Thursday, February 17, 2011

"Kung Fu Executioner"(1981)d/Lam Chin-Wai

We'll kick the night off here with a knock down, drag out slice of murderous martial mayhem from the Channel 5 days of mid-Saturday afternoon-in-the-eighties kung fu goodness.Now, some might be inclined to slag off the venerable Billy Chong as little more than Eternal Films copycat answer to Jacky Chan's worldwide breakout success at the time, and his earlier work in films like Crystal Fist/Jade Claw(1979) and Super Power(1980) might only reaffirm that notion for some, but personally, I've always felt Chong was a step above imitators or clones; a chiseled fighter brimming with screen presence and personality whose Tae Kwon Do-trained legs always stretched higher than most of his peers.Sadly for kung fu fanatics, he only managed to blaze through a handful of movies before dropping off the martial map, a direct result of Eternal's seeming inability to match their inexhaustible lead with a villain of near to or equal fighting skills(watch an early era Jacky Chan period piece to see what I'm talking about), causing them to close the distance during the final fight sequences in most of his work with more acrobatic stunt doubles for the antagonists, clumsily handled trick photography, or boosted film speeds.
Tonight's review, a period piece set in twenties Shanghai, reunites Chong with dynamite black-titioner Carl R. Scott, who he'd shared top billing with in the earlier American settler period-based Sun Dragon/A Hard Way to Die(1979).Executioner is a grimly disturbing pot boiler that borrows generously from Coppola's The Godfather(1972) with surprising levels of gore, sex, and mondo-style animal cruelty peppered in throughout the rare uncut Ocean Shores print, from which the scan of my custom cover(based on the Cantonese language print sleeve I scored in Chinatown all those years ago), as handled by the honorable Doctor-san, originates.A supporting cast headed by veteran belligerent bad guys extraordinaire Chan Sing and Chiang Tao keeps the derivative revenge-based tale flowing like sweet leaved tea.
Two times five across the eyes cuts Kuen Kong's(Billy Chong) opponents down to size.
Following an impressive form sequence by Scott and Chong over the credits featuring brick-breaking, escrima, nunchaku, and nine sectional steel whip kata, Li Kuen Kong(Billy Chong)returns to Shanghai from studies abroad to find his family immersed in a stand off with a gaggle of unscrupulous criminals,lead by ruthless murderer, Hung Chun Fai(Chen Sing) who's recently escaped from prison(and traveling on the same train as Li, who notices Hung's handcuff scars during the ride), over opium trafficking.Aiding Hung in pressuring Li's successful father into investing in the drugs, are Gawa Shima(Chiang Tao), a Japanese thug with an army of swordsmen at his disposal, and former brothel madam-turned-casino owner, venemous Chan Yim Hung(Lily Lan Yu-Li).At first, Kuen Wei does his best to keep his prodigal son from getting involved in the dirty dealings(several sneaky labonza shanks and throat slittings follow), preferring to allow Li to practice martial arts with his older brother, Ysun Nam(Chan Yau-San) and family friend, Donny(Carl R. Scott), but when Hung puts the squeeze on the elderly man, hanging Ysun Nam's dog's bloody, severed head from an awning(blech), and later botching Kuen Wei's public stabbing, the young martial artist is inevitably drawn into the mix.
The Godfather's severed horse head gets downsized in Asia.
With Kuen Wei hospitalized and Ysun Nam angrily locked away in a workout room after thugs kill his wife in their bed, Hung appeals to Li to sanction the business deal himself before more of his family meet their respective makers.Meanwhile, Chan uses Li's cousin, a degenerate gambler who's amassed large debts at the casino, to free Ysun Nam, who immediately rushes blindly to his wife's killers for vengeance.Hung and Shima oblige him by kicking his face through some plate glass.Meanwhile, Chan and Shima plan a side deal to become sole partners eliminating Hung in the process, which backfires when she tries to shank him after a graphic shower/sex scene.Hung repays her loyalty by cutting her throat.After Kuen Wei is finally dispatched while convalescing at home by Hung's signature sword-cane, Li and Donny leap into revenge-fueled retributive action at last.Hung's cabbie sporting blade man fights Donny at a paper mill, and ends up impaled through the chest on a spiked crane like a human log, ready for processing.Li digs into his suitcase full of weapons, taking on all of Shima's swordsmen in the forest with extendable nunchaku.He then squares off against Shima, kicking him into a bloody mess(cut from the television edit) when Hung arrives for the final showdown.A lengthy battle ensues with Li fending off Hung's cane sword with tonfa and nunchaku before both men square up for some good old fashioned hand to hand(foot to foot?).Li erases the criminal with a spinning double front kick to the throat that sends Hung flying backwards into a tree, smashing the back of his skull against the bark.Afterwards, Kuen Kong vows to pick up the pieces of his life with the help of his girlfriend and Donny.
Mr. Shima(Chiang Tao)'s facial forecast:Fully fucked
In some countries, tonight's review was confusingly packaged as a Carl Scott starring vehicle where he's referred to as "Black Jim".Though he enjoys several fights (excellently choreographed by Leung Siu-Chung) throughout the film, he's plainly on board in guest star capacity to Billy Chong's lead.Chong would follow this one up with the crazy Kung Fu Zombie(1981) and excellent Sun Chung collaboration A Fistful of Talons(1983) before retiring to his native Indonesia, where he married a pop star, fathered kids, starred in and directed a hit television series, and instructed martial arts to the country's military.Executioner is a solid effort, with some breathtaking fight choreography that Chong, who's always got a spot in my top 5, effortlessly executes as always.Three big ones.
I can't hear you, Hung(Chen Sing), you've got a flying side kick in your mouth.


Ty said...

This looks like a blast! Plus the title is great.

beedubelhue said...

Definitely a good time to be had,brother.


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