Fong Sai-yuk yu Hung Hei-kwun
Alternate English Title: Temple of the Dragon
With Shaolin Temple reduced to ashes
by Ching troops, Hong Si-kuan (or Hung Hei-kwun, played by Chen Kuan-tai)
and Fang Shi-yu (or Fong Sai-yuk, played by Alexander Fu Sheng) wander the
countryside separately, trying to evade their Manchu pursuers. The latter
foolishly struts around announcing his identity in the hopes of confronting
the enemy head on, while Hung hopes to group together the few remaining brothers
into a new fighting force. A case of mistaken identity lands Hong in Manchu
custody and facing torture, while Fang is deemed a traitor by his fellow Shaolin
loyalists. When Fang learns the truth of his actions, he leads a group of
Ming fighters in an effort to free Hong from a cellar prison where the Chings
have him bolted to the wall. However, the Manchu commander (Chu Muk) is a
master of Lama kung fu and has an ace up his sleeve: powerful Tibetan allies
(including Lau Kar-wing and Lee Hoi-sang) who rank among the deadliest combatants
in the region.
Fang/Fong is usually depicted as a headstrong, impulsive youth and that is certainly the case here. This time, however, he is also exceedingly naive; it is a definite stretch for the viewer to believe that Fang would not be familiar with a great hero like Hong Si-guan and mistake him for a common criminal. Fortunately, the action and performances largely make up for this. Chen demonstrates real power and ferocity during the fight sequences and boasts a wonderful camaraderie with 19 year old Alexander Fu (magnetic in his first lead role). Action choreographers Lau Kar-leung and Tong Kai keep the predominantly hand-to-hand combat kinetic and brutal, though the resulting carnage is not quite as bloody as much of director Chang Cheh's work (a red tint is used during some of the more violent deaths and the film sometimes aired on American TV in a weird, toned down version called HEROES II, which presented all of the fight sequences in black and white!). Familiar faces in support include Fang Hsin (in her final role, prior to retirement), Wong Ching, Fung Hark-on, and Kent Cheng Chuk-see (visible on a couple of occasions as a Ching lackey).
Cover art courtesy Intercontinental.
Back cover art courtesy Intercontinental.
Australia: M 15+
Great Britain: 18 [Passed With Cuts totalling 2:34]
Singapore: PG [Passed With Cuts]
HEROES TWO does not look quite as glossy as some of the Celestial restorations thus far but is a very nice presentation nonetheless. The image is a bit soft in spots but colors are attractive and there are no real complaints to be made. The stereo re-mix adds the usual foley FX (insects, chirping birds, ambient sounds for interiors, etc) but is generally unobtrusive. The Movie Information section offers up the expected stills, poster, and bios/filmographies, and there is an interesting interview (19 minutes) with veteran cinematographer Arthur Wong Ngok-tai. Although he did not shoot this particular feature, Wong worked on a number of SB productions and relates memories of Chang Cheh's on-set manner, and how the production of action movies differs greatly nowadays. Also included are the original theatrical trailer (in rough, faded condition), a video promo spot, and spots for three other Celestial releases.
Alas, the DVD suffers from a major flaw that may
be a deal breaker for some collectors. The movie originally opened with a
9 minute prologue called "Three Styles of Hung School's Kung Fu."
In it, Chen Kuan-tai, Alexander Fu Sheng, and Chi Kuan-chun (the latter not
otherwise seen in the film) each demonstrate various fighting styles (the
aforementioned theatrical trailer includes a fair amount of footage from here).
Writer Linn Haynes (currently working on what sounds like it may be the definitive
book on Old School films many of us have been longing for) says that this
short also played in theatres separately, as a way of introducing Chang's
new Taiwanese production company and its fresh approach to the genre. Interestingly,
Tim Youngs of Another Hong Kong Movies
Page reports that the prologue was included on Celestial's restored
theatrical version, so at least it still exists.
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© John Charles 2000 - 2003. All Rights Reserved.