Category: hong kong

“Mr. Vampire 3″ (1987)

“Lady General Hua Mu-Lan” (1964), the Shaw Brothers’ version of the Mu-Lan story. The Mulan story was filmed in China many times. 

Though today it’s associated with manliness, war, and martial arts movies thanks to figures like he-man director Chang Cheh, or the white-undershirt loving manly superstar Bruce Lee, the Hong Kong film industry in the first few decades of existence was oriented mostly to women until the 1970s with musicals and love-story movies, as housewives were the only people with the free time to go to the movies. The biggest martial arts star of the 1960s was Chang Pei Pei, for instance.

An earlier version of the Mulan story was made in Shanghai in 1939, “Mulan Joins the Army.” Filmed in Japanese occupied Shanghai (the setting, incidentally, for Bruce Lee’s Chinese Connection), there’s no coincidence that they made a Mulan movie just then: it’s a story about a person joining the army to push out an aggressive invader and conqueror.

Oh, and fun fact, Mulan also exists in DC Comics as well, she was an ally of Arak, Son of Thunder (a historical book that was much more like Umberto Eco’s Baudolino than like the Conan ripoff everyone thought he was): 

“Mr. Vampire” (1985). Sammo Hung’s best movie, a comedy/horror/kung fu hybrid – though he’s known for martial arts as an actor, most of his directorial/producing efforts show his fascination for ghost stories, monsters, and the supernatural. This one started a craze in Hong Kong for movies featuring Chinese “hopping vampires.” In Hong Kong, there were hopping vampire movies going back to the 1930s, but this one revived that “tired” genre. 

Lam Ching-yang played a Chinese Abraham van Helsing, a Taoist who knows what’s what when it comes to the ways of Chinese vampires. He basically spent a lot of time being these movie’s van Helsing in Hong Kong: he was also the titular Magic Cop

Jiangshi, Chinese vampires, are really not all that vampiric; they’re essentially corpses reanimated by magic and they don’t drink blood. In Mr. Vampire II, we see the ultra-creepy vampire children and even a female vampire: 

I love how the two “hunks” of Shaw Brothers Kung Fu cinema of the 1970s, frequent co-stars Ti Lung and David Chiang, have now become mellow, kinda dorky, but very nice suburban Dads.

Ti Lung loves being a grandpa and loves teaching his grandkids Martial Arts…

And David Chiang left acting to help his wife recover from cancer (which she did):

“Holy Flame of the Martial World” (1983). A fantastical, mythological Kung Fu movie about a pair of twins seeking matching spears. It’s notable for both the special effects and for the phantasmagorical, surreal imagery, and for the fact it’s one of the rare Kung Fu films to have a female master villain. In the early 1980s, the trend in Hong Kong martial arts films for a couple of years was toward fantastical, special effects driven pieces (for instance, take Buddha’s Palm, or the very last of Cheng Cheh’s movies with the Five Venoms, The Weird Man, both of which came out in 1982).

It’s hard to see Holy Flame of the Martial World as anything other than a Shaw Brothers’ answer to Golden Harvest’s movie made that same year (1983), the first of Hong Kong’s very big special effects films, Zu: Warriors of the Magical Mountain, the film that announced the entrance of Tsui Hark to the world of Hong Kong cinema (he’d done a few movies before, but that was his first as the Tsui Hark we know, “Hong Kong’s Spielberg”). This movie was Antz to Zu’s Bug’s Life

If you want to see it, it’s on Amazon Prime now. Celestial, who own the rights to the Shaw Brothers catalog, have been pretty good about getting it all out there and available.

One of Bruce Lee’s unmade projects was the planned but never filmed costume ancient swordsman film, either called “Blind Swordsman” or “Dragon of Jade.”

This would have been made around 1972 at Golden Harvest, possibly before his Hollywood debut. In his tragically truncated output, Bruce Lee was never known for doing “costume pieces” or “ancient swordsman” movies where he sported long hair (!), so these test images are somewhat unique. 

One of the random, no-name henchmen Bruce Lee beats up in “Enter the Dragon” was none other than Jackie Chan. 

Jackie Chan said that Bruce Lee filled the stunt players with admiration because he treated them as equals and ate lunch with them, and even covered their bills if they got hurt. 

Another movie where, if you hit the pause button quick enough you can see Jackie Chan, was Angela Mao’s Hapkido


“Buddha Palm” (1982)

Kwan Tak-hing, who played Martial Artist/medical doctor Wong Fei-hung in over 120 films, the most any actor has ever played any character. As Wong Fei-hung was a doctor, his movies ended with him healing and saving the life of the villain after beating him up.

With all due respect to Jet Li, Gordon Liu and others, who did an incredible job playing the character, Dr. Wong Fei-hung is like Doctor Who in that something has always felt “off” about him when he is played by a younger actor.

I don’t mean to disappoint anyone, but there was actually surprisingly little sex in the film. Still, an excellent example of the many ways to have a non-standard kung fu film. See also the Shaw Brothers’ “Tales of a Eunuch” (1983) for a good comedy kung fu film.