# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
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Buddha's Lock (1987) Directed by: Yim Ho

Based on a real incident in 1945 about American soldier James Wood's (John X.Heart) time as a slave for one of the clans of the Yi people. After another solider crash lands his plane near the village of one of the clans, Wood is one of the personnel sent in to retrieve him. As the man didn't survive the crash, the Americans are invited to get a taste of a culture they didn't know exist. Wood in particular takes a liking to a piece of jewelry that he trades for but when wanting a guide to get to him to a larger well of this jewelry, him and another solider are kidnapped. One doesn't survive the trip into the mountains and Wood is initiated into his new role. While he didn't see a future back home after the war, it's indeed more than he bargained for to be de-humanized. But Yim Ho (The Day The Sun Turned Cold, Red Dust) directs Hung Leung's affecting script into areas where we come to realize Wood is probably on a correct path for himself. As he is immersed into the village life and used in the armed conflicts between the clans, he's upgraded to a beloved slave almost and meeting fellow slave Niu Niu (Zhang Lu-Tong) sparks feelings of love. The slow tricks of Yim Ho aren't overly breathtaking even come ending time but he does well with his basic beats, especially Wood's established comfort in life (especially after slavery is made criminal offense) and the question of being totally lost, soulless sans the slave-stamp is an intriguing thought. Immersing Western actor John X. Heart is a good anchor, politics are suitably brought forth as he represent a character in a conflict rife with politics and it's this very exact thing that may create heartbreak. Towards the quite abrupt end, we feel all the things we should and need, for better or worse and that's a sign of true viewer engagement.

Buddha's Palm (1982) Directed by: Taylor Wong

Not the kind of nonsense you would normally associate Derek Yee with in this Taylor Wong directed Wuxia at Shaw's. Thankfully, it's very endearing nonsense in the tradition of Zu: Warriors From The Magic Mountain, but probably about 10 times more insane and creative. The lighting fast pace makes you quickly throw out any notions of analyzing the plot (and it's Wuxia fantasy anyway so it's not supposed to be grounded in any reality) and you just have to be swept away really when Wong showcases the high standard physical production values at Shaw's in combination with the crude, yet so thoroughly entertaining, animated special effects. Also starring Lo Lieh (who's character announces his presence well in advance for all other characters to take note. A scene stealing performance), Kara Hui, Alex Man, Shek Kin and Dameng, a rather compelling reject from Jim Henson's Creature Shop.

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The Buddhist Fist (1979) Directed by: Yuen Woo-Ping

A zany cast of characters comes and goes in Yuen Woo-Ping's recognizable genre piece but outstanding kung-fu overall erases some of the pitfalls The Buddhist Fist experiences along the way. Starring Yuen-Shun-Yi as Ah Shang who searches for his missing godfather (Cheung Hei) but stumbles upon a stock plot, Yuen Woo-Ping had 4 seminal and extremely noteworthy films under his belt at this point. It's still the casting of Shun-Yi that prevents the film from reaching the heights Snake In The Eagle's Shadow and The Magnificent Butcher did. He is sincere and a likeable enough hero for the film (and less annoying compared to Dance Of The Drunk Mantis) but the film can't gain as much status in the light of Jackie and Sammo's presences in said films. It's perhaps a trifle unfair to compare but many other parts of The Buddhist Fist are hugely enjoyable despite. Your tolerance for mugging and low-brow comedy will be put to the test here and Yuen Woo-Ping for our pleasure populates the film with perverts, stuttering men with birdcages, police conducting animal court, pale faced hunchback assassins and more. All colliding quite jarringly with some slightly more serious tones later in the piece. It all foreshadows the full on insanity of The Miracle Fighters and Shaolin Drunkard and these are fun times to go along with the tragic ones.

As far as choreography goes, the Yuen's can't make all of the choreography within the skits work as smoothly as the subsequent Dreadnaught showed it can but largely Yuen Shun-Yi and Tsui Siu-Ming lead the frame with awesome skill. Performing the direction with the utmost clarity and speed, their double act is classic with a capital C and shows Yuen Woo-Ping's magic at its very best. Fan Mei-Sheng, Simon Yuen (in a variation of the Sleeping Wizard character Chin Yuet-Sang made popular in Last Hurrah For Chivalry), Peter Chan Lung, Yuen Cheung-Yan and Lee Hoi Sang also appear. Tai Seng's dvd includes multiple Chinese tracks and an English dub but omits any kind of subtitles.

The Buddhist Spell (1993) Directed by: Chiu Liu-Kong

The Da Hung religion, headed by characters played by Lau Shun and Pauline Wong, are planning to bring evil into the world in the form of the Blood Kid. He needs just another dose of blood from someone born in the right year. Meanwhile Feng (Mark Cheng) is retrieving a sacred piece of wood to carve a protective statue against evil. Witnessing Shen (Sharla Cheung) being murdered by Register (Jimmy Lung) from the sect, she lingers as a spirit within the piece of wood and pleas for help in order to revenge...

A perfectly adequate time cut out of the A Chinese Ghost Story-mold (Wu Ma co-stars as well!) with an unusually good sense when it comes to mixing the moods. Unusual because The Buddhist Spell doesn't bring in comedy a whole lot. The freaky sights of the Blood Kid slowly being born throughout the movie plus skilled wirework- and animated effects (complemented by fine editing) are driving forces for a standard time with 90s Hong Kong cinema. The core romance isn't particularly noteworthy though but no one makes an ass out of him or herself here.

Bullet For Hire (1991) Directed by: Yuen Chun Man

You initially think Bullet For Hire is going to be a cops vs. assassins movie, with Elaine Lui at center for the former crowd but director Yuen Chun Man turns almost completely away and goes the route of staying with the gangsters instead. Since this is not a particularly deep exploration of brotherhood and loyalty, the choice of "siding" with the outlaws seems ill-fitted. Then again, if you want your Hong Kong gunplay movies fair and balanced, you really shouldn't be watching anything out of the genre explosion in the 80s and 90s. Yuen Chun Man does have enough knowledge about what sells and while the gunplay isn't stylistically great, he really bathes the screen in blood. Not even the smallest ones are spared from neck breaks, chainsaws and the crew loaded up a good chunk of blood for the frequent squib effects as well. It attempts certain things, poorly, but Bullet For Hire delivers its selling points dependently. One note of acknowledgement I do want to point out is the inclusion of comedy that for once fits the situations rather than being tacked on and exaggerated as per usual. That is until some of the black humour enters, then it's the ill-fit again... Also starring Simon Yam, Jacky Cheung, Lo Lieh and Dick Wei.

Bullet In The Head (1990, John Woo)

My first and firm introduction to the kind of Hong Kong cinema that would alter my perception of what’s possible IN cinema, it may be relegated to this quick-take section but for many years I refrained from writing about it at all. As odd as it sounds, it delighted me that an action drama could devastate me through such wild genre-content and John Woo’s most personal and most angry (the film is a reaction to the Tiananmen Square events) of his ‘heroic bloodshed’ pictures strikes a chord so many years later because it knows just how angry it should be without going overboard. It speaks to John’s strengths in crafting the material out of such emotions and also therefore elaborate action set pieces that by this movie has a tint of ugly violence. Not just action but violence.

It’s especially great to revisit this after that first taste and subsequently watching classics and crap because you realize how immensely ahead of many of the director’s John Woo was when it came to vision, usage of style like slow-mo, violent moments and key dramatic ones accentuated by such elements remain timeless. This is a man with confidence making this war drama that is grounded in reality and has no The Killer or Hard Boiled style but it’s also amazing the anger of Woo’s, as this was partly a reaction towards the government’s handling of the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989, was put to use so well in a big drama. An incredibly intense and well performed one and pretty much one of John’s most disturbing films when it comes to the effect of the blood and violence as it travels to us as a viewer. Framing it around the triangular brotherhood is perhaps the only been there, done that-aspect here but through acting, mayhem, character-interaction, character INVESTMENT, issues of clichés never rears its head and it’s entirely compelling and heartbreaking (despite the opening credits being set to I’’m A Believer’ by The Monkees) the hellish journey John takes Tony Leung, Jacky Cheung, Simon Yam and Waise Lee on. Confidence oozes throughout, with Woo’s slow motion style reserved for the right, even unexpected moments and little of what we see her makes the tragedy evolve the characters into supermen instead. These are vulnerable people who will feel it physically and in the air when they do get hurt. And no one is bound to win by the end. The devastation makes you return to Bullet In The Head.
Burning Ambition (1989) Directed by: Frankie Chan

There is ambition behind this actioner but in terms of storytelling, the end result is a bit of a mess. Besides Frankie himself there are a slew of familiar faces appearing such as Oh Jung Hung, Simon Yam, Yukari Oshima, Kara Hui, Roy Chiao, Eddy Ko, Shing Fui On and Fung Hark On. Judging by some of those names it's not hard to then guess that Burning Ambition features action and that proves to be the movies saving grace. Action comes hard and fast with a handful of typical 80s Hong Kong cinema insane stuntwork. The grueling parking garage fight stands out in my mind but there is quality to be found in each set piece.

To me it seemed that filmmakers could, during this era, do good action almost blindfolded. No wonder you miss it. A Universe vcd was once on the market but is now hard to find.

Burning Sensation (1989) Directed by: Wu Ma

Kin (Kenny Bee) is a fireman who sees Ling (Carol Cheng) in peril in a burning building. It turns out he's fetched a spirit tablet though and he's subsequently let go from his job on the grounds of being insane. The spirit within the tablet turns out to be an actress who died in a fire at a movie studio many years earlier. On the scene also comes a Syren (Lai Yin San) who's after men and their souls. Kin's brother (Wu Ma) thinks he's romancing the Syren though and it all culminates in a battle between the spirits and humans...

Distinctly middle of the road but highly enjoyable, it isn't all due to an irresistible 80s atmosphere but Wu Ma keeping matters snappy and energetic. Even skits like him and his friends (among others Teddy Yip) playing mahjong with their blind buddy (James Wong) is fine entertainment and having Kenny Bee amidst this as a good reactor benefits Wu Ma's work too. There's no affecting romance as such here but Kenny Bee and Carol Cheng are dependable stars for the story and both the comedic and more serious spirit battles are shot with an infectious energy. Lai Yin San also stands out as the Syren and Wu Ma's character doing the famous A Chinese Ghost Story rap as his character entrance (he plays a radio DJ) is hilarious.

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Burning Snow (1988) Directed by: Patrick Tam

One of Patrick Tam's (My Heart Is That Eternal Rose, After This Our Exile) lesser known movies (lack of instant availability being one reason) and co-produced in Taiwan by Chu Yen-Ping (Island Of Fire), Tam tells the story of the abusive marriage arranged for young Cher (Yip Chuen-Wan). Verbally and physically abused, even when she's raped she is blamed but a more safe presence arrives in the form of convict Wah (Simon Yam). Shot largely at night and in an isolated setting elevating the despair of Cher even more, while it at times is quite on the nose (mostly thanks to the sporadic voice over), Tam achieves both naturalism that leads to realism that is felt. The various scenes of abuse are frightening and the counter balance to that in the form of Cher's happiness and sexuality is quite lovingly shot by Christopher Doyle. It may not be the deepest of doomed love stories (it's barely 90 minutes after all) but Tam pushes cinematically within this naturalistic frame at key moments to make the brief affair take on fair poignancy.

Bury Me High (1991) Directed by: Tsui Siu-Ming

Tsui Siu-Ming juggles a very Eastern style plot (concerning the use of feng shui for world domination) and accessible action-adventure filmmaking that does scream Indiana Jones at various times (it's another production featuring the character of Wisely, created by Ngai Fong and played here by Chin Ka-Lok). Which is in itself a very good idea for Hong Kong cinema as the action directing could definitely make it a standout. Cinematographer Peter Pau certainly responds to this and is highly playful with his camera, creating an unusual epic feeling for a Hong Kong production. Director and co-action director Tsui does not thoroughly provide excitement though. While entertaining, he delivers only impressive fight scenes and epic warfare towards the end but Bury Me High easily comes recommended as the talents of Chin Ka-Lok especially gets ample times to shine eventually. Also with Moon Lee, Yuen Wah, Sibelle Hu, Paul Chun, Corey Yuen and Tsui Siu-Ming.

Buy the DVD at:
HK Flix.com

Butterfly & Sword (1993) Directed by: Michael Mak

A dizzying, fast paced Wuxia spectacle made in Taiwan (schlockmeister Chu Yen-Ping was the executive producer and has even been credited with the direction elsewhere) that I recommend visiting a second time because it's not easy to be prepared for the assault that comes at you during a virgin viewing, mainly referring to Ching Siu-Tung's action choreography. Centering around a group of childhood friends turned assassins in the martial arts world, director Michael Mak (Sex And Zen) has a focus, just not the greatest on this story that benefits the most from Michelle Yeoh's fine performance as a conflicted woman in this world. The star of the show is however Ching Siu-Tung's mentioned contribution and his team is in top form here. While the editing of the action leaves a little to be desired, the outrageous (and gory) high flying concepts here are some of the best during the 90s streak in the genre. In particular Tony Leung Chiu-Wai's human arrow technique has to be seen to be believed. A bravura fight in a bamboo forest would of course later be echoed by Ching in House of Flying Daggers. Co-starring Joey Wong, Donnie Yen, Elvis Tsui, Tok Chung-Wa and Taiwanese singer Jimmy Lin. The latter being a grating inclusion because it's purely designed to appeal commercially.

The Hong Kong print ends rather abruptly, leaving out the actual downbeat fate of a few of the characters. The Taiwanese version was available on dvd as Comet, Butterfly & Sword and featured the full ending. Tai Seng's US dvd includes it as an extra but "blesses" the feature Cantonese track (that is just as suitable to watch with) with a 5.1 remix. The Ku Long novel the film is based on was also made at Shaw Brother's in 1976, as Killer Clans (directed by Chor Yuen). The John Charles book The Hong Kong Filmography 1977-1997 also discloses the fact that Chu Yen-Ping recycled sets, costumes and footage for his Slave Of The Sword (also in 1993).

Buy the DVD at:
HK Flix.com (Tai Seng)
Yesasia.com (Mei Ah)

The Butterfly Murders (1979) Directed by: Tsui Hark

Though finally available in widescreen and sporting readable subtitles, Tsui Hark's directing debut still comes off as a bit incoherent. Sure, these wuxia stories are about supremacy in the martial arts world so latching on to that story strand isn't impossible but what it all means on a deeper level and how everyone and everything relates, is trickier (but probably crystal clear to Tsui Hark). Despite that, it's a decent, though unspectacular debut from Tsui and a movie that ignited the new wave of films and directors (including Ann Hui and Allen Fong).

On a visual level (one of Tsui's trademarks) the film offers some imaginative cinematography with nods to both Eastern and Western classic imagery. The ending battle is quite spectacular also and features some nifty ideas either from wuxia stories or Tsui Hark's mind. Could be either really.

Mei Ah's newly remastered dvd looks good in terms of sharpness and detail considering the age of the film but suffers from heavy color staining that is highly apparent during several sections of the film. It's reportedly a negative damage trait that not only this Seasonal production has suffered from. HK Video's release in France also features this damage. Further more, as per the old pan and scanned vcd, the movie is clearly a missing a piece of footage detailing the reading of a letter. As it stands now, we get a really abrupt cut at the hour mark. The BBC showed a print during the 90s, in Mandarin, and its running time suggests that it was up to 3 minutes longer which could mean it contained the cut scene from the Hong Kong dvd but additional minutes of footage!

As If this wasn't enough of a mess already, people have recollections of a screening at the 1997 Hong Kong International Film Festival that at least had a print in much better shape. If it was uncut however, no one has at the time of writing confirmed.

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HK Flix.com


By Hook Or By Crook (1980) Directed by: Karl Maka

Thank god there's Sammo to balance up this very local kung-fu comedy that comes with an overload of Dean Shek. When he's at it, there's no stopping because he was a creative force behind the scenes usually. Who's to protest but us Westerners because I'm sure crews and audiences in Hong Kong could stand this a lot more. Director Karl Maka does try and be clever by injecting modern movie references into this period piece, mainly from Westerns but it's mostly tiring humour. Just because you feature it as an element, doesn't make it funny. Example: Eric Tsang has an easy 2 minutes of work as the Chinese Clint Eastwood. I'm not snickering even.

It has to be said though that the latter half has a director with a better focus on how to deliver wit, in particular evident during a training sequence and a mock fight involving Lam Ching Ying and Wu Ma. Oh it's a character gallery with obnoxious and unsympathetic traits but Sammo is a fine standout here, flexing both his endearing comedic chops and bringing the expected power to the fight choreography. By Hook Or By Crook is for the majority of the time intolerable but ends up being entertaining eventually, despite the sins it commit. Chung Fat also appear.

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