The Mighty Four (1977)

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Casanova Wong seeks revenge for the death of his parents in this pretty standard Korean action film that makes for some interesting action pieces.

As a child, Yin Chun-Yang watched his father killed and mother committing suicide at the hands of Chinese warlord Ma, who was in love with Yin’s mother. Yin would be raised by Uncle Yi, a kung fu expert and flute player. Many years later, a grown up Yin is determined to seek revenge. However, Yi knows that his nephew is far from ready to take on the now Commander Ma and his three lackeys.

Meanwhile, a mysterious woman has been making her way to find Yin and for some reason offers to help him as she is confronted by Ma’s men as well. Unbeknownst to Yin, the woman is the daughter of Master Wong, the best friend of Yin’s father, who had promise to marry Yin. When Yin’s attempt at revenge results in him being kidnapped, tortured, and crippled, Yi convinces Yin to hide in the mountains so he can heal before training his body to be able to finally set revenge, especially when the mystery woman is kidnapped by Ma and his men after an attempt to pose as an elderly woman fails.

The team of Tomas Tang and Joseph Lai took a 1977 Korean martial arts film and dubbed the film in English. The film, known as Four Brave Dragons, or The Lone Shaolin Avenger, or Big Boss II; stars Casanova Wong as the hero, a young man seeking revenge for the death of his parents. Wong does a decent job in the lead as always. When he is warned that he is not ready to take on the commander who is responsible for his parents’ deaths, he finds himself forced to take on a band of thugs. The first fight scene involves Wong doing something that is borderline ridiculous. He grabs one thug by his crotch and lifts him in the air while kicking away at some thugs then throwing the first in theair This will may one cringe and laugh at the same time.

Carrie Lee plays a mysterious woman who definitely has ties to Wong’s character but is unbeknownst to both Wong and Lee. Hong Kong star Yeung Wai plays the interesting role of Wong’s uncle and martial arts teacher, who is known by the bad guy as “the flute player”. Chang Il-Shik is ruthless as the villainous Ma with Kwak Mu-Seong, Nam Chung-Il, and future Korean cult film lead Elton Chong as the trio of Ma’s warriors who serve as his number one men. Chong and Kwak truly showcase their kicking skills when they go up against Wong in a series of battles.

Yeung Wai choreographed the film’s martial arts action scenes and they range from pretty good to flat out insanity. Being the superb kicker that he is with some amazing hang time, it really is nerve-racking when Casanova Wong does some insane tricks on wires. However, the non-wire fights are decently done especially the climactic showdown between Wong and Cheung. Cheung is quite a nice kicker himself and gets to show that nice bootwork in the finale.

The Mighty Four is definitely a mixed bag. Some of the action is quite nice but some of the action is also a bit cringe-worthy, and that one particular move in a cringe-and-laugh fest. If you are a hardcore fan of Casanova Wong, you will most likely see this.


An IFD Films and Arts Co. Ltd. Presentation. Director: Kim Jung-Yong. Producers: Hwang Yeong-Sil & Tomas Tang (Hong Kong version). Writer: Kang Dae-Ha. Cinematography: An Chang-Bok, Yu Chun, and Yang Yeong-Gil. Editing: Hyeon Dong-Chun.

Cast: Casanova Wong, Chang Il-Shik, Yeung Wai, Carrie Lee, Kwak Mu-Seong, Nam Chung-Il, Elton Chong, Jeon Shook, Hung Sing-Chung, Baek Song, Pearl Lin, Kim Ki-Joo, Baek Hwang-Ki.


The Four Shaolin Challengers (1977)

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Two years before Sammo Hung played one of Wong Fei-Hung’s most beloved disciples, karate expert Larry Lee took the role of Lam Sai-Wing in this standard kung fu film that features some nice action scenes.

A band of thugs have been terrorizing the town, extorting money from the local merchants. However, one man who dares not get involved is local pork butcher Lin Shih-Yung. Opening a local martial arts school, he gets in with dealing with the gang after one of his students finds himself in hot water with the gang.

When Lin stands up to the thugs, the crime boss Chang orders the school destroyed and in the process, Lin is seriously hurt. Luckily, three friends of Lin’s arrive to help him with his trouble. They are “Devil Kick” Chi, Ling Yun-Chieh, and Liang Kuan. When Lin is nursed back to health, he and his friends begin to stop the thugs without any killing. Chang hires a group of fighters called the “Yangtze Four”. However, what everyone doesn’t know is that Chang is actually a notorious criminal named Shao Pei-Li, the most wanted man in the area. When Lin and his friends discover the truth, they set a plan in motion to put an end to things once and for all.

Lam Sai-Wing is one of the most beloved disciples of legendary martial arts master Wong Fei-Hung. One of his famous students was Lau Chan, the father of the late action film legend Lau Kar-Leung. There have been a few films about Lam with Sammo Hung’s The Magnificent Butcher being one of, if not, the best film to feature the character. However, this 1977 film was one of the first to have Lam as the main character.

Larry Lee, a karate expert, plays Lam in this film. He plays Lam as a butcher and martial arts teacher who doesn’t believe in killing. For some of the film, he tends to be more of a pacifist. That is, until he is pushed over the edge. However, he still follows suit and does not believe in killing. Meanwhile, Bruce Lee provides a bit of comic relief as “Devil Kick” Chi as he and the othe two goons would go to brothels when not helping their friend out. Meanwhile Liu Tan is purely evil as Cheng, or Shao Pei-Li, a truly vicious criminal.

Wong Mei was in charge of the fight scenes and they are done pretty well. Bruce Leung definitely shows why he was one of the best kickers in classic kung fu films. Larry Lee gets to use both kung fu and elements of karate. This is evident in the finale, when he uses a weapon mainy used in karate, the tonfa, against the likes of goons and in his climactic battle against Liu Tan. San Kuai, Charlie Chan, Lee Hang, and Chu Chi-Ming do well as the “Yangtze Four”, each with a different style to combat our heroes. The climactic fight scene helps make up for some of the other lackluster fights throughout the film.

The Four Shaolin Challengers is a standard kung fu film, but it is quite fun to see a cast including Bruce Leung and Larry Lee in the role of Lam Sai-Wing. Truly one for hardcore fans of classic kung fu films.


A Gam Ma Film Co. Film. Director: Ngai Hoi-Fung. Producers: Charles Lowe and Cheng Hui-Chun. Cinematography: Charles Lowe. Editing: Hamilton Yu.

Cast: Leung Siu-Lung, Larry Lee, Wong Yuen-Sam, Jason Pai Piao, Eric Tsang, Lau Dan, Fung King-Man, Sammy Lau, San Kuai, Charlie Chan, Kwan Chung, Leung Siu-Wah, Wong Jing-Jing.

Shaolin Deadly Kicks (1977)

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Superkicker Delon Tan shines in this very exciting kung fu film that he would virtually remake a decade later in America.

A band of robbers known as the Eight Dragons have stolen a rare treasure map. They decide to take the map and divide into eight pieces, one for each member. The leader of the gang makes the decision to wait three years before reuniting and getting their hands on the treasure. At first, tension nearly leads to dissention, but everyone eventually comes into agreement and waits the three years.

The three years have passed and it is time for the Dragons to reunite. However, it will not be as easy as they plan. When one of the members is arrested, he meets a young man who is willing to help him escape. When the young man tells the Dragon that he knows where some treasure can be found, they head with another member of the gang to an undisclosed location. The two Dragons soon learn it is all a trap and the young man is revealed to be police constable Hsiao Huang-Yi, who along with his partner Chun-Wei, are able to stop the Dragons. However, when Chun-Wei is killed in battle, Huang-Yi uses his flashy kicks to stop the Dragons.

From there, Huang-Yi begins to track down the members one by one to get all the pieces of the map and return it to its rightful owner. After a promise to Dragons member Chang Fang to help his sick son, Huang finds himself betrayed by the treacherous Fang and is forced to kill him. When Huang-Yi is set up by a goon hired by two more members, Huang-Yi fakes his death and is able to fight both members on separate occasions to defeat them. Huang-Yi eventually meets his match in Master Chi, who uses a poison blade to strike the kicking constable before he meets his maker.

Huang-Yi is eventually nursed back to health by Jade, a young woman he saved from bandits earlier in his mission. Jade turns out to be the daughter of the Dragons leader, the Chief. The Chief has changed tunes and has become a doctor. Jade knows nothing of the robbery and while Huang-Yi reveals himself and wants to help the Chief live a peaceful existence, things are about to go full speed. The final Dragons members, the Cutter, has returned and plans to do whatever it takes to get the treasure, even if it means betraying his own leader.

This is definitely an underrated martial arts film from the 70’s. While the likes of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and Sammo Hung dominated the classic kung fu era, there are some well-known names worth mentioning, notably Delon Tan and Lo Lieh. Tan, a grandmaster in the art of taekwondo, starred in the 1976 John Woo film Hand of Death alongside a young Jackie Chan while Lo Lieh starred in the first kung fu film to hit American shores, King Boxer, released as Five Fingers of Death, in early 1973.

While Lo takes a step back to play lead villain Cutter, it is Tan who truly shines here. Next to the “King of Leg Fighters” Hwang Jang-Lee, Tan is perhaps the second dominant kicker in classic kung fu films. Tan has flashiness in his left leg, thus earning him the rightful nickname of “Flash Legs”. Coincidentally, Flash Legs was an alternate title for this very film. While Tan does use some crispy handwork at times, the film is clearly a showcase to show his impeccable kicking skills. What will astound fans is that Tan’s left leg serves as a machine gun, shooting out at least 5 times or he would do his trademark “hopping kick”, where he hops his right off and shoots off a mid-level to high kick with such accuracy.

The plot of the film is quite interesting as well. While it may seem basic, it is noteworthy that cast in the film as the Eight Dragons are some well-known villain actors. Lung Fei (known to Western audiences as Master Pain/Betty in the spoof Kung Pow! Enter the Fist, Tsai Hung, and Wang Chieh prove to be the biggest competition for Tan in the film. However, for Tan’s opening fight scene, I was a little impressed with Li Hsiao-Ming, who plays one of the first members of the gang to fall victim to Tan. Li does some nice kicking himself and had he gotten just a little more flexibility, it would have been quite a nice kicking duel.

Tan would use the very theme for this film and twist it up for his 1990 Hollywood B-movie Breathing Fire. Using bank keys stolen in a robbery and melting them down in a fake “pizza”, the item is split between robbers. Tan would use the pseudonym “Delon Tanners” and came up with both the story and served as executive producer. He would also train the two stars of the film, The Goonies’ Jonathan Ke Quan and Eddie Saavedra in taekwondo.

Shaolin Deadly Kicks is truly a highlight for Delon Tan as the superkicker shines in the film with some very good support from veteran Lo Lieh as the villain. Definitely worth seeing for Tan’s superior kicking skills.


A Wah Tai Motion Picture Co. Ltd. Production. Director: Wu Ma. Producers: Kwan Sin and Tung Chen-Ching. Writer: Chu Hsiang-Kan. Cinematography: Liao Wan-Wen. Editing: Ko Tan-Hung.

Cast: Delon Tan, Lo Lieh, Wang Hsieh, Doris Lung, Kam Kong, Lo Ti, Tsai Hung, Ou-Yang Sha Fei, Wu Chia-Hsiang, Lung Fei, Chan Wai-Lau, Gam Sai-Yuk, Tsang Chiu, Chan Sam-Lam, Lee Siu-Ming.


The Secret Rivals Part II (1977)

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It is always a rarity when a sequel is just as good or at times, more superior to the original film. This sequel to Ng See-Yuen’s hit 1976 film proves to be one of those rarities with John Liu and Hwang Jung-Lee back to using their impressive kicking skills with Tino Wong making a worthy replacement for Don Wong (no relation) as the Southern Fist expert.

Six months after Shao Yi-Fei and Sheng Ying-Wei defeated the evil Silver Fox, it is revealed that the Silver Fox has a twin brother, Chin H. Chin Hu is also known as the Gold Fox. Upon learning that his brother is killed, he begins to not only look for the two heroes, but an 8-diagram map that leads to the gold that was robbed three years ago.

However, Sheng Ying-Wei has left to do government duty in the West. Before leaving, he entrusted the map to his younger brother Sheng Ying-Wu. Like his elder brother, Ying-Wu is an expert in the Southern Fist style. Gold Fox hires local thug Hsin-Yi to find Ying-Wu and get the map. Hsin-Yi will do the job only if he marries Gold Fox’s daughter. Reluctant, Gold Fox agrees.

Meanwhile, Shao Yi-Fei has returned to take on a former classmate turned troublemaker. On the other hand, Gold Fox has invented a new spinning weapon and has hired four assassins trained in kicking and four assassins trained in fist styles to take on the duo of Yi-Fei and Ying-Wu. This comes after Ying-Wu has avenged the death of his younger brother Ying-Yang by killing two of Gold Fox’s men while Yi-Fei defeated the remaining two after defeating his former classmate. With no option, Ying-Wu and Yi-Fei must devise a way to stop Gold Fox once and for all.

Ng See-Yuen proves that lightning does in fact strike twice with this second installment of the Secret Rivals films. Once again, Yuen finds a fantastic choreographer, this time being the legendary Yuen Woo-Ping. Woo-Ping definitely utilizes the talents of superkickers John Liu and Hwang Jang-Lee. However, as Wang Tao was unavailable (possibly shooting the similarly themed The Hot, The Cool, and the Vicious), a suitable replacement was found in former stuntman and bit part actor and martial artist Tino Wong.

Liu gets to show more of his kicking skills here and he spends most of his sequences going in full action mode. While the first film gave him a sense of mystery as to who he was, he gets more action here, even showcasing a hell of a fight against the late Blacky Ko. This time, Corey Yuen and Hsu Hsia get some action in as two henchmen of the Gold Fox, played by the awesome kicker Hwang Jung-Lee.

Similar to the first film, the finale is truly a delight to watch. Unlike the original, the film is more a smooth transition of just pitting Liu and Wong against Hwang, who resorts to not only using his trademark kicking skills, but a deadly weapon that looks to be two sticks that spin with the flick of his wrists. Aside from the added weapon, expect lots of kicking and acrobatics and even a surprise end to the finale.

If you liked the original Secret Rivals, then chances are you will love The Secret Rivals Part II. Liu and Hwang once again shine with their kicking skills and Tino Wong actually makes a suitable replacement for Don Wong here.


A Seasonal Film Corporation Production. Director: Ng See-Yuen. Producer: Ng See-Yuen. Writers: Ng See Yuen & Tung Lo. Cinematography: Chang Chi. Editing: Poon Hung.

Cast: John Liu, Tino Wong, Hwang Jung-Lee, Charlie Chan, Corey Yuen, Hsu Hsia, Yu Chung-Chiu, Sham Chin-Bo, Philip Ko, Blacky Ko.


Spider-Man (1977)

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Long before Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, and Tom Holland took up the mantle, former child star Nicholas Hammond brings the web-slinging, wall-crawling Marvel hero to life in this TV-movie.

Edward Byron, a notorious criminal, has been using mind control to have random locals in New York City commit crimes and then commit suicide. The police are baffled as to why these crimes are committed only for the “criminals” to kill themselves. Meanwhile, college student Peter Parker is working on an experiment involving radiation when he suspects he sees something strange. When Peter, a freelance photographer for the Daily Bugle, accidentally is bitten by a spider, his life changes forever.

When Peter is nearly run over by one of Byron’s “experiments”, he finds himself crawling up a wall. Peter soon realizes that the spider that had bit him was full of radiation. Peter decides to use his newfound skills and expertise in science to become a new brand of hero. Creating his own web-shooters and a red and blue costume, Peter Parker becomes Spider-Man. He gets attention by taking pictures of himself for the Daily Bugle and when he learns of Byron’s actions, he decides to stop Byron before he becomes his next victim.

While superheroes have been the rage since their days in the comic books, live action takes on these heroes in the 70’s have been somewhat of a hit or miss, more falling in the latter with the exception of both Wonder Woman and The Incredible Hulk. After Spider-Man, perhaps considered the face of Marvel Comics, made his live action debut in a series of fun vignettes for PBS show The Electric Company, the time had arrived to give Spidey a chance for his own live action series, which starts with this pilot TV film in 1977.

Former child star Nicholas Hammond, known for his role as Friedrich von Trapp in the hit film adaptation of The Sound of Music, plays Peter Parker and upon learning what had happened to him, looks like he is having fun with the role in the pilot. In a funny scene with some forgiving funny computer effects, Peter is climbing all over the house and decides to take full advantage of it. In the scene where his Spider-Man costume is revealed, it is clear that Hammond’s reaction seems to be genuine just to show how much fun he is having with the role, which would last from 1977 to 1979.

Of course, the issue with the film is not so much a technical issue. The film, written by Alvin Boretz, is an attempt to bring a sense of transitioning from the comic pages to the screens, has a simplistic story of not only having the origins of Spidey, but his attempt to stop a madman from using hypnosis to commit crimes then have the people he kidnaps commit crimes and even worse, threaten a mass suicide for a huge ransom. In Spidey’s first big fight scene, he is seen taking on three Japanese henchmen who wield kendo sticks.

What does stand out is the web swinging scenes because in an age where CGI is the answer, for 1977, the stunt coordinator, Fred Waugh, did something “amazing”. He would have Spidey shoot his web to the next building and then have Spidey swing over himself with no CGI needed. For those who do not know, it was Waugh himself who plays the Spider-Man suit double for these scenes. Waugh would play Spider-Man’s suit double throughout the entire series. The costume is a bit laughable but only in terms of his eyes, looking more like two microphone pieces attached rather than having the trademark look of its comic counterpart.

The 1977 version of Spider-Man may seem a bit one-dimensional in terms of its story, but it clearly looks like Nicholas Hammond is having fun with the role of Peter Parker and the stunts are quite exciting for its time. Definitely one with cult value.


A Charles Fries-Daniel Goodman Production. Director: E.W. Swackhamer. Producers: Edward J. Montagne. Writer: Alvin Boretz; based on the Marvel Comics character created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. Cinematography: Fred Jackman. Editing: Aaron Stell.

Cast: Nicholas Hammond, David White, Hilly Hicks, Lisa Eilbacher, Thayer David, Michael Pataki, Jeff Donnell, Robert Hastings, Ivor Francis, Larry Anderson.


The Guy from Harlem (1976)

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In a world where Blaxploitation comes in all forms, this low-budget film cannot be taken seriously as we are dealing with definitive Mystery Science Theater 3000 fare.

Al Connors is a private investigator who has moved from his hometown of Harlem to Miami because there are simply too many detectives in New York City. He takes pride in his job and one day, he gets a visit from his old hometown friend David McLeod, who has been working for the Central Intelligence Agency. Al is hired to protect for 24 hours an African diplomat’s wife who is to meet with the U.S. Secretary of State. Posing as a husband and wife, Al and Mrs. Ashanti hide out in a hotel room but soon learn Mrs. Ashanti is a target of a kidnapping ring by local mob boss Big Daddy.

When Al successfully has Mrs. Ashanti brought to her meeting the following day, he thinks everything is okay. That is, until another crime boss by the name of Harry De Bauld comes to Al’s office. He needs Al’s help in rescuing his daughter Wanda, who was kidnapped by Big Daddy’s men. Al takes the job for $25,000 and begins his rescue mission. When he learns the truth about Wanda’s kidnapping, he intends to make things right by confronting Harry about an aspect of his crimes that estranged the relationship between father and daughter. To make sure everything is right, Al will also have to face Big Daddy.

This 1976’s Blaxploitation film is an attempt to prove that anyone can make a film. While there are definitive films of that genre, namely Shaft and Foxy Brown to name a few, there are others that are not too great but have a cult following. For instance, Dolemite comes to mind there. Then, there are bottom of the barrel fare that just cannot be taken seriously and this film is one of those.

Granted, the blame cannot be placed on lead actor Loye Hawkins, who plays our titular “Guy from Harlem”, P.I. Al Connors. Hawkins makes the most of what has to be some of the most ridiculous material written and had it not been for his performance, this would have been a complete and utter waste of time, which many will feel that is what it is. Basically, the film would have been better off as two episodes of a locally shot television series because it involves our hero in not one, but two cases that are somehow connected and in some aspect, end the same way.

Some of the ridiculous material written includes Al having to hide his “cases” in the apartment of his current girlfriend and she has to leave. What results of course is Al having his way with his “cases” but in an interesting twist, they just involve making out and then cut to next scene, rather than the normal love scenes seen in these type of films. The action of the film is also beyond ridiculous. While they are all fight scenes, they are some of the worst fight scenes ever seen in film. Even young kids who do fight scenes on YouTube look like martial heroes compared to the fights here. There are no sound effects to accompany the hits, camera angles are not great at times, and in one fight, Al uses some sort of ballet move to counter an armbar and then proceeds to choke out his opponent using something that looks more like a move done in CPR situations.

Thankfully, after a small role in a 1980 movie, Loye Hawkins would leave acting behind and focus on his true passion, music. He is the leader of the Loye Hawkins Band, a jazz band these days.

The Guy from Harlem is so bad that if you plan on seeing this movie, take a group of your friends and make it a MST3K night and comment and laugh your way through this film, which just cannot be taken seriously…ever! If you do plan to take this seriously, do not say you have not been warned!

WFG RATING: F (only if you plan to take this film seriously…if not make your own rating)

An International Cinema Inc. Production. Director: Rene Martinez Jr. Writer: Gardenia Martinez. Cinematography: Rafael Remy. Editing: Rene Martinez Jr.

Cast: Loye Hawkins, Cathy Davis, Patricia Fulton, Wanda Starr, Steve Gallon, Lester Wilson, Wayne Crawford, Vaughan Harris, Michael Murrell, Amanda Schon.



ABBA: The Movie (1977)

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Part-documentary, part-storyline, the Swedish superstar group goes to Australia, where while on tour, one man goes on a quest.

Sweden’s superstar music group ABBA are going to Australia for a massive tour. A local radio station manager decides he must get in on the group by having his number one disc jockey, Ashley Wallace, to interview the group. The station manager hopes that with ABBA being interviewed, the radio station’s rating will blow off the roof.

When the group arrives, they sneak out the back to evade the massive fan crowd. Ashley’s constant attempts to get an interview with the band are met with constant resistance from the band’s bodyguard. However, while he sets that plan in motion, he interviews fans of the group and follows them to each show in hopes to get that interview. When Ashley finally gets in touch with manager Stig Anderson, he has high hopes until he learns they were unable to do the interview. Ashley is in dire hopes of finally giving up and ultimately quitting his job until the unexpected happens.

By 1977, Swedish group ABBA were international superstars thanks in part to their hit song “Dancing Queen”. The group, consisted of co-lead vocalists Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Agnetha Fältskog, pianist Benny Andersson, and guitarist Björn Ulveaus, gained a massive following in Australia and thus, we have the release of this film. Filmmaker Lasse Hallström, who at the time was directing all of ABBA’s music videos, teamed up with Bob Caswell to make this unlike any ordinary music film. The film would not only be a concert movie of sorts, but include a storyline featuring local Aussie actors in roles.

Robert Hughes is fun to watch as Ashley Wallace, the local radio DJ who is hired to interview ABBA. In between the band performing, we see Ashley researching the group as well as his many attempts to reach the band. Tom Oliver has three roles in the film, the most prominent being ABBA’s head bodyguard, who constantly rebuffs Ashley’s attempts to interview the group. What tends to be quite fun is that ABBA not only performs on stage, but are seen in two dream-like sequences that involve Ashley himself conversing with the band.

Fans of action cinema will get to see Richard Norton, who later gained fame as an action actor and stunt coordinator in Hollywood and Hong Kong, as ABBA’s fitness trainer and fellow bodyguard. He can be seen in a scene escorting ABBA’s getaway car and later, training Anni-Frid for the upcoming show. He was the band’s trainer during this tour of Australia.

ABBA: The Movie is a fun ride with Sweden’s superstar group, along with a plot of a radio DJ in hopes to interview the band. ABBA fans will truly enjoy this film.


Polar Music International presnets a Reg Grundy Productions Pty. Ltd. production. Director: Lasse Hallström. Producers: Stig Anderson and Reg Grundy. Writers: Lasse Hallström and Bob Caswell. Cinematography: Jack Churchill and Paul Onorato. Editing: Lasse Hallström, Malou Hallström, and Ulf Neidemar.

Cast: Anni-Frid Lyngstad, Benny Andersson, Björn Ulveaus, Agnetha Fältskog, Robert Hughes, Tom Oliver, Bruce Barry, Stig Anderson, Richard Norton.



REVIEW: Spiritual Kung Fu (1977)

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1977, Lo Wei Motion Pictures Ltd.

Lo Wei
Lo Wei
Pan Lei
Chen Jung-Shu
Vincent Leung

Jackie Chan (Yi-Lang)
James Tien (Luk Qing)
Wu Wen-Siu (Fong Fung-Er)
Li Tong-Chun (Head Abbot)
Lee Kwan (Shun’Erh)
Dean Shek (Disciple)
Ko Keung (Disciple)
Lee Man-Tai (Senior Monk)
Wong Ching (Luk’s Henchman)
Jackie Chan learns a lost form of kung fu from the most interesting group of masters in this old school kung fu film from director Lo Wei.

Yi-Lang is one of the naughtiest students at the Shaolin Temple. He is resorted to punishment virtually every day. However, one night while on guard duty, he is knocked out by a masked man, who steals one of the kung fu manuals and escapes despite the efforts of some of the fellow monks. The manual that was stolen is the Seven Deadly Fist style, which is believed to be the deadliest form of martial art. The masked man has stolen the manual so his son, Luk Qing, can study it and become the leader of the Wu-Lin martial arts clan, whose leader had recently died.

There is one style that can defeat the Seven Deadly Fist style and that is the Five Animal Fist style. However, the manual has been lost for many years. Until one day, a mysterious earthquake hits the temple. Five white ghosts with red hair appear and begin to wreak havoc. That is, until Yi-Lang finally has the guts to stand up to them. The young man learns that the ghosts are actually the Masters of the Five Animal Fists and Yi-Lang begins to train under them. While his kung fu improves, Luk Qing begins his reign of terror by killing all contenders for the leadership of Wu-Lin using the Seven Deadly Fist style. Will Yi-Lang be able to master the art in time to stop Luk Qing?

When Jackie Chan and director Chan Chi-Hwa made Half a Loaf of Kung Fu to add the element of comedy in the kung fu film, director Lo Wei found it to be absolutely ridiculous and had decided to come up with his own kung fu film with comic elements. The result is a film that has pretty dumbfounded comic elements minus one funny part, but makes up for it in the action department.

Jackie Chan plays the naughtiest student at Shaolin, Yi-Lang. His introduction scene is exactly a punishment sequence during lunch. His attempts to get food while on punishment are not too bad to watch. As a matter of fact, they tend to be a little funny. Where the film becomes dumbfounded is the appearance of the ghosts, which starts with someone bringing in a sparkler towards the camera to make it look like a comet and it looks absolutely terrible. James Tien looks quite good as the film’s villain Luk Qing while the film marked the debut of Wu Wen-Siu as Wu-Lin clan member Fong, who despite thinking he is a jerk at times, ultimately befriends Yi-Lang.

The ghosts themselves, which include Yuen Biao in an uncredited role, look absurd as it they look like rejected looks for Ronald McDonald. They even go as far as trying to strip Jackie’s pants down and when they hide, Chan resorts to going number one of them, which is just what is unnecessary here. The funniest part of the comic elements is when Dean Shek, using Taoist charms, is scared like hell when he sees the skeletons of his fellow disciples.

Jackie Chan not only starred in the film but served as the film’s martial arts director. Once again, this is where Chan delivers. Not only does he look good when doing martial arts, but he manages to make James Tien look good in his fight scenes against other opponents and even adds his co-star from Not Scared to Die, Wong Ching, in the mix during their climactic fight as Luk’s number one henchman. The ghosts resorts to doing some animal posing and rely on their acrobatic skills. The climax even has a nice little twist that really brings a little redemption value to the film.

Spiritual Kung Fu may have some unnecessary toilet style humor at times, but overall, it is not that bad of an old school Jackie Chan kung fu film. Yes, the ghosts look absurd, but the martial arts action itself heavily makes up for it in the end.




REVIEW: Devil’s Express (1976)

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1976, Mahler Films

Barry Rosen
Steve Madoff
Niki Patton
Barry Rosen
Niki Patton
Pascual Vaquer
CeOtis Robinson
Bobbi Sapperstein
Paul Glickman
Keith Robinson

Warhawk Tanzania (Luke Curtis)
Larry Fleishman (Cris)
Wilfredo Roldan (Roldan)
Thomas D. Anglin (Tom)
Stephen DeFazio (Sam)
Aki Aleong (Chinese Businessman)
David Durston (American Businessman)
CeOtis Robison (Subway Worker)
Sarah Nyrick (Bag Lady)
Brother Theodore (The Preacher)
John Robert Yates (The Monster)

In his second and final film, the excellently named Warhawk Tanzania must deal with gangsters and a demonic presence in New York City’s subways.

Luke Curtis is a martial arts instructor based in New York City. Teaching Cris, a local detective in martial arts, Luke constantly reminds Cris that he’s not interested in joining the police force. However, Luke’s other top student, Roldan, is someone who is always finding himself getting into some sort of trouble and as a result, Luke is hoping that Roldan doesn’t ruin their upcoming trip to Hong Kong for a competition. While in Hong Kong, Roldan finds an abandoned cave and discovers a strange amulet. Roldan decides to take the amulet, not knowing that he has just brought a demon who wants the amulet back.

Upon their return to New York, a wave of murders begin to pop up in the local subway. Meanwhile, Roldan involves himself with a local gang, the Black Spades, much to the chagrin of Luke. The Black Spades’ arch rivals are the Red Dragons. When Roldan and the Spades fight the Dragons, one of the Dragons notices the amulet and runs. Soon, Roldan himself becomes a victim of the murders in the subways. Vowing revenge, Luke learns the dark secret of what is in that subway and discovers that he may be the only one capable of defeating the demonic presence in the subway to save New York City.

This strange hybrid that meshes Blaxploitation, horror, and martial arts action film took five screenwriters, including the film’s director Barry Rosen, to write. It seems unclear why it would take this many scripters, but the film does bring something different to the fold with its meshing of three definitive film genres. Despite its low budget, the meshing of genres combined with the look of 1970’s New York City actually makes this a watchable effort.

One just has to love the name Warhawk Tanzania”, who just happens to be the lead actor of the film. After making the film Black Force (aka Force Four), this would be Tanzania’s final film. He brings the typical Blaxploitation urban hero to the mix as martial arts teacher Luke with this jive talkin’ style of dialogue and one cannot forget his final outfit, a gold like outfit of suspenders and bellbottoms in a one-piece. Wilfredo Roldan is the trouble making student whose actions not only start a gang war, but brings worse trouble in the form of the demonic presence that takes over the subways and killing innocent people. From his introduction scene, you know this is someone who is going to cause some serious trouble and does just that while Larry Fleischman plays the detective who while being annoyed at his new partner, finds a reliable ally at times in Luke.

The martial arts sequences are akin to the likes of films such as Kill or be Killed and Death Promise, both made the following year and the credit here goes to Master Frank Ruiz, the founder of the Nisei Goju style of Karate. Tanzania looks great when he throws spinning kicks and Roldan, who is the current Head of said Nisei Goju, looks quite good when he fights as well. The gang fight between the Spades and Dragons is a fun watch, even when it abruptly ends. The finale, in which Tanzania takes on the demonic presence, who takes various forms, is quite laughable at times but is appropriate for this being a “martial horror” film.

Devil’s Express marks a typical Blaxploitation-esque performance from Warhawk Tanzania in his final film. The film is a cult classic that meshes martial arts and horror in quite an interesting manner. The film is also known as Gang Wars.




REVIEW: Death Promise (1977)

deathpromise usa-icon

1977, Boston Film Company/Howard Mahler Films

Robert Warmflash
Serafim Karalexis
Norbert Albertson
Aaron Kleinman
Jim Markovic
Guy Bishop

Charles Bonet (Charley Roman)
Speedy Leacock (Speedy)
Bill Louie (Sup Kim)
Thompson Kao Kang (Master Shibata)
Vincent Van Lynn (Alden)
Thom Kendall (Mursky)
Abe Henry (Jackson)
Tony De Caprio (Albano)
David Kirk (Engstrom)
Bob O’Connell (Louis Roman)
Anthony Lau (Master Ying)
Bob Long (Mike)
Jason Lau (Shibata’s Son)
Jerry Ng (Shibata’s Son)

This action film has quite an interesting concept for a martial arts film in which greedy landlords are the targets and fans of independent American martial arts films may actually enjoy this.

In New York City, slum lords are resorting to using nefarious methods to evict tenants or have them leave so they can tear the buildings down for more commercial properties. One such victim is Charley Roman, a karate expert whose electricity and water has been shut off courtesy of the slum lords. His father Louis, a former boxer, has attempted to keep the neighborhoods in check and because he is a highly respected man, the neighbors don’t budge against the goons hired by the zoning board, consisting of Albano, Jackson, Mursky, corrupt judge Engstrom, and led by Alden.

When Alden attempts to make Louis an offer that is ultimately refused, Louis is found dead by Charley, who is seething with revenge. Under the guidance of his teacher Master Shibata, Charley heads to Asia to train under Master Ying and his other student, Sup Kim. Upon his return, Shibata gives Charley a letter that Louis had written for Charley in case anything happened. Along with his best friend Speedy, Charley begins to make a vow to his late father and that is to hunt every member of the zoning board down and kill them all in the name of vengeance.

Serafim Karalexis is quite an interesting figure in cinema. The Greek-born president of Madison (Boston) Film, he produced a documentary entitled The Real Bruce Lee, which introduced martial arts film fans to Korea Bruce-alike Dragon Lee. He would later help Ron Van Clief with his film career when he signed the veteran martial artist to play the legendary character to which Van Clief himself is nicknamed to this day, The Black Dragon. In 1975, The Black Dragon’s Revenge was the film debut of New York-based martial artist Charles Bonet. Karalexis was impressed with Bonet that he gave him the lead role to this film, which has quite the interesting concept of slum lords as the villains as they try to drive people out of their homes to demolish them to make more money by building commercial properties.

Charles Bonet definitely gets kudos here because he is actually a pretty good martial artist. If you know that you’re in for a 1970’s low-budgeted action packed film, then you know Bonet does his best to carry the film. The one-film wonder Speedy Leacock does quite well as Bonet’s best friend and sidekick who joins him on this mission because he’s got quite an agenda of his own in terms of the slum lords. The late Hong Kong actor Thompson Kao Kang makes the most of his screen time as Master Shibata while Bill Louie, another New York-based martial artist, channels his inner Bruce Lee as the very interestingly-named “Sup Kim”. The villains of the film don’t have skills as they let their main henchmen do all the fighting for them. Yet one can’t help but respect the diversity of our cast of villains, all of whom while being together in business, also have their own agendas outside of business.

The film’s fight sequences have a feel akin to the South African film Kill or be Killed and not that of the Hong Kong variety. That’s because three of the film’s stars also double as the film’s action directors and are highly skilled in karate. Lead actor and Hanshi Charles Bonet is skilled in Shorinkai Karate. Thompson Kao Kang was skilled in karate as well as Bill Louie, who is the founder of Chinese American Goju Ryu Karate. Some of the climactic fights are quite laughable especially when two henchmen, while being quite good in martial arts, also resort to overdoing it with the kiai yells. For that reason alone, one can’t help but laugh and the overall production truly deserves cult classic status.

Death Promise boasts an interesting concept with a martial arts film that is helped by stars Charles Bonet and Speedy Leacock on a mission of revenge. Bill Louie and Thompson Kao Kang make the most of their screen time and the film has some decent fights in the vein of Kill or be Killed. A fun cult classic.