Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Magnificent Butcher (1979)

This movie was recommended and after watching, I must say that I like it very much. The storyline is also very good for a kung-fu movie.

Sammo Hung played Butcher Wing, one of the 3 students of Wong Fei-hung. Two other students were played by Yuen Piao and Wei Pai.

Wong Fei-hung was a famous character, especially since Jet Li played him [Once Upon a Time in China]. Jacky Chan also played the character in Drunken Master 1 and 2 [I watched Drunken Master 1 in early 80's but didn't know that the main character's named was Wong Fei-hung, because the movie had been dubbed in English and the character had been named 'Freddy']. There was also a TVB series called 'Patriot Wong'.

Wong Fei-hung, a servant and his 3 students
Nowadays the title 'butcher' can also means 'he who kills (human) with a knife', but in this movie, Wing was a butcher, a meat seller. He was a hot blooded man who often did things without thinking. 'Hit first,  ask questions later.' He was honest, but not very bright. This made him gullible.

First he came into trouble after he beat one of the men from Five Dragons School, only because someone running after the man and shouting 'thief!' He didn't give both men a chance to explain what the man had taken. Mr Ko, the leader of Five Dragons School, swore not to forgive Butcher Wing if the butcher ever made another mistake. So what if the butcher was found beside the dead body of Mr. Ko's god-daughter, in the butcher's own house? The butcher was innocent, of course, but how to explain to Mr Ko, who had already had prejudice against him?

Sammo Hung might be looked over-weight, but when he fought, he was as quick and as able as those who had proportional bodies. The final fight between Butcher Wing and Mr Ko was well choreographed and I really enjoyed watching Sammo Hung doing somersaults.

Butcher Wing vs Master Ko
In best kung-fu films lists, usually it's 'The Prodigal Son' who made it. [Sammo Hung, Yen Piao, Wei Pai, and Lim Chen-ying were in both The Prodigal Son and The Magnificent Butcher.] Comparing the two, I myself prefer Magnificent Butcher because  1) The story is better (imho)  2) I think the fight scenes in Magnificent Butcher are better = or perhaps because I was amazed how an overweight man like Sammo Hung could be so agile.

In The Prodigal Son, although Yen Piao played the lead character, it was Lim Chen-ying who stole the attention. I mostly admired the make-up, how he had been transformed into a 'beautiful' leading lady.

Before and after

Monday, December 14, 2015

Le Petit Prince (2015)

When I read the book years ago, the picture of an elephant swallowed by a snake was the most interesting thing and it was unforgettable. The description about how adults preferred numbers came true when a friend of mine told me about how good her French teacher was with statistics. My conclusion at that time was French people were very good with numbers and statistics, just like what it said in The Little Prince book.

My favourite picture from the book
It's different from Indonesian people, I think. Most of us probably cannot answer if you ask how many islands in Republik Indonesia, except elementary students. We also don't care about statistics, like % of people live in big cities, population growth, ....

The Little Prince movie is very interesting. The main character is a little girl - not sure how old she is, but her height is half of her mother, and is about to enter an academy. Her mother is a hard-working woman who leaves her alone in the house until she comes home from work. Her father is even busier, he travels around the world and gives her a snow-globe for a birthday present every year.

The admission interview in the Werth Academy
During a summer holiday, the little girl must study hard so she can enter the Werth Academy. The audience can see how she lost herself in the world of adults [She can't even answer a simple question like: "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Most children know the answer, although the answer is usually the same: either a doctor, a soldier, a pilot, a police, an engineer; and they usually do not become that when they grow up.], until the mother and daughter moved house and the little girl meets their new neighbour: The Aviator.

The Aviator's house itself is different from others. The others's are minimalist, similar, pale and boring. His is like something comes out from a story book.

The Little Girl and the Aviator
The Aviator, now old, is lonely. He sees the little girl study very hard, scheduled by her mother to the minute, so he tries to make her enjoy her childhood by telling her the story of the Little Prince. When she gets interested, she is disappointed by the ending, i.e. The Little Prince died.

The Aviator's yard
However, when the Aviator is gravely ill, she tries to make him get his spirit back by looking for the Little Prince, whom she believes still alive. She does find him, but he now has grown and becomes an adult and seems to have forgotten his days with the Aviator in Sahara desert.

The story of the Little Prince from the book is depicted beautifully. I don't know what the characters were made of, sometimes they looked like they were made from recycled paper.

Taming the Fox
I have known the Little Prince book for years, so the fictional story has become familiar to me. The little girl part, with the relentless activities, also looked real. But when she flied an airplane and went to an asteroid, I thought it was too much and didn't make sense. But when I think about it again: if the Little Prince can travel from his asteroid to the Earth by the help of birds, why the little girl cannot drive a plane?

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Trilogy of Swordsmanship (1972)

I don't know what connects these three short movies so that they called this a trilogy, but each one has a bandit theme in it. Not evil bandits, but heroic bandits like those in 108 Liang Shan Bandits.

1. The Iron Bow
It was like in a wayang story: "if you can draw this bow and shoot a bird with it, you can marry my daughter". The magistrate' son wanted to marry Ying Ying, the daughter of a teahouse's owner. The teahouse's owner, a widow, agreed with a condition: he must be able to draw the iron bow left by her late husband. We could guess that the magistrate's son couldn't draw the bow. Then came Master Kuang, who was an expert with bow and arrow. Ying Ying liked him, but the magistrate's son accused Master Kuang as a bandit and Master Kuang fleed to the capital. Knowing that Master Kuang had left, the magistrate's son forced Ying Ying to marry him. The wedding procession ended up in a blood-bath as the magistrate's son and his men were killed. Ying Ying, her mother and their servant left the teahouse to catch up with Master Kuang in the capital.

Shih Szu as Ying Ying and Yueh Hua as Master Kuang

2. The Tigress
This was the best among the three. At first it seemed like a funny movie, but the surprise ending was heart melting. Casting Lo Lieh as the bandit  was a good idea for he usually played the bad guy so who would have thought that this time he played a bandit with a noble heart. The point of view was also different from the other two, as we saw the case from the officer's.

Shih Chung-yu (Lily Ho) begs the minister to let her die
together with General Wang (Chung Hua)
General Wang was obsessed with a well-known prostitute named Shih Chung-yu a.k.a The Tigress. He was called by the minister to fight a group of bandits led by Pang Xun, but refused because he was having a good time with Shih Chung-yu. This resulted in a death penalty, but Shih Chung-yu pleaded with the minister to pardon him. General Wang had to capture Pang Xun to redeem himself. Meanwhile, Shih Chung-yu had won the heart of the minister's mother who gave her the right to lead the mission to capture Pang Xun. The minister didn't believe she could do the task, so she made a bet with him that she would capture the bandit in 3 days and if she succeeded, the minister must called her 3 times in front of everybody as his god-sister. She captured Pang Xun and when the bandit was awaiting for his death punishment, she learned the truth that Pang Xun had saved her life in the past and became a bandit because of her.

Shih Chung-yu plays pi pa to see Pang Xun (Lo Lieh) off
3. White Water Strand The survivors of Liang Shan tried to free Xu Shi-ying, who was being escorted in White Water Strand by the government troops. They met Mu Yu-ji, a kung-fu master, who didn't take any side, but helped both to prevent more killings. The government troops's leader took Mu to a restaurant as a thanks for helping his men, but drugged his wine, arrested him, and would beheaded him at the next day as an example for other rebels. Xu Shi-ying and his gang must rescue him and spread the news that Minister Liu had surrendered to the Jin dinasty and that the state general Guan Sheng from Liang Shan had been executed.

Xu Shi-ying (Ti Lung) rescues Mu Yu-ji (David Chiang)

The Long Chase (1971)

I found this movie was very good, with good fighting scenes and decent story. When I first read the title 'The Long Chase', what first came to mind was: 'must be something like Les Misérables, a hard headed police trying to catch a kind-hearted criminal', and my guess was not far from wrong.

Yueh Hua played Kuo Ying, the King of Flying Daggers. He assassinated the Prime Minister in the beginning of the story. Lo Lieh played Fan Yi, the guards' leader.

Fan Yi deserved a death penalty because the prime minister had been assassinated under his guard, but as he was the only one who could recognize the killer, he would be pardoned if he could catch the killer in five days.

Fan Yi followed Kuo Ying's tracks to the Xuan-hua county. Meanwhile, Kuo Ying met a dying man named Song Hua-long, an officer on his way to Xuan-hua to get rid of the Erlong Mountain bandits. Kuo Ying took his identity.

Kuo Ying and the wanted poster
Fan Yi recognized Kuo Ying but did not have any proof. They stayed in the same inn. The inn belonged to Song Hua-long's uncle. The uncle and his daughter helped Kuo Ying with his false identity because they admired his heroic act for killing the corrupted prime minister.

Fan Yi and Kuo Ying
The Erlong Mountain bandits, believing that the real Song Hua-long had come to destroy them, killed the uncle, kidnapped the daughter, and set a trap for Kuo Ying. To help the daughter, Kuo Ying had to disclose his identity by using his trademark weapon. Now Fan Yi had his proof and Kuo Ying was arrested.

When Fan Yi and Kuo Ying was ready to leave Xuan-hua, the bandit leader came back with back-up and in this final fight, Kuo Ying saved Fan Yi's life several times. Fan Yi then let Kou Ying go free and he himself became a wanderer.

Fan Yi : I am not someone who's afraid to die.
Kuo Ying : But why are you trying so hard to catch Kou Ying?
Fan Yi : For my dignity. I've never failed anything and I won't lose to Kou Ying.

The Delightful Forest (1972)

This movie tells the story of one of the 108 Liang Shan heroes: Wu Sung, the tiger-killer. It has a lighter tone compared to The Water Margin and Pursuit, and would be better if the theme song was original or a variation of Chinese traditional song. The theme song used is the work of Ennio Morricone and if I am not mistaken, it was from the movie Giù la testa.

Ti Lung as Wu Sung
The story began with Wu Sung killed a man who had killed his brother. Then he gave himself up to the police. He was transported to Meng Zhou, where the prison's chief's son asked his help to regain The Delightful Forest, which was not a forest but the name of a rich village with many big inns, gambling houses, and brothels.

Wu Sung and the prison's chief's son
Wu Sung fought Jiang, the bandits leader, in The Delightful Forest, won easily, and returned the village to the prison's chief's son. But Jiang was a sidekick of the Commander, the prison's chief's boss, and they lured Wu Sung to their headquarters, disarmed him, put him into jail with a false accusation and tried to kill him. Thankfully, not all prison guards were corrupted. Wu Sung was saved and took revenge. After he killed the corrupted officials, he disguised himself as a monk and went to Liang Shan.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Pursuit (1972)

Yueh Hua played the central character here as Lin Chung, an instructor who was wronged by corrupted officials around him.

Lin Chung's superior, Commander Gao, had a son who wanted Lin Chung's beautiful wife. Lin Chung's sworn brother, a monk, had warned him to leave his position and move somewhere else; but Lin Chung refused for he didn't want to leave his friends and he respected the Commander very much. "The Commander is very good to me," said Lin Chung. In traditional Chinese world, it meant Lin Chung had to pay back the Commander's kindness by being loyal to him forever.

Lin Chung's wife begs his husband not to hurt the Commander's son
Lin Chung of course couldn't have guessed that the Commander put his son above everything. With the help of Lin Chung's martial brother, the Commander falsely accused Lin Chung of breaking a military rule and sent him to jail.

The two officials who escorted Lin Chung when he was banished to Cang Zhou had been bribed to kill him. Luckily the monk came to save him. However the Commander's son wouldn't stop until he got Lin Chung's wife.

Yueh Hua (Lin Chung) and Fan Mei-sheng (the monk)
Lin Chung : I live and die a citizen of Song and will abide by its law.
The monk : What law are you talking of? Would people like Gao Qiu abide by the law?

Lin Chung began to question himself. He wanted to be a good citizen, but the people around him kept pushing him until he had no where else to go. In the end ke killed his enemies and took refuge to Liang Shan. He would became one of the 108 Heroes (outlaws) of the Marsh.

The drama here has more portion than the action. I felt like watching an episode of Judge Bao, but Pursuit was a much better production and better made. In the end, instead of a trial which ends with death punishment, we get duels to the death.

Comparing this to The Water Margin, which has similar plots [In The Water Margin, the central character was Lu Jun-yi, who had also been wronged and became one of the 108 Liang Shan heroes.], I like Pursuit better. This one focuses on the drama more, made me sympathize with Lin Chung's sufferings.

An incredible stunt by a little boy (Meng Hai?).
He jumps from top of the wall in one single shot, and no matress.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Duel (1971)

I really enjoyed watching this movie. I think this is one of the best Shaw Brothers movies I've seen. It features Ti Lung and David Chiang in their mid-twenties. A few months ago when I was browsing through Shaw Brothers movies, I wondered why it was not easy to find a movie with these two actors starring together; but lately I read (a rumor?) that these two had had a discordance and refused to be in the same project. If they shared a movie, it must be in their early career.

Ti Lung played Tang Ren-ji, a godson of a triad leader, Shen. Shen had two trusted subordinates who daily took care of his business: Gan and Tang Ren-lin (Ren-ji's brother). Gan hired Jian Nan (played by David Chiang) to kill Shen and made it look like Shen accidentally died in a mass fight. This event happened in modern China - unlike in traditional kung-fu films where a swordsman can kill anybody and need not to worry about going to jail afterwards - and the police would come to investigate. Ren-ji agreed to shoulder the blame, so he had to go away for one year until the matter subsided.

A year passed and they had stopped sending Ren-ji money. Furthermore, there were strangers wanted to kill him. Ren-ji went back and found that his brother had been kicked out from the organization, his girlfriend sold to a brothel, and Gan was behind his godfather's death. To avenge his godfather, Ren-ji got help from Jian Nan, who had regretted for killing Shen and wanted to right his wrongdoing.

The fight scenes were very good. There was really a duel between Ti Lung and David Chiang, but this scene was not long. I did not really like the ending and hoped instead that the two young heroes could walk hand in hand into the sunset -- or something like that.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Heroic Ones (1970)

The English title is too common, not interesting. Perhaps it's more appropriate to name this '13 Generals' or '13 Guards'. I have seen the 1982 TVB series 'The Wild Bunch' but they are many differences. In this Shaw Brothers version, the only romance is between Li Chun-siao (the 13th general) and a young girl in Chang-an.

In the beginning of the movie, we were introduced to the 13 generals. They were adopted sons of King Jing, Li Ke-yong. This was in the end of Tang Dynasty when the emperor had lost control over his empire. When the warlord of Bianliang city Chu Wen visited King Jing in a siege in Hezhong, they were attacked by Wang Chao's army, led by Meng. Chu Wen made a bet that the 13th general, Li Chun-siao, wouldn't be able to capture Meng before noon. Li Chun-siao succeeded and won Chu Wen's jade belt.

The king and his 12 generals, minus Li Chun-siao
Grudging Chu Wen invited King Jing to come to Bianliang. The king sent the 4th general and 12th generals, who were jealous of the 13th general, to inspect the situation. Chu Wen bribed the 4th and 12th generals so that these two would say good things about him to the king. The king agreed to visit Chu Wen in Bian-liang, accompanied by Shi Jin-si, the 11th general. Chu Wen's troops attacked the king; Shi Jin-si died in the battle.

13 generals go to Chang-an to assassinate Wang Chao
The 4th and 12th generals stole the king's sword to falsify the command to lure the 13th general to their camp where they killed him. The angry king sent the other 9 generals to catch the 4th and 12th generals who were going to Chu Wen's territory to seek asylum. The 4th and 12th generals refused to go back because it meant death and they killed 4 more generals in their struggle.

David Chiang as the 13th general
Like The Water Margin, this movie involved a great number of cast. I was not keen at first, because too many characters usually would make a movie lost its focus. This movie, however, got interesting after the king attended Chu Wen's banquet and Chu Wen's people got Shi Jin-si drunk. The fights after that and Shi Jin-si's death scene were captivating. It was always sad to see a bright, talented young man died like that. Li Chun-siao's death scene was also horrifying, made your hair stand on end.

It needs 2 soldiers to carry Li Chun-siao's weapon
From the reaction of the 1st general, Li si-yuan, when the king commanded them to catch back the 4th and 12th generals; we could see how strong the bond among the brothers had been. In the final fight scene, he was reluctant to hurt his brothers.

Chin Han as the 1st general

The Bells of Death (1968)

Three bandits happened to pass by Chang's family house, killed his parents and little brother, and kidnapped his sister. He swore to avenge them. He met a kungfu master and begged him to accept him as his student.

There was no scene of his training, but after 5 years we saw him again and could assume that he was at least as skilled as his teacher. He wore his late mother's bracelet, as a pendant. The bracelet had little bells which rang as he moved. The sound would become a nightmare for his enemies, because they remembered the sound of the bells when they killed his mother.

Chang Yi (Chang Wei-fu) and Chin Ping (Hsiang-hsiang)
There was a scene when Chang bought a young girl named Hsiang-hsiang who had run from a brothel. He bought her with leaves. We have a joke here: when hearing a high price we sometimes say, 'Is it all money?' 'Yes, real money, not leaves.' And here in this scene Chang paid with leaves.

Another funny scene [for me] was after Chang found the second bandit, who had long hair. It was raining and the bandit complained how his hair got wet and it was inconvenient to kill, so he asked Chang to move the duel into another place.

Chang found his lost sister at last. She had become 6th wife of the third bandit. After those years, did she had developed feelings for her husband?

In the ending we saw Chang showed his future wife their house. It was a ruin. Nowadays the girl will run away from him because modern women usually want their future husbands to have owned a car and a house, but in this movie the audience believed that Chang could built a decent house with his own hand. He was originally a wood-cutter.

The story was simple and classic, but the pace of this movie was perfect, made it captivating and unforgettable.

Friday, November 27, 2015

A Better Tomorrow (1986)

It's not easy for someone with a dark past to live a new life. People will judge with prejudice. It's even harder if your own brother cannot believe you have changed.

Ti Lung played Ho. He worked for a big money counterfeiter in Hong Kong. Chow Yun-fat played Mark, his best friend. Ho and Mark usually worked together. Ho had a sick father and a younger brother, Kit, who later would become a police inspector. Kit couldn't get promotion because his brother was a criminal.

L-R: The boss, Ho, Mark, Shing
While delivering a suitcase of counterfeit money in Taiwan, Ho was accompanied by Shing, who betrayed him. Ho was arrested by the local authorities and spent three years in jail in Taiwan. Mark killed one of the people who had betrayed Ho and because of the shoot-out, he became limp. Ho's father was also killed by a Triad member.

Three years later, Ho returned to Hong Kong. Kit was bitter because of his father's death and could not receive and forgive Ho. Kit spent his days following Shing, who had replaced Ho's position as the Big Brother. Meanwhile, Ho determined to live his new life in an honest way and became a taxi driver.

Ho, Kit and Jackie (Kit's girlfriend)
Both Kit and Jackie are clumsy
I think Ti Lung gave a good performance as an ex Triad member who wanted to earn his bread honestly. He shallowed his pain when his brother turned him down. Kit was still his brother, though, and when Kit was in danger, he did not hesitate to protect him. There was no doubt about Chow Yun-fat's performance, because he even won the Best Actor Award for his work here. With his tall features, dark trench-coat and Alain Delon sunglasses; he looked perfect as a hitman [in contrary, I always dislike how he looked in traditional costumes when he played in martial arts films]. When he talked about being forced to drink urine at gunpoint, it sounded real, because he really spoke from experience. However, my favourite scene was when Ho saw him again after three years. Mark - in rags - walked with difficulty towards Shing's parked car to clean its windshield. Ho [and I] was shocked to see Mark like this. Shing threw money to the ground for him. Compared that to the scene in the beginning, when Mark gave money to a subordinate. He did not threw the money to the ground, but gave it into his hand.

It's Lesley Cheung who was the weakest among the three leads. With a sick father, I believe it was Ho's illicit money who paid for his training in police academy. Kit must be very narrow minded, stubborn and bitter, if he hated Ho blindly. There are people who always see the best in others and there are people who always see the worst.

Kit brings someone's trash into his own kitchen to search for a clue.
Why he didn't do it outside? The house has a yard.
The theme song by Joseph Koo was beautiful. It was sung by Lesley Cheung. Lesley Cheung's was one of the most beautiful male singing voices I've ever heard.

But everytime I read this movie's title, the first thing comes into my mind is a song sung by a children choir (also in this movie) titled 'Tomorrow Will Be Better'. Back in high school, I asked my friends to write one of their favorite songs's lyrics in my book. [Actually I wanted to collect their handwritings, because I think, handwritings portray who you are.] One of them wrote this song's English lyrics:

When you wake up in the morning
When you haven't started to think
There is a whole brand new day
Open wide and waiting for you
I know in life's sorrow,
you're on the verge of drowning
May your tears flee with yesterday
blown away with the wind

It's a very inspirational song, like the song Tomorrow from Annie or You'll Never Walk Alone from Carousel.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Water Margin (1972)

I knew that this movie was based on a great novel, which considered one of four great classical novels of Chinese literature; so I had prepared myself to watch something spectacular, a colossal movie.

The sets were indeed impressive and it had a huge number of casts; but this movie was only based on chapter 64-68 from the book.

It started with a chief from the Liang-shan bandits who was killed by Shi Wen-gong. Shi Wen-gong was rich and afraid that the bandits would attack him, so he attacked them first. It happened that chief Chao Gai from Liang-shan passing nearby. Shi Wen-gong kill Chao. The bandits knew that only Lu Jun-yi, who was Shi Wen-gong's former fellow student, could handle Shi Wen-gong. The story centered on how Lu joined the Liang-shan bandits.
The arrival of two Liang-shan bandits in Lu's house 
[The Liang-shan bandits were not ordinary bandits, but the 108 heroes who fought corrupted Sung government.]

Wu Yong and Li Kui, two bandits from Liang-shan went to Lu's house to invite him to come to Liang-shan. Lu refused and pretended to arrested them, he would release them later.

Yan Ching and Lu Jun-yi
Lu's steward, who was having an affair with Lu's wife, reported his master to the authorities for having 2 of the Liang-shan bandits in the house. Lu was arrested, and his adopted son, Yan Ching, later with the help of Liang-shan bandits, tried to free him.

Yan Ching's efforts to free Lu always fails
Two leaders of prison guards, luckily, kept Lu alive; while Lu's steward, who had all his master's money, bribed the authorities to have his master condemned to death.

Two Japanese actors got the main parts: Toshio Kurosawa played Shi Wen-gong and Tetsuro Tamba played Lu Jun-yi.

Last Hurrah for Chivalry (1979)

Like The Sword (1980), the swordplays in Last Hurrah for Chivalry look wonderful. One did not merely bang his sword to the opponent's sword, but aimed for the body. It was attack and defend.

If a movie is made with care, if the director is not burdened with a target (like he have to make several movies in a year), with a good choreographer (or two) and capable actors; the result can be as good as this one. For scenes like in this movie only could be achieved with intensive rehearsals and many takes.

First, we were introduced to Ko Peng. He was about to marry an-ex prostitute. He had bought her liberty with 1000 taels, but apparently he had forgotten to test her love and loyalty, for she betrayed him when someone paid her more money.

The wedding ceremony was trashed by Pak Chong-tong and his gang. He claimed that Ko Peng's recent house had been his, that Ko Peng's late father had taken the house from him, and now he came to get it back. At this moment, we perhaps took pity of Ko Peng, but as the movie progressed, we would see how evil his character was, how he destroyed good traditional values. Ko Peng was played by Kong Lau. I often see him playing supporting characters in TVB series, so I was rather surprised to see how good he played the final duel vs Wei Pai and Damian Lau.

Pak Chong-tong, on the other hand, was also not a good master. We saw how bad he treated his men. He used them to kung-fu practice. He beat them and didn't care whether they got hurt, crippled, or dead.

Then we were introduced to the two protagonists: Cheung Sam 'The Magic Sabre' and his friend Tsing Yi (Greeno). Tsing Yi was a killer for hire, but Cheung Sam seemed to have retired. This latter often bullied his sister's future husband.
Tsing Yi (Damian Lau), Cheung Sam (Wei Pai), and
a waterfall between
Cheung Sam's mother was gravely ill. Ko Peng, who wanted to kill Pak Chong-tong, heard about Cheung Sam's great skill, but realized that he could not buy him with money. Ko Peng gave Cheung Sam's dying mother the best medicine and when she died, held a big burial ceremony. Cheung Sam now owed him and voluntarily worked for him.

A hitman and a prostitute
Tsing Yi and the woman who loves him
Ko Peng paid a killer of hire named 'Let It Be' (strange name...) to kill his own teacher and let Cheung Sam take vengeance for him. Cheung Sam successfully killed Let It Be and later went for Pak Chong-tong. Tsing Yi knew that Cheung Sam wouldn't be able to handle Pak Chong-tong alone, so he went with him to help.

Cheung Sam vs Let It Be
When Pak Chong-tong attacked Ko Peng's marriage, he was the only one high-skilled, but now he surrounded himself by great fighters, notably the Sleeping Buddha. After Cheung Sam killed Pak Chong-tong, why would Ko Peng not leave him alone? I don't know why Ko Peng had to remove Cheung Sam and Tsing Yi. Would it be a disgrace if the world knew he hired Cheung Sam and Tsing Yi to get his house back? Or did he just like to kill everyone around him?

Cheung Sam vs Ko Peng

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Black Magic (1975)

I had wanted to watch this for some time. I remember watching the trailer when I was a kid. This and the sequel were popular back then.

According to IMDb, the shooting locations were in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. I was wondering when I watched the opening scene. There were stilt houses (=rumah panggung) and lots of coconut trees. The black magician and his client were dressed like people here. His hair was covered with what looked like a blangkon from a far (but in close ups it was not) and he wore sarong. I think if these two characters were dubbed in bahasa Indonesia (or Malay), none would have believed they were watching a movie produced by Shaw Brothers.

From this distance, the man looks like a Javanese
In close-up: the head cover is not a blangkon

However, the paper charms used in the next scene were typically Chinese.

The story was not much different from Indonesian horror movies in the same era. Ku Feng played a black magicians who put love spells, death spells, etc. A rich merry widow (Tanny) wanted a man (Ti Lung) who had already had a fiancée (Lily Li). The widow hired the black magician to put a spell on the man. The spell would only be broken if the black magician died.

Ti Lung and Lily Li.
She is upset after finding another woman's powder compact in his car
Tanny and Lo Lieh.
He is trying to get some strands of her hair and its root
Tanny sees a big portrait of Lily Li in Ti Lung's house.
Would you really give this your boyfriend? "Put this on your wall."
Ti Lung parks his car near a little book store named
'Kedai Buku Dunia' or 'Universal Book Store'

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Book of Life (2014)

This movie is one of the most colourful I have seen. It's presented in a story-within-a-story style.

A bunch of kids visited a museum on the Day of The Dead. They were not in mood until they knew that their guide was a sexy young lady. In there they saw 'The Book of Life'. "All the world is made of stories and all of those stories are right here." Then the guide began her story.

The little town of San Angel
Below the little town of San Angel, which was the center of the universe, laid the Land of the Remembered - for those who lived on in the memories of their loved ones - and below that was the Land of the Forgotten. The Land of the Remembered was ruled by a beautiful lady called La Muerte; while the Land of the Forgotten was ruled by an old man named Xibalba.

In San Angel, La Muerte and Xibalba saw two little boys, Manolo and Joaqin, who were trying to win the heart of a beautiful little girl named Maria. They made a bet on who would win the girl. La Muerte said it would be Manolo, and Xibalba said it would be Joaqin. Xibalba cheated by giving Joaqin a medal that would kept him from injury and death. Meanwhile, Maria's father sent her to Spain to study in a convent.

Years passed. Manolo became a musician and bullfighter, while Joaqin became a soldier. After Maria had returned, her father wanted her to accept Joaqin's marriage proposal so Joaqin would stay and protect the town from a group of bandits. However, Maria seemed to tend to choose the romantic Manolo. Before Manolo could tell Maria about his feeling, she was bitten by a snake. Manolo thought she had been dead, and committed suicide by letting the snake bite him. He went into the Land of the Remembered, but could not find Maria there, because she was still alive.

Manolo arrives in The Land of the Remembered
Manolo tried to persuade Xibalba, who had become the ruler of the Land of the Remembered,  to let him return to San Angel, but Xibalba challenged Manolo to defeat his worst fear first.

Manolo, Joaqin, and Maria: best friends.
The characters are made from wood.
The music in this movie was enjoyable although the voice of singing Manolo was too pop for me. I prefer stronger voice.

The Convict Killer (1980)

Ti Lung played Teng Piao who had been imprisoned for 15 years because someone called The Black Leopard had swapped his delivery of leather goods with opium.

In the beginning of the movie, we saw Teng Piao shot the informant who told him what the one who had set him up was The Black Leopard. I wondered why Teng Piao went into prison for smuggling drugs, but not for the murder.

Fifteen years later, after being released from jail, Teng Piao went to look for The Black Leopard for revenge. His weapon was an iron chain, the one who had kept him in jail for 15 years, he said. The informant told him 15 years ago that he should go to Flying Eagle Town and look for Master Chou.

Ching Li's character looking for her husband who has been
disappeared for 15 years
Teng Piao went to Flying Eagle Town and told Master Chou that he would be waiting for The Black Leopard in Jing Ling Inn. Master Chou sent letters to invite his six brothers (a.k.a six killers) back.

Since then, there were new strangers around the inn. Most notably was a "handsome guy with modern haircut and dresses fashionably" who threw flying daggers.

Ti Lung and Liu Yung : friend or foe?
The fighting scenes were enjoyable to watch, culminated in the final duel among Ti Lung & Liu Yung vs Chen Kuan-tai.

Chen Kuan-tai as Master Chou.