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Return Of The One-Armed Swordsman (1969) Directed by: Chang Cheh

"Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!"

For Chang Cheh's sequel to the influential and successful One-Armed Swordsman , he consciously leaves some of the more somber character-drama behind to instead deliver an almost constant stream of gory weapons-action. Thankfully though, he hasn't fully forgotten the emotional core of the first film and Return Of The One-Armed Swordsman wouldn't have been as terrific without the 1967 effort as its backbone.


Fang Gang (Jimmy Wang Yu, reprising his famous role) made his choice at the end of the first film to leave the martial world behind in favour of his love towards Xiaoshan (Lisa Chiao). As these things go, inevitably our hero will face a crossroad where his ultimate decision both is involuntary and about the fact that he after all has a responsibility towards a world that reveres and loathes him. Chang Cheh finds time in between the copious amounts of bloodshed to further the relationship between Fang Gang and Xiaoshan and it presents a refreshing warmth and understanding due to the kind of world they're in, even with the duo wanting to turn away from it. Again, it's a testament to his strength as a director of character drama that these themes have never faded and become painful clichés. It also helps to have Jimmy Wang Yu confidently conveying the strength and honor of Fang Gang. As an underdog in the first film who transformed into an honorable hero, there's an interesting plot point here in the sequel that all of the elder clan leaders are being held captive, leading to Fang having to step up as a true leader for the younger generation. All while there’s a reluctance in Fang because of what this world stands for. Despite the movie sounding and feeling like it’s stripped of anything heavy in favour of tons of the red, these are character elements that still are poignant.


Talking action choreography, again supervised by Lau Kar Leung and Tong Gaai, there is quite a leap in technical polish from the first film. Pace in battles is tighter as well as intensity and the number of movements, intricate or not, in each shot is increasing. Since it’s Wuxia, there are also otherworldly techniques built into the piece, assisted by, for the time, creative wire-work. For Jimmy Wang Yu, the action directors also come up with new techniques, based on his limitations as a performer but also connecting to the character's honed arsenal of skills. We ultimately get more demonstrations basic, simple cinematic techniques but power is still effectively created through the staging and editing. Out of the myriad of recognizable faces we see Tien Feng, Chung Wa, Lau Kar Leung, Ti Lung, Wu Ma and Chan Sing. Essie Lin Chia logs a memorably evil performance as The Lady Of Thousand Hands.

Return Of The Tiger (1977) Directed by: Jimmy Shaw

Bruce Li, a narcotics syndicate... guess who's bringing down who? Despite talky sections with poor attempts at tension while operating within a stock story, Return Of The Tiger is one to demonstrate how Bruce Li could escape Brucesploitation trappings. Showcasing confidence in the multiple fight scenes, the various gym fights are good signs of power and danger that Return Of The Tiger then build upon nicely. All culminating in an end brawl with Li's endless fight with Western villain Paul Smith (from Midnight Express) whose power and size are put to excellent use. There's a reason you take away power, invincibility and danger from Return Of The Tiger. Li and Smith were the poster boys of the movie and delivered. Also with Angela Mao, Lung Fei and Chang Yi.

Return To A Better Tomorrow (1994) Directed by: Wong Jing

Even the Chinese title of Return To A Better Tomorrow puts the word "new" in front of the one for the 1986 John Woo classic and thankfully, Wong Jing isn't echoing storybeats but genre beats only. For half a flick, it works surprisingly well while the work of action directors Dion Lam and Poon Kin-Gwam works pretty much throughout. The usual triad plot mismash goes as follows: Boss Chun (Ekin Cheng) is betrayed by his own brother Wei (Ben Lam) and henchmen along with Holland Boy (Ngai Sing) are sent after him. Chun manages to flee, girlfriend on home turf Chili (Chingmy Yau) isn't so lucky and gets treated to a razorblade. 2 years later along with old brother now big boss Lobster (Lau Ching-Wan), time for Chun to blast himself into the spotlight again...

While very heavy on style almost to the point of parody (heavily colored lights, slow motion, heavy rain), Wong Jing pulls out some technical chops here. The movie may be expected but also feels dangerous eventually thanks to leading villains Ben Lam and Ngai Sing really making a strong impression. The second half is a bit painfully clichéd and the punishing drama doesn't deliver but the "Return" (or New) of the title is justified. Again, Dion Lam and Poon King-Gwam deliver quite strong gunplay and the level of bloody violence towards anything or anyone recalls that dangerous aura the film had in its earlier stages. It's less of a return and more of a re-run but Wong Jing gets unusual strong approval anyway. Shot in synch sound and also featuring appearances by Michael Wong, James Wong (playing a lawyer and why Wong Jing had to have the mention of a sex offender called Bill Tung Biu is anyone's guess. Bill Tung of the Police Story films to clarify), Paul Chun, Lee Siu-Kei, John Ching and Parkman Wong.

Return To Action (1990) Directed by: Chen Kuan-Tai

Cop Man (Alex Man) is investigating a financial company due to suspicion of drug trafficking. This firmly affects his family as his brother-in-law Hwa (Mark Cheng) works in the shady business and it all eventually sets off a chain reaction of violence involving Man's wife (Rosamund Kwan) as well as her father (the film's director Chen Kuan-Tai). Standard and rather cheaply made, Chen Kuan-Tai nonetheless delivers the beats of the narrative fairly well. It's meant to be a movie and not just a catalyst for violence but its selling point is that very thing. It eventually comes through after some weak power and impact in initial scenes of dark violence. But rest of the running time mixes shotgun violence, gritty fights, stunts and bloody gunplay (with innocent women and children repeatedly getting in the line of fire) to involving effect. Not so much involving drama but that's ok as bloodthirsty effect is what Chen is after for the latter stages and achieves well looking at this filmmaking aspect alone. Also with Shing Fui-On.

Return To The 36th Chamber (1980, Lau Kar-Leung)

Representing how to execute unexpectedly and really how you do the more difficult follow up to something iconic Without knowing how the discussion went at the top of Shaw’s, clearly the makers ultimately didn’t decide on a straight follow up or a quick one either to The 36th Chamber Of Shaolin. By now Shaw Brothers had started to respond to kung fu comedy industry standard, they struggled with it however but when they gave Lau Kar Leung the task of making kung fu comedy, it worked out better, added to his versatility and the angle of Return To The 36th Chamber is rather delightful. It's making the movie world impact of Monk San Te’s accomplishment felt to the point where there are imposters around trying to cash in on the nationalistic, inspiring and heroic wave (enter Gordon Liu as said imposter). Already positioning itself differently therefore, with no national conflict but a local involving rival dye mills, ruling forces pushing out local workers and terms, in favour of Manchurians, their tools and dyeing technique. For Gordon Liu's San Te failed imposter, it's about making an honest, able man out of oneself who then protects the little people.

Once in the temple, his act is transparent (this is where Gordon Liu starts to shine the most), he fails at basic chambers and he's being messed with. Leading to wonderful cinematic moments showing Liu trying to wash his hair using a single rock and subsequent trajectory of the water splashes of a well. Which then transfers to the core of it where he's graduated to putting up scaffolding around Shaolin temple and catching glimpses of techniques that way. It feels like such a different and even smaller film that it was not destined for as big of a status movie but execution leads to a very fun time. Liu's character applying his scaffolding techniques to martial arts battles is clever, usually non violent which then feeds into a focused mood that was all about satire and justice. A most unusual and focused sequel in name only.

The Revenge Ghost Of The Tree (1988) Directed by: Ding Sin-Saai

Taiwan veteran Ding Sin-Saai's latter day work had its ambitious moments in terms of special effects (The Beheaded 1000, Magic Sword) and The Revenge Ghost Of The Tree wants to flourish via that train of thought too. Being a melodramatic and dark ghost revenge story with Shih Szu vs the ruthless Mr. Chow David Chiang plays, the production is of high standard but also isn't shot with a skill for the eye popping. However at a mere 92 minutes and intensifying its sights once the revenge plot kicks in, it's fairly memorable. Terrorizing Mr. Chow with giant fruit from the tree Shih Szu's Hsu Yuen was hung in and having to deal with the red-faced god General Kwan, Ding Sin-Saai's heads the execution well and even impresses with one hardcore gore moment as Shuh Szu forces a man to cut his own throat in bloody fashion. A distraction made in somewhat of an old fashioned way by a veteran makes it seem less like 1988 and more 78 but it has its charms when the basics are done well.

The Revenge Of Angel (1990) Directed by: Yeung Kuen

A different Moon Lee vehicle but seeing as it partly replays the opera scene from Once Upon A Time In China and features the ghost/man love story that A Chinese Ghost Story made popular, it's hard to look at The Revenge Of Angel as a true original. In the role usually reserved for Joey Wong, Moon plays Angel, a peking opera performer that dies in a fire at the hands of local thug Chan Ping (Chung Faat - Spooky Encounters). 20 years later, fresh opera performer Siu Man (Lau Ji-Wai) finds the spirit of Angel and falls in love. With him and several others of the opera troupe on her side, Angel can finally plot her revenge...

Played almost totally straight (a gag at the very end concerns flashing your underwear to break Taoist priest's concentration), director Yeung Kuen (Seeding Of A Ghost) doesn't play out the otherworldly romance particularly well, pushing for emotions in the most sappy of ways (think stock, manipulative score). It's Hong Kong cinema being slightly more ambitious but in the end drawing a "storyline" merely as an excuse for fights and effects. The latter it does as standard as you'd come to expect from the era but the action choreography is well done. Standouts includes a skirmish onboard a ship heading for the afterlife where Angel's servants turn against her and the ending involving spells and weapons is rather noteworthy. Wu Ma and Alvina Kong co-stars.

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Revenge Of The Corpse (1981) Directed by: Sun Chung

Sergeant Du (Jason Pai) is framed for murder and theft by his wife and Zeng (Lo Lieh) and eventually dies. A couple of grave robbers are witnesses to Du rising again and soon the entire village is shivering at the prospect of a heinous looking Du returning but he's set his sights on the ones responsible for his death...

Simple, straightforward horror (with minor touches of action only) by Sun Chung (Human Lanterns) that sufficiently sets up his story, albeit it takes half a flick for it take flight. Then seeing Jason Pai's corpse rotten, twisted and bathed in a green light starts a fair delight of messy violence on the Shaw Brothers stage. Clever, age old solutions using wires, smokes and colored lightning through Sun Chung's eyes rank as clever and the atmosphere takes on a suitable aura of dread. Revenge here is bloody and as inhumane as the actions initially were.

Revenge Of The Shaolin Master (1979) Directed by: Lo Chen

Impressively mounted compared to most of its genre-companions, Dorian Tan's Lin Chen Hu is escorting goods meant for refugees and to stabilize the suffering the region. Escort is intercepted and stolen though but Lin is accused of being the mastermind behind it. It's basic storytelling but the quite relentless darkness at points and in general the tangents of corruption, betrayal etc is marginally interesting. Which is a lot more than you expect sometimes. Yuen Woo-Ping and Yuen Cheung-Yan provide intricate, incredibly well-flowing and even gritty choreography as well to elevate the fair emotional investment. Also with Lung Fei, Cheung Fook-Gin, Liu Shan, Tsai Hung and Chen Sing in a last reel fighting cameo.

Rhythm Of Destiny (1992) Directed by: Andrew Lau

A diamond smuggling triad (Danny Lee) and his ambitious younger brother (Aaron Kwok) reunite but the former stirs up troubles via his criminal ways, drawing his Christian family closer to his shady world...

Directed by Andrew Lau and largely designed to be a movie for Aaron Kwok (dancing and lots of Canto-pop opportunities are utilized), standard sentimental drama comes with the commercial package deal therefore but having producer/lead Danny Lee on board makes Rhythm Of Destiny a lot more gripping than it probably should be. The requisite character that has to come to terms with shedding his criminal skin in favour of family values has Lee anchoring the picture as you've come to expect from the otherwise cop actor. The violent ending is disappointingly highly calculated rather than earned and director Lau really shows no interest in making any of this special. Danny did. Shing Fui-On is fun in a supporting role as one of Lee's wilder triad brothers. Also starring Sharla Cheung, Lisa Chiao, Peter Lai, Wu Ma, Blacky Ko and in one of her appearances in Hong Kong cinema, future Ally McBeal star Lucy Liu.

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