Friday, February 12, 2016

Five Fingers of Death (1972)

Tien Feng played Meng, the head of  Pak Sing kung-fu school, who used every means to win the championship in a kung-fu tournament; including hiring Japanese killers to eliminate his rivals.

Lo Lieh played Chao Chih-hao, a loyal and honest student of Mr Sung. Sung realized that Chih-hao was too talented to be his student, so he sent him to a better teacher: Mr Suen. Mr Suen would later taught Chih-hao the iron palm.

Chih-hao trying to break a piece of wood
Chao Chih-hao and Mr Sung's daughter were in love, but Mr Sung forbade them to marry until Chih-hao had won the championship.

Sung Ying-ying (Wang Ping) and Lo Lieh (Chao Chih-hao)
Knowing that Chih-hao was his strongest rival, Meng sent his thugs to ambush our hero. They crushed his hands, but -I actually find it hard to believe- Chih-hao could recuperate in time to win the championship.

In late 70's - early 80's, every time I watched kung-fu movies Lo Lieh always played bad guys. Recently I found out that in late 60's movies he was actually often cast as good guys as well. In Five Fingers of Death, Lo Lieh played the good guy and I must say I like his performance here. Lately I watched quite a number of kung-fu movies and I must say that Lo Lieh was one of the best actors Shaw Brothers ever had. It was a surprise to know he had been born in Pematangsiantar, North Sumatra, and spent his childhood there - before migrating to Hongkong in the 50's.

Both his palms turn red
For the English title, I think 'Palm of Death' is more appropriate than 'Five Fingers of Death'. My first impression after reading the title was the character in the movie would use five fingers, like a claw - or perhaps finger by finger like Yi-yang finger technique from Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils. But when I was watching it, to use the skill (the iron palm), Chih-hao's palm - the whole palm and not only fingers - would turn red - and the sound of alarm would appear. The original title itself is 'The World's Number One Fist", so the other English title "King Boxer" is better.

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