to get a movie made as quick as possible. This explains why Wada makes her strange cameo during the introduction, and why she actually makes it onto both the poster art and the soundtrack for the film. So, with producers looking to cash in, they turned to Fujita to crank something out. The end results were not another girl-gang crime film starring Meiko Kaji, but a Kinji Fukasaku clone with a near-voiceless female cast and a wildly meandering plot that only seems to pick up steam during a third act that seems incredibly tacked on. Indeed, the “heist” section of the movie is the most interesting aspect of the entire movie, but up until this point I have developed no affection for any character throughout the duration of the movie. When characters inevitably start to die off, the viewer is left with no sentimental feelings. Instead, we have a movie that comes across as all style, but very little else.

The Conclusion
Wild Jumbo may have received a lashing from me during the course of this review, but it isn’t the worst movie on the market. It has some interesting aspects to it. It really is a stylish movie with a lot of great photography and fashion. It is simply a case where the bad often overshadows what good elements the movie may have. I give it a two out of five. Not terrible, but certainly worth skipping.

Return of the Tiger

Posted by Josh Samford On December - 13 - 2011
Review Contributed by Prof. Aglaophotis

Return of the Tiger (1979)
Director: Jimmy Shaw
Writers: Chang Hsin Yi
Starring: Angela Mao, Bruce Li and Yi Chang

The Plot: We open on a gymnasium full of martial artists and acrobats practicing when a young woman bursts in and starts fighting everyone. Upon meeting the sub-man in charge, Peter Chen, the woman introduces her boss Chang Hung from Amsterdam. Chang Hung claims he’s come for the real head honcho, a rich, mobbed-up Westerner named Paul and that he’s out for revenge against him. While Paul and his right hand-man try to find out more about this mysterious Chang Hung, another martial arts tied mobster named Tsing Chi Sang wants to hire Chang Hung for his great fighting skills. But between two mob bosses, the mysterious Chang Hung’s motives become more and more complex, as both mob bosses secretly hate each other and are planning to use Chang Hung to their own means. Will either mob boss get what they want, or is Chang Hung up to something even the bosses won’t see coming?

The Review
When you say the words “Kung Fu Film,” you’re speaking a succession of words that roughly translate to something fun. No matter how dramatic or deep the movie tries to be, a Kung Fu Film is a Kung Fu Film all the way. There are some film themes that might deter from the full tilt martial arts experience though, be it Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon’s art style or Kung Fu Hustle’s overuse of CGi, but rarely is it ever the plot that usually amounts to nothing more than exacting revenge or justice. That’s not entirely the case with Return of the Tiger, though: here we have a fun-filled martial arts flick with a heavy plot that just noticeably weighs the film down.

Return of the Tiger boasts some genuinely good choreography. This is due in part to the movie’s exceptional cinematography, as there are a lot of great mid-shots and close-ups showing every block and counter attack with great impact. The dodging and two man on one fights are incredible even when you can tell an actor or object is flying around on strings. Like every good Kung Fu film though, the final battle between Chang, Paul, Tsing and the henchmen is an amazing ride. The action beats are very well hit and it highlights the movie as a veritable good Kung Fu film. The man playing Chang Hung is damn good, with most of the flips and obstacle-clearing jumps going entirely to him. I get the feeling this is one of those Brucesploitation films that tried to cash-in on the Bruce Lee post-mortem fame, because the guy looks a little bit like Bruce, and even the movie even stars Bruce Li as well as Yi Chang who played The Baron from Exit the Dragon Enter the Tiger (here playing Peter Chen [oddly credited as Mr. Smith]).

Interestingly, there seems to be a kind of gray matter to all of the characters. The villains never do anything too villainous, and the heroes feel more like vigilante crooks. Paul isn’t a woman beating monster, Tsing isn’t a cruel exploitative man and Chang is similar to what Sonny Chiba would have been in The Street Fighter if his character had a conscious. It makes these characters believable and their individual sophistication makes them appear honorable, despite their organized crimes.

The actor playing Paul (ironically Paul L. Smith who played Mr. Booar in the Jackie Chan movie The Protector, Falkon in Red Sonja, Willard the janitor from Pieces and Bluto in the Popeye movie) isn’t too bad. For the most part he’s very stoic and seems like a very calm and collected crime boss. He never actually shines as a villain until the final battle when he starts beating people up in a comedic, but semi-effective, way. Watching the dude fight is kind of like watching Andre the Giant fight in The Princess Bride; it’s rather goofy watching the guy bitch-slap people into unconsciousness, but he’s big and burly enough to pull the effect off.

Speaking of goofy, there is one fight scene in particular that doubles as both unique and utterly preposterous. Even more so than the final fight. About an hour into the movie, Chang gets attacked by motorcycle thugs; while the scene invokes a lot of danger, the hits are at their loosest between every strike and the climax is inappropriately abrupt. The scene even has wicker baskets and cardboard boxes set-up for the occasion despite the fact the scene takes place in the middle of nowhere.

Despite the various martial arts battles, there is something off with the pacing. The action beats, while memorable, are spread apart from each other widely. The movie has this very ‘70’s Intrigue vibe to it in the same vein as Shaft or Detroit 9000, where there’s a long period of figuring out who’s doing what and what’s really going on. It’s not to say it’s boring, and it is necessary since it does serve in setting up the appropriate plot points, it just doesn’t make for a pulse pounding Kung Fu film. Kung Fu: Punch of Death felt like a Kung Fu film through and through, but this one is a bit more plot-heavy, and the end result is a feeling of disjointedness. There’s a promising brawl scene in a goods yard between Chang Hung and several henchmen, but when more henchmen arrive, the others just run away… prompting the newly arriving henchmen to do the same!

The soundtrack deserves a special mention here because the music is both pertinent to the times, and is nothing you’d expect out of a Kung-Fu/Martial Arts movie setting, but is overall perfectly fitting. Composed by experienced Martial Arts movie composer Fu Liang Chou, the soundtrack carries a very heavy 70’s vibe: from the catchy opening theme song to scenes of Paul’s henchmen, the funky 70’s orchestration and Wakka Chikka music does the action and drama some genuine favors. I’ve listened to a lot of forgettable orchestrated soundtracks in my time and a lot of them pertain to films and games of today; composers today could learn quite a bit from Fu Liang Chou’s work here… him and Alessandro Alessandroni. What makes the soundtrack really notable though is Chang’s Theme, which plays every other time the character appears on screen.

Chang’s Theme is rich with the heavy keys of a piano, a guitar that denotes intrigue, a thudding bass line of intimidation and a nice touch of violins. There’s even a nice character theme contrast where Paul and Tsing meet together with their men in the same room, and each boss entering the room with their men contrasts with each other perfectly. The soundtrack isn’t seamless though. There are some funny night club scenes where an Asian singer will clearly be singing along with a live band, but 70’s R&B is being played over him (thanks, localization team). That, and they throw in a soundtrack clip from Live and Let Die near the end. Why you ask? Because it’s a Chinese production and they can get away with nonsense like that. Kind of like how The Boxer’s Omen stole sound clips from Phantasm for no reason at all.

It isn’t until the final act that we learn who Chang and his helper really are, and how they play in this Karate Crime situation, but it’s a real disappointment when we do. It’s not that the twist is implausible, it’s just one of several predictable plot twists available to the audience. The plot twist is like figuring out what Gin Sung really is or guessing the ending to Majesco’s GunMetal: it’s right out there in the open, leaves no room for imagination and is the first option you would go for in a Multiple Choice quiz. The last minute twist regarding Chang and his assistant feels hollow, and while it makes some sense, it feels a little too convenient.

The Conclusion
This is one of those types of Kung Fu films that feels like it should be one of the high contenders within the genre. Return of the Tiger has got ambition, an intriguing story, ‘70’s style, some good action and is fairly well shot, but it sags somewhere along the way. That’s really not a bad thing though: Return of the Tiger is still an entertaining Kung Fu movie, and still very recommendable to anyone looking for a fun action film.

Rage of the Master

Posted by Josh Samford On December - 10 - 2011

Rage of the Master (1971 according to IMDB, 1972 according to HKMDB)
Director: Wang Hung Chang
Writers: Not known
Starring: Jimmy Wang Yu, Li Yi-Min and Chiao Chiao

The Plot: The film begins with a kung fu school being challenged by a former friend of the master. This “friend” trained with the master originally, and was put out of their school when he was reported for a serious indiscretion. However, he comes prepared to take on this kung fu school and have his revenge. He brings with him a collection of Thai boxers, who then quickly dispatch of all students. The master, before being surrounded, orders his daughter to leave the school and go out to find help. When she does just this, she reports to some family friends. Knowing that they have no martial skill, they instead think about local talents who may be able to help. The first name that pops into their mind is Tiger Wong (Jimmy Wang Yu), the son of a martial arts legend who was trained specifically by his father. The problem is, Tiger Wong’s mother holds him to a promise that was made to his dead father. Wong is never to show off his martial prowess, and instead must commit himself to a life of manual labor. Will they manage to talk Tiger Wong into helping them, despite his mother’s wishes? Or will these nefarious Thai boxers continue to dominate this small village.

The Review
Jimmy Wang Yu is a actor and filmmaker who mapped out a very rare career path. Success for the actor came early, and his career would prove to be one that was filled with both creativity and imagination. Unfortunately, so much of his career remains lost to modern kung fu fans. His work is a mixed assortment of films that are completely insane spectacles, as well as some very unique dissections of the martial arts genre in general. In recent years, he has seen both a surge in popularity as well as a damaging attack on his reputation. When Master of the Flying Guillotine was first released on DVD, it seemed as if Jimmy Wang Yu may have finally hit the peek in his cult popularity. With all of this sudden attention, it seemed as if more of his work might also receive similar treatment in the future. Unfortunately, this never really came into fruition. It was as if audiences loved Master of the Flying Guillotine, but were not interested in the other wild works to feature Jimmy Wang Yu. Then, after a few years, the documentary Not Quite Hollywood introduced the actor to modern audiences as the foul and racist Chinese tourist who showed no manners during the creation of The Man From Hong Kong. Whether or not this will have a adverse effect upon his current popularity has yet to be seen, but hopefully audiences will instead look to this man’s creative output in order to make a decision upon him as a artist. Whether or not he was a classy guy when he stepped off the set, I can assure you that Jimmy Wang Yu made many more films than just Master of the Flying Guillotine. While Rage of the Master may not be his very best work, it does shown the underlying themes that dominate his filmography. It also shows how to make a very generic kung fu film into something highly entertaining!

Unlike many of the films that Wang Yu is best known for, Rage of the Master is a slow burn in comparison. After the introductory fight sequence, it takes the movie quite a while before it establishes any further action set pieces. This isn’t such a bad thing, especially if the narrative is interesting, but Rage of the Master is a mixed bag in that regard. On the positive side of things, we do get to see Jimmy Wang Yu play a character unlike many of those that he has played in his varied career. Normally he’s the stoic hero who stands up for all that is right, without a care for anyone that might stand in his way. Rage of the Master at least throws Wang Yu into the role of a conflicted soul who must do some serious soul searching before stepping up as the resilient monster that we all know him to be. While it isn’t a massive departure for the actor, this is one of the few times I have seen him deal with a great deal of drama. Similar to his role in the original One Armed Swordsman, this is Wang Yu really delving into the emotions of his character.

It almost seems as if Jimmy Wang Yu refused to sign on for any project unless it featured a battle between multiple martial arts of some sort. This dominant theme wouldn’t be so unusual if this were a director that we are talking about, but it seems very peculiar for one actor to be featured in so many films that feature such similar content. It seems that Wang Yu simply became incredibly well known as the defender of Chinese kung fu during his prime. Although Rage of the Master only focuses on two different martial art styles (as opposed to the five or six that pop up in the One-Armed Boxer series), it manages to give a higher cinematic ceiling to show off the Muay Thai style. Unfortunately, the representation of Muay Thai isn’t as well done as in other Wang Yu films. Within the film, it seems as if Muay Thai is shown to lack power, and instead it seems as if it focuses highly on speedy jabs. Real Muay Thai, however, is obviously not distinguished in such a way. The art of eight limbs has never looked so ineffective… and yet it continually beats Chinese kung fu throughout the film.

While the slow progress of the narrative seems to steer this film into some very generic waters, the culminating knife battle in the final twenty minutes more than secures it at least one additional point in its overall rating. When you follow this knife fight up with Wang Yu’s final battle on the beach with the previously mentioned Muay Thai group, the movie finds a really solid way to end despite all of the woefully overwrought plotting. I do not intend to give away much about the final fight sequence, but it does manage to deliver on all of the heightened drama. Wang Yu and his style of martial arts made for something unique, and Rage of the Master perfectly demonstrates this. I always like to equate Wang Yu to Japanese screen legend Sonny Chiba. These two men practiced very different martial arts, but the similarity they shared was in the amount of effort they put behind their blows. When either actor threw a punch for a movie, they didn’t so much throw a punch at a person as it seems they tried to punch through them. Their wild swinging, and seemingly uncoordinated haymakers were every bit a part of their charm, and each actor found a way to make this style their own.

The Conclusion
Rage of the Master is better than many martial art titles that you are going to find on the cheap boxsets that you will find it packed in, but it probably isn’t anywhere close to being one of Jimmy Wang Yu’s greatest accomplishments. It does, however, show a lot of the things that make his movies so special. Ultimately, I give it a solid three out of five. It is a very enjoyable movie, even if it doesn’t stand out from the crowd.

Moonlight Sword and Jade Lion

Posted by Josh Samford On December - 8 - 2011

Moonlight Sword and Jade Lion (1977 HKMDB, or 1981 IMDB)
Director: Karl Liao
Writers: Karl Liao
Starring: Angela Mao, Doris Lung and Wu Jia-Xiang

The Plot: Chu Sau-Yin (Angela Mao) is a trained martial artist who is asked by her master to complete a seemingly simple task: find his friend. Knowing the city in which her master’s friend formerly resided, she heads off in order to ask around about the man. When she finally makes it to the post where he was supposedly last employed, no one seems to know a thing. She is told that he now lives out in the mountains by himself. Taking this knowledge with her, she heads off into the mountains and begins to ask around about him. When he doesn’t turn up there either, she is once again pointed to the same post that he was supposed to be employed. Things are starting to look fishy at this point. So, once she heads back into town she receives a new story altogether. This time she is told that he has been missing for several months, and that his former coworkers and employers have been searching for him as well. A mystery has arisen, and it won’t be long before Chu Sau-Yin has to unsheathe her sword and show these people just who they are messing with.

The Review
Female martial art tales from the 1970s are not entirely numerous, but there are more to be found than one might expect. The notoriously chauvinistic Asian region has a reputation for setting women to the side and letting the men take the lead when it comes to this sort of thing, but Hong Kong was a often surprisingly progressive nation in this regard. The most famous example from this period would be Come Drink With Me, which made Chin Pei Pei into a huge star in her native land, but there were certainly others that looked to capitalize on the concept of a woman kicking a bit of butt every now and then. Midnight Sword and Jade Lion is another film which asks for the men to sit back and let the ladies take the steering wheel, and it would seem that this venture into postmodernist feminism is just the sort of forward thinking needed to round out this Warner Bros. 4-movie action pack! Unfortunately, while the intentions are to be celebrated, the movie itself certainly proves to be the weakest title on this set.

There is a pretty large problem within Moonlight Sword and Jade Lion, and it is something that affects many kung fu titles from this era. In the hopes of filling their film with all sorts of intrigue, the filmmakers create a overly-complicated plot that only manages to confuse its audience along the way. When ensemble productions are put together, and you can see this often in the latter work of Chang Cheh, there is a unfortunate reliance on massive plots that rarely tie together. These films were often shot with little to no budget, and they were completed in a very short amount of time, but for some reason the filmmakers often felt the need to craft overly-complicated plots that would make the Bond-film franchise blush. In the case of Moonlight Sword and Jade Lion, the movie simply relies far too heavily on a laundry list of characters. As the film progresses, the audience is able to latch onto Angela Mao’s character and her search for her master’s friend, but her story becomes clouded due to an assortment of heroes and villains who all have their own apparent motivations. Somewhere around the half-way point, I simply started to give up. Even whilst taking notes, this one can prove to be a bit too dense in terms of narrative devices.

Angela Mao, Lady Whirlwind herself, was a big star in Hong Kong, and she was essentially at the twilight of her career when Moonlight Sword and Jade Lion came along. Although she still looks, and performs, as fantastic as ever, this feature was made in the last decade before she decided to retire from film in order to focus on her family. Mao, who fans may best remember as Bruce Lee’s sister during the introduction to Enter the Dragon, is in spectacular form throughout the film. All of the fight scenes are handled well, but there’s something fun about watching Mao throw down. She has a very light and elegant style, and she seems to be one of the few females during her prime who could really deliver upon the necessities of her martial arts choreography. Doris Lung also pops up in the movie. She plays the female temptress who seems to ensnare all of the men. Her character also works for the evil warlord who secretly wants Angela Mao’s jade-lion statue. Lung is very solid in her role as well, but she is required much less in terms of athletic prowess when it comes to her fight scenes. Still, she manages to impress, and the entire production starts to resemble a pre-cursor to the Hong Kong “girls with guns” genre.

As the movie progresses, however, it simply loses the majority of its steam. In the beginning, those of us in the audience are excited to see Angela Mao. We know that she will deliver something fresh to a sometimes-stale genre, but as the movie marches on, that excitement is lessened by the plotting which becomes more and more tedious. When it isn’t enough that Angela Mao’s character is searching for the man who kidnapped her master’s friend, we throw in the death of Mao’s parents in order to establish even more antagonism. The filmmakers seem as if they weren’t entirely sure how they could keep this story feeling fresh throughout, so they simply threw in as many twists and turns as they could so that audiences would never get bored. Unfortunately, this turns out to have the exact opposite effect. While the movie generally has many positive attributes going for it, the incoherent plot and mishandling by the filmmakers leaves it a sizable mess.

The Conclusion
Truly the one film that deviates from the quality of the rest of this Warner Bros. martial arts 4-pack, Moonlight Sword and Jade Lion is a bit on the “meh” side. However, it does have some fairly entertaining fight sequences throughout. On the whole, I give it a two out of five.

Rebel Intruders, The

Posted by Josh Samford On December - 5 - 2011

The Rebel Intruders (1980)
Director: Chang Cheh
Writers: Ni Kuang
Starring: Chang Cheh Ni Kuang Lu Feng, Phillip Kwok, Lo Meng, Chiang Sheng and Sun Chien

The Plot: Chen Chu Kwan (Lu Feng) is a despotic warlord who rules over his territory with an iron fist. His men oppress the citizens by whipping and beating them on regular occasion, but Chen Chu kwan will soon run into trouble with three young fighters. Wong Shu (Phillip Kwok) is a beggar who has been forced into this lifestyle by the totalitarianism ruling of Chen. Chin Chow-ping (Lo Meng) is a wandering martial artist with a tremendous amount of strength. He quickly impresses the military with his abilities, but he doesn’t have a cold heart, and is soon at odds with his commanders. Yu (Chiang Sheng) is also a starving thief, thanks to Chen Chu Kwan. This trio initially meets at a gambling den, where Yu is caught giving out free tips in order to collect money from the winner at the end of the evening. When Wong Shu realizes what he is doing, a fight ensues. Wong Shu and Chin Chow-ping soon realize that they are using familiar styles, and their masters were best friends. This turns out to be the catalyst for this trio to find an unlikely, and incredibly strong, friendship. After their friendship is established, this group runs into trouble when Wong Shu witnesses the assassination of highly respected military official. This official opposed Chen Chu Kwan, who has at this point associated himself with the nefarious rebel General Lin, and now every clan within the city will be after our three heroes. Will they manage to escape their grasp and put a end to Chen Chu Kwan’s plan of aligning with General Lin?

The Review
What can possibly be said about the Venom Clan that hasn’t already been repeated a million times before? There are some who favor this era in director Chang Cheh’s career (like me), and then there are others who see this period as being too over-the-top and generally silly. These are films that feature casts who dress in wild uniforms that do not reflect their period, men who have hands replaced with robotic limbs, and where bloodshed at every turn is a downright necessity. These films were, despite everything negative you can say about them, very far ahead of their time. Showcasing a affinity for the bizarre, Chang Cheh was certainly a influence on the emerging kung fu/comedy genre that would come during the eighties. While Lau Kar Leung, his chief competition at the Shaw studio, was busy crafting slightly more realistic films that depicted enhanced versions of real life combat, Chang Cheh was busy focusing entirely on the entertainment side of this business. With a movie such as The Rebel Intruders, Cheh shows off his ability to create a relatively relaxed atmosphere and still retain some of the zaniness that helped establish him as the director that he is known to be.

Featuring every member of the venom clan except for Wei Pai, there is no question as to whether The Rebel Intruders is a true venom film. Each member of the clan is featured in a prominent role, but this time out it is Chiang Sheng, Lo Meng and Phillip Kwok, who fill in for our heroes. For those unaware, the venom clan were a troupe of actors who became famous from their Chang Cheh-led feature Five Deadly Venoms. After the immense popularity of that film, they would forever be known as the Venoms, and would star in numerous kung fu films together. The great thing about this troupe was how each member seemed to fill a necessary gap. Each member had a specific talent or ability that somehow helped make this unit work and function. Sure, they could carry projects individually, or with few members, but when they worked together the sparks were almost always guaranteed. For instance, Sun Chien was a taekwondo expert, so he filled in as the requisite “kicker” of the group. Lu Feng had the “face” of the entire group. Similar to a Charles Bronson, he simply had distinguished features that made him a perfect villain, or even a perfect superhero if the script called for it. Chiang Sheng was certainly the most acrobatic of the group, so he was always the wiry one who could be nimble when necessary. Lo Meng was quite simply the muscle. In my opinion, he had the most impressive physique, and with this he gave off an aura of invincibility. He was also capable of emoting very well, and his eyes were notoriously bright and wide. Then there is Phillip kwok, who was easily the most charismatic of the group and featured the greatest acting talent. Every last one of these details are on display in The Rebel Intruders.

Although the story becomes a wee bit convoluted, due to the opposing forces not being developed or explained well enough (General Lin is never even shown, yet referenced all throughout the film), I have to admit that I was fully absorbed in the project. At around the forty five minute mark, when our trio of heroes are properly formed, the film really steamrolls into becoming something unique within this genre. The story becomes less about military politics, and instead turns into a story about a daring escape. Similar to The Warriors, we watch as our leading men travel great distances in order to put an end to the treason that lies within this culminating group of clans. Cheh delivers on the uncomfortable situation revolving around these characters and their inability to trust anyone. The movie is solid in developing this simple story, and it crafts a great amount of tension along the way. Even though Chang Cheh and Ni Kuang usually developed meandering storylines whenever they attempted to pack-in too much story, this is one of the rare instances where they did everything right. Similar to the original Five Deadly Venoms, the plot is actually given a serious amount of leeway. However, unlike that film, Cheh and Kuang were able to also pack in the requisite action that was expected from this group.

Although every member of the clan deserves to be mentioned, I have to say that Chiang Sheng was such a naturally gifted martial arts actor. His style reminds me of someone who was highly influenced by Buster Keaton and the silent film era. Hong Kong, and Peking Opera, are well known for their insistence on over-emoting, but Chian Sheng certainly made it work. His body movements and over the top dramatized style of action made for some unique performances. Although many of the kung fu comedians out there were obviously influenced by these silent film stars, Sheng is one of the few actors that I have seen who truly managed to replicate that style of acting whilst in combat. Here with Rebel Intruders, there are no weak links within the cast. Every actor fits their character, and every performance seems to be running at full steam. Philip Kwok, in particular, could certainly use a mention. His use of weaponry in this film is spectacular to witness. The work he does, in two separate scenes, while using a wooden chair, has to be seen to be believed. Lo Meng is charismatic as always, Lu Feng is awesome, and Sun Chien kicks up a storm. Venom clan perfection, it seems!

The Conclusion
Although many would argue with me on this point, I have to admit that Rebel Intruders quickly turned into one of my favorite Venom films. I think the success of the film boils down to its story and the interesting twists and turns that Chang Cheh and Ni Kuang lead us upon. Packing in tons of action, this story is the perfect device to show off all of the greatest attributes that the Venom clan had. I give the title a four out of five. An enthralling piece of kung fu cinema, I highly recommend it.





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