What's happening Hai!Karate fans?!!! We're basically entering the summer and we know that everyone is still staggering in some way after Memorial Day over here. So a little while back, I made it a point to announce that Hai!Karate was going to do its own 'top listing' of fight scenes any martial arts film fan should check. For those who missed it, peep it right here. And just as you cannot put forth a gorgeous smorgasboard of a meal without an appetizer, it was fitting that we start off with a little bit of the best of the rest. Just to get you into what we're trying to do here. So without further delay, let's break it down:
Whether you call it The Chinese Connection or by its actual name, Fist Of Fury, the 1972 Bruce Lee flick is regarded as a classic in the genre. The second film in Lee's career for Golden Harvest, Fist Of Fury has inspired a few remakes and has stuck with fans because of the sheer electricity of the fight scenes. And of course, there is the comedy within the film. Even the unintentional. Which brings us to the scene where Cheng Zhen discovers that the two cooks in the school were in cahoots with the Japanese and - shocker - they are Japanese. Now he makes quick work of them both, but this scene sticks out on two levels. One, the raw power of Cheng Zhen's punch dealing a lethal blow to the cook and much like a favorite meme involving Beyonce, very much on the beat. The second level is the laugh factor that I know wasn't director Lo Wei's intent. But the English dub is off the chain. And I KNOW doggone well at least one of you has mimicked Bruce's lines before - "so why did you kill my teacher then...so why did you kill my teacher WHYWHYWHYWHYWHY?!!!!!"
The first film in Sonny Chiba's trilogy-long ode to the great Kyokushin Karate founder Masutastu Oyama is commonly known to Western audiences as Champion of Death. The original title stems from the fact that Oyama was known to fight bulls head-on - and WIN. In this flick, Chiba as Oyama does so as a way to protect the villagers in a coastal town near where he trained. I mean...on the surface it seems ridiculous. But when you stop to consider that Oyama did this on the regular, you have to admit that he was a straight up badass. And that Chiba is in his own right for even recreating the event. It's full of bloody action, brief but it does make the overall film that much more entertaining.
Final Scene, Treasure Hunters, 1981
This is a largely forgotten comedic entry in the career of the late Alexander Fu Sheng. The movie involves two hustlers who get involved with a Shaolin monk played by Gordon Liu as they search for a legendary treasure. This final fight scene played up Fu Sheng's remarkable fighting abilities to the hilt, and co-star Cheung Chin-Pang...bless him..keeps up as best as he can. It's slapstick Shaw Brothers style with a nod to Buster Keaton. And makes for an uproarious laugh towards the end.
This is one of several fight scenes placed at a crucial point in this action drama from the Shaw Studios. Wilson Tong was well regarded as a veteran by this point, and as such was the main man behind the fight choreography for this film. It's a tense three-on-one battle involving broad staffs and a spear. Wai Fung & Gi-Gi's fight for freedom, aided by Gi-Gi's mother is like the steady climb of a rollercoaster - you know the drop is coming, but you aren't sure when. And in this scene, Tong makes sure to keep you on edge. It's also worth noting that this scene put him in great favor with the studio to seize his own motion picture directing career.
Sho Kosugi & Keith Vitale Biker Fight, Revenge Of The Ninja, 1983
This was back when the ninja/karate craze in the U.S. had its first jump-the-shark moment. Ninjas had gotten some allure thanks to Sho Kosugi's key role in Chuck Norris' The Octagon. Lee Van Clief got into the act too. So much so that Hollywood put some money up to get films like this made. BUT - you had to have white stars. It's not a knock on Keith Vitale whatsoever, he had some verified skills as a former karate champion. This was one of the films where you found yourself asking, 'why did they front on Sho Kosugi SO COT DAMN MUCH???!!!' This fight scene has all of the surface clashes you'd expect - bare knuckle brawling versus Eastern fighting methods, polished and unassuming heroes up against pot-bellied and dusty biker villains. And it's at a playground, and you know that means more ways for baddies to catch bad ones!!(Side note: peep the one dude with the 'rising sun' t-shirt near the beginning of this scene. To me that sums up Hollywood board meetings on this kind of stuff. "Hey, we've got a Japanese fighter - let's place a WWII influenced logo t-shirt on a guy, go ALL the way with this!!!)
So now that you've had the chance to get a feel for what The Dirty 30 could be like with these morsels, stay tuned as we begin the countdown next month!!!