||The Plot: Taking place over two generations, we start off closer to the present with an elder martial artist teaching his pupil in the art of eliminating their enemies by way of picking off the weakest first. As things progress, we learn than the younger martial artist’s father was a high ranking official in the government and was also quite corrupt, and that these two are also fighting for his corrupt causes. We are shown in flashback that there was once a refugee of the Shaolin principals who was being protected by a kung fu school teacher (Ti Lung), and we are shown how he and his trouble making lackey (Alexander Fu Sheng) went about gathering other men to help protect this Shaolin leader. The manchu government however has other plans as they stir up a rival group of martial artists who are lead to believe that this great rebel is no more than a rapist and murderer. When they all finally come around however, these martial artists will bne the strongest in the world. 10 fighters of different styles, they will be the 10 Tigers. However, will these evil men in our present kill off all of these followers of the 10 Tigers?|
With a cast and crew like the one found in Ten Tigers From Kwangtung – by all appearances, this very well should be one of the best oldschool kung fu flicks on the market. I won’t go so far as to say it is downright horrible or anything to that measure, but when you’re dealing with a cast that includes all of the following: Ti Lung, Alexander Fu Sheng, Lo Meng, Pai Wei, Lu Feng, Phillip Kwock, Sun Chien and Chiang Sheng – directed by the one and only Chang Cheh; this really should be a no-brainer. Casts like that are what Kung Fu dreams are made of! Throw in a plot inspired by real events and the epic scope of the story – I repeat, this really should be a no brainer. As it turns out though, this one might only be for the diehards. Usually in a film scripted by I Kuang and directed by Chang Cheh, you can count on a very clear and flowing script. He is usually almost so direct that it becomes a fault in his style, but here we are given a very jumbled film that is very off and on. Trust me, it pains me to write this about a Chang Cheh directed picture – but Ten Tigers simply isn’t his best work none of those involved. This doesn’t mean 10 Tigers is completely without merit, if you’re a fan of the Venoms Mob this is going to be a must-see no matter what as it is one of the few films where the entire cast of Five Deadly Venoms all re-teamed. With the addition of Alexander Fu Sheng and Ti Lung involved, well, so many talented people in this poject it just proved too difficult to give every single person their own considerable amount of time in the spotlight. With the time that is allotted for the characters, you’re only given so many chances to take note of all the individual names and characters – before long you’re punchdrunk from the massive amount of characters and with the back and forth switching of teams you get completely lost. All of the other stuff you would expect to be great, is. There’s some amazing choreography here of course, awesome set design, amazing costumes and that beautiful look only Shaw Bros. films tend to have.
This is unfortunately going to be a fairly short interview, since really all you need to know about the movie is right there in my first paragraph. There are a few moments that really stick out and help elevate the film from being as bland as it could have been – including some of Chang Cheh’s patented gory violence. There’s a bit where during a fight sequence one character is strapped upside down, hanging from his feet – and has his head completely whacked off from his body with a flying jump kick. In your average martial arts flick, that might be the end of it but here thanks to Chang Cheh we’re treated to a massive arterial blood fountain that spews from the dead man’s neck. There’s another bit where a character rockets out a jetstream of blood from the top of his head as well, but I don’t want to spoil all of the really good stuff! In a film like this though, one can’t help but bring up more of the negative than those positives – simply because it had all of the fixings in order to be an absolute classic of the genre. We have an all star cast with some of the best minds behind the camera, and we see them drop the ball in the handling of the story despite Cheh not having a history of this. However, I also have a sneaking suspicion that the film I watched wasn’t the full feature. Watching on a English dubbed, absolutely terrible looking fandub – my experience with the film could have been flawed. The Celestial release looks to be about the same length so I don’t think my copy was cut, but I wonder if maybe with all of the actors involved there could have been studio trouble of some kind… that or the script was just severely lacking, who is to say. It does bring about questions though.
There’s not much else I can really say, it is what it is. I give the film a three out of five because it does deliver a lot of really great things that put it heads above the cheap little Taiwan productions you’ll find on those $5 “ten kung fu flicks on one DVD!” compilations at Wal-Mart… I do love those compilations as well though, don’t get me wrong. 10 Tigers just turns out to be a case of wasted opportunity. It is unfortunate, but if you’re patient enough and you’re a fan of the Venoms this is still probably worth taking a look at.
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