Monday, August 29, 2016

"Masked Avengers" (1981) d/ Chang Cheh

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Good Chinese gung fu movies are like my favorite pint of genre takeaway with an ample portion of steamed white rice as a complement,when that certain mood strikes me. If you're a fan of director Chang Cheh's earlier work, like 1978's The Five Venoms, for instance (and who isn't), and you're seeking out a similarly righteous masked gung fu mystery vibe, then look no further than tonight's review, his 1981 effort, starring many of the "Venom Mob", a splashy, acrobatic, arterial spurting, guts-hanging-off-a-trident good time that plays as darkly as any of his films of that era, i.e. House of Traps,  Five Element Ninjas, etc...

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Kuo Chui;always excellent drama, acrobatics, and gung fu from the Lizard.
It would seem that a rogue crew of evil bastards has been up to no martial good of late, running poor sons o' bitches through on their trademark long tridents, and overseen by three gang chiefs, all who wield a golden trident, and wear a color-coordinated bearded mask that differs from the standard issue horned demon that the boys sure like to sport, while they're pursuing questionable activities as regular pastimes, such as kidnapping young men and trapping them inside elaborate mechanical Buddha statues before spearing them over and over again with their tridents, and catching the spurting blood inside bowls of water, drinking the mixture triumphantly while  gloating over all the cash they amass by carrying out said splashily graphic, overly dramatic executions. Of course, there's Chi San Yuen (Chiang Sheng), nd various members of the prolific Long Clan, who've taken it upon themselves to investigate these killings and expose the mysterious gang for the unscrupulous criminals that they are...starting with the identity of the crew's leader or leaders, whomever that might turn out to be.

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"You can't have any silver taels until you've finished drinking your blood-water, fellas..."
Heading the list of potential villains is the rich local fellow Lin Yun Chi (Lu Feng), who seems sincere enough in helping out the Longs in realizing their goals, despite various associates suddenly developing a propensity for being sneakily eighty-sixed by the very gang they currently hunt. There's also Fang Zugang (Wong Li), an equally affluent local chap, whose henchman all seem to parade around in red and black outfits, much like the gang in question. A mostly silent cook named Gao(Kuo Chui) also displays the martial prowess necessary to qualify as a potential chief baddie, but Chi's mate Zeng Jun (Chin Siu Ho) seems to have developed a rapport with the mysterious man, and trusts in him despite his excellence with a gold chief-colored trident, and his coincidental possession of a matching bearded chief mask, just like the real ones wear. Hmmm. Expect an acid, knives, and arrows booby trapped lair full of high-flying gung fu and treachery in the final reel, just the way you like it...

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Movement number thirteen, narcolepsy in the red paint.
No Sun Chien or Lo Mang here, but even without those two heavy hitters, Avengers scores high marks all around for fight choreography, which was provided partially by Kuo Chui, Chiang Sheng, and Lu Feng, paint-splattery death en masse, lots of side-flipping martial turncoatery and plot twists, and some of the most exhilarating individual gung fu performances out of it's cast of main characters, all of which had been known for such dizzying skills before the release of Avengers in 1981, having solidified that reputation here a thousand-fold. A perfect score of four Wops is what I'll bestow upon this one, as it stands as a fine example of Asian fantasy and action of the period, and arguably, one of the finest ever. If this sort of thing is your bag, you'll want to hunt down a nice print of this to screen for yourselves, and it just so happens that there's a good one available on Netflix currently available, so what are you waiting for?

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Four out of five martial experts recommend Venom antics for genre cinema fans who dig such antics.
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