Wednesday, September 7, 2011

"Martial Club"(1981)d/Liu Chia Liang

If you woprophiles dig your kung fu movies(like I know you do), then I've got one you're really gonna blow yer glassies on tonight, one of the most paramount efforts from apex Shaw director Liu Chia Liang, showcasing what certainly has to be one of the top five cinematic fights of all-time, in what's arguably one of the all-time most exemplary offerings that the Asian action genre has ever offered, period.You don't get much better than that, folks, and I ain't just whistlin' Dixie.Take the assemblage of physical talent that appears in this Liu vehicle(besides Liang, never less than amazing himself): Liu Chia Hui, Wang Lung Wei, Hui Ying Hung, Hsiao Ho(who provides the breathtaking choreography, as well), Mai Te Lo, Ku Feng, and even Wilson Tong, to that you can add an original, highly entertaining screenplay centered around the famed lion dance ceremony(where sin qua non screen villain Johnny Wang does not play the antagonist for once!), and then there's the fights.By 'fights' I mean the unsurpassed non-stop action sequences on board that'll have you repeatedly hitting the rewind button on your remote until the pièce de résistance alley brawl between youngest Liu and Johnny Wang unfolds upon the screen.That the movie focuses instead on a message of respect and apology between martial artists, a la Liu's earlier Challenge of the Masters(1978)(which could be seen as a sort of prequel to this one), instead of the usual blood vengeance angle the world had seen at least thirteen thousand times over by 1981, is just one more facet to this rare and wondrous gem guaranteed to leave your lower jaw hanging loosely somewhere down around your sash by the time it all wraps up.
You havent seen a lion dance until you've seen one of Sifu Liu's.
After an educational introduction to the Chinese Lion Dance, as given by director Liu himself against a stark white background, where we learn the various improprieties one group of lion dancers might perpetrate against another if they were interested in causing them to lose face.Sniffing around the rival lion's ass means you find it to be feminine, whereas blinking your lion's eyes in its direction would be an open statement of contempt towards the other group's ornately decorated costume, and finally, lifting your leg in the rival lion's direction, well that'd be spending a proverbial penny on the other fellows, obviously.With this martial protocol in mind, our story begins with two rival clubs, one particularly amibitious and bully-heavy club belonging to Master Lu(the unfortunately named Chu Tit Wo) and one less treacherous one run by Master Zheng(Wilson Tong), performing their own ceremony, and competing against each other when the aforementioned Lu's discourtesies cause one helluva gravity-defying rowdydow between the two groups.Neither school's participants suffer from vertigo, that's for damn sure.Enter Yinlin(Mai Te Lo), a student of Zheng's, and Wong Fei Hung(Liu Chia Hui), a student of Master Wong's(Ku Feng), both top martial proponents forever in competition with each other and each willing to stoop to nearly any low just to one-up the other.Both men are in the habit of paying other martial artists off to take dives in their fights in attempts to snag bragging rights over which of the two took less blows to defeat their opponent.Unlike Wong, Yinlin's also got a propensity to show off his chi kung to the sluts at the local whorehouse, his home away from home, where Lu and his cronies set him up for a hearty beatdown after paying the whores to tie him up, leaving him vulnerable to sneak attack.
Wang Chu-Ying(Kara Hui-Ying Hung) wields as mint a Southern Hung Gar spear as any male practitioner.
The mostly goofy Wong is blamed for Yin's bone-shattering comeuppance by Zheng's students, of which Yinlin's own sister, Wang Chu-Ying(Hui-Ying Hung), also ranks among; a leggy kung fu cutie of great renown in her own right.Lu's strategy is deviously simple: Coax Zheng's school and Wong's school into destroying each other, so that his martial club will come out on top in the local gung fu prestige sweepstakes.He even invites both masters and their pupils to his operahouse as his guests, then tries to get them all incarcerated for not paying for their tickets(!).His trump card is Master Shan(Wang Lung Wei), a powerful expert visiting from the North who nearly killed Yinlin with a well-placed eagle claw to his throatpiece when the impetuous kung fool mistook him for one of his easy pay offs(Fei Hung takes the blame for that one, too).Shan gullibly falls for Lu's deceit, finally challenging Fei Hung to a Northern v. Southern duel that takes place in a stretch of winding back alleyway that narrows as it goes.Both fighters spin and whirl their way through the backstreet with expert proficiency, exchanging dragon fists for mantis and eagle claws, testing each other's stances, and glancing lightning-fast wheel and crescent kicks into the bricks, barely missing each other.In the end, Shan defeats Wong, but stands well-impressed of the young man's skills, never intending to kill him, but merely curious as to what level he had attained thus far.He suggests to Lu and company that they learn the meaning of honor and martial spirit and generally stop being assholes out to spoil everyone's good time.Cue:Obligatory Shaw Brothers freeze frame ending.
Wong Fei Hung(Liu Chia Hui) and Master Shan(Wang Lung Wei) test each other's geographically opposite pugilism skills in close quarters.
As hard as Martial Club is to overshadow, director Liu somehow managed to do so in his very next effort, Legendary Weapons of China(1982).Coincidentally, the Wong Fei Hung character was an actual person, the son of one of the Ten Tigers of Kwantung(the real ones that the Chang Cheh movie was based upon), who lived from 1847 'til 1924, practicing medicine, an expert in many gung fu styles, as well as lion dancing.The name probably sounds familiar to most kung fu fans as he's been depicted in martial arts movies countless times, dating back to 1949, the eighty-five Wong movies over the following twenty years(mostly starring a gaunt old fellow named Kwan Tak Hing, who you might remember in a cameo as Wong in Samo Hung's excellent Magnificent Butcher(1978), and a White Crane style master himself) helped serve as the foundation for modern Chinese martial arts movies as we now know them....Just some interesting minutiae I thought you might like to wrap your collective brainpieces around tonight.What else can I say about this entry?It's got slapstick humor, and showcases some of the best performances you'll ever see in a kung fu movie.On the scale, it's a perfect four wops, and highly recommended by yours cruelly.You'll love it!
My favorite cinematic kung fu fight ever deserves two screenshots.


achillesgirl said...

RAWK!!! You do MARTIAL CLUB justice, my friend. :)

beedubelhue said...

Grazie, sister!

I knew you'd appreciate a screenshot of the wall split in the "alley-Wei"!Johnny Wang for President!


Connect with Facebook