Issue #232a          HOME          E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com        BACK ISSUES            October 4th, 2004

Hong Kong Digital is sponsored by Poker Industries. Please see the Hong Kong Digital home page for a special offer from Poker Industries to Hong Kong Digital readers.

The Kung Fu Cult Master
(1993; Golden Harvest/Win's Movie Production)

Cantonese: Yi tin to lung gei ji moh gaau gaau jue
Mandarin: Yi tian tu long ji zhi mo jiao jiao zhu
English: (literal) Heaven Slaughter Dragon Story: The Evil School Master
Alternate English Title: Evil Cult, Lord of the Wu Tang

 

RATING: 6/10

REVIEW:

In contrast to its wonderfully absurd English title, this lush period fantasy aims high but hits the mark only thanks to the concerted efforts of its excellent cast, who struggle gamely with a screenplay that redefines the term "cluttered." Various martial arts clans are at war over possession of the magical To Lung sword, resulting in the deaths of numerous innocent people. During a clash with two rival clansmen, Chang Tsui-san (Francis Ng Chun-yu) and his wife, Yan So-so (Sharla Cheung Man), are gravely injured and commit suicide. The villains leave their young son, Mo-kei, alive but greatly debilitated. As he grows into adulthood, Mo-kei (Jet Li Lianjie) is kept alive only by periodic energy transference from his 100 year old sifu (Sammo Hung Kam-po, also the action director here). Mo-kei is finally able to regain his dignity after he hooks up with the wily handmaiden Siu Chiu (who seeks the equally powerful Yee Tin Sword, and is played by Chingmy Yau Suk-ching), and tricks a clan rival into teaching him the "Great Solar Stance." During the course of their adventures, they battle various evil sects and must escape from a booby-trapped tomb. Mo-kei then duels with a Shaolin monk (Cho Wing) and wins the allegiance of the bloodsucking King of Green Bat (Richard Ng Yiu-hon), while also uniting the dissenting clans and dealing with the sinister deeds perpetrated by mysterious Yuen princess Chao Min (also Sharla Cheung), who is the spitting image of his late mother.

Sharla Cheung (left), Francis Ng Chingmy Yau (left), Jet Li Sammo Hung

Attempting to grasp THE KUNG FU CULT MASTER on the basis of a one paragraph synopsis is not unlike trying to absorb the intricacies of "War and Peace" by reading Cliff Notes. From the opening narration to the final battle, the screen is awash in so many characters, expository passages, magical kung fu stances, betrayals, and stylized duels that the open ending will leave most viewers with equal portions of relief and dread. By comparison, director Wong Jing and star Jet Li's other collaborations, LAST HERO IN CHINA (reviewed in issue #192a) and THE NEW LEGEND OF SHAOLIN (reviewed in issue #85a), were able to accomplish similar goals in far less confounding fashion (the fractured English subtitles are only part of the problem here). Yet, there are some very appealing performances to be found amidst the narrative chaos, particularly Chingmy Yau's impishly cute martial maiden (who sports a hair style that is a cross between Princess Leia and Minnie Mouse) and Sharla Cheung's mischievous princess. As with all of Wong's fantasies, the production values are superior, but the action scenes suffer from some jumbled, berserk editing which reduces Sammo Hung's action choreography to a confusing barrage of soaring combatants and severed body parts. This adaptation of Louis Cha's "Story of the Heavenly Sword and Slaying Dragon Sabre" remains well worth seeing but be prepared to watch it twice if you care at all about following the storyline. An intended sequel failed to materialize, due to disappointing numbers at the box office. Collin Chou/Ngai Sing, Gigi Lai Chi, and Leung Kar-yan also appear.

Sharla Cheung Gigi Lai (left), Ngai Sing Chingmy Yau (foreground left), Jet Li


PRESENTATION:

Mei Ah’s new 16:9 edition is a big improvement over their old recycled laserdisc master, with pleasing resolution and hues, the latter being especially important here in the presentation of the colorful costumes and fantasy elements. Blacks are deep and little wear is present. There are some very brief instances where it appears that artificial slow motion has been utilized to hide missing frames, but this is a minor quibble. Cantonese and Mandarin mono tracks are included, along with 5.1/DTS re-mixes in the former language; the stereo separations and expanded soundstage nicely compliment the various battles. The HK theatrical trailer and the usual Data Bank are the only supplements and, alas, the English translation has not been conspicuously upgraded.

This DVD is available at:

Images in this review courtesy of Mei Ah. To read captions, hover mouse over image.


Click here for more information about The Hong Kong Filmography

Copyright © John Charles 2000 - 2004. All Rights Reserved.
E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com

DVD Specifications

  • Hong Kong Release
  • NTSC Region 0
  • Mei Ah Entertainment #DVD-651
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 & 2.0/DTS
  • Post-synced Cantonese and Mandarin Language
  • Subtitles (Optional): English, Traditional & Simplified Chinese
  • 9 Chapters
  • 16:9 Enhanced (1.81:1)
  • 103 Minutes

Ratings & Consumer Information

  • Australia: PG
  • Great Britain: 15
  • Hong Kong: II
  • Ontario: R
  • Singapore: PG
  • Contains plentiful stylized violence and mild language

FILM REVIEW RATINGS KEY:

  • 10 A Masterpiece
  • 9 Excellent
  • 8 Highly Recommended
  • 7 Very Good
  • 6 Recommended
  • 5 Marginal Recommendation
  • 4 Not Recommended
  • 3 Poor
  • 2 Definitely Not Recommended
  • 1 Dreadful