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November 19th, 2001 Issue #83a

Hong Kong Digital is a recurring series of movie reviews by John Charles -- associate editor / film reviewer for Video Watchdog magazine and the author of The Hong Kong Filmography.

The Hell's Wind Staff
(1979; Yuk Long Movie Co.)
Alternate English titles: THE DRAGON AND TIGER KIDS and HELL'Z WINDSTAFF (sic)

Cover art courtesy World.

A Masterpiece
Highly Recommended
Very Good
Marginal Recommendation
Not Recommended
Definitely Not Recommended

Cantonese: Lung fu moon
Mandarin: Long hu men
English: Dragon Tiger School


Kung fu super villain Hwang Jang-li (known among fans as "Silver Fox," the killer he first portrayed in THE SECRET RIVALS) is the main attraction in this above average period effort, which was reportedly adapted from a comic book. Impudent but likeable kung fu students Tiger Wong (Meng Yuan-man) and Stone Dragon (Mang Hoi) have the potential to be great fighters but seem more interested in driving their teachers to distraction. Unfortunately for both, their masters are on to them, with Ching (Jason Pai Piao) making life especially miserable for Tiger. Trouble emerges in the form of slave traders who dupe innocent townspeople into a making trip to Borneo from which they will never return. Tiger and Dragon bust up the operation but Tiger's father and Ching are murdered in retribution. The pair seek refuge with Dragon's teacher (Kwan Young-moon), who agrees to help teach them "The White Dragon Fist" and "The Paddle Staff" styles. Only these techniques, when used in conjunction, possess the power to overcome the villains' leader (Hwang), who is master of the legendary "Devil's Rod" pole fighting style.

Hwang Jang-li. Image courtesy World.

Co-directed by Lu Chin-ku (a Shaw Brothers alumni responsible for such favorites as THE BASTARD SWORDSMAN and HOLY FLAME OF THE MARTIAL WORLD) and Tony Wong Yuk-long, THE HELL'S WIND STAFF features terrific acrobatics from its two stars and invigorating training sequences in the classic old school style. Although he does comparatively little of his trademark kicking, Hwang proves to be exceptionally good with a pole and the action (the work of Hsu Hsia, Corey Yuen Kwai, Chin Yuet-sang, Yuen Shun-yee, and Yuen Chun-wei) is sufficiently diverse to avoid repetition (the final showdown is long but consistently exciting). The humor is never too abrasive and even the dubbing is not as annoying as usual. The soundtrack includes music swiped from Tangerine Dream's soundtrack for SORCERER.

DVD Specs:

World #WVDVD-E119 [U.S. Label]
Dolby Digital 2.0
Dubbed In English
No Subtitles
8 Chapters Illustrated In the Menu With Stills
Fullscreen (cropped from 2.35:1)
Coded for ALL Regions
83 Minutes
Contains mid-range martial arts violence and brief language

DVD menu courtesy World.

Film Board Ratings and Consumer Advice

Great Britain: 18


Alas, this is a rotten DVD. The 2.35:1 scope frame is cropped to fullscreen and the image is soft, with consistent grain and a few blooming whites. Compounding these problems is the fact that the master has clearly been derived from a VHS tape, which suffers from periodic dropouts and even some heavier damage. Like the majority of World discs released thus far, there is also a one second pause at the beginning of every chapter, a pretty unforgivable mastering blunder. Another technical foul-up needlessly splits the disc into two halves; the only way you can jump ahead to chapters 5-8 is by scanning or through the menu options. Similarly, once you get into the second half, you can only access the first four chapters through the aforementioned method. The print is heavily speckled but the damage is not really any more extensive than one normally finds on independent films of this era. The sound levels shift once in a while but the track is otherwise adequate. The only extra is a letterboxed Mandarin language / English subtitled trailer for JACKIE CHAN: THE INVINCIBLE FIGHTER, a compilation of clips from ten of the star's early movies.


THE HELL'S WIND STAFF is available at Poker Industries.

Click here for more information about The Hong Kong Filmography

Copyright © John Charles 2000, 2001. All Rights Reserved.
E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com

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