Hong Kong action legend Jackie Chan made his lead role debut with this standard kung fu film, which would later be used in a composite film that capitalized on his success. This review is for this original rare classic.
Hsiao Hu is a young man who works at an uncle’s restaurant as a waiter and delivery boy. However, he loves practicing the martial arts as a hobby, always sparring with his adopted sister Hsiao Lan. Despite reservations from his adopted father (Tien Feng), Hsiao Hu doesn’t stop his love for kung fu when he is forced to protect his workplace from the hands of some local goons led by Lai Shun).
Lai’s boss is Lu Chi, who learns of the young man causing trouble for his gang, who has plans to take over the town by instilling fear into the locals. Hu’s actions gain him a reputation with locals, but constantly draw the ire of his adopted father. And for good reason. Hu’s adopted father was once a member of Lu Chi’s gang but when he and Hu’s real father tried to leave, Hu’s father sacrifices himself and asks his friend to care for his son. When Hu learns his family is in danger, he must unleash what he has left to stop the gang once and for all and save the town from Lu Chi’s tyranny.
In 1973, eighteen-year old Jackie Chan was given his first lead role, with him using the stage name “Chan Yuen Lung”. Unfortunately, after production was completed, the production company went bankrupt and the film was shelved for at least six years. That is, until a producer took the film and made a cut-and-paste film adding Simon Yuen, Dean Shek, Chiang Kam, and Kwon Young-Moon as the supreme villain. The result was Master with Cracked Fingers, a really torturous film in Chan’s filmography. So, would fans get to see the original film? Enter Toby Russell, whose Rarescope finally unleashed the original film from its long awaited “sleep”.
The film is interesting in terms of seeing a young Chan showcasing his martial arts and acrobatic skills he learned at the Chinese Opera Academy. The film is a standard kung fu film that revolves around a young man’s quest to save the town from local thugs. However, the twist comes in the form of the leader of the villains was the same man who killed the hero’s father years ago. While we never know in the film who taught our hero Hu, one can only assume it was his adopted father, who had hoped Hu only needed to use his skills as necessary. When he learns Hu is causing trouble, he punishes him by making him do extra work and in one case, forces him to smash his hands through a flower pot.
The late Shaw Brothers star Chan Hung-Lieh personifies the villain actor. As gang leader Lu Chi, he had that smile that just defines “evil” and has the laugh to go with it. In addition, Chan has some pretty nice kung fu skills. In fact, Lu Chi’s move is a jumping front kick known in some prints as “Kick of Doom” or “Devil’s Leg”. He even performs this move in one scene with his hands tied behind his back.
While the film is an overall standard kung fu film, hardcore Jackie Chan fans will appreciate seeing The Cub Tiger from Kwangtung in its original form. Chan truly had a chance to show what he can do in a movie as a lead and while he wouldn’t break out until years later, this is a rare chance to really see what many Chan fans have wanted to see. A rental if you are a true Jackie Chan fan.
WFG RATING: C+
A Soon Lee Films Co. Production. Director: Ngai Hoi-Fung. Producer: Lee Long-Koon. Writer: Lau Suen. Cinematography: Wu Fa-Shen, Wong Kwok-Nam, and Cheung Chi-Keung. Editing: Hamilton Yu
Cast: Jackie Chan, Chan Hung-Lieh, Shu Pei-Pei, Tien Feng, Hon Kwok-Choi, Chin Chun, Kwan Chung, Sze Ma Wah-Lung.