# 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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The Criminals (1976) Directed by: Ching Kong, Hua Shan & Ho Meng-Hua

Long before the era of the early 90s where filmmakers were scouring the newspapers for grim, real life crimes to depicts and spicing it up tenfold due to the freedom of the Category III rating, Shaw Brother's started a long running series called The Criminals, containing 3 short stories in 1 feature. Reportedly shooting in and around the same locations of the actual crimes (might as well been a promotional gimmick), first out of the gate is "Hidden Torsos", directed by Ching Gong (also the helmer of another based on a true life crime feature at Shaw's called Kidnap). Shih Szu plays a woman on the run from an abusive relationship but is trapped in her apartment by that abuser, played by Antonio Ho (Ghost Eyes). Ching Gong's experimental and in your face cinematography is reminiscent of Kidnap but he still achieves tension and an engrossing, grim tone. A silly voice over conclusion leaning towards the supernatural could've been left out however.

But the narrator continues guiding us through dark facets of society, continuing with adultery in "Valley Of The Hanged". Hong (Chiang Yang - The Spiritual Boxer) is a lowly, mining worker whose wife (Lau Wai-Yue - The Bamboo House Of Dolls) finds what she needs in De (Tin Ching). Marriage bitterness turns to hatred and to murder. Cinematography continue to do well but Hua Shan's (The Super Inframan) narrative lacks flair and possesses predictability instead. Certainly the most risque of the pieces as Lau sheds her clothes on several occasions.

The final piece "The Stuntmen" chooses the setting of the Shaw Brother's studious, partly but in reality is a standard gangster tale crammed into 38 minutes. Director Ho Meng-Hua (The Mighty Peking Man) seems to feel this pressure as he quickly takes Lo Lieh's Zhong from down on his luck, through the gig as a stuntman, being a pimp for a Tanny Tien look alike (naturally played by the sexy Tanny Tien herself) and ending up as a higher ranked triad boss. Triangles is a recurring symbol throughout these short stories and therefore no element of surprise really exists anymore when we arrive at this story. The Shaw's connection within the narrative doesn't even matter either. Summing up The Criminals, Ching Gong wins this round. Appearing in the various stories are also Wong Yue, Chan Shen, Ku Feng, Yueh Hua and Ha Ping.

The Criminals 2 - Homicides (1976, Kuei Chih-Hung, Hua Shan & Sun Chung)

Amping its supposedly true life crime series of shorts within a feature to four (with two being directed by Kuei Chih-Hung), the quartet is easily absorbed but uneven in quality. Kuei provides the strongest entry in the opener 'The Deaf Mute Killer'. Shot in black and white and feeling initially like a forced, stylistic statement, the story of a bulled deaf and mute (Hon Gwok-Choi) takes a turn for the brutal that amps the gritty quality always attempted within the series. Yes, people are extremely judgmental and evil in a way that doesn't equal a subtle, social commentary but as our lead gets pushed to the brink and violence is the only way out, the impact of death is quite tremendous and loud in black and white. It's an ugly world and an ugly scenario that works fine for the 30 minute format. There's less efficiency in Kuei's 'The Informer', Hua Shan's 'Mama-San' at the very least has the strongest action-directing and Sun Chung's 'Nude In The Box' brings us a courtcase and flashbacks to the crime. Mild interest in this last segment is present as we're curious whether the accused really is that depraved. Post-mortem torture adds a welcome edge but Sun Chung concludes rather abruptly with no pay-off to built up tension.

The Criminals 3 - Arson (1976, Hua Shan & Kuei Chih-Hung)

Shaw Brothers extends their 'Criminals' template featuring short crime tales within each feature. This time merely producing two, 'Gun Snatchers' about a pair of cop killers (Fan Mei-Sheng and Johnny Wang) opens and the feeling of it being quickie makes itself felt immediately. The location shooting and realistic style is supposed to add grit and power to even the short scenario but Hua Shan's direction feels very basic and has no lasting impact. One sequence involving a stakeout contains some effective fake outs but not only does 'Gun Snatchers' run way too long, it doesn't stay with you either. Same for the titular story of the second half by Kuei Chih-Hung about a fire to a nightclub in the name of petty revenge that takes the lives of several tenants in the same building. The fire sequence is very well executed but the procedural that kicks in contains nothing of note. Especially not since Kuei takes us from a crime to punishment-journey, leaving us with a very boring reel of courtroom drama. Had there been three stories, perhaps a snap to these two would've manifested itself but as it stands now, these are two scenarios that should've been 10-15 minutes shorter to stand any chance.

The Criminals 4 - Assault (1977, Kuei Chih-Hung & Sun Chung)

A duo of tales dealing with sadistic crime, character- and social injustices (and being very preachy in the process), series main-stay Kuei Chih-Hung helms the opener 'Kidnap'. Amping visuals and overacting (San Kuai being the main offender), Kuei still crafts some punishing sections. Ranging from the opening murder and kidnapping, there's even quality action choreography during a car-park fight and the violence is effectively direct. Sun Chung's 'Queen Of Temple Street' features voice over as a device and is really nothing more than a basic melodrama where a fishing village wife (Lau Wai-Ling) is sold off to be a prostitute by her deadbeat husband. The instincts are not necessarily wrong dramatically but Sun Chung can't bring it on a story-level. Eventually punching through with a violent beating and struggle for the finale (he could've reeled in the use of slow motion though), The Criminals 4 neither elevate or to sink the series. Watch the whole line-up if you're a fan of Kuei Chuh-Hung (The Killer Snakes, Bamboo House Of Dolls).

The Criminals 5 - The Teeanger's Nightmare (1977, Mou Tun-Fei & Kuei Chih-Hung)

The last of the Shaw Brothers true crime, short story format series, this time helmed by Mou Tun-Fei (Men Behind The Sun and series mainstay Kuei Chih-Hung (The Bamboo House Of Dolls). In 'Gun', Mou delivers basic effect and really the 30 or so minute slot acts as a nice filmmaking exercise as he depicts how a finding of a gun triggers dark events for two poor men (Wong Chung and Ngaai Fei). Power seduction and plenty of the expected beats this dark story comes with, Mou delivers and violence acted out by characters going from mild, to somewhat cunning but ultimately desperate comes with a welcome aura of realism.

Kuei Chih-Hung has a off day with 'The Teenager's Nightmare' (surrounding the hunt for a rapist). Effective surroundings out of studio and initially decent touches of humour (banter between police as stakeouts and undercover work isn't always eventful), Kuei lets the tale spiral out of control into an intensely goofy one that makes little sense next to its main plot drive.

Crimson Street (1982) Directed by: David Lai

KENNETH'S REVIEW: Odd concoction despite a straight narrative, David Lai's second feature manages to hold your attention by not being expected. The story template is easy enough, starting with Kenny Bee being let out of prison but soon on a criminal path again, heading towards a possibly last, big job. He encounters club singer Sally (Sally Yeh) in the process but she is under the watchful eye of club owner Paul King (Michael Chan) and in love with her is cop Pow (Melvin Wong). It comes down to the notion of who is less messed up in the eyes of Sally and it leans towards the criminal...

Much of the interesting aspects of Crimson Street is directed towards Arthur Wong's splendid cinematography that manages to make the flick quite slick as well as employing shot- and lightning solutions that are highly atmospheric. But within a flick that either can't seem to find a grip of its simple story or has decided to not use expected beats, we feel like a pinball watching this mess that feels far from being a mess actually. For instance a rather intense and funny bar room brawl between Kenny and Michael Chan has the latter showing us his weird, surreal AND psychotic side. He even goes to the lengths of channeling buddha's palm in a drunken rage. So when at home, he goes really postal on Sally Yeh in an unpleasant sequence and the effects of respective mood is there. It's just tough to accept the multiple choices of Lai's. Also included, Melvin Wong as the cop with some slight psychosis of his own, montages of bliss between what should logically be the happy couple of the film and a nifty action sequence at a hockey rink sums up the picasso tableau of moods and emotions Crimson Street has. Not art but not totally unworthy strangely enough.

Crippled Avengers (1979) Directed by: Chang Cheh

Chang Cheh puts together his The Five Venoms cast again but brings a worthy twist: What if they were all disabled? Although its original trailer claims it's a story with meaning, genre simplicity is a fine and the better tool here in the actual movie. Showcasing quite a merciless side initially as Chen Kuan-Tai's Black Tiger Dao has his family torn to pieces literally. The wife's legs are cut off and the son has his arms amputated. The son survives (as an adult played by Lu Feng) and from an excellent blacksmith receives iron arms as replacement. But this family was or becomes tyrants and in the process blinds Chen Shuen (Phillip Kwok), takes away hearing and speech of Blacksmith Wei (Lo Meng), cuts Hu Ah Kue's (Sun Chien) legs off and through torture turns Wang Yi (Chiang Sheng) into an idiot. Then the quartet train for three years and comes back for revenge. A fun, even clever premise shot on the gorgeous Shaw Brothers sets, it's one of Chang Cheh's most appealing late 70s productions due to its scaled down but professional approach. How the respective disabilities will be conquered, how the training scenes are conceived, how the choreography will be structured around all this are thoughts that keeps us going. No doubt these already proven, acrobatic and physically able performers respond to the task and although Chang Cheh lets matters run a way too generous 100+ minutes, Crippled Avengers is a fun time as well as easy entry point for newcomers. Also with Johnny Wang. Seemingly inspired a string of similar movies including The Four Invincible and The Crippled Masters with the latter featuring actual disabled performers.

The Crippled Master (1979) Directed by: Joe Law

On the heels of Chang Cheh's The Crippled Avengers, The Crippled Master changes tac as it uses actual disabled performers for its above average kung fu cinema exploits. But it doesn't exploit or belittle its main two performers Sam Chung-Chuen and Hong Chiu-Ming but rather the filmmakers have sat down to make sure these are used at the best of their abilities. Above standard therefore. Losing their arms and legs in rather grisly fashion and subsequently meeting a yoga master (Ho Chiu), thankfully very little comedy follows and Joe Law's good eye for creating solid looking kung fu cinema makes us think little of standard plotting. The choreography is solid, being very intricate and creative in the way it uses its limited performers and subsequent work for the duo followed in Two Crippled Heroes and Fighting Life. The Crippled Master is also known as The Crippled Heaven. Action director Chan Muk-Chuen co-stars.

Crossings (1994) Directed by: Evans Chan

KENNETH'S REVIEW: A crap time for all, including the audience but this time we're not on board with hellish fate dealt to to good characters. Evans Chan (The Map Of Sex And Love) may deepen things somewhat in his director's cut (once available on VHS in America) but the 90 minute Hong Kong version doesn't reveal that much of an engaging tale. Anita Yuen is Mo-Yung, who's fallen head over heels in love with Benny (Simon Yam) and is asked to deliver a package for him to New York where he's waiting. Very hard to reach, in the meantime Yo-Mung befriends clinic worker Rubie (Lindsay Chan) who uncovers the darker truth to Benny. With Yo-Mung having put everything on the line, including family, the world certainly isn't smiling at her...

Through the various characters being generally unsatisfied with the geographical location they're in and the situation they're in, Evans Chan is venting pessimism that bores rather than involves. The writing is pretty clear cut, only not walking the tightrope of creating actual valid, hellish cinema. When dealing the worst hand to Anita Yuen's Yo-Mung, it doesn't say anything about the world we can't figure out without a movie experience. Certain sections towards the end are heartbreaking and ominous but it's not enough to flash a wee bit of excellence only. A solid cast and performances fail to elevate the material and the wide eyed psycho played by Ted Brunetti ends up being an unintentional funny moment for the film. Watch Farewell, China instead.

Cross The River (1988) Directed by: Chang Cheh

KENNETH'S REVIEW: Shot on the Mainland, Chang Cheh's most prolonged period post-Shaw's, in terms of settling on his troupe of actors (Dung Chi-Wa chief among them) goes from uneven to downright sloppy and also to top it all off, bad. It's operatic to the max as it centers the plot around an opera troupe with select characters about to become heroes of their time as they rise up against oppression in 1930s China. Many sequences of performing are included, many of which are shot with little flair and the trek gets even worse when basic plot isn't conveyed particularly well. Just because you have your characters talking of what to do, doesn't mean it travels to outside the screen. But extended opera leads to extended action for almost the full latter half of the film. Acrobatics and guns makes very much sense and the very tail end of the climax is set at a fireworks storage facility so literally we've got fireworks, that is watchable to boot. With the audience caring little for the heroism of characters, Chang Cheh may end his flick with attempts at poetry and style and it just shows there was life in him still. Life that unfortunately was leaving him for each movie that went by.

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