What's good people? We've got a film to match the scorching heat out there on Hai! Karate for you today! And that film is... When Taekwondo Strikes starring the fierce Angela Mao!! The film also stars Korean martial arts legends Jhoon Rhee, Whang In Sik, Sammo Hung & Carter wong among others. This Golden Harvest production is directed by Huang Feng from 1973.
When Taekwondo Strikes opens up in a Korea occupied by the Japanese, possibly during the early part of World War II. Jin Zhang Zhi (Wong) is being chased by a band of Japanese who corner him and reveal that they know he works with the resistance. Jin flees to find refuge in a Catholic church run by Father Lu Yi(Andre Morgan). Yes, his name is credited that way as an approximation of 'Lewis'. It may also be a rare for other reasons I'll get into a bit later on here. The thugs confront Li Jun Dong(Rhee) who is a caretaker at the church, but is secretly THE leader of the patriotic resistance, the Resurrection Movement with a bounty on his head, and a Taekwondo grandmaster. Taekwondo at this point is strictly forbidden. He gets slapped around, but is saved by Jin and a white student of his named Mary, who is the niece of Father Lewis. This sets off a whole debate between he and Jun Dong about the better path of resistance. Soon though, he and Mary and Jin have to flee as the Japanese thugs will soon return. And they do, with Sammo Hung at the helm. Jun Dong comes back to thrash them all and reluctantly leaves Father Lewis behind. Turns out all the trouble was caused because Jin was looking into the Yokohama School kidnapping Korean girls to be sold into slavery as comfort women. Jun Dong goes to the restaurant that Huang Li Chen(Mao) and her mother owns. Li Chen is Chinese, but supports the rebels being raised in Korea most of her life. She goes to find Father Lewis at the church but has to fend off the Yokohama thugs laying in wait, which she does viciously, killing one of them. This sets off the thugs who make her a target.
Li Chen is assailed by the secret police about her fighting, and she consents to go to the police station. Pretty soon though, she's trailed by more thugs who she takes out easily. This makes them MORE mad and they wind up lashing out by capturing Jun Dong and striking against Li Chen in a way that makes her furious. The stage is then set for Li Chen, Jin and Mary to rescue Jun Dong from the clutches of the Japanese, led by Whang In Sik!!
When Taekwondo Strikes is a tried and true classic kung fu fest that manages to keep together a few moving parts with proven tropes. It's an interesting script by Huang Feng in that the movie does involve Western characters having an influential role. While this reflected the times in Asian cinema, (quite a few Japanese movies were boasting Westerners in their own films then)it was still a point of curiosity to see that take place. It gets even more so when you consider Father Lewis and Mary Lewis. Father Lewis was played by Andre E. Morgan, and this was the first of his TWO acting roles. He'd go on to have a close relationship with Raymond Chow, enough to executive produce a Jimmy Wang Yu pic, The Man From Hong Kong as well as being a production manager for a couple of films. Even more curious is the presence of Anne Winton, who plays Mary. This was her only acting role ever. Turns out she was one of Rhee's students. Not much else can be found about her, save for this clipping below(credit to HKMDB):
This leads us to Jhoon Rhee. This was Rhee's only picture, but it is a calm and calculated performance that speaks to the master's sense of nobility. I mean, the man is breaking people down IN CHAINS in the final fighting scenes. Rhee is best known as the father of Tae Kwon Do in the United States after coming here in the 1950's. He became close with and taught Bruce Lee the art. Grandmaster Rhee learned directly from the creator of the martial art form himself, Choi Hong Hi, a South Korean military general. The 10th degree black belt has gone on to be a highly regarded teacher with Muhammad Ali and other notables as his students at schools nationwide. Here in the film though, his prowess is undeniable. As for Angela Mao, she's stunning. She displays a range in her fighting in this movie, and as the film ramps up so does her attacking. Which is great when it comes down to her and Whang In Sik. Whang is sporting the rugged beard and high-flying kicks to match. Seeing him go toe to toe with both Mao and Rhee is the highlight of the film. Winton does okay as a fighter here, and Carter Wong is seen in sparse moments. Sammo pulls double duty as a sinister thug and action choreographer, and does well at both. Look out for a couple of familiar faces here in Gam Kei Chu, Wilson Tong of Shaw Studios fame, Chin Yuet Sing (you can't miss him with that face) and Yuen Biao as an extra. Also, even though I've made mention of it, see if you can spot the Marvin Gaye sample. When Taekwondo Strikes is a must-see film for any martial arts fan for both the sake of action and for the strength of Angela Mao. It's out on DVD and online...
RATING: 4 of 5 DRAGON PUNCHES