Category: hong kong

Nigerian poster for “Mr. Vampire II” (1986). 

The poster makes it look like a gruesome monster movie, and it certainly is that at times, but the majority of this Hong Kong film is an E.T. inspired riff where a small child befriends an adorable kid vampire (and even hides him in a bedroom closet as a toy, E.T. style). 

The Japanese poster gets the tone across much better.

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“The Butterfly Murders” (1979)

RIP to Carl Scott, Hong Kong b-movie action star, the “Soul Brother of Kung Fu,” who died last night from the coronavirus. 

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Carl Scott was a Kung Fu expert and fitness enthusiast who went to Hong Kong, starring in two movies with Billy Chong: Sun Dragon, a wonderful Kung Fu Western filmed in Arizona, where he plays the son of an Arizona cowboy who was thrown off his land by ranchers and rustlers motivated by greed and race-hatred. Scott’s character teams up with Billy Chong, who teaches him Kung Fu, so he can get his ranch back. 

Then you have Kung Fu Executioner, where Billy Chong played an American-educated, very “modern” Chinese who returns home with his American best friend, who is also a student of Kung Fu, to discover his bourgeois family’s business in Hong Kong is sought after by the Chinese mafia. Together with his American best friend and brother, he takes on the mob with martial arts. 

Thai poster for “Zu: Warriors of the Magical Mountain” (1983), the fantasy movie with Hollywood special effects/production quality that kicked off the Hong Kong Golden Age.

If you can, read Hong Kong artist Tony Wong’s Weapons of the Gods comic book, started in 1995. There are dozens of volumes, but it’s worth it…and let’s face it, many of us have the time now. 

The tabletop game from 2005 (in English) is the very definition of a wonderful hidden gem that may be the best game ever made for Kung Fu, by Rebecca Borgstrom. RSB is one of the crucial voices in the creation of Exalted, a game inspired, after all, by Chinese martial arts novels and comics, so she’s a natural for this stuff. 

Anyone who grew up in Hong Kong in the early 80s remembers “Young Heroes of Shaolin,” a martial arts/costume drama designed to showcase attractive young up and coming actors every member of the audience had a crush on. They have martial arts of course, but they also have problems. Often with love triangles. 

The theme song by Michael Kwan was a memorable earworm: 

Hiroyuki Sanada in “Ninja in the Dragon’s Den” (1982). 

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Hiroyuki Sanada fascinates me because his career connects the cult martial arts and monster cinema of the 70s and 80s to modern big budget movie-driven pop culture in a way that I think is underanalyzed, a throughline from one to the other that would make a great paper for a PhD thesis in film studies. It reminds me of how big-budget Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn was a Troma alum and friend of Lloyd Kaufmann. 

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Sanada was in “Message from Space,” a 70s Star Wars knockoff, not to mention tons of Hong Kong Kung Fu movies (usually as a Japanese heel bad guy, naturally), but to this day, is a regular player in big-budget Hollywood cinema. For example, as recently as 2019, he was in Avengers: Endgame as Hawkeye’s sword-wielding opponent in Japan, and is a regular on Westworld

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“Masked Avengers” (1981)

“The Witch from Nepal” (1986). Good to see on a double-bill with “Seventh Curse.”