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Shaolin Tiger Claw
Chen Yi Hu (Cliff Lok- Kung Fu Genius, Ring of Death, Duel of the Seven Tigers) is a young cocky martial master looking for a fight. He travels the countryside looking for the best fighters and challenges them. Pitting his skills so he can determine if he is truly the best, Chen is running out of people to fight. So, when he hears of an imprisoned fighter named Tiger (veteran Shek Kin- Enter the Dragon, Monkey Fist, Young Master), Chen has himself thrown in jail so he can meet and challenge this rumored worthy foe.
Tiger has mellowed during his imprisonment and no longer seeks a fighting life, so it takes some improvising on Chen's part to get Tiger to tussle. Chen breaks out of prison, dragging Tiger along. Now a free man, Tiger relents to Chen's challenge and agrees to fight Chen, but only after he takes care of some unfinished business. In some gangland backstabbing, Tigers brother had him put away, and while Tiger was rotting in jail his beloved wife died..... Eventually, there is a duel between Tiger and Chen, and then there is a BIG TWIST. Sure, it is kind of silly and this is a thinly plotted kung fu film, not Shakespeare, but it does set up a neat motivation for the final fight, so I wont spoil it.
Shoalin Tiger Claw (1974, aka. plain ol' Tiger Claw) is a pretty average b-kung fu feature. Not exactly outstanding but also pretty entertaining thanks to the frequent fighting. The combat is pretty simple ground fighting, that is, nothing too fancy, no wires, no acrobatics, just straightforward flailing hands and kicking feet. There is also some pretty good pole fighting between Tiger and some bandits. The plotting is a tad weak, Chen all too continentally bails out Tiger from two fights, but the film moves well and, all things considered in the realm of kung fu, the logic gaps are forgivable.
Cliff Lok was sort of a poor mans Jimmy Wang Yu. They both share a similar unassuming, plain look, and while Cliff could kick way better than Jimmy, he lacked the charisma and wasn't really a big star draw, more of a very solid supporting performer. By the time Shoalin Tiger Claw was made, Shek Kin was already a huge HK actor and had established himself in martial cinema history as one of the all-time great bad guys when he was cast opposite Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon. They both come off well in this modestly budgeted film. The hallucinatory direction and editing sometimes hampers their fight skills, but mainly they have a wide canvas to spar on. It is nice to see Shek Kin handle a non-villain role too, showed the range that he had despite Enter the Dragon branding him as a sneering baddie in the minds of most viewers.
The DVD: Crash Cinema
Picture: Non-Anamorphic Letterbox. Well, the print is pretty good considering the genre. Crash is always good about presenting decent prints, the really only bothersome thing is age wear, some slight flicker, general damage, and such things as dirt and lines on the print. The print of Shoalin Tiger Claw is also hampered by the poor production. Like so many low budget films, they tried to use a lot of natural lighting by setting the fight scenes outdoors, in this case some woods and a courtyard. Sometimes the actors get enveloped in the shadows of trees.
Sound: Mono English dub. Your usual dub muffle and tinny soundtrack. One doesn't expect too much going into these films in terms of sound. This film has some dubbers who sound like they may have been Chinese and English was a second language, so there is some tripping over words here and there. If you are used to old school kung fu, it shouldn't brother you too much.
Extras:Chapter Selections--- Trailers--- Gallery of Stills, well actually just screen captures--- Bonus Fight Scenes--- Cast Bios and Filmographies.
Conclusion: Well, Crash does a pretty good job. It isn't the most outstanding film, so I find it hard to recommend to non-kung fu fans. But, if you are a die-hard martial film junkie, the print is pretty good and the film and stars are decent enough for me to say it is worth adding to your collection.