Time for another Sammo Hung movie. This time he’s a butcher, introduced slipping on a banana peel, but the butcher job barely matters – mainly he’s a disciple of Wong Fei-Hung (Kwan Tak-Hing, who’d been playing Wong since the 1940s), innocently helping start a war with another school run by Lee Hoi-Sang (a fighter in Game of Death II). One of the rival school’s guys is evil Ko (Fung Hak-On of Police Story) who has kidnapped Sammo’s little brother’s wife. Meanwhile, a weird beggar gets some chickens drunk, turns out to be drunken master Fan Mei-Sheng (of The One-Armed Swordsman) with an interest in solving the kidnapping. Allies and rivalries get all mixed up, and there’s more crazy plot stuff and some brutal deaths, but we have come to watch great fighting performed with unusual weapons (I just saw the Ko fan fighter as the master in Encounters of the Spooky Kind II) against ludicrous villains (Mad Dog from Yes, Madam! appears here without the mustache as “Weird Cat”).

The brother and the drunken master:

Guess who:

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Sammo Hung and his girl flee from her wicked brother into a spooky coffin house, where they’re menaced by a hopping vampire who just wants to smoke opium with them. You hire Ricky Lau after he’s made four consecutive Mr. Vampire movies, you get hopping vampires. This turns out to be Sammo’s dream, and in waking life the brother is friendly Little Hoi (Aspirin thief of Yes, Madam!). But all is not fine and dandy, since the girl’s rednosed dad is angry after Sammo fights an impertinent teahouse customer who uses mad monkey kung fu via his magician buddy. Sammo needs cash to make things right in order to marry Mimi Kung (Chow Yun-Fat’s wife in Office) but ends up getting tangled in ghost drama.

Master, Sammo, Little Hoi:

Not a continuation of the first Encounter from a decade earlier, but why did I write that it was my first Sammo Hung movie when I’d written about at least two others previously? Ghost Hung (Wong Man-Gwan of Prison on Fire) tries to help steal vases from Teahouse Sze (Andrew Lam of Sammo’s problematic Pantyhose Hero), but Sammo’s master Lam Ching-Ying (also the Mr. Vampire master) doesn’t like him hanging around ghosts and attacks her with his yin-yang yo-yo pokeball. This should all be leading up to a master magicians duel like in the first movie, but when it arrives they’re not even in the same space, a psychic battle across town, which is less immediately satisfying than the first movie’s courtyard tower firefight. Sammo spends some time with his soul in a pig. There’s a really unconvincing swordfight against menacing dogs. Kung-fu with explosive gas-filled mummies is more like it. Movie ends on a dick-sucking joke, perfect.

Sze, Evil Master, monkey:

I remembered the basics. Come Drink With Me star Cheng Pei-Pei is Jade Fox, Ziyi’s criminal master, who kills a whole bunch of people including, in the end, Chow Yun-Fat. Chang Chen, below, is Ziyi’s desert bandit lover Dark Cloud. Took long enough for this to be available in decent HD.

Petty thieves named Aspirin (Mang Hoi of Zu Warriors), Strepsil and Panadol accidentally end up with that secret microfilm that everyone in the 80’s was after. Wild-haired John Shum Kin-Fun and Tsui Hark must be buddies – they also costarred in RoboCop ripoff I Love Maria. Unfortunately for them, crime boss James Tien is after the microfilm, and supercop Michelle Yeoh and her British counterpart Cynthia Rothrock are on the case. This is in Criterion’s “Michelle Yeoh Kicks Ass” collection but the white lady kicks 70% more ass.

Cameos by three legends covered in sheetrock dust:

Tien in back with his two main henchmen:

Some of the most daredevil action ever filmed, with the all-time flimsiest setup (the cops say drug smuggling is out of hand, requiring some kind of “super cop,” so Jackie Chan is called in). Maggie is left behind to be annoying alone, while Jackie springs a criminal from prison to gain his trust, then Michelle Yeoh pretends to be Jackie’s sister and saves their asses when they get busted while undercover. It’s a 1992 action movie, which means there are bazookas, and really too many things get blown up. But damn, Yeoh jumps a motorcycle onto a moving train.

Jackie Chan is Wong Fei Hung, a versatile character last seen as a child in Millionaires’ Express, and previously in Once Upon a Time in China. Here he’s a prankster and scammer who needs to be taught discipline by his great drunken uncle. Jackie is put through weeks of tedious strength-training exercises, doesn’t see the point in it all until the final fight when he has internalized the teachings of the Eight Drunken Gods and he gets wasted and destroys the bounty hunters trying to murder his dad over a land deal. Karate Kid was a sober teen remake.

Wonder if I am the first person of 2022 to unsuspectingly watch this movie after buying the Party Dozen single.

New kid Jackie had started getting star roles in ’76. His drunken master Red-Nosed Su is the director’s dad Yuen Siu-Tien, also of Come Drink With Me and other films with drunky titles. Powerful hit-man Thunderleg is Hwang Jang-Lee of Game of Death II, and Jackie’s dad Lam Kau was in As Tears Go By.

Sammo plays a thief and killer and master bullshitter. Terrific opening scene – he finds a field of dead soldiers and loots their bodies, but they were only playing dead for a military game, stand up and capture Sammo, take him back to base and humiliate him, then he blows them all up.

The point is supposed to be a train robbery, but nobody can stand still long enough to wait for the train; buildings are burned down and a bank is robbed before it even arrives. Too many characters and factions to keep track of. James Tien was in there somewhere, and Rosamund Kwan of the Once Upon a Time in China series, and Hwang Jang-Lee (the “dead” friend/villain of Game of Death II). Wong Fei-hung is in this, meets his rival Kien, both as little kids. People can’t stop jumping out of two-story buildings. Whenever the pace is less than frantic, he simply speeds up the film… this is cheating, but the result is absolutely thrilling, so I’ll allow it.

No revisionist western is complete without one of these:

The protestors and prostitutes team up against the patriarchy:

Ma Yongzhen is a tough dude working shitty jobs with his useless friend Cheng Kang-Yeh. Ma is introduced beating up a landlord, so he’s got our sympathy, though he seems to beat up pretty much everyone he comes across… this is fine, since it’s established that everyone in town’s a crook. Ma has annoyingly high standards, is poor and homeless and will accept nothing from anyone – though as principled as he seems, his dream is to ride in his own carriage with a fancy cigarette holder. He wanders into a brutal gang fight and takes on 20 guys armed with knives and hatchets, which gains him the attention of the local bosses, beginning his brief, violent career in organized crime. He’s finally ambushed in a teahouse by Boss Yang (Nan Chiang) and takes a hatchet to the torso, but doesn’t go down before killing everyone in the room. Good action scenes – I could watch about 300 more of these movies, and fortunately that’s how many they made.

Ma and his idol David Chiang (Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires):

Scar-faced Boss Fan (Yi Feng of Fist of Fury the same year) and his yes-man:

Game of Death (1978, Robert Clouse)

Time for the post-Bruce-Lee movies in the Bruce Lee box set. Bruce had filmed about ten minutes of fights for this one, then he inconveniently died. The American studio knew Bruce was profitable, and that’s all they knew, so they cobbled together a new movie, blatantly using stand-ins and cutting reaction shots from other movies. Once they simply pasted a still photo of Bruce’s face over another guy. It’s full of callbacks to the previous movies (thanks to a films-with-the-film subplot), but anyone who enjoyed those is gonna be sad about this one. Even doc footage from Bruce’s actual funeral is used, when lead character “Billy Lo” is supposed to be faking his own death. And this is all in service of a third-rate crime thriller. 1 star for the music, 1 for Sammo Hung, zero for the rest.

After filming a scene, Billy is calmly threatened by a white suited gangster who wants protection money. He works for an evil bald guy who’s somehow involved in both a record pressing plant (which threatens Billy’s girlfriend’s music career) and a championship fight in Macao (their star fighter is Carl: Robert Wall from Enter the Dragon, who died last week). The gangster protection money plot had already been used in Way of the Dragon (and the Chang Cheh movie I just watched), but so what, it’s a plot, and movies need those.

Billy’s in hiding, letting the gangsters think he’s dead, which gives all the non-Bruce actors an excuse to wear heavy disguises. Carl cheats and beats Sammo Hung in the ring, but Sammo puts on a good showcase, then Billy slaughters Carl in the lockers. The girlfriend (Colleen Camp) inevitably gets kidnapped, and a stuntman wearing Bruce’s yellow tracksuit and a dark helmet fights some motorcycle dudes in a warehouse. Finally, the one true Bruce fights some dudes (including the absurdly tall Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), and it’s glorious for a few minutes. He never even touches the old bald gangster (Dean Jagger, the sheriff of Forty Guns), who falls off a roof while running away, the credits rolling before he even hit the ground.

Movie magic via still photo:


Game of Death II (1981, Ng See-yuen)

The only sense that this is a sequel is it’s playing the stand-in game with old Bruce footage (the film stock still doesn’t match). Bruce is hilariously dubbed by some cowboy-ass American. He chills with an ass-kicking abbot then gets an incriminating film from some girl. At a friend’s funeral, he’s shot and falls to his death while chasing a helicopter that was stealing his friend’s casket(!), and now Bruce’s sad brother Bobby takes over as the lead, like Bruce took over from James Tien in The Big Boss – but not exactly like that, since Tong Lung is playing both brothers here. Now with an hour to go, the movie doesn’t have to pretend to star Bruce Lee anymore, and can cut loose. The dubbing is atrocious, but the Chinese/Koreans in charge of this movie have got more respect for Bruce’s legacy and more filmmaking and fighting talent than the doofus Americans in part one.

Lewis trying to be intense despite the cute monkey:

Bobby gets intel from a white monk that the evil Lewis and his scarfaced brother, masters of the Palace of Death, are responsible, so he heads on down. Lewis can’t be that evil – he keeps pet peacocks and monkeys. The Whatever Brothers (I didn’t catch their names) challenge Bobby, and he proves his mettle, then a sudden blonde girl gets suddenly naked, tries to kill him, then a guy in a lion suit joins in! Movie is already kinda nutty, and that’s before Bobby descends to the subterranean MST3K sci-fi lair with spacesuited harpoon-armed flunkies and electrified floors. Lewis is found dead, the scarface guy is suspected so Bobby beats his ass, but Bruce’s “dead” friend, who was stealing his own coffin to avoid discovery, is behind the whole thing. Friend/enemy Chin Ku is Jeong-lee Hwang of Drunken Master, the abbot was in Temple of Doom and Sammo’s Enter the Fat Dragon.


Bruce Lee: The Man and the Legend (1973, Shih Wu)

Polishing off the Criterion box set with a return to the shameless, shoddy quality of Game of Death 1, this time in documentary form. Opens with ten minutes of news film from Bruce’s funeral, which doesn’t sound like such a long time but really felt like it, making me realize I am not cut out to watch Loznitsa’s State Funeral. Then a chronological run through his life and career, with lots of slow zooms into photographs, and a narrator who sounds like he’s from some MST3K short, like How to Go on a Date. Why is the dialogue in the movie Bruce was in as a child covered up with horn music? Why does the English narrator sometimes talk over people speaking English, telling us the same story at a slightly different pace? When Bruce defeats Bob Baker in Fist of Fury, “Baker studied for seven years under Bruce, but he is still no match for his teacher,” the narrator confusing an actor’s skill with a scripted scenario. It closes with then-unreleased Game of Death footage – in fact, Enter The Dragon wasn’t even out yet – in Hong Kong, this quickie doc beat it into theaters by a week. Shih Wu was an assistant director on A Better Tomorrow III, which I’ll probably end up watching eventually.