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Killer Meteors, The

Columbia/Tri-Star // Unrated // December 17, 2002
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by J. Doyle Wallis | posted December 16, 2002 | E-mail the Author
While Disney/Dimension (unfortunately) own the rights to most of Jackie Chan's popular backcatalog, Columbia continues to release his earlier work, including minor stuff like To Kill with Intrigue and Dragon Fist, his breakthrough films Drunkenmaster and Snake in the Eagles Shadow, and this film,1976's Killer Meteors, which isn't even a Jackie film at all, but is instead a Jimmy Wang Yu film featuring Jackie in a peripheral villain role.

Master Mei (Wang Yu- One-Armed Swordsman, Return of the Chinese Boxer, Master of the Flying Guillotine) is a legendary and feared martial artist. His reputation is so great that he is paid tribute by other martial masters, who fear his weapon, the deadly meteors, and he has them promise to do good and not use their skills to harm others. A convoluted plot unfolds when another martial master, Hau the Hearty (Jackie Chan- Project A, Rumble in the Bronx, Miracles) requests Mei's help. It seems that Hau's wife has been cheating on him and debilitated his fighting skills through poisoning. The antidote is guarded by her four deadly lovers, Black Lama, Blazing Star, Killer Hands, and Taoist Ghost. Master Mei takes up Hau's request to get the antidote, but his ulterior motive is to gain Hau's trust and become part of his inner circle so he can find out where Hau has hidden cache of stolen treasure. But, things may not be that easy, and in the end Mei will have to whip out his killer meteors in order to save the day.

Killer Meteors is a bit of chop socky fluff. The films opening moments feature four thieves running into each other and fighting over a pearl. The thieves wacky names, like Ghost Shadow and Iron Palm Stone Monkey, pretty much sum up the tone of the film. And, it doesn't have to make sense. I mean, Hau is supposed to be too weak to fight, yet he kicks Mei's ass the first time they meet. Which begs the question, "Why enlist the aide of a fighter you, yourself, have no problem taking on?" Oh, and those four supposedly deadly fighters Hau's wife uses? Well, even though they each get an acute introduction, Mei takes out three of them with ease in the span of a mere minute. Despite only being meant as a colorful, empty fun, the lackluster fights, general nonsense, and convoluted plot twists kill the film.

Really, it was just a minor, nothing film that became one of the many older Jackie Chan films that got re-released in order to profit from his US popularity, slapping him on the box cover even though he is just a secondary character. There is actually very little action in the film, which seems more concerned with its laborious plot of twists, faked deaths (in the span of five minutes three people double over from poisoning, by the end only one was actually real), and double crosses. Oh yeah, and a lot is made out of the killer meteors, which Wang Yu keeps tucked away for most of the film in a bag slung over his shoulder. When finally revealed, they end up being pretty lame, a staff with some explosive spiked balls that can shoot out and are attached with a chain- big deal. As it limps into the finale, there is a feeble and long winded attempt to sort out the plots mess, and it doesn't work. Sure, Wang Yu and Jackie fight while standing on poles over a pit of blades, but it is too little too late.

The film was directed by Lo Wei. Lo Wei was a very prolific director and is most notable as the director of Bruce Lee's HK forays that made him famous, Fist of Fury, and The Big Boss, and later Jackie Chan flicks like Dragon Fist, Spiritual Kung Fu and Magnificent Bodyguards. I have always thought Lo Wei is not a great director. He was plain. Sure, he lucked out and got some good talent, had some notable films, but really if you look at his films and resume, he was never a great innovator or had a style that really knocked you out. Killer Meteors is another example of this. Sure, it is fair enough, and, in all fairness there are far worse chop socky films, but in the cannon of HK fantasy martial arts films there are far better examples of the genre. My favorite thing to say about Wang Yu is that he was originally a champion swimmer and as a martial star he looked like,... a swimmer. But, the guy often delivered charisma that the most studious martial arts stars sometimes lacked. And, when the dastardly Taoist Ghost is hassling a girl at an inn, I dare anyone to resist Wang Yu's odd stone faced smirk as he says to the girl, "If you really like ghosts, I can tun him into one." Unfortunely Killer Meteors adds up to one of his lesser efforts.

The DVD: Columbia TriStar

Picture: Full-screen... Thats right kung fu fans. You read right- Columbia and it is Full-screen. A real surprise considering the fairly good treatment Columbia has been giving its Jackie releases which usually feature anamorphic letterboxed presentations. Now, they apparently have fallen down into the ranks of Ground Zero, Xenon, and even worse Simitar, the latter which already released Killer Meteors on DVD with a full-screen tape transfer. While it is a pretty good looking full-screen transfer, I expect so much more out of Columbia. I am forced to give them more minuses. This release really soils what was a good reputation regarding their treatment of Jackie's early works.

Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono English or Mandarin language with optional English, Spanish, or Portuguese subtitles. The English track is the lesser of the two, the dubbing a bit more muffled and lessening the music/fx track. The Mandarin track is clear and fuller, less distortion. The subtitling is great.

Extras: 28 Chapters---- Trailers for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and The One.

Conclusion: Once again, I have to express my disappointment at Columbia's full-screen transfer. While such transfers are unfortunately the norm when it comes to kung fu films, Columbia has until now, not bowed to that standard. The film itself is a pleasant enough diversion for fans of chop socky martial arts b pictures. But, since neither the film or the transfer really impresses too much, at the most, it is best saved as a rental.

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