Also known as: The 7 Brothers Meet Dracula (US poster title), The Last Warning (UK alternative title) Release Date: July 11th, 1974 (Hong Kong) Directed by: Roy Ward Baker, Chang Cheh Written by: Don Houghton Music by: James Bernard Cast: Peter Cushing, David Chiang, Julie Ege, Robin Stewart, John Forbes-Robertson
“I need your mortal coil. I need the form of your miserable carcass. I need your vile image. I need to walk this Earth again, free from these walls, free from this mausoleum. I will return to your temple, in your image Kah. I will recall the Seven Golden Vampires, as my own host. Tools of my vengeance on mankind. I will take on your appearance, your image.” – Dracula
I saw this years ago and while I mostly liked it, I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did, revisiting it now.
This film was a co-production between the UK’s Hammer Films, known for their iconic gothic horror pictures, and Hong Kong’s Shaw Brothers studio, the masters of classic kung fu flicks.
Somehow, this unusual movie came together like a perfect marriage between the two studios’ very different styles and the end result was something really entertaining, especially for fans of both companies.
I’m not surprised that Christopher Lee didn’t come back to play Dracula once again but I still wish he had, as it would’ve added something extra to the movie. But at least Peter Cushing returned to play another version of the Van Helsing character. I do like the actor that did play the traditional Dracula, however, even if the role was rather limited.
That intro between Dracula and Kah, the Chinese baddie that became his mortal host, was really damn enjoyable: the perfect kind of old school cheese.
Once the story gets to China, it’s really energetic and cool. I love the tone of the film, the martial arts action and the ideas explored in this were really neat and fresh.
I especially love how vivid and almost giallo-esque some of the lighting was in the more surreal horror scenes. However, at times, the movie also looks like what one would expect from a traditional Shaw Brothers kung fu movie.
There’s just a lot of awesome stuff in this film and if you just sit back and enjoy the show, it’s a lot of fun and a great attempt at trying to bring two very different things together in a well-crafted package.
Rating: 6.5/10 Pairs well with: other Hammer Dracula films, as well as other Shaw Brothers kung fu pictures.
Also known as: Mad Monkey (Germany) Release Date: October 5th, 1979 (Hong Kong) Directed by: Lau Kar-leung Written by: Ni Kuang Music by: Eddie Wang Cast: Hsiao Ho, Lau Kar-leung, Lo Lieh, Kara Hui, Ching Chu
Shaw Brothers, 116 Minutes
This was one of my favorite kung fu movies that used to pop up on cable when I was a kid. I’d watch it every time I came across it and my cousins and I would often times try to replicate what we saw in the film.
It’s also one of the pictures that led to us actually taking up martial arts. We wanted to be as cool as the heroes in this film, as well as the heroes in other innovative martial arts flicks like it. Then as the ’80s rolled on, we got more into ninja shit but it all really started with the clever and amusing Shaw Brothers films like this gem.
Watching it now, it all sort of came back to me. Honestly, I barely remembered the movie and a lot of the kung fu pictures of that era sort of blended together in my head. But certain scenes and sequences just triggered that nostalgia bug in my brain.
For what this is, it has aged really well and the film has this cool, youthful energy about it that makes it a lot of fun to watch, even as an adult with back problems that can’t do 1/10th of the martial arts that he thought he could do well as a kid.
As much as I enjoy Lo Lieh’s work, I actually forgot he was in this. It was cool seeing him get to ham it up while also being a total badass.
This is one of those kung fu classics that is really the perfect type of late ’70s/early ’80s drive-in action movie. It’s got just about everything you’d want in a Shaw Brothers film and just a wee bit more.
Rating: 7.75/10 Pairs well with: other Shaw Brothers kung fu flicks.
Also known as: Fists of the White Lotus (alternative title) Release Date: January 1st, 1980 (Hong Kong) Directed by: Lo Lieh Written by: Haung Tien Music by: Eddie Wang Cast: Lo Lieh, Gordon Liu, Kara Hui, Johnny Wang, Hsiao Ho
Shaw Brothers, 95 Minutes
“Why worry. He’s not my match at all. To come after us is like seeking death.” – Pai Mei
It’s been awhile since I’ve watched a movie with the Pai Mei character in it. While it may be surprising to some, he is not a Quentin Tarantino creation and has in fact been the villain in several Hong Kong kung fu movies over the years. He’s also based on a legendary historical figure, also referred to as Bak Mei.
Clan of the White Lotus is a pretty cool film that actually features Pai Mei quite a lot. The displays of his skill and power in this are really cool and creative and you get to see him fight a lot, which is always badass.
That being said, the fight choreography in this film is stellar and impressive, even for kung-fucianados. I love all the big battles between Pai Mei and the hero but all the other core characters pull their weight. I especially liked the girl in this, Kara Hui. Even her early training sequence was excellent.
A unique thing about this film is that it exists as both a sequel and sort of remake of the 1977 film, Executioners From Shaolin. The films feature the same main players and the Pai Mei character. Some may find it interesting that Gordon Liu, who later played Pai Mei in Tarantino’s Kill Bill films, plays the hero that must conquer him in this one.
Liu’s hero character gets his ass kicked early on by Pai Mei but then he studies the “embroidery technique” from Kara Hui’s character, which gives him the edge in the final battle. Essentially, this technique works like the antithesis to acupuncture. Here, instead of using needles to heal the body, Liu’s carefully placed needles break down Pai Mei to where he can be defeated. It’s an interesting and neat concept even if it’s a bit bonkers.
This is a fast paced, energetic and enjoyable kung fu flick. I can’t call it a classic of the genre but for fans of Tarantino that like to look at some of the film’s that have inspired his work, this is worth checking out.
Rating: 6.75/10 Pairs well with: other Shaw Brothers kung fu films of the ’70s and ’80s, especially those featuring the Pai Mei character.
Also known as: Goliathon (alternative title) Release Date: August 11th, 1977 (Hong Kong) Directed by: Ho Meng-hua Written by: Kuang Ni Music by: Frankie Chan Cast: Danny Lee, Evelyne Kraft, Hsiao Yao, Ku Feng, Lin Wei-tu
Shaw Brothers, Shochiku, 90 Minutes
What a delightfully bonkers, energetic and fun movie!
For a Hong Kong ripoff of King Kong, this is so fucking enjoyable and it honestly comes across more like a Toho styled kaiju flick, especially their two King Kong ones from the ’60s.
The overall plot is about the same as King Kong, however, the pretty girl in this film has lived on the island with the giant gorilla for most of her life already. When she was a small child an aircraft crashed on the island and she was the only survivor. The gorilla found her, took a liking to her and raised her into a Jungle goddess. Basically, she’s like Tarzan but a woman… and raised by one very large ape.
Anyway, some rich doucher ends up taking the giant gorilla back to Hong Kong to turn him into a carnival act. But once the doucher attempts to rape the girl, the gorilla breaks free and starts trashing the city.
There is also a male human hero in this, played by Danny Lee. He’s a cool and likable guy that falls in love with the girl while also trying to save her from the danger the government brings down on her gorilla father figure.
While Shaw Brothers was mostly known for their martial arts movies, they really did the kaiju genre well and honestly, I wish that there were more of these. Hell, Roger Ebert gave this film three out of four stars and referred to it as his “favorite Hong Kong monster film”.
I was impressed by the effects of the film and the miniatures especially looked good. If I’m being honest, the craftsmanship and skill was pretty close to Eiji Tsuburaya’s level when he was making magic in those Toho Godzilla movies.
Ultimately, this is a picture that is much better than I could have hoped for. While I do like a lot of non-Japanese kaiju flicks, this is certainly one of the better ones and it should have spawned a Hong Kong era in giant monster movies.
Rating: 7.5/10 Pairs well with: other kaiju pictures from outside of Japan, as well as the King Kong films, especially the 1976 remake and the Toho ones.
Also known as: El kárate, el Colt y el impostor (original Spanish title), The Stranger and the Gunfighter (alternate), Dakota (French video title) Release Date: 1974 (Spain) Directed by: Antonio Margheriti (credited as Anthony Dawson) Written by: Giovanni Simonelli, Antonio Margheriti, Barth Jules Sussman Music by: Carlo Savina Cast: Lee Van Cleef, Lo Lieh, Patty Shepard, Femi Benussi
The king of the spaghetti westerns that isn’t Clint Eastwood teams up with the king of kung fu movies that isn’t Bruce Lee. Sure, that sounds like a diss but I am a pretty big fan of Lee Van Cleef and Lo Lieh. Both men owned the 1970s in their own way, so seeing them come together is pretty interesting.
Sadly though, their talents and their team-up were wasted in this picture, which just doesn’t live up to whatever hype my mind might have had in the ’70s when this actually went down.
The film’s premise is pretty interesting though. Ho Chiang (Lo Lieh) journeys to America from China in search of his uncle’s fortune. He discovers that his uncle is dead and the only man that knows where his body is, is the one accused of murdering him, an Old West gunslinger named Dakota (Lee Van Cleef). Once the uncle’s body is found, the pair find clues that point to the fortune. This then becomes a real spaghetti western treasure hunting movie with kung fu flair. The reluctant pair must track down the uncle’s mistresses, each of whom have a section of the treasure map tattooed on their bums. Ultimately, the two men become friends and kick a lot of ass.
The problem with the movie is that the execution is poor and really kind of lazy. Van Cleef and Lieh are both solid but the script just isn’t there and everything is fairly pedestrian. This is a film that is an example of wasted potential. But then again, a studio specializing in spaghetti westerns didn’t have much experience creating kung fu pictures just as Shaw Brothers, even with their input on kung fu filmmaking, didn’t know how to make westerns. And really, I’m not sure how much input Shaw Brothers actually had, it seems pretty minuscule.
Still, if you like both of these men, this is worth checking out. It’s not a total waste but it won’t get you pumped up either.
Also known as: Hong Xi Guan (original Mandarin title), The Executioners of Death (original US dubbed version), Shaolin Executioners (worldwide English video title) Release Date: February 16th, 1977 (Hong Kong) Directed by: Lau Kar-leung Written by: Kuang Ni Music by: Yung-yu Chen Cast: Chen Kuan-tai, Li-Li Li, Wong Yue, Lo Lieh, Gordon Liu
Shaw Brothers Studio, 98 Minutes
“Tiger style!” – Pai Mei
For fans of the Kill Bill films, this is a picture that has some relevance to those movies. First of all, it features Pai Mei as the story’s main villain. He was the old Chinese kung fu master that trained the Bride in Kill Bill: Volume 2. Also, Quentin Tarantino used one of the main actors from this film in his Kill Bill films: Gordon Liu. Liu actually plays Pai Mei in Kill Bill: Volume 2 and he also played Johnny Mo in Kill Bill: Volume 1.
This film was also very influential on the rap group Wu-Tang Clan, as they sampled Pai Mei’s line “Tiger style!” on their records and used a lot of the concepts and ideas from this film in their lyrics and their style.
Apart from the film’s pop culture influence, it is a pretty stellar kung fu epic. It is a historical drama with comedy elements sprinkled in to keep things mostly pretty light, even if we do get to witness some serious violence from time to time.
Directed by Lau Kar-leung, a guy who made several great pictures, Executioners From Shaolin has a great look with solid performances and enjoyable fight choreography. Pai Mei’s killer combo move is pretty cool and terrifying, after seeing what it can do in the incredibly stylized intro to the film during the credits sequence.
Kar-leung had a unique style that set him apart from other Hong Kong action directors. His intro scene was done in a style that became a signature of the director. I’ve actually posted that below, as opposed to a trailer like I usually do.
This film also stars Lo Lieh in one of my favorite roles he’s played. He was one of Hong Kong’s busiest actors and anything with him in it always makes a picture feel more legitimate than something similar that he’s not a part of.
A lot of kung fu movies all sort of just blend together but this is one that really has its own identity and stands tall. I love this movie and always have. When I rented it as a kid, it became one of those films I’d have to rent again and again, almost monthly.
The copies of this film that exist now are really good too. It is streaming for free for Prime members on Amazon Video and I have never seen this movie look so clean, clear and pristine.
Executioners From Shaolin is a hell of a lot of fun. If you are a fan of old school kung fu cinema, you really need to check this one out if you haven’t yet. It is one of many Pai Mei movies but I love the iconic character in this, probably above the other films.
Release Date: June 25th, 1982 Directed by: Ridley Scott Written by: Hampton Fancher, David Peoples Based on:Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick Music by: Vangelis Cast: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, M. Emmet Walsh, Daryl Hannah, William Sanderson, Brion James, Joe Turkel, Joanna Cassidy, James Hong
The Ladd Company, Shaw Brothers, Blade Runner Partnership, Warner Bros., 113 Minutes (original workprint), 116 Minutes (original US theatrical), 117 Minutes (international theatrical), 114 Minutes (US television broadcast), 116 Minutes (The Director’s Cut), 117 Minutes (The Final Cut)
“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time… like tears in rain… Time to die.” – Roy Batty
Blade Runner is a classic but I think my appreciation of it is different than that of most. While I see a lot of weaknesses and flaws with it, which I’ll explain, the pros most certainly outweigh the cons by a tremendous amount.
For me, Blade Runner is an incredibly slow paced film. Not a lot really happens in it. You quickly understand the setup and the hunt that is taking place, as well as the fact that the main character, Deckard, is falling in love with the very thing he is hunting. There are a lot of layers here that could be explored in more depth but everything is just sort of presented on the surface and not explored beyond a sort of subtle emotional response to the proceedings. You never really know what Deckard is thinking but the film also works in that regard, even if I feel that it makes it hard to align your emotions with the characters’.
Blade Runner is a very topical film. What I mean by that is that there are all these beautiful and mysterious things in the forefront but the substance of what is really behind it all isn’t greatly explored or understood. You have some clues with the conversations Deckard has with Rachael and Batty but most of the characters feel as soulless as the Replicants were intended to be. I don’t blame the acting, which is superb, I blame the ambiguous way that the film was written, as it leaves you perplexed and with more questions than answers, really. And frankly, it is hard to care about those questions without the emotional investment in the characters living in this world.
Speaking of which, Ridley Scott created such a cool and stunning world that I wanted to know more about it. I truly wanted to experience and live in it, alongside these characters, but it is hard to do that when everything feels so cold, emotionless and distant. But this also begs the question, which people have been asking for decades, is Deckard also a Replicant and if so, is that what the tone of the film is very blatantly implying? I would have to say yes but I guess that question won’t truly be answered until this film’s sequel finally comes out later this year, a 35 year wait since this picture came out.
As I already pointed out, the film takes place in an incredible looking world. While it is the Los Angeles of the future, two years from now to be exact, it is a cold, dark and dreary place highlighted by flaming industrial smokestacks and neon signs. Scott made his future Los Angeles look otherworldly and menacing, tapping into the fears of where we could find ourselves in a world that further urbanizes itself, where we are all living in dark metropolises blanketed by dark smoky skies.
The music of the film, created by Vangelis, is absolutely perfect. It is one of the best scores ever produced for a film and its magnificence will be hard to top in the upcoming sequel. The end titles song of the film is one of my favorite pieces of music ever created.
The film is very loosely based on Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? In reality, it just shares a few concepts and ideas and Blade Runner is really its own thing, where Dick’s novel was more or less the kernel of an idea that Hampton Fancher and David Peoples turned into this tech-noir tale. Honestly, someone could do a true adaptation of the novel and no one would probably pick up on it being the same material. But Philip K. Dick is one of my favorite authors of all-time and anything inspired by his work will get my attention. But I probably wouldn’t have found his work as early as I did in life, had it not been for this movie and really, this film is what gave his work notoriety, after his death.
Blade Runner is not a film for everyone. In fact, when I have shown it to people over the years, I’ve gotten more negative or baffled responses than I have positive ones. I think it is a film that works for those who already know it or who grew up in a time when it was well-known. There was nothing like it at the time but there was a lot like it after it made its impact on pop culture. I don’t think that The Terminator would have been quite the same film had Blade Runner not come out two years before it.
It will be interesting to see where a sequel can go and what it answers and how. But we’ve got a month or so to wait for that. But it’s already been over 35 years, so what’s a month?
Also known as: Chinese Superman (China) Release Date: August 1st, 1975 Directed by: Hua Shan Written by: Ni Kuang Music by: Frankie Chan Cast: Danny Lee, Wang Hsieh, Terry Lau, Yuan Man-tzu, Bruce Le, Kong Yeung, Dana Shum, Lin Wen-wei, Lu Sheng, Fanny Leung
Shaw Brothers Studio, 84 Minutes
“There are other weapons I haven’t given you as yet. For success it’s essential you have thunderball fists.” – Professor
Tokusatsu doesn’t just have to be a Japanese thing, as the Chinese proved with The Super Inframan, known in China as Chinese Superman.
This film sees a guy from a defense force take up the mantle of a new superhero named Inframan after major cities are destroyed by Demon Princess Elzebub (a.k.a. Princess Dragonmon), who was awoken from a 10 million year sleep. The setup is similar to a typical Ultraman series. It also has elements similar to the Kamen Rider and Super Sentai shows.
What you have here is an indestructible hero that fights monsters of human size, giant size and of various styles. We’ve got tokusatsu, kaiju, kung fu and crazy characters.
Demon Princess Elzebub is particularly unique in that her costume, color scheme and throne room seem to suggest that she was the inspiration for the supervillain Serpentor from the 80s G.I. Joe cartoon, comics and toy line. She also inspired certain traits in Kinga Forester, the villain of the newly revived Mystery Science Theater 3000. Elzebub’s henchmen, the Skeleton Ghosts, most certainly were the template for Kinga Forester’s Skeleton Crew a.k.a. the Boneheads.
The Super Inframan also has historical significance. To start, it is the first superhero film to ever be produced by a Hong Kong studio. In this case, Shaw Brothers, who are known for making some of the greatest kung fu classics of all-time. Also, it was the first film to be promoted using a hot air balloon over Hong Kong. Additionally, it is the first film where Shaw Brothers used storyboards.
As a film, Super Inframan is pretty impressive. Regardless of the production limitations, it is a slick and good looking movie. Sure, the monsters are hokey and the costumes bizarre and goofy but the production value looks a step above similar properties from its era.
The film also stars Danny Lee before he became a Hong Kong megastar. Bruce Le (yes, “Le” with one “e”) is in this. He would become one of the most used actors during the Brucesploitation craze.
The Super Inframan is a much better movie than I thought it would be. I’ve been a big tokusatsu and kaiju fan my entire life but this motion picture has eluded me until recently.
Also known as: King Boxer, Tiān xià dì yī quán, lit. Number One Fist in the World (Hong Kong) Release Date: April 28th, 1972 (Hong Kong) Directed by: Jeong Chang-hwa Written by: Chiang Yang Music by: Chen Yung-yu Cast: Lo Lieh, Wang Ping, Wang Chin-feng, Bolo Yeung
Shaw Brothers Studio, 97 Minutes
Five Fingers of Death (or King Boxer, as it’s also known) is a stupendous martial arts film from Hong Kong. It came out just before Bruce Lee helped the genre explode internationally. It may be less popular than the pictures of Lee or Jackie Chan but it is absolutely amazing and I rank it above the majority of Lee and Chan’s work.
The film stars Lo Lieh. While he never became an international superstar like Lee or Chan, he was in a ton of films and worked hard to give great performances on screen. He may not have been as accomplished as those two bigger stars, as far as his fighting abilities, showmanship and charisma but he could still hold his own and was better than most.
The film follows Lieh’s Chao Chih-Hao. He leaves his first teacher to train under a more advanced instructor. While at the new school, he becomes caught up in its rivalry with a local tyrant and his lethal henchmen. Over the course of the film, Chih-Hao impresses his new teacher enough to be given the secret of the Iron Fist technique. Everything comes to a head in a tournament but the film goes beyond the traditional climax, as things continue beyond that.
The film has a lot of intertwined characters and stories but it does a good job of managing it all and giving us a non-traditional plot structure. Just now revisiting it for the first time in years, I’m pretty sure that The Karate Kid, the original one, took the bulk of its story from Five Fingers of Death. Seriously, the more I think about it, the more connections I make between the two films. Except people didn’t get murdered or have their eyeballs ripped out in The Karate Kid.
The fight choreography is really good. The cinematography is also really solid. I have always enjoyed the scenes where Chih-Hao channels the Iron Fist power and the filmmakers use hot red lights to highlight his hands.
Five Fingers of Death has also held up really well, especially in comparison to other Hong Kong kung fu movies. It feels like a top notch production with superior camera work, lighting and a very pristine look.