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Issue #173a HOME E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com BACK ISSUES August 18th, 2003

The 36 Deadly Styles
(1979; Hong Hwa International Films)

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

Cantonese: Mai kuen saam sap luk jiu
Mandarin: Mi quan san shi liu zhao
English: Mysterious Fists 36 Stances

Villainous Cheung Sze (Hwang Jang-li) seeks to eliminate noted martial master Kuang Wu-chun (Jack Long Shih-chia) but is ordered to kill the man's associates first. Those few who have managed to survive Cheung's death blows suffer periodic bouts of severe pain that can only be relieved with herb wine. Monk Huang (Yang Tse-lin) is one such man and he also must deal with his undisciplined young pupil, Wah-jee (Cheung Nik), who is in trouble more often than not. One of Cheung's minions (Chan Lau), who had previously left Wah-jee for dead, discovers his whereabouts and seeks to finish him off. Backed by two fighters (one of whom is played by Bolo Yeung, sporting a ridiculous Raggedy Ann wig), the men defeat Huang and a badly injured Wah-jee is taken to safety by an elderly cook (Fan Mui-sang), who is also a victim of Cheung's internal injury strikes. With the aid of the old man and his gifted daughter (Jeannie Chang Yong-yong), Wah-jee works diligently to learns the stances that will allow him to defeat Cheung.

This Taiwanese period outing from producer/director Joseph Kuo Nan-hong should please those enjoy Old School plot conventions as it follows them to the letter. Alas, it is far from Kuo's best work, hobbled by a rambling, largely incoherent narrative (the English translation is extremely poor) and an overdose of puerile comedy. On top of that, the subplot involving Jack Long's Kuang Wu-chun character appears to have been tacked on after the fact to get the running time up to the 90 minute mark (he and Mark Long Kuan-wu finally go at it in a decent fight that is intercut with the climax of the main storyline). The kung fu is the sole saving grace here and, while Hwang Jang-li does what he can with a stock villain role, the film ends up being a good showcase for Jeanne Chang and Cheung Nik. The latter is frequently belittled by stalwart fans but he is not bad at all here in a part that allows him to display more than just grim determination. The soundtrack features a number of familiar library cues...plus Henry Mancini's theme from THE PINK PANTHER!

Cover art courtesy Mei Ah.

Left to right: Cheung Nik, Fan Mui-sang, and Jeanne Chang. Image courtesy Mei Ah.

Additional still: Hwang Jang-li (left) and Bolo Yeung. Image courtesy Mei Ah.
Mei Ah #DVD 463 (Hong Kong label)

Dolby Digital 2.1

Post-synced Mandarin Language Track

Optional Subtitles in English and Chinese (Traditional or Simplified)

Letterboxed (2.10:1 -- cropped from 2.35)

Coded for ALL Regions

NTSC Format

92 Minutes

Contains moderate violence

DVD menu courtesy Mei Ah.

Singapore: PG

As with Mei Ah's other vintage kung fu titles, too much digital video noise reduction has been applied, causing fine details in some shots to jitter. Colors are decent and the image is reasonably sharp. The audio is thick and harsh but not really any worse than most indie productions from this era. There are no extras. While this release is undoubtedly better than Xenon's cropped and dubbed DVD, the latter may still a better bet for Western viewers, given the wretched subtitles here (which are every bit as bad as those found on Mei Ah's Toho releases).

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