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Kung Fu Wars

BCI Eclipse // Unrated // February 5, 2003
List Price: $9.99 [Buy now and save at Hkflix]

Review by J. Doyle Wallis | posted April 1, 2003 | E-mail the Author
Brentwood offers another cheapie collection you'll probably find in the "bargain" section of your local video store. Four films, two funky disco era kung fu films, an 80's era one, and an infamous period kung fu film with actual sideshow oddities as our heros.

Fists of Bruce Lee- Bruce Li (Dynamo, Bruce Li in New Guinea, Blind Fists of Bruce Lee) directed this 1979 film in which he also stars as an undercover guy trying to bust up some mobsters. He gains access to Master Lo's booby trapped compound under the pretense of his surveillance expert skills and snoops around while installing cameras. Some rivals want a list Master Lo has so they start trying to bargain with Bruce and plan to kidnap Master Lo's daughter.

Pretty typical bellbottom fu feature. It is Brucesploitation just because a Bruce Lee clone stars, but actually it doesn't have any Bruce Lee aping. Bruce Li sticks to the usual stuff, being the charming, charismatic good guy involved in some spy shenanigans. Despite his million dollar compound, Master Lo's crude booby traps include gardening pitchforks that drop down on you from the trees. Most memorable scene was one where Bruce protects the mob bosses daughter from some attacking thugs. The fight scene its set in a playground, which had me thinking about Jackie Chan, Maggie Chueng, and a group of bad guys doing similar years later in Police Story 2.

Crippled Masters- Easily one of the more notorious chop socky films ever made and undoubtedly a b-film classic. The basic plot is about a powerful hunchbacked and oddly scarred lord who punishes two men he thinks betrayed him for reasons that remain ambiguous. Li Ho has his arms chopped off. Instead of bleeding to death, he has two nubs, left, one of which has two small digits. Chang, another bad guy assistant, has his legs dissolved with acid, leaving them withered and useless. The two meet a martial master yogi, who spends a lot of time folded up inside wicker baskets, and they train themselves to overcome their disabilities and learn kung fu. Along with a secret agent and some secret jade figurines (that tell of a new martial style), they eventually team up to beat the hunchbacked villain that disfigured them.

Well, the thing about the film is, that its two stars- forget their Anglo translated names- we'll just call them ArmlessGuy and LeglessGuy, are two disabled men. Each obviously has, despite what the film plotting says, birth defects that caused their extremities to not properly form. It is a martial film by way of Tod Browning's Freaks. As a fight film, it is terrible. Sure, for guys without arms and legs they do fairly well, especially ArmlessGuy's pole fighting with only two meager, sausage sized digits. But, the fights are clumsy and awkward, totally without any power, and don't cover-up the fact that they had to be carefully choreographed. Overall, once you get past the deformed novelty, it is just a cheap as hell affair, horribly written and poorly executed. Worth a viewing if you're a b-film fan. Beyond its initial oddness it is not very entertaining. At the very least, it will teach you that if you should be unfortunate enough to have both of your arms hacked off, you wont bleed to death but will immediately go to a restaurant to have some food.

Ninja Turf (1985, aka. Chinatown, La Streetfighters)- This is a no-budget piece of incredibly 80's martial arts starring Philip Rhee of Best of the Best video-store-shelf-fame. Rhee is Tony, a new kid in town who befriends a local gang leader, Yeung. Tony and Yueng tussle with rival gang lead by Chan (James Lew, one of those martial character actors from tons of movies). Said rivalry is compounded by the fact that Yueng is dating Chan's sister. The gang gets hired to be security muscle for various people. One of these clients is a drug dealer, who Yueng decides to rip off, leading to the drug kingpin to hire two mercenaries (one of whom is A Force of One and The Protector's Bill 'Superfooot' Wallace).

This 80's cheapie is good for a laugh just because all of the gang members look like they could be extras in the video for "Beat It". The fights are all pretty fair for a non-HK 80's flick, but it is no Gymkata, thats for sure. The most entertaining moment for me wasn't the fighting, or the fact that people well into their 30's are playing college kids, or the wooden dialogue, but was scream queen Brinke Stevens brief cameo and soapy flesh baring as the drug czars girlfriend.

Deadly Kick (1983 (?), aka Deadly Roulette) Lo Lieh directs and stars in this confusing cheapie effort full of exploitative weirdness. In this modern set kung fu film (modern being late 70's/early 80's), Lieh plays Mar Yueng, a definite anti-hero. The film doesn't make much sense, at first I thought he was a sympathetic guy, drunkenly drowning his sorrows, who finds out his wife has become a whore while he was in prison. Then the movie flashes back to how he was put in jail- when he couldn't marry his kung fu teachers daughter, he killed his teacher and blinded the girl. For the rest of the film he's a scoundrel. The movie doesn't make much sense, but basically he teams up with his old buddy and rival and the two keep trying to break into a Japanese crime lords compound.

Deadly Kick owes a lot to Sonny Chiba's Streetfighter, which Lieh was obviously trying to ape. The film is rife with sex (I doubt I'll ever get Lo Leih's sex scenes out of my head), torture, and the finale has a very unforgettable Streetfighterlike moment when Lo Lieh disembowels a henchman, throws the guys still steaming guts in another henchman's face and then strangles him to death with the entrails. Easily the single most hokey thing in the film is its use of close-ups on Lo Lieh as he does "animal style" hand movements, and then the film either cuts to or pans across the room and focuses on a stuffed animal, eagle, leopard, and so forth.

Picture: All are full-screen tape transfers, for instance, Deadly Kick even has vhs tracking lines. Crippled Masters, Deadly Kick and Fists of Bruce Lee are all pretty fair. Crippled Masters is the best looking, fairly clean and sharp in comparison to the others, and slightly better than the EP vhs I bought a couple of years ago. Ninja Turf looks the worst, shot on a low budget mainly at night, most of the film is way too dark, and you cannot tell what is going on half the time.

Sound: Mono English dub for all of them, the expected low quality, some with minor hiss and pops. In terms of annoyance, Deadly Kicks dub is pretty grating, but Ninja Turf gets my vote for one of the worst dubs I've seen- not only is it technically inept (sounds like they are speaking into a tin can) but the actors garbled English and terrible acting skills make them sound like they have just had an overdose of animal tranquilizers.

Extras: Each has Chapter Selections.... thats it.

Conclusion: Even if you are new and clueless to DVD, the packaging and price should tell you that Brentwood is not aiming for quality. Basically, if you have even a passing interest in one or two of the films and would consider giving something like Crippled Masters a rental, then buying the set- four films for under $10- is a decent deal. And, they are all certainly entertaining b-films, just don't kid yourself by thinking the transfer is going to be a gem.







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