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.


Shaolin Temple Strikes Back (1981)

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The talented Chen Shan and Mark Long headline this pretty decent film from director Joseph Kuo.

When the Manchus plot to take over China, a princess is en route to safety with entrusted military officer General Kong and young officer Lin Tsai-Shin. However, they are ambushed by Manchu general Long Yi, who proceeds to nearly wipe out the entire envoy. The only ones who manage to escape are the Princess and Tsai-Shin. The Princess decides that the only safe place to go at this point is the Shaolin Temple.

At the Shaolin Temple, Abbot Pure Heart welcomes the duo after hearing of their situation. The Princess makes a fateful decision. While hiding out, Tsai-Shin should become a student and train in Shaolin kung fu. At first hesitant, he eventually agrees and becomes Sze-Lin. Sze-Lin soon learns that the training at Shaolin is very different from that of his former martial arts training.

Meanwhile, Long-Yi is setting up to find a way to kidnap the Princess. In a shocking twist, one of the monks at Shaolin actually belonged to Long-Yi’s gang. When he learns that Long-Yi now wants the Princess dead after kidnapping her, he has a change of heart and decides to join the monks in what will culminate into a showdown between the Shaolin Temple and the Manchu Army.

There have been loads of films that involve the Shaolin Temple and their adversaries. Some of the more famous films include Men from the Monastery, Shaolin Temple, and most recently, Shaolin. However, one can’t help but respect filmmaker Joseph Kuo. He has had the knack for showcasing some amazing talent in his films, from Carter Wong to Hwang Jung-Lee.

Here, Kuo once again tackles the Shaolin Temple as the basis for his film. This time, it is a young Ming imperial guard who becomes a new monk and uses his newfound skills to take on the Manchu army, led by the very talented Chen Shan. Chen is truly one of the most underrated kickers in martial arts cinema. Sporting a shaved head with ponytail and fake moustache, Chen pulls off a great performance as the lead villain while Kuo favorite Mark Long takes the reign as part of the heroes as a drunken monk who is revealed to be an old ally of Chen’s, but retaliates for the heroes when he learns that Chen wants the princess dead, giving Long a conscience.

While Chen and Long are given the top billing, it is Lung Siu-Fei, as imperial guard turned monk Sze-Lin who is actually the central character. While from the beginning, the future Sze-Lin does have some martial arts skills, perhaps the princess felt it will not be enough and thus, have him train at the Temple as a new monk to master more to take on the Army. Siu-Fei’s first scenes with Long provide comic relief but then things get serious when Long takes Sze-Lin as a student.

Max Lee, a.k.a. See Fu Chai, takes the reigns as action choreographer. Lee and his stunt team collaborated well, showcasing some amazing Shaolin skills with a nice training scene involving monks using various weapons. In Shaolin Temple fashion, the film ends with a huge battle between the Shaolin monks and the Manchu army. Long, Chen, and Lung truly stand out in this elaborate sequence as there are bound to be many casualties. However, the only disappointment comes towards the tail end of the final battle sequence. As one can only hope one thing is about to happen, it throws a curveball and not exactly a good one at that.

Despite this minimal flaw, Shaolin Temple Strikes Back is actually a pretty good Joseph Kuo film. Kuo knows his talented cast and utilizes their skills in some elaborate battles, led by a great stunt team.


A Kam Production Studios Film. Director: Joseph Kuo. Producer: Joseph Kuo. Writer: Joseph Kuo. Cinematography: Hui Gam-Tong. Editing: Wong Choi-Hing and Chiang Huang-Hsiung.

Cast: Chen Shan, Mark Long, Chiang Nan, Cliff Ching, Chang Chi-Ping, Cheung Yee-Kwai, Lung Siu-Fei, Ga Hoi, Wong Goon-Hung, Suen Kwok-Ming, Ling Sin.

7-Star Grand Mantis (1983)

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1983, Filmark International

Kim Seon-Gyeong
Kim In-Dong
Kim Se-Ho
Yang Yeong-Gil
Hyeon Song-Chun
Vincent Leung

Benny Tsui (Tsui Kei)
Eagle Han (White Cane Beggar)
Song Jeong-A (The Water Seller)
Jang Cheol (Chow Chang)
Kwon Sung-Young (Chan)
Nam Po-Dung (Cook)
Lee Hee-Sung (Fatty)
Kang Myeong-Ja (Chan’s Mistress)

This Korean kung fu comedy is more comedy than kung fu and despite some good kung fu sequences, it is more lacking due to a hero who tends to be more goofball than heroic.

Chow Chang is an evil warlord who has preyed upon villages but only has had one adversary able to stop him: the White Cane Beggar. During a competition, Tsui Kei finds himself in trouble gathering pigs to get the prize money from local troublemaker Fatty. However, under the advice of a mysterious vagrant, Tsui Kei eventually gets the money but instead of making his promise to split the money, he runs off with the money only to be beaten up by Fatty and his thugs until the vagrant, who is the White Cane Beggar, helps.

Tsui Kei and the White Cane Beggar bond but get in trouble with Fatty’s boss Chan, who sends his men to embarrass the duo. Along the way, they run into a local water seller who makes them a deal to help her sell water. The two agree but when Chan attempts to woo the water seller, Tsui Kei’s interference costs him. He soon learns that the water seller was once attacked by Chan and his boss, the deadly Chow Chang. The White Cane Beggar also learns the news and decides to train the two in the “seven-star grand mantis” as well as open a local restaurant which becomes more successful than the one run by Chan’s mistress. When Chow Chang returns to town, chaos is likely to occur.

Originally a South Korean martial arts comedy called The Gay Woman from Shandong (revolving around Song Jeong-A’s character), Hong Kong’s Filmark International would get the film, retitle it as 7-Star Grand Mantis and give their own credits. Of course, the film has no titular kung fu art but relies more of the art of taekwondo with some impressive kicking at times. However, the issue with the film is that it is more comedy than kung fu and the action is a mixed bag that at one point goes on the ridiculous level.

Benny Tsui, who is known in his native Korea as Seo Beyong-Heon, attempts to look like a Jackie Chan like figure. However, while he has the martial arts skills to match, the film doesn’t really give him a chance to show his skills as much as one would hope. Instead, he constantly gets beaten up and resorts to unbelievable tactics to stop the main villain of the film. Veteran Eagle Han does quite well as the mentor to Tsui’s mischievous student, unleashing his skills at the most opportune times. Despite a bit of comic relief, when Han fights, then he really delivers as does Kwon Sung-Young as Chow Chang’s right hand man Chan, who has some impressive kicking skills of his own as seen in the film’s opening credit sequence and subsequent fight scenes.

7-Star Grand Mantis could have been quite the kung fu comedy but with a hero who is more of a buffoon than able-bodied fighter (which is not his fault) and a finale that is borderline ridiculous, this should be seen just for curiosity purposes. But don’t expect anything spectacular.