We've got a doozy here on Hai!Karate for you fine folks! This next review is dedicated to The Association, courtesy of Golden Harvest from 1975. The main stars are Angela Mao Ying and Byong Yu, with Tanny Tien Ni, Sammo Hung, Whang In Sik present as co-stars. The famed Cheng Chang Ho is in the director's chair for this one.
The film starts out ominously at sunset, with Fan Ying(Mao Ying) being led to a post by a few policemen, in front of close friend and fellow kung fu student Detective Wang(Yu). As she is tied to the post for execution, we get to flashback to how she got there. Her father is the local militia commander, who has been bedridden due to serious illness. A rival general, Choi(Chiu Hung) tries to get him to sign over command to him, but is rebuffed. A local shopkeeper tries to strongarm him for owed money, but instead goes after and rapes his wife. Fan Ying comes in and summarily murders him, and Wang arrives too late. The flashback ends when Fan Ying is shot dead by the firing squad. Wang, thank to information given by Fan Ying, begins to investigate Choi despite being confronted by his lieutenant (In Sik). The discovery of a dead girl with a half-aborted child leads him to look into a welfare administration in town that isn't what it seems. And this puts him on the hunt to get rid of the evil doers once and for all...with some unexpected help.
That help comes in the form of Fang Hua who may look familiar to you. That's 'cause she's ALSO played by Angela Mao. Lui is out to avenge the late Fan Yin, who was her sister. Together they go up against the Overseas Club, Choi and the rest in some real bone-breaking style.
The Associationis a solid bit of martial arts action, but there are a few things you gotta get past to fully enjoy it. First thing? Byong Yu. When I first saw this flick I thought he was Balki Bartokomous from 'Perfect Strangers' long lost cousin. I think that this film was the beginning of Golden Harvest's search to find 'the next Bruce Lee'; after all, he had been a true gem for them and there were SO many guys out there who were trying to be that next star. Yu even has the standard white tee/black pants and slippers combo Bruce rocked in The Big Boss. He does an okay job here, but this would prove to be Byong Yu's first and only motion picture role by all accounts. Again, he's cool here though. He even holds his own with the powerful Whang In Sik, not an easy task at all. The second thing is, the whole soft-core porn feel in certain parts of the flick. Bear in mind that this was the mid 70's, and more Hong Kong and Taiwanese studios were getting more daring with the nudity and sex. But I could have done without that scene with the lecherous shop-keeper pulling a haphazard chicken wing on a sofa being that long. And when they get into the Association's ritual with young girls and OHMIGOD WHY IS THAT RUGGED WHITE CHICK DANCING IN RED GAUZE LIKE SHE'S LADY GAGA'S AUNTIE?? (Excuse me, I had to let that out.)
Outside of those instances, the film is satisfying. Angela Mao doesn't get a great deal of screen time in this picture, but when she's involved, it is DYNAMITE. Exhibit A is when Fang Ying assaults the shopkeeper. She knocks the lining out of his backside something fierce. As Fang Hua, she gives an extra edge. She doesn't hold back. Tanny Tien Ni provides a bit of sauciness as a widow involved in money laundering who has rather hot dreams. Sammo Hung plays Yu's second in command, Tiger in a bit role. Actually, there's a couple more cameos in here thanks to Carter Wong and the old drunk Chef himself, Simon Yuen as Wang and Fang Yin's sifu. The action scenes are brisk, thanks to the joint direction of both Sammo and Whang In Sik. What The Association is, is a crime melodrama with some high action and a few 'what the hell' parts but overall, not a bad way to spend an hour and a half.
Rating: 3.5 Dragon Punches out of 5