Crystal Fist (1979)

crystalfist

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Once hailed as a rip-off of Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow and Drunken Master, this action packed film is truly one of the best to star Indonesian martial artist Willy Dozen, known to martial arts fans with the more impactful name Billy Chong.

Wen, a young man who only has one wish: to learn kung fu. When he goes to a local school to pretend to be an instructor, he is beaten by the two assistant masters. However, the master offers to give Wen a job as a cook in the kitchen. There, Wen butts heads with the elder cook. As Wen constantly finds himself bullied by the two assistant masters and the elder cook, Wen finds himself at a standstill.

Meanwhile, Yen, a master in the Double Phoenix Eyes, has been causing trouble with his two assistants Blind Man and Deaf Man. Yen is looking for Pai Yi-Chang, an old master in the Eagle Claw who is the reason why Blind Man and Deaf Man are just that, blind and deaf.

Soon enough, Wen and the cook begin to make amends when Wen learns that the elder cook is a kung fu master himself. As if it comes to no surprise, the cook is none other than Pai Yi-Chang and he decides to teach Wen the Eagle Claw technique. However, when Yen and his associates see Wen use the art, they demand to know who his teacher is. When Wen refuses, he is maimed and let go. When Pai learns who Wen really is, he teaches him a new technique, the Shadow Claw.

Once hailed as a rip-off of Jackie Chan’s breakthrough films, the film is now hailed as one of the best films to star Indonesian-born martial artist Billy Chong. Born Willy Dozen, Chong possesses some comic flair and yet, he is quite a martial artist. He got his start in Indonesian action films, and had supporting roles in films like Black Belt Karate and Incredible Monkey Fist. This film marks his first lead role in a Hong Kong film and he does well in the role of young Wen, who for the first half of the film provides mainly comedy, but by the film’s end showcases his nice crisp handwork and kicking skills.

Why the film works so well is the fact that the Yuen Clan were involved in the film. Simon Yuen, best known for playing Jackie Chan’s mentors in his breakthrough films, brings back the mentor role to a tee in the role of the elder cook who soon becomes Wen’s martial arts teacher. Chu Tiet-Wo is menacing as the evil Yen, who is determined to find his arch-nemesis for his defeat and the crippling of his two associates. The associates, Blind Man and Deaf Man, are well-suited for Addy Sung (known for his lazy eye and was even nicknamed “Big Little Eye”) and Simon Yuen’s son Brandy Yuen.

As for the fight choreography, it is truly top-notch. While elder son Yuen Woo-Ping was not involved in the film as he was with Jackie Chan’s films, his brothers Brandy and Shun-Yi were heavily involved with the choreography. Assisting in the choreography are Corey Yuen (not related), Chin Yuet-Sang, and Hau Chiu-Sing, the latter who provides a memorable cameo as Wen’s father, who is killed by Yen in the opening of the film. The film highlights Chong’s unarmed combat skills and Corey Yuen assisted in doubling Chong on some of the staff work while Brandy Yuen did triple duty as co-star, choreographer, and doubling for his father in the acrobatics department.

Crystal Fist is definitely a delight to watch as the world is formally introduced to Billy Chong. While some may see Chong as a Jackie Chan-ripoff, Chong truly holds his own and with the Yuen Clan helping, this is truly a fun kung fu film.

WFG RATING: B+

An Eternal Film (HK) Ltd. Production. Director: Hwa I-Hung. Producer: Pal Ming. Writer: Lin Chin-Wai. Cinematography: Nico Wong. Editing: Poon Hung.

Cast: Willy Dozan (Billy Chong), Simon Yuen, Chu Tiet-Wo, Hau Chiu-Sing, Ma Chung-Tak, David Woo, Lun Ga-Chun, Addy Sung, Brandy Yuen, Alexander Grand.

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