Friday, September 12, 2014

Sleeping Fist (Shui Quan Guai Zhao, 1979)

What's going on folks!! Welcome back to Hai! Karate!! The next film we're gonna take a look at is a beauty from the career of the legendary Simon Yuen, Sleeping Fist! This film comes to us out of the East Asia (H.K.) Film Company, a small outfit that was only around to make 7 pictures. The flick also stars Leung Kar-Yan, Wong Yat-Lung and Eddie Ko Hung.

Sleeping Fist starts out with a rambunctious opening credits scene beginning with Old Fox (Yuen) dozing off before bruising some would-be attackers along with the other two characters showing off their skills. We get to meet one of them as we exit the credits and see The Kid (Yat-Lung)basically steal some dumplings and as he's chased by the baker, steal some money in the process while dodging blows in a madcap fashion. Yes, he's called The Kid. No other name. More on that later. So we follow The Kid as he enters a tavern to eat. Soon enough though he gets accosted by a local thug. The thug and his goons look to wreak havoc but are confronted by the constable Chin Ta Khan(Kar-Yan). Ta Khan makes short work of the rogues but is hurt in the process, bleeding from an internal wound. Seems he's been on the hunt for their boss. The Kid helps him to a safe haven and they become fast friends, even helping out a woman(Au-Yeung Ling-Lung)from being kidnapped by pimps.

Of course, these fights lead them to conflict with the gangs' boss, who runs the Shang Wei school. The Kid's brashness and Ta Khan's mission of justice are irritating, so the boss enlists an Eagle Claw master(Ko Hung) to eliminate them. Just when you think the duo may get theirs in a run-down temple, up pops Old Fox who comes to their aid. He then agrees to take in Ta Khan and The kid as his pupils. The Kid isn't so convinced of the old master's skills until another brawl and so the trio train hard. They confront the Shang Wei school and find themselves locked in battle with the Eagle Claw master once again...

Okay, the nitty-gritty on Sleeping Fist is this: it's an entertaining film if you're just looking for knock-down action. The director, Teddy Yip Wing-Cho helped out a LOT in this regard; he had directed strong entries in the genre such as The Blade Spares None & The Eunuch years before in a bevy of some forgettable pictures. There's a fight scene about every minute and a half in this movie, which works with the slapstick elements in some cases. Now there are other flaws. For one, you mean to tell me every time these cats go to a tavern they a)find the bad guys just hanging out there and b)get into a fight? Mind you they travel from one town to the other. How does that happen? Also, bear in mind that Old Fox doesn't show up until THIRTY MINUTES INTO THE MOVIE. Now the fight scenes make up for that, as well as the pairing of The Kid and Ta Khan. Which is just as well because The Kid can grate on you after a bit. Don't get me wrong, Yat-Leung has charisma and an ability to bend his body like a human Slinky. But the English dub does make him a bit insufferable. Leung Kar-Yan is great here as a vigilant policeman who adapts the Sleeping Fist well within his skills. Even if he doesn't EVEN HAVE A WARRANT to arrest anyone. He kicks ass emphatically throughout the film even if we never peep how he got that wound earlier on. Simon Yuen as Old Fox aka another version of Beggar So does good here. There's a little bit more emotional shading in this than in later roles, which would only be for the next two years sadly. He does pull a nice bit using The Kid as his proxy in one fight. The rest is comedy peppered with 'GODDAMMIT' every couple of lines. The plot is bland and obviously the writer didn't really put too much into the script, i.e. the supposed romance between The Girl and Ta Khan. An even better example? 'The Girl' not having a NAME. Add some pissing jokes and music cues from the Airport soundtrack and you've got a flick. But I'd still recommend Sleeping Fist because it is a bit of fun once you get past all the flaws.


Saturday, September 6, 2014

King Eagle (Ying Wang, 1971)

Hello you fight film fans! This next film we're going to cover on Hai! Karate is one of the great Chang Cheh's lesser-known films, King Eagle!! The film stars Shaw Studios icons Ti Lung and Li Ching as the leads, with Cheung Pooi-Saan and Cheung Miu as veteran role players in the cast. This film is interesting, so let's get to it!

King Eagle starts out in a different way than a good deal of pictures from Shaw Studios. We open with the head of the Tien Yi Tong clan is betrayed by 1st Chief Hung Sing Tien(Pooi Saan). Sing Tien even takes out his own brother in the attack. This goes throughout the opening credits, keeping you squarely riveted. Sing Tien is aided by his desired lover and clan member An Bing Er(Ching)in the fight. (Side note: Bruce Tong plays the brother who gets dispatched - he'd ride these roles into a bigger status as a solid actor for Shaw as the 70's rolled on.)One man manages to escape however, and in doing so takes the golden marker from the late clan leader, hoping to get that symbol of the chain of command to other loyal members. But he gets to a river and finds the wandering swordsman King Eagle Jin Fei(Lung) who at first doesn't even want to get mixed up in it when he's begged to take the marker to the clan. Sing Tien however isn't so sure about Jin Fei staying out of it, so he does what melodramatic villains do: he hires two killers to take Jin Fel out. This is also due to the fact that Jin Fei is well known for being a master swordsman in the land.

Jin Fei goes to town to meet his close friend, and falls into the trap of the hired killers only to be saved by An Yuk Lin, the older sister of Bing Er. Now if she looks's Li Ching playing both roles! Yuk Lin is far more virtuous and heroic than her sister, and so she's shocked to find that the chief of her clan was murdered by her and Sing Tien. She disbelieves at first until she's attacked and Jin Fei rescues her. They wind up falling for each other. This romance does have clouds on the horizon however, as Sing Tien and Bing Er team up with Wan Bau Ha(Miu) to wipe Jin Fei out once and for all!! And so they meet for the final battle...

King Eagle is a different kind of Chang Cheh flick. This was his 11th for Shaw, and it came after such triumphs like The One-Armed Swordsman for example. The thing with King Eagle is that there's more focus on the female leads played by Li Ching. An award winning actress by this point, Ching handles the dual roles of Yuk Lin and Bing Er to perfection. They are each their own woman, their own warrior. She takes care to give them life and Ti Lung responds very well to both with his emoting. Lung at this point was fast becoming one of Shaw's great male leads and his stoic performance carries great heft. Cheh's direction is notable for the fact that Li Ching's dual roles were shown with flair and attention and not treated as backdrop like his other films. Also, while there is some bloodshed to be found(Jin Fei's spearing of a villain while he's in midair is startling), it's less than what you'd get in one of his later films. The story is deliberate to almost being too slow but put together well with the fight scenes, even if they're quick. All in all, check out King Eagle for a nice little wuxia action if you're looking for something to watch.