Thursday, March 3, 2016

Street Gangs of Hong Kong - 1973

Since I revisited sword and sandal nonsense, why not kung fu nonsense also?  My first impression of this movie was pretty great, because midway through I looked at the IMDb page for it.  Wait a minute here.  "A low budget kung fu movie - an ambitious martial arts student infiltrates a murderous gang in the hope of finding the man who killed his father."  That's what it says the plot is?  Huh, that's weird, nothing about that has been mentioned so far.  So I wait until the end of the movie.  Finish it.  Nope.  That plot is not the plot to this movie.  Great first impression.  I love it.

Graverobber and general troublemaker Shen is always pissing people off it seems.  He lives a sporadic, untied lifestyle, but generally is a good guy.  Things start to go wrong though, when one of the graves Shen robs turns out to be haunted.  A ghost comes to Shen and bids Shen to follow his instructions, or he'll haunt Shen forever.  Shen hastily agrees.  Shen gets in a fight following the ghost's instructions, and the ghost decides he will teach Shen better kung fu before Shen continues to do work for him.  Now there's the real plot!

I'm never sure about the dialogue in these films.  It could be that this was filmed with completely serious dialogue, and in the re-dubbing process that brought this film to the US, they decided to make it have comedic elements instead.  Or this film could have always been comedy, and it was translated that way.  You see, both have happened.  Films have been completely serious in their original Chinese languages and then "spiced up" with comedy, and films have been translated as accurately as could be.  The reason I mention this is that there is comedy in this film, and it is actually funny.

Directed by Chang Cheh and produced by the Shaw brothers again, it's another kung fu blastoff flick in the spirit of Crippled Avengers.  Perhaps a bit less budgeted that that movie, but this one is not scant on looks.  It's pretty crappy quality on Amazon Prime, but the stars and the sets are pretty cool.  It has a sense of linear plot and direction that is not quite as common in these types of movies too.  Usually, a lot of these flicks are like my best guesses at the plot (though of course I don't really know).  I'm looking at you, Spirit of Bruce Lee.

The last 30 minutes of this film are almost completely comprised of kung fu fights, with the main character Shen beating the crap out of everyone.  It's a little intense, and that was the only part of the film that got a little tedious, although naturally it's all real kung fu so it still has that going for it.  The talent on display here is tremendous, and I give giant kudos to Wang Chung as leading man Shen.  He is normally one of those background actors, or in a smaller role, but this movie shows a great leading man.

Funny, entertaining, and fast paced, it was a surprise how much I liked this.  The ghost character was cool, and the main character Shen was really likable.  He's childish and dumb, but very well played, believable, and a fun person to root for.  I give it a solid 3.5 stars.

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