Issue #242        HOME          E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com        BACK ISSUES           December 13th, 2004

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The Chinese Boxer
(1970; Shaw Brothers)

Cantonese: Lung fu dau
Mandarin: Long hu dou
English: Dragon Tiger Fight
Alternate English Title: The Hammer of God

 

RATING: 5/10

REVIEW:

It’s Kung Fu versus Judo in this blood-drenched Shaw Brothers release, an Old School hit often mentioned as one of the titles that helped shape the martial arts movies of the 1970s. After his belligerent behavior gets him ejected from his kung fu school, Diao Er (Chiao Hsiung) leaves the area, only to come back sometime later with enhanced skills and seeking revenge. Although he easily defeats the junior students, Diao cannot best his former master (Fang Mien) and vows to return again with some karate experts to help him. Three Japanese fighters arrive from Okinawa, led by Kitamura (a brown-haired Lo Lieh), and decimate the school, with young disciple Lei Ming (Jimmy Wang Yu) the sole survivor. Diao and his foreign cohorts open a casino and quickly grow rich through deception and loan sharking. At a remote hideaway, Lei bides his time practising various techniques to increase his strength and agility. Donning a mask, he then goes to work on the thugs’ vicious debt collectors and starts a fire at the gambling den. This initiates a series of events, leading to an inevitable showdown pitting Lei against Kitamura and his main minions.

Jimmy Wang Yu Chiao Hsiung Lo Lieh

Thinly plotted, shamelessly overacted, and mediocre in most areas, THE CHINESE BOXER is more notable for its overall importance to the genre than as disposable entertainment. Prior to this point, martial arts films tended to be quite tame, with fighting rooted largely in Peking Opera artifice. With this picture, Jimmy Wang Yu (who also directed, with assistance from Ng See-yuen and Yang Ching-chen) helped established some of the key elements that would define Chinese martial arts movies in the years to come. The exaggerated, yet practically threadbare "Honorable Chinese vs Murderous Japanese Dogs" premise barely provides a framework for the story, but Wang would recycle it several times in later years. Despite this flagrantly one-dimensional depiction of the Japanese, Wang was clearly influenced to a great degree by the country’s cinema, as displayed by his movies’ cinematography, settings, costumes, and battle sequences. The tremendous amount of bloodshed here is another obvious nod to chambara cinema, which often presents such graphic violence with great artistry and effect. Unfortunately, the graceless vomiting and spewing of blood by numerous characters here is so overdone as to inspire laughter.

One thing THE CHINESE BOXER was praised for upon release is the detail and emphasis it placed on training, though these sequences are actually glossed over rather quickly, leaving the viewer surprised to learn than Lei has supposedly spent an entire year preparing to fight his rivals. Intricate and often humorous training scenes would, of course, become an important part of later kung fu movies, frequently providing their most enjoyable moments. Likewise, Tong Gai’s merely passable choreography also demonstrates components that would later be improved (the few instances of wirework are quite ungainly) and expanded upon (with more intricate movements and increasingly elaborate combat to come). While staged somewhat haphazardly, the fighting here does succeed in delivering the sort of kinetic action that led to the kung fu movie finding an enthusiastic market overseas, something that would never have happened with, say, Kwan Tak-hing’s far more genteel Wong Fei-hung series. The production’s most laudable component is Dong Shao-yong’s cinematography, which offers a number of very eye-catching compositions and a slicker look than seen in Wang’s later Taiwanese independent productions. Plenty of familiar faces in support here, including Wang Ping, Chen Sing, Wang Chung, Wong Ching, Cheng Lei, Fung Hark-on, Jason Pai Piao, Yuen Woo-ping, and Yuen Cheung-yan.

Jimmy Wang Yu Chen Sing Jimmy Wang Yu

Overall, THE CHINESE BOXER has rewards for those interesting in tracing the origins of Old School kung fu movies, but its debits are considerable enough to recommend it only to that audience.


PRESENTATION:

Visually, there is absolutely nothing to complain about here. Alas, the re-mix is among the most aggravating and wrong-headed Celestial has foisted upon the public yet. All manner of new music and sound FX have been added, sounding consistently inappropriate and overly prominent. On top of this, as usual, the originals can often still be heard underneath and the result is borderline unbearable at times. These films became box office successes and beloved favorites on their own merits – why can’t they be allowed to remain that way? The credits have also been recreated with unconvincing video burned substitutes.

A few additional extras are included alongside the regular Celestial supplements. The original trailer is badly faded, but at least includes the original music and foley. "Secret Files of The Chinese Boxer" offers three extremely brief chapters filled with text (in separate English and Chinese versions) on the various martial arts styles seen in the picture. Finally, the film’s original storyboards for the climactic battle between Wang and Lo are featured alongside their equivalent in the finished film.


This DVD is available at:

Images in this review courtesy of Intercontinental Video Ltd. To read captions, hover mouse over image.


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Copyright © John Charles 2000 - 2004. All Rights Reserved.
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DVD Specifications

  • Hong Kong Release
  • NTSC Region 3 Only
  • Intercontinental Video Ltd. #103360
  • Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Post-synced Mandarin Language
  • Subtitles (Optional): English, Traditional Chinese
  • 12 Chapters
  • 16:9 Enhanced (2.35:1)
  • 86 Minutes (at 25 frames-per-second)

Ratings & Consumer Information

  • Australia: R
  • Great Britain: 18 (cut)
  • Manitoba: PG (cut)
  • Nova Scotia: 14 (cut)
  • Ontario: PG (cut)
  • Quebec: 13+
  • Singapore: M18
  • U.S.: R
  • Contains brutal violence, nudity, and brief sexual violence

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