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Master Strikes, The

Crash Cinema // Unrated // May 11, 2004
List Price: $14.99 [Buy now and save at Hkflix]

Review by Carl Davis | posted November 14, 2004 | E-mail the Author
Hong Kong has been called the Hollywood of the East due to its prodigious film output. Between the Golden Age of Kung Fu Movies in the 1970's and the New Wave of Action Films in the 80's and 90's, Hong Kong Cinema has certainly left its impression on many people. One of the most striking similarities between the Film industries of Hong Kong and Hollywood is that they often put Commerce before Art. When a Genre is successful, it's almost guaranteed that they will make every conceivable permutation of said genre before the audience finally says enough is enough. In the case of the Kung Fu Genre, they've run the gambit, but in the late 70's Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung had lots of success with a brand of Kung Fu comedy that was really taking off. So it was only natural that other Kung Fu comedies would be made to cash in on the popular trend.

The Master Strikes (1979) is one of said Kung Fu comedies. There are lots of Martial Arts on display, but the movie is more interested in crushing your funny bone than your skull. Cassanova Wong, who is actually a very gifted Korean martial artist, puts his impressive spin kicks to good use as Tseng Yu, a hapless Security Guard and Courier who guarantees his deliveries against his life savings. Taking advantage of his good will and lack of business acumen is the crooked Lu, who hires Tseng to deliver a priceless jade statue from an Antiquities Dealer to his home several miles away. Before Tseng can even leave with the package, he's been duped and given an empty box. When he arrives some days later at his destination, Lu holds him accountable for the "theft" of his treasure. Tseng is ruined now that his entire fortune has been signed over to Lu. The loss of money and honor is too much to bear and drives Tseng crazy in the process.

Needless to say, this is all within the first five minutes of the film. The now mad Tseng Yu inhabits a local Tavern and is considered harmless by most everyone. A couple of Grifters, Lung and Lee, try to set up a fixed dice game in the tavern, but the bar's owner, Liang, throws a fit every time she sees them. Tseng becomes involved in one altercation between the con men and their victims, and along the way Lung and Lee uncover what happened to Tseng to turn him into a drooling idiot. More importantly, they realize that if they can help Tseng to recover his fortune, then maybe they will profit in return. The only problem is that Tseng has no memory of who wronged him, just a quick glimpse of a laughing face, but no name or reference to associate it with. To make things even more difficult, the man they're looking for has gone deep into hiding now that he has amassed his ill gotten gains into a criminal Empire.

Lu gets wind that Tseng has some newfound help in trying to get his revenge, and decides to end things before they can even begin by sending some hired killers to dispose of them in a local brothel. Thankfully, Tseng retains all of his amazing Kung Fu skills, but often times, to the detriment of our heroes, cannot distinguish between the good guys and the bad guys. Adding yet another element/gimmick onto their Kung Fu Comedy, the filmmakers also added the ubiquitous presence of a Drunken Master, who teaches our two bumbling cons an unbeatable Martial Arts technique in exchange for a steady stream of wine. Along the way some more killers are sent our trios way, only to be dispatched by our, literally, crazy legs kicker. The climactic fight scene at the end is easily worth giving your time to this one, but the comedy often comes across as forced and heavy handed.

The DVD:

Picture: The movie is presented in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio. This transfer Print was scratched and worn, but I've seen a lot worse from Crash. All in all, this one is a passable release for them.

Audio: The Dolby Digital 2.0 Cantonese Mono track sounded good for what it was. There were Burned in English and Mandarin Subtitles, which were just ok, often being cut off on the sides of the screen or squashed underneath the Mandarin.

Extras: Included as Extras on this DVD are previews of other Crash Cinema Releases including Sting of the Dragon Master, The Master Strikes and Taoism Drunkard.

Conclusion: The Master Strikes isn't on par with Jackie Chan or Sammo Hung's output from the same time period, but Cassanova Wong is an impressive fighter and the movie does have a lot of action. It's certainly of the Old School variety of Kung Fu, which I know has many fans, and they could do a lot worse than this release. One burning question I have is just WHO exactly is the Master that is striking? There are at least three different parties that I can think of in this film that would fit the description of Master. To further confuse things, I noticed that there was a film called The Master Strikes Back, but it stars none of the cast of this film. I guess it doesn't really matter, as the whole thing is played mostly for laughs anyway. So if you decide to take a chance on this one, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised.






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