Martial Arts

Guyver 2 – Dark Hero (1994)

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The Japanese-born superhero is back in this far more superior sequel in which its host attempts to find where the units come from.

It has been a year since Sean Barker became the host of an alien-armored unit known as The Guyver. He has been using his powers to dispense vigilante justice incognito. However, he has been having nightmares that he cannot understand. When he learns of bear attacks at an archaeological dig, he is convinced that perhaps some of the attacks are coming from perhaps Zoanoids who escaped from Chronos, the company he has destroyed.

Upon seeing the dig site, he meets Cori Edwards, the daughter of the archaeologist in charge of the dig. Sean’s premonitions soon prove correct when he finds himself facing a Zoanoid as the Guyver. Atkins, an undercover agent, learns Sean’s secret and reveals to him that he had only destroyed the Los Angeles branch of Chronos, who are a worldwide business. Meanwhile, Crane, who works for Chronos, has learned about Sean’s secret as the Guyver. While Sean searches for answers once a spaceship has been unearthed, some major revelations are imminent and Sean will face his greatest challenge yet.

When American audiences were introduced to Yoshiki Takaya’s The Guyver in 1991 via a film starring Mark Hamill and Jack Armstrong, it was met with mostly mixed to negative reviews. While the film’s effects were a highlight, it was the action that proved to be a low point in the film. Three years later, Steve Wang, who co-directed the original film, goes solo for this sequel but this time around, he brings in a cast of mainly newcomers but knowing the first film’s big mistake, amps it up with the action.

David Hayter replaces Jack Armstrong as Sean Barker, the host of the Guyver. For a film debut, Hayter is not exactly a bad actor and brings a sense of emotion when he tries to discover the origins of the very unit he has merged with. This is just in addition of doing what the Guyver does best. Hayter would go on to become a well-known voice actor and screenwriter whose credits include X-Men, The Scorpion King, and even directed the underrated werewolf film Wolves.

Kathy Christopherson’s Cori is somewhat of a meshing of damsel-in-distress and a strong woman. While the character of Mizky Segawa appears in the film, it is relegated to more of a cameo and played by a different actress who thinks Sean is becoming delusional. The interaction between Sean and Mizky in this flashback becomes the catalyst for Sean’s quest. Bruno Giannotta plays the character of Crane as a very dangerous person whose look here and mannerisms has a reminiscence of veteran villain actor Michael Ironside. Christopher Michael proves himself to be a worthy ally as Atkins, an undercover agent who not only learns Sean’s secret identity but is willing to help him upon learning said secret as he has “tracked” the Guyver’s activity.

While the cast is mostly made up of newcomers so the acting isn’t exactly on an Oscar-type level, the real star of the film is the action. Knowing that the lackluster action helped make the original 1991 film somewhat of a mixed bag, Wang employed the services of the Alpha Stunts team to handle this film’s action scenes. The costumes in the film look lighter than its predecessor, this allowing more flexibility when it comes to executing martial arts action. Koichi Sakamoto truly adds a sci-fi element with the use of wirework, but the fight scenes here are simply stunning. Kudos goes to Stone Age Warriors actor Anthony Houk and Sakamoto themselves as they play the Guyver suit actors and perform some fantastic stunts with Sakamoto and fellow Alpha Stunts team founder Tatsuro Koike in the suit of Zoanoid Crane, who does the unthinkable, all leading to a fantastic fight-filled climax.

Guyver 2: Dark Hero is one of those sequel that truly outdoes the original film. The SFX are still great and even amps up some gore-like effects but the martial arts action is breathtaking. If you had reservations about the original film, then you will want to see this sequel for a heck of a ride.


New Line Cinema presents a Biomorphs Inc. production. Director: Steve Wang. Producer: Steve Wang. Writer: Nathan Long; based on the original characters created by Yoshiki Takaya. Cinematography: Michael G. Wojciechowski. Editing: Russ Kingston and Steve Wang.

Cast: David Hayter, Kathy Christopherson, Bruno Giannotta, Christopher Michael, Stuart Weiss, Billi Lee, Jim O’Donoghoe, J.D. Smith, Alisa Merline, Wes Deitrick, Veronica Reed, Stephen Oprychal.


High Kicks (1993)

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This film, made in the wake of the home video circuit, could be either an informercial for the predecessor of Tae Bo, an elongated Taster’s Choice commercial, or a women’s self-defense video. Actually, it turns out it somewhat melds all three.

Sandy Thomas is the owner of the High Kicks aerobics studio. A sign for a part-time employee brings in newcomer Sam Monroe, a sailor who has just come to town and is looking to find work. When Sandy hires him, he is overjoyed. However, for Sandy, things are about to spiral downwards when a gang of tough guys led by T.C. attempt to rob Sandy. When she refuses, she is assaulted by the goons.

When Sam discovers what has happened, he decides to help Sandy. He reveals to Sandy that he is not just a sailor, but a practitioner of martial arts. Alongside two of his friends, Jonas and Maurice, Sam begins to train Sandy in martial arts while helping her find each member of the gang that raped her and teaching them a lesson. In the midst of things, Sandy and Sam soon discover a way to combine Sandy’s aerobics and Sam’s martial arts, making it a hit at the studio. However, when the toughs plan to go round two with Sandy, will she finally have enough courage to stand up to the goons once and for all?

Written, produced, and directed by Ruta K. Aras, this would be the filmmaker’s only film and is truly a shot-on-video effort as in the 1990’s, everyone who knew martial arts were making films to capitalize on the home video market, in which the genre was one of its most successful at the time. However, the lesson here is just because one knows martial arts, doesn’t mean they will always make great films.

The film definitely will not win in the acting department. Virtually everyone in the film are first-timers and they range from a monotonous tone to at times, a bit of overacting. Tara Lee-Anne Roth makes a pretty convincing performance when thinking about the attack but in other scenes, it is as if she is pretty much told, “oh just react this way”. Dennis Swarthout, who actually made the U.S. Martial Arts Hall of Fame in 2007, also doesn’t have the greatest acting skills and has a look that combines surfer with the lead character of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. However, one has to give him credit because he sure can fight. However, one can’t help but laugh at their romantic scenes as it looks like one is watching a montage like commercial for Taster’s Choice coffee. Once Sandy and Sam meld the karate with aerobics, it soon turns into an informercial like ad for Karobics (as it is called in the end credits).

There are four martial arts choreographers in the film, which may sound a bit farfetched considering the fight scenes are more of a simplistic “wait to get hit” kind of riff. Swarthout, Kevin Knotts, Jonas Johannes Kuehne, and Dennis Reese were the choreographers and in a nod to Jean-Claude Van Damme, during a sparring scene, Knotts does a split and hits Kuehne in the groin a la Bloodsport. Roth gets in on some action and is doubled by martial arts champion and actress Michele “Mouse” Krasnoo, who also has a small role as one of the girls doing aerobics. One won’t spoil it, but the finale is predictable and done actually pretty decent. Otherwise, this would have been truly horrific in every way.

High Kicks is more for the hardcore martial arts film fan who feels as if they have to see a bad movie on occasion for laughs. Because that is what this is, despite a good final scene making it for the commercial-like quality of the film. Worth renting for laughs on a Satuday night with the guys, or have the gang at Mystery Science Theater 3000 bring this!


A Crystal Amber Productions film. Director: Ruta K. Aras. Producer: Ruta K. Aras. Writer: Ruta K. Aras. Cinematography: Lida Hadas. Editing: Curt La Furney.

Cast: Tara Lee-Anne Roth, Dennis Swarthout, Sandy Kay, Kevin Knotts, Anastasia Alexander, Jonas Kuehne, Louis Lombardi, Frank Medrano, Harry Yi, Raphael B. Said.

Courtesy of Bad Movie Night

A Tribute to Robert Tai (1953-2017)


Robert Tai in the 1998 film Trinity Goes East

The martial arts genre has lost a legend action designer.

Robert Tai, the Taiwanese martial artist who is known for his stylish action designs and working with the likes of action heroes such as The Venoms, Alexander Lo and John Liu, lost his battle with cancer last week at the age of 64.

Tai Chi-Hsien was born in 1953 to a military chief and his wife in Taiwan. Tai got his start when his parents sent him to the Fu Shing Opera School in Taipei. Some of his classmates included veteran kung fu divas Angela Mao and Judy Lee. Others included Peng Kang (one of the original Jackie Chan Stunt Team members), Chiang Sheng (The Venoms), Lee Yi-Min, and James Tien, all of whom have had successful careers in kung fu films.

Upon leaving the school, Tai know that he was meant to choreograph martial arts action. Admittedly, he did it for the money at first, working on films like New Fist of Fury with Jackie Chan. However, it was when Tai went to Shaw Brothers and began to work with the iconic Chang Cheh that he realized his true potential.

Tai would learn the rigors of filmmaking under Chang and worked as an assistant action director on Chinatown Kid, learning how to place the camera and grab the right shots. In an interview with longtime friend, filmmaker Toby Russell, Tai said The Brave Archer would be Tai’s first as sole action choreographer.

However, Tai would reach a pinnacle when he assisted friends Lu Feng and Leung Ting to choreograph the hit 1978 film The Five Venoms, which cast Taiwanese stars Lu, Chiang Sheng, Philip Kwok, and Sun Chien, along with Hong Kong-born Lo Meng. Tai would continue to work with the Venoms until he broke out of his own in the early 80’s and returned to his native Taiwan to continue making films.

While in Taiwan, Robert formed a friendship with taekwondo champion Alexander Lo Rei and the two began a fruitful collaboration. Tai made his directorial debut in 1980 with Devil Killer, which he also choreographed and played a bit part. His 1981 film Northern Kicks, Southern Fists, featured Tai as not only director and choreographer, but he also played the main villain of the piece.

Tai would continue to work with Lo on films like Shaolin vs. Ninja in 1983, Mafia vs. Ninja in 1984, and what is hailed as a dream project of sorts, the nine-hour epic Ninja: The Final Duel in 1986. Tai would also be responsible for debuting Robin Shou in 1989’s Death Cage with the late Joe Lewis, 1996’s Fists of Legend 2: Iron Bodyguards, and his final film as director, 1998’s Trinity Goes East.

Robert would make his final film appearances in front of the cameras as “Master Tai” in two films, Night Driver and Death List, with martial artist/filmmaker Ara Paiaya.

World Film Geek sends its condolences to the family of Robert Tai Chi-Hsien. As a final tribute, check out Robert as an abbot in Ninja: The Final Duel, where he showcases his action talents.

Rest in Peace, Robert Tai


College Kickboxers (1991)

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American B-martial arts films, generally, tend to somewhat have a lack of excellent fight choreography. There have been exceptions, like the No Retreat, No Surrender films to name a few. This underrated martial arts film is an exception as well, thanks in part to Hong Kong stuntman-actor Tang Tak-Wing, who gets his first lead role as well in this action film.

James Caulfield is the new kid at a local college. Somewhat arrogant, he ends up becoming roommates with Mark Brown. At first, the two cannot get along, but they soon learn they share a similar passion: martial arts. James holds black belts in various styles and Mark is a champion and studio instructor. The newfound friends also have a common enemy, The White Tigers. Led by the manic Craig Tanner, the Tigers are a bunch of racist martial artists who bully anyone who get in their way.

James makes money by working as a dishwasher as a local Chinese restaurant, where he always gets heckled by chef Wing. When Tanner and the Tigers viciously assault James one night, Wing comes to the rescue and James is stunned to learn that Wing himself is an expert in kung fu. When James hopes to get Wing to train him for an upcoming tournament, Wing tells James that “kung fu for money is no good”. James decides not to take part in the tournament and after a few days, Wing takes him in as a student. However, when Mark, who was ready to enter the tournament, is injured in a fight against the Tigers, James must choose between his promise to his teacher and his loyalty to his best friend, in which they can use the money to open a new karate school.

Many people may not remember this film, as it was released on home video in 1991 as Trained to Fight. Ken McLeod, who plays our hero James, does a good job as playing this arrogant martial artist who thinks he is better than anyone else. At first, he loses the respect of his roommate Mark, played by martial artist Mark Williams. Williams, who got his start in two films starring Jet Li, Dragon Fight and The Master, is an excellent martial artist like McLeod and their sparring scene is quite short but sweet. Soon, the two’s love for martial arts brings them close like brothers. James soon learns life lessons through his training with Wing.

The real highlight truly comes in the form of Tang Tak-Wing, a Hong Kong stuntman who shines here with both comic relief as Wing, but his martial arts are top notch. In his fight scene against the Tigers, he is just a delight to watch. He has the size of Eric Tsang, but can move very fast and is agile as well. In an very interesting scene, Tang does a nice kung fu form that is so intricate that when he finishes, the floor has the yin and yang embedded in the dirt.

The only flaw in the film comes in the form of lead villain Craig Tanner, played by Matthew Roy Cohen. He has this groggy voice, complete with long curly hair and at times, you just want to laugh at him. His biggest enforcer doesn’t come in until the end of the film, as played by an uncredited Jeff Langton, who fights against our hero in the finale.

The fight scenes, choreographed by Tang, are well shot and edited. Tang utilized his Hong Kong-style of film fighting, something he would do a year later, assisting in action choreography for Jackie Chan’s Police Story 3: Supercop. Williams has dealt with this brand before and he shows he still has what it takes. As for McLeod, this is his film debut and he would go on to become more of a supporting actor, his biggest role being the bully in the Billy Blanks-Kenn Scott film Showdown. McLeod shows here what he can do in terms of Hong Kong choreography and does a pretty good job of fighting here.

In the end, College Kickboxer is definitely an underrated B-movie. The character of Tanner may be an annoyance, but it is Tang Tak-Wing that helps boost the film and the appearances of Ken McLeod and Mark Williams helps as they are agile martial artists and pretty good when it comes to the fights.


Curb Esquire Films present a Starlight Film Productions film. Director: Eric Sherman. Producers: Teresa Woo and William Yuen. Writers: Teresa Woo and Roxanne Reaver. Cinematography: Jurg V. Walther. Editing: Brian Varaday.

Cast: Ken McLeod, Tang Tak-Wing, Mark Williams, Matthew Roy Cohen, Kendra Tucker, Roland Francisco, Michael O’Connell.


Stickfighter (1994)

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An ex-DEA agent seeks to avenge his partner’s murder in this throwback to the Cannon Films genre filled with exciting martial arts action courtesy of its lead star.

During a major bust, DEA agents John Lambert and Alex Cartegenas have nearly taken down everyone. However, in the midst of the takedown, John is forced dealer Arvo Riley and in retaliation, Arvo’s brother Dirk guns down Alex, who was protecting John. When John is berated by his superior Lt. Davis about what had transpired, Lambert decides to quit working for the DEA and even reminds Davis that he will not need a gun.

John is determined to avenge Alex’s death and take on the cartel once and for all. With help from Alex’s sister Luella, Lambert begins to investigate and finds himself and Luella targeted by the cartel. While Lambert consistently fights the cartel with the use of his martial arts skills as he is a former stickfighting champion, the two get help from a local bar owner while two local police officers seem to think Lambert may in fact be part of the cartel as well. Now on the run from both local police and the cartel, Lambert must do what it takes to stop the cartel and clear his name once and for all.

This action thriller is meant as a stepping stone for martial artist Kely McClung, who pulls off double duty in the film as both the lead star and martial arts choreographer. McClung got his start playing two roles including the eyepatch-wearing Super Ninja in American Ninja 4: The Annihilation and it was clear that Menahem Golan was impressed with McClung. Under Golan as producer, his lead role debut has the quality of an 80’s Cannon action film and is actually quite fun.

McClung here may have novice acting skills but actually pulls it off well in a lead role, especially when it comes to action. A truly experienced martial artist, McClung gets to bring his skills in kung fu and well, as the title indicates, stickfighting in his arsenal. The lead heavy in the film is played by the hulking Karl Johnson, who plays Dirk, who seeks revenge as he looks to go after John for the death of his brother, much like John wants to go after Dirk for the death of his partner and best friend. Johnson makes for a good villain, nearly matching McClung hit for hit even when they are using weapons against each other.

Alex Meneses, using the alias Paula Vargas, does quite well with the eye candy factor as Luella, Alex’s sister and love interest. She doesn’t worry about being the damsel in distress but proves to be a reliable ally to John when needed. Robert Pralgo and Darcy DeMoss are okay as LAPD officers Reves and Madsen, who have doubts about Lambert. Reves is more of an annoyance than an asset with Madsen kind of working both sides to see if Lambert is as reliable as it seems.

Stickfighter is an underrated American B-action film that is a stepping stone for Kely McClung, who would go on to have a prolific career as an actor, fight choreographer, and filmmaker in the indie film circuit. In this film, he proves himself as both a lead actor and fight choreographer with his proficient use of martial arts.


Pan Am Pictures presents an International Dynamic Pictures production. Director: B.J. Davis. Producer: Menahem Golan. Writers: Kely McClung (story and screenplay) and Rob Neighbors (screenplay). Cinematography: Mike Shea. Editing: Michael de Avila and Shannong Goldman.

Cast: Kely McClung, Alex Meneses, Karl Johnson, Jeff Weston, Scott Sullivan, Robert Pralgo, Darcy DeMoss, Roger Callard, Tony Davlerno.

This film is currently out of print but was available on home video.


Twin Dragon Encounter (1986)

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Martin and Michael McNamara, Canada’s “Twin Dragons”, made their debut with this pioneering Canadian martial arts action film.

Mic and Martin are twin brothers who run a martial arts school in Toronto. Deciding to take a much needed vacation, the duo invite their girlfriends Nancy and Tessa on a camping trip in a small island the brothers occasionally head to when they need a break. En route to take the road that will lead them to the island, they are besieged by some local truckers who are looking for trouble. After easily taking out the gangsters, the four head for Twin Island.

However, upon their arrival, they find themselves in the midst of a rival by the name of Jake, who has decided to take over the island as a training ground for his new mercenary army. Mic and Martin decide to ignore Jake and go on about their business. As Jake and his men decide to constantly run into the brothers, the mercenary leader decides to take drastic measures when he kidnaps Tessa and Nancy. When the brothers discover their girlfriends are missing, they decide to go into action and unleash a barrage of their martial arts skills against the mercenary gang.

Since opening their first school, aptly named Twin Dragons Kung Fu Club in their native Toronto, Michael and Martin McNamara had gained national attention in their homeland of Canada. The Irish-born brothers are identical twins and also skilled experts in martial arts. In the 80’s, during the boom of American martial arts films, the brothers took it upon themselves to make their first film.

It is clear that the brothers are clearly having fun with this film, even spurting out classic one-liners such as “Confucius says when fighting truckers, nail the suckers” after dispatching of the truckers. In addition, in the climax of the film, the brothers don garb that look like something you would expect on the level of future action sequel No Retreat, No Surrender II before looking like a pair of Rambos with moustaches.

The truckers fight scene is all slow motion and that wasn’t exactly necessary, but the rest of the fights make up for the film with again a group fight being shown in unnecessary slow motion. Plus, when you have the actor playing the villain known simply as “B. Bob”, who looks like he can pass for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles villain Rocksteady, then you know you’re going to be in for a cheesefest like no other. The film would produce a sequel entitled Dragon Hunt in 1990 and the brothers retired in 2012, having closed down their martial arts academy.

Twin Dragon Encounter is a definitely B-movie film that truly ranks with a MS3TK honor, with the distinction of casting Michael and Martin McNamara as themselves in an adventure that turns them into kung fu Rambos. If you can track this down, definitely check it out.


Manesco Films presents a Twin Dragon Productions Ltd. Film. Director: Paul Dunlop. Producers: Gary Hart and Michael McNamara. Writers: Gary Hart and Michael McNamara. Cinematography: Paul Dunlop. Editing: Glenda North and Darren Casual.

Cast: Michael McNamara, Martin McNamara, Carol Nawrocki, Monica McKenna, B.Bob

The film is available to purchase through the Twin Dragons website store but be aware it is Canadian Dollars.


Day of the Panther (1988)

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In the 1980’s, martial arts action films were popping up across Asia and the United States. In the mid-1980’s, Australian director Brian Trenchard-Smith, the man behind Jimmy Wang Yu’s The Man from Hong Kong (1975), made this Aussie martial arts action film that despite a standard plot features surprisingly well shot fight sequences.

Jason Blade is a member of the Order of the Panther, a mysterious martial arts clan led by William Anderson. Jason is an officer with the Hong Kong police along with William’s daughter Linda. Together, they plan to get evidence of a drug deal between the Triads and an Australian-based mobster. When Linda and Jason’s covers are blown, the deal is a bust and mob enforcer Baxter decides to go after Linda, not realizing Jason was there to assist her.

When Linda heads back to Perth to present evidence to the police, she is ambushed by thugs hired by Baxter and his boss, Damien Zukor (Michael Carman). When Jason learns of Linda’s death, he heads back to Perth and is offered to work with the police. Jason infiltrates himself into Zukor’s gang. However, Baxter becomes highly suspicious of Jason, who also informs William of his “gang activity” so he can seek revenge for Linda’s death. Together with Linda’s cousin Gemma, Jason hatches a plan to get revenge for Linda and stop Zukor and Baxter once and for all.

With the 1980’s as one of the greatest decades to churn out martial arts movies, it becomes quite surprisingly that aside from the U.S.A. and Asia, Australia would churn out this action film. With a story by David Groom and Peter West (the latter wrote the screenplay), the helmer is well-known Aussie director Brian Trechard-Smith. This is the man behind Jimmy Wang Yu’s The Man from Hong Kong (1975) and later, the film debut of Nicole Kidman, BMX Bandits (1983). Trechard-Smith does a great job helming a standardized action film that ends up looking quite good. With his experience, it is clear why that he can be considered perhaps the “Robert Clouse of Australia”.

In the lead role of Jason Blade is martial arts expert Edward John Staszak. Staszak has exactly what is needed for a martial arts action hero: rugged looks and great skills in the fight department. Staszak displays some nice spin kicks and a near picture perfect pushing side kick. He also is very fast with his hands. His crisp fast punches make him look like he can move like fellow Aussie martial artist Richard Norton. One can only wonder what it would have been if Staszak and Norton were to join forces for a film together.

Playing the villain Baxter is martial artist Jim Richards. Judging from the styles used, Richards perhaps may have studied with Staszak because despite his somewhat bulk size, he seems to move pretty fast as well. He has some decent fights against John Stanton (who plays Jason’s teacher) and then the finale against Staszak.

So what makes this not exactly above average? Well, that falls under the department of the character of Gemma, played by Paris Jefferson. Practically a spitting image of killed off character Linda but with dark hair, a scene in the film seems out of nowhere. During his workout, Jason is entertained when Gemma out of nowhere busts into a dance number. Where this came from nobody knows, but it will make one say, “What?”

In addition to playing hero and villain, both Stazak and Richards also served as the film’s fight choreographers, with help from stunt coordinators Guy Norris and Rocky McDonald. Stazak and Richards truly work well together and individually. In her two brief fight scenes before being killed off, Linda Megier looks quite impressive with her spin kicks and would go on to have a successful career as a stuntwoman. With her looks and skills, she could have actually had a career as perhaps a top fighting diva on-screen like fellow Aussie and karate champ turned actress Kim-Maree Penn.
Strike of the Panther, which was shot back-to-back with this film. However, that would be his final film as well. Meanwhile, Richards would also return in the sequel and work as a stuntman in films like Street Fighter (1994) and an actor in No Escape (1994) opposite Ray Liotta as an executioner before becoming a filmmaker in his own right with Amongst Dead Men in 2002.

For some good 80’s-style action, Day of the Panther is quite a surprising film. While the plot is standard and has some unnecessary dancing going on, the pluses include the well-shot fight scenes and the mysterious action hero that is Edward John Staszak. In other words, the film is definitely a guilty pleasure.


The Mandemar Group presents in association with TVM Studios and Virgo Films a Danetan Pty. Ltd. Production. Director: Brian Trenchard-Smith. Producer: Damien Parer. Writers: Peter West (story/screenplay) and David Groom (story). Cinematography: Simon Akkerman. Editing: Kerry Regan and David Jaeger.

Cast: Edward John Staszak, John Stanton, Jim Richards, Michael Carman, Zale Daniel, Mathew Quatermaine, Paris Jefferson, Linda Megier.



Chasing the Dragon (2005)


2005, Z Productions/American Hwang Fei Hung

Dr. Zee Lo
Dr. Zee Lo
Dr. Zee Lo
Jesse Collins
Richard Haymie

Dr. Zee Lo (Himself)
Lacee Kine (Michelle)
Arleen Ma (Monica)
Stuart Wong (Doc)
Eric Reed (Don Corleon)
John Truong (Jet Chan)
Patrick Ly (Jackie Li)
Lisa Su (Mrs. Kong)
Shu Ying Ma (Grandma Kong)
Tina Ma (Little Nancy)
Gary C. Kong (Jocky)
Tony Chan (Rocky)
Duane Schrimar (Mr. Jeremy)
Mark Silverman (Marty)
Carl Heinz Teuber (Dr. Hansaker)

Martial artist and indie filmmaker Dr. Zee Lo stars in this autobiographical film about his dream of becoming a movie star while keeping his day job as a doctor.

Dr. Zee Lo is the grand-disciple of Bruce Lee, having learned the art of Jeet Kune Do from Lee’s real-life student Ted Wong. Lo is a doctor by day, but he has a dream and that dream is to follow in his grandmaster’s footsteps and burst into the world of martial arts films. After failing to get a role in an upcoming martial arts film due to the lead star’s disapproval during the audition, Lo decides to write a script in which he melds his love of both martial arts and medicine.

However, Lo soon learns that getting a movie made is not going to be as easy as it seems. He soon becomes obsessed with getting his movie made that it affects his relationship with his girlfriend Michelle and also affects his other job of being a martial arts teacher. However, when he begins to help cute the grandmother of a local immigrant family, Lo realizes that patience is truly a virtue and he can still make his dream come true while keeping his love for medicine and teaching still intact. With his patients and self-financing, Lo finally makes his dream film, Martial Medicine Man come true.

Many are not familiar with Dr. Zee Lo and his films unless you are truly a diehard fan of martial arts films that you would have to search for the rare and independent. While we have covered Martial Medicine Man on this site, this autobiographical film melds Dr. Zee Lo’s story with that of something you would expect in a Bruceploitation film. This includes a fight where Lo is challenged by a long haired karateka, played by co-fight choreographer Eric Reed.

While Lo this time around doesn’t need to emulate Bruce Lee, he does pay homage quite a bit. In a pretty good dramatic scene, Lo actually travels to Seattle and visits the graves of Bruce and Brandon Lee. During his audition for a martial arts movie, Lo emulates his hero doing actions seen in films like Way of the Dragon and Marlowe. What’s great here is that Lo not only performs these actions to pay homage to Lee, we do get to take a look at the other side of his life.

Lo is also a doctor and martial arts teacher and we get to see the real side of that. For an autobiopic, this actually works quite well and shows us that Lo is not just all about being Bruce Lee or wanting to follow in those footsteps. Of course, he shows his impatience and how it affects his relationship with his girlfriend in the first half of the film. However, he realizes that with the right timing, he can make his dream come true and succeeds. The viewer is treated to footage of the making of the very film he got off the ground, Martial Medicine Man and even more the better, the film ends with the premiere of the film.

Chasing the Dragon is actually a pretty decent indie autobiographical film about Dr. Zee Lo and his dream of being a martial arts action star while keeping his love for both medicine and teaching. While the fight scenes are what to expect in this genre of film, this is not an action film, but a film about one man’s successful dream.


This title is available to buy via Dr. Zee Lo’s Reel Asian Films website.


American Kickboxer 2 (1993)

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1993, Davian International

Jeno Hodi
David Hunt
Jeno Hodi
Greg Lewis
Paul Wolansky
Blain Brown
Lawrence A. Maddox
Tim Spring
Paul Wolansky

Dale “Apollo” Cook (Mike Clark)
Evan Lurie (David)
Kathy Shower (Lillian Hansen)
David Graf (Howard Hansen)
Ted Markland (Xavier)
Jeffrey R. Iorio (Hammer)
Jessica Springal (Susie)
Greg Lewis (Uncle Francis)
Jeno Hodi (Attila)

Two rivals must unite to rescue a kidnapped girl in this in-name “sequel” to the 1991 kickboxing film.

Lillian Hansen married Howard, the CEO of her father’s company, after the birth of her seven-year daughter Susie. However, she is still an heir apparent to the fortune. Xavier, a top criminal, decides to kidnap Susie for a ransom of one million dollars. When he succeeds in the kidnapping, Lillian attempts to get the money from her uncle Francis, who is the current relative who has access to the funds. However, when he decides to think about helping Lillian out, Lillian decides to go another route.

She hires her ex-husband Mike Clark, a volatile police officer who likes to do things his way without any help. However, when Howard is not too thrilled about Lillian calling Mike due to their destroyed marriage, Lillian does find a possible alternate. David, a local martial arts teacher, who had an affair with Lillian while her marriage with Mike was failing, is hired by Lillian. However, Mike has gotten the call as well as now, these two rivals have no other choice but to join forces for the sake of Susie’s life, even if one of them is actually the father of the girl.

The first time this film was reviewed, it was given as very bad and terrible. However, the time came to give this film a second chance and the major issue is that the film is being seen as a sequel to a 1991 kickboxing film called American Kickboxer. Under a different title, this would have better sense, and who knows why the Filipino-based Davian International got the rights to the name to make this a sequel but overall, it’s not a completely bad B-movie that takes the classic “rivals must team up” gig all for the sake of a “mission”.

Kickboxing legend Dale “Apollo” Cook, who graces the film’s poster, plays the very volatile Mike, a cop who is all about action and lets his fists do the talking. His introductory scene has him taking on a group of thugs using some of his martial arts skills. However, when it comes to martial arts, the film’s true star is Evan Lurie, who gets his biggest role to date as David, a playboy martial arts teacher. Their connection is Lillian, played by former Playmate turned B-movie star Kathy Shower. Shower, a staple for erotic thriller films, gets her most mainstream role yet as the troubled former wife of Mike and former lover of David, who is conflicted not only with her daughter being kidnapped, but struggles with who is in fact the father of the girl.

Cook and Lurie actually are quite an interesting duo as when they are not fighting and shooting at the bad guys, they are fighting each other. Their first meeting in the film shows a volatile Cook and a defensive Lurie at each other’s throats when a bystander arrives and threatens to call the cops. Cook gets the upper hand in most of the scuffles between the two but they either end it quick or find themselves being threatened by other goons. One of the four confrontations is forced as they are forced to entertain a crowd in an abandoned warehouse.

Police Academy’s Tackleberry, the late David Graf, plays Howard as someone who is more business-minded and not the action nut his iconic character is, yet he makes the most of his role in the film. Ted Markland is truly a mastermind as Xavier while he has the likes of Jeffrey Iorio, Ned Hourani, and Kris Aguilar as some of his goons. The final act shows Lurie doing all of the fighting while Cook protects Shower and her daughter by shooting. This allows Lurie to get the spotlight and he definitely has the skills to boot.

Despite the title, American Kickboxer 2 should not be seen as a sequel as the 1993 Cannon FilmTo the Death is the real sequel. However, this is actually a decent B-movie buddy film that could have a chance to have given Dale Cook a better chance to show his skills while Evan Lurie does get to show his skills. Overall, the film is a middle of the road B-action film.




Death Force (1978)

deathforce Philippines-iconusa-icon

1978, Cosa Nueva

Cirio H. Santiago
Robert E. Waters
Cirio H. Santiago (story)
Robert E. Waters (story)
Howard R. Cohen (screenplay)
Ricardo Remias
Gervacio Santos
Robert E. Waters

James Iglehart (Doug Russell)
Carmen Argenziano (Morelli)
Leon Isaac Kennedy (McGee)
Vic Diaz (Crime Boss)
Joe Mari Avellana (Japanese Soldier)
Joonee Gamboa (Japanese Soldier)
Jayne Kennedy (Karen Russell)

The tagline for this action film involves former couple Leon Isaac Kennedy and Jayne Kennedy in key roles. However, the promotion is a bit misleading.

Doug Russell is a former Vietnam veteran who goes to the Philippines with two of his friends from his war days, Morelli and McGee. They steal a gold cache for a local crime lord, who pays the trio nicely for their effort before they head back home. Morelli plans to rise up in the underworld upon returning to Los Angeles and wants McGee to join him. However, to do so, they betray Russell by stabbing him, slashing his throat and sending him overboard.

Russell is washed up ashore on an island where he is rescued by two Japanese soldiers who have been living there since World War II. They nurse him back to health and teach him both karate and the ways of bushido. As he trains, back in L.A., Morelli and McGee have made their way to become the top underworld bosses. McGee has eyes for Karen, Russell’s wife and closes in on her. What will happen when Russell makes his way back to Los Angeles and goes to both find his family and avenge his betrayal?

This film was re-released in 1982 as Fighting Mad to capitalize on the success of former couple Leon Isaac and Jayne Kennedy. Leon Isaac had become well-known in 1979 for his role of “Too Sweet” Gordon in Jamaa Fanaka’s Penitentiary films while Jayne Kennedy had a successful spread in Playboy magazine. However, while they play very pivotal roles in the film, Leon Isaac Kennedy is not the actual star of the film yet he does play a charismatic scumbag of a villain while Jayne plays the typical damsel in distress.

The film’s real star is James Iglehart, who starred in the 1974 Filipino-made action film Bamboo Gods and Iron Men. Iglehart does quite well in this film. Many will see him as a Blaxploitation action star because he does fit the mold. While the first half of the film sees him as someone who just wants to get the job done so he can go home to his family, the second half turns him into a very angry man who while caring for his family, also wants revenge on his former war brothers. Bloodfist star Joe Mari Avellana is great as Russell’s martial arts teacher while Joonie Gamboa brings a little comic relief as the other soldier, who constantly bickers with Avellana as if they were still in the War. As the scheming Morelli, Carmen Argenziano does quite well yet at the same time, one is just waiting for him to get his.

Now, the surprising factor comes in the form of the film’s action. Normally, with a mix of 1970’s Blaxploitation and Filipino action, one would expect a slow pace in the fight scenes. However, in this film, it is the opposite. The action scenes are very fast-paced and nicely edited. The first training scene where Avellana uses a bamboo kendo stick against Iglehart is maginificent for its era. This is just a tip of the iceberg as while some of the stunt guys don’t seem up to par with Iglehart, a standout scene takes place in a martial arts school. The master of the dojo is quite a martial artist and shows a nice array of hand work and some decent kicks and Iglehart himself isn’t bad in the fight department, showcasing moves that are reminiscent of Fred Williamson. When Iglehart dispenses “samurai justice” on the bad guys as well, it is apparent that Iglehart did his training. While the stunt coordinator is uncredited, one can guess that possibly someone like Fred Esplana or Ronald Asinas could have done the stunt coordination. Whoever it was, kudos for making this a very watchable action film.

A bit of quick trivia: The Russells’ son is played by current TV actor James Monroe Iglehart, the son of our hero James Iglehart himself, making his film debut.

Death Force is an underrated mix of Blaxploitation and Filipino action thriller. James Iglehart makes for a bankable action hero of that era while future “Too Sweet” himself, Leon Isaac Kennedy, does well as the charismatic villain of the piece. Definitely worth a rental and for hardcore cult film fans, a worthy purchase.