I recently picked up Kung Fu Killer Collection Volume One, which defines itself thusly (emphasis NOT added).
Get ready for ACTION featuring 6 of the GREATEST KUNG FU KILLERS of all time in one SUPER 3-PACK COLLECTION! Ferocious fighting and wall to wall thrills and adventure await!
It was $2, so how I could resist? Neither Jackie Chan nor Jet Li stars in any of them, so how good could they be? Neither is Steven Segal for that matter. However, Bruce Li is in one, so could be interesting.
Anyway, I thought they could be mildly entertaining at the least, since I enjoy wire-fu movies like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and the odd kung fu flick I saw as a kid. I watched one a couple of nights ago, and thought it would be fun to review it a little bit. This idea is heavily inspired by everything The Spoony One does at his awesome website The Spoony Experiement, specifically the It Came From Beyond Midnight feature, where in a couple of guys with an old video store watch and commentate on absolutely horrible old films.
The first of the GREATEST KUNG FU KILLERS of all time! is Shadow of the Tiger.
You know it's going to be great when there are two films on one DVD.
Shadow of the Tiger can only be described as kung fu porn. The plot, such as it is, is given to us with five minutes of exposition followed by one fight after another, each as pointless as the next. In fact, there are two fights before we get to the expositing five minutes, and the opening credits showcase the various 'actors' by showing them performing a few minutes of warm up moves in their martial arts style of choice, along with listing some of their credits, which are things like, 'Teaches at such and such school', 'Winner of such and such tournament', etc. Clearly these are actually trained fighters, all quite good at that, and actors not so much.
The box art in and of itself is not bad, showing three of the character faces up close, and smaller in front, one guy kicking another in the face. Awesome! The strange thing is, the guy doing the kicking is the villain. Of the three big faces, one is only present in the movie for one fight, which fight serves to tell us about his opponent. Of the other two faces, neither is actually the Hero of the film.
The movie begins with a bunch of old guys sitting around in a temple explaining out the abbot of their temple has died and left no instructions on who should succeed him. So they determine the leader in the ancient tradition of Mortal Kombat! Wait, sorry, just a regular fight, not to the death or anything. So two old guys get up and fight, and they're surprisingly spry considering one's eyebrows are long enough he probably has to constantly fish them out of his soup. It's got silly stunts in it, it's entertaining and amusing, and eventually they decide somehow that one lost, I didn't quite follow that.
The loser runs off and starts his own school, combining various styles and techniques into a new one (gasp! surprise! the horror, the horror!). They call it Karate, and I guess he went off to Japan to do this, because they kept mentioning Japan when they talked about the actual villain. I don't know, I kind of took it as some underhanded jab from the Chinese at the Japanese, cause historically don't they kind of hate each other? (I'm very white in this aspect, all Asians look the same to me. I can't recognize any of the characteristics that distinguish Chinese from Koreans from Japanese from Cambodians. Sorry, no offense is meant. Seriously, I sometimes can get confused between characters if they're similar enough looking. And don't get me started on the names.)
Anyway, with that racist (hopefully not) sidetrack out of the way, the movie itself takes place some undetermined amount of time after the aforementioned fight, where a student of this runaway monk has come to a town to fight the students of all the schools to show he is better than all of them, and force the other schools to close down. He holds a competition and in turn practitioners of various disciplines get up to face him and get their asses handed to them in seconds. It was pretty awesome. One opponent got kicked off the stage and landed in front of it, unmoving. Several people huddled around him, I don't know, to go through his pockets, or take his pulse, while another challenger arose, got the crap beat out of him, and the next challenger was beaten handily in seconds and kicked off the same point of the stage as the first, landing on top of everybody still huddled around him. I liked it.
The teachers of the schools are all depressed that their students are sissies, unable to face this cursed Japanese intruder, and a few decide to try to hire somebody else to fight him, so they can keep their schools open. The young guy on the cover, whose face you can only see half of decides to go searching for a worthy combatant, leaving the old guys to see after their school. In an amusing scene he tells some fat kid to watch after his students (as if this fat kid, barely more coordinated than I am, can fend off the karate guy). When this guy (we'll call him Sky Blue, because his outfit was and I could track names from one scene to the next) returns home and finds fresh graves at his school, I fully expected it to be the fat kid. Somehow it wasn't, and I have no idea whose it was.
I'm talking too much. Quicker recap. Sky Blue meets up with some guy he knows who was at least thirty years younger than the monks in the opening scene, but kept complaining about how he was old, and slowish and weakish and couldn't possibly fight the Bad Guy (who wore a black karate gi, with a red belt, oooh, black and red, he's obviously Eeeevil). He and his daughter go with Sky Blue to find a Warrior Hero to defeat Bad Guy.
The scene introducing the only female I saw in the picture was quite fun. The dad was showing his daughter off on the streets, he hung some money tied to strings about her neck, and she spun silver plates in her hands. For 50 cents (or that's how I interpreted it) somebody could try to take the money off her, which they could keep ($8 or something). She proceeded to make fools of 3 or 4 guys, while continuously spinning the plates, kicking, dodging flipping, rolling (seriously, the plates spinning the whole time) or occasionally whacking the guys with the plates. Until the crowd bored with the spectacle and left. I like it, even if she was clearly holding plates attached to posts in some of the shots.
Anyway, the trio goes off on a short journey to find the Warrior Hero to beat up Bad Guy. They acquire a drunk guy (the one getting his face mashed on the cover), a waiter who follows them like a lost puppy, even though they tell him repeatedly to leave them alone, a boy he ferries them halfway across a river, then decides to steal their money and dumps them in the water (he turns out to be a famed martial arts expert, who justifies his attempted thievery and murder with the line, "Well, I'm poor". Let's see, there was another guy who liked to gamble but sucked, so he was flat broke, but made in impressive display of disassembling a bamboo scaffolding, and lastly, a reluctant fellow, who fought the guy in the middle of the cover art, as previously mentioned.
When this fight was introduced I didn't know who I was supposed to care about, so I cared about the guy on the cover, because he had cool threads (I didn't realize until afterward he was on the cover). He had a fancy black and red outfit with gold trim, and he also won the fight, so of course they should add him to the group. But apparently he died later, and so was an unsuitable match for the Bad Guy, so the loser got invited to the party. When they approached Loser he was teaching a 4 year old to fight (his nephew or something) and was reluctant to join the group because he had disobeyed his former master by seeking out the previous fight, so now that his master had died of old age he would always honor him by never fighting anyone again. The kid throws a fit about how his uncle told him martial arts were to defend the weak and helpless, yet when such people came seeking aid he turn them away. Guilted into this by a 4 year old Reluctant Guy joined the group. Oh, and there was fighting or some display of martial prowess to introduce each of these characters.
So the group consisting of Old Teacher and daughter, Young Teacher, Thief/Murderer, Drunk, Waiter and Reluctant Guy go fight Bad Guy in Black. They take him on two at a time, which seemed smart to me, but he pretty much kicked them all to the curb, even the girl. Old Teacher did the best, as he noticed that Bad Guy fought barefooted, and he (Old Guy) had shoes on, so he stomped on the guys foot a few times, until Bad Guy beat him to death. Yep, he punched him in the heart a few times and then left so everyone could gather around Old Guy while he died in his daughter's arms. He also gave them Crucial Piece of Advice (something that would have been good to know YESTERDAY!).
Old Dying Guy told them that to defeat Shao Khan (another Mortal Kombat reference) they needed to teach all their styles to one man, so he could fight with many styles mixed together, since that's how Shao Khan was defeating them. Since only one of them hadn't been gravely injured, Reluctant Guy becomes Reluctant Hero. Sky Blue Young Teacher instructs Reluctant Hero in the Monkey technique, although he did so with a broken arm. This was definitely the worst example of fighting in the movie, for when they used the monkey technique, they crouched on the ground like a monkey, pawing at their face, making stupid monkey moves, and there was the horrible chittering of monkeys whenever someone used monkey moves. I know Everybody Loves Monkeys, but honestly, I don't.
The Only Girl had her neck slashed or something, she was bleeding pretty bad after the fight, but somehow taught her technique to Hero-guy, either Waiter-dude or Thief-guy had a broken leg and was holding themself up with a pole while they taught, pretty tricky, and Drunk-guy was blinded. Bad Dude In Black and poked him in the eyes so bad that they were swollen shut and blackened bruises all around them. I've not the faintest idea how he could teach whatever technique was his when he was freaking blind, but he did.
So after the slowest training montage I've ever seen, Hero Guy fights Bad In Black on some rocky shore edge. At first, he's loosing, I think he was only using his own technique, but then he switched (Monkey! shouts the bad guy) and slowly, progressively starts gaining on the bad guy. There were lots of neat moves in this fight, some silly ones, and in the end, Hero Guy kicks Bad Guy out into the water, thereby signifying that the movie was over, as the picture froze before the water finished splashing, the music finished and all faded to black, the end.
All in all, it was okay, I guess, but certainly nothing to go looking for. Made in the mid 70's I think, It was dubbed in English, not horribly done, the picture wasn't great by any means, nor the acting, but the fighting was okay, and I didn't mind it. Apparently it was also rated R, though I couldn't tell you why, unless for violence? I don't know. Sure, it's a lot of fighting, but I wouldn't call it violent. Don't think I'll ever watch it again, but for 33 cents I'm not complaining. The film was 90 minutes long, maybe 10 of which was talking, seriously no more than 7 of that was for the plot. There's probably no reason for anyone to see this film, unless you get it in a collection like this and need something to do while you eat (like I was doing).
Speaking of eating, it's late, I'm hungry, maybe I'll go get some food and queue up the next film in the set, Duel of the Brave One. I love the titles on these films.