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The Ring Of Death (1980) Directed by: Ng See-Yuen

Attaching a small story to strands of war and politics wasn't really needed for this Seasonal production as it stands well on its own, has above average production values and sharp instincts. Cliff Lok is the orphan searching for his father who is an official, he learns kung-fu along the way having already a good foundation in strength. Some comedy follows and an epic end fight. Why The Ring of Death largely succeeds is through Ng See-Yuen's dedication to making the production seem like it wants to aspire higher than most. Being trendsetters themselves responsible for Jackie Chan's breakthrough and despite Cliff Lok not looking like a fit for the country bumpkin role, the comedy is surprisingly restrained, production looks rather dynamite and Corey Yuen co-directed action is always of quality. Bit of a pleasure feeling like someone took the time to try, even as far as to the English dubbing stages where a more than competent job (despite its rather crude and graphic dialogue at points with references to masturbation, modern day slang etc) was delivered as well.

Rivals Of The Silver Fox (1979) Directed by: Chan Siu-Pang

Although I can't confirm whether Joseph Lai and Tomas Tang had a hand in producing it, presumably this Korean production (originally called The Barrier and directed by Kim Jung-Yong) was released under their Asso Asia banner as Rivals Of The Silver Fox. Not fully coherent as a revenge tale and really possessing no particular strong traits, with Casanova Wong on the production you can expect some flashes of brilliance at least and the last 20 minutes got the highlight package for the film. With flashes of Wong's extraordinary kicking skills to take note of, more important and memorable is an epic finale with Wong vs a ton of both bronze- and silvermen with some pretty neat ideas within it (the harsh Korean landscape acts as a nice counterpart to many low budget Hong Kong and Taiwan productions of this kind). Echoes of the Lone Wolf And Cub series are also present through Wong carrying with him his child that may hold secrets the opposites at the Devil Valley Lodge are after.

River Of Fury (1973) Directed by: Cheung Chang-Chak

Before he managed to star in a bunch of Shaw Brother's more outrageous films (Super Inframan, Oily Maniac, Mighty Peking Man, Bruce Lee And I), the studio tried to find something for Danny Lee to do, not hitting the mark with River Of Fury. A familiar story of innocence abused and betrayed, thematically much can be squeezed out of it but director Cheung Chang-Chak never manages to find the sparks for the film to ignite into worthy poignancy. No complains about the sets and cinematography plus Lily Ho (Intimate Confessions Of A Chinese Courtesan) is stunning as a Peking opera performer yet it's far from sufficient. Really far. The usual end credits caption "Another Shaw Brother's production" never rang more true. Also with Ku Feng, Tin Ching and Ouyang Shafei.

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Road Warriors (1987) Directed by: Danny Lee

Danny Lee was well into his transformation into the movie cop acting for the real life cops and a very apparent support seems to be in place for Road Warriors as Lee portrays the bike cops trials and tribulations. Taking time to highlight routines before duty, routine during duty, put up factoids on screen about the subjects, one can understand Lee's desire to paint an image of a civil servant but it does harm Road Warriors in a sense that it's a late starter. A very basic but sufficient plot soon takes shape about the fast speeding antics of Tony Wong (Billy Ching), son of a wealthy adult magazine publisher (James Wong). Tony evades the police thanks to his father's wealth but when he causes an accident that leaves several children dead, the police do everything they can within the law to have him taken away. Faring poorly in that regard, it has to take several more unlawful acts before the fractions of the police (led by Li, played by our director) realizes someone needs to step outside the frames of the law to punish rightfully...

Therefore giving us a taste of law the harsh Lee-way, his character is still the voice of reason amongst a torn group of mostly young cops and the message about standing together certainly feels more balanced than later flicks such as Twist where it was open season on interrogating in just about every way conceivable. However come ending time, controversy sets in that feels like Lee's venting in future flicks. Lee does effectively set up the urban nature of the story however, featuring the ordinary people trying to make a living, the cops in need of acting as role models (again, the ending seems to correspond little to this prior notion and does ring false) and for once it's not gun wielding gangsters to take down. Effective pushes into the tragic and thankfully playing the events out straight, Road Warriors is merely decent, a bit askew but also balanced in the way that it's not playing a commercial game. Jamie Luk, Shing Fui-On, Parkman Wong, Ken Lo and Liu Wai-Hung also turn up.

The Roar Of The Vietnamese (1991) Directed by: Jeng Wing-Chiu

A more action oriented The Story Of Woo Viet if you will, director Jeng Wing-Chiu (who also co-wrote) delivers a dependant immigrant drama that is suitably and not unnecessarily spiced up with bloody gunplay. When the Vietnamese of the piece are gathered up into one sole setting when they're not performing assassinations for their "saviours", Jeng injects the piece with quite decent knack for character explorations coupled with the dirty, gritty Hong Kong world they're forced to live in. The promised land on the horizon is America and obviously that's a great big criticism if there ever was one. So Jeng's work is more out in the open compared to what Ann Hui did but the tragedy that ensues is still earned thanks to solid performances, in particular from Lau Ching-Wan whose character questions the need to be cold blooded to gain future freedom. Also with Kara Hui (who performs the single most chilling acts of violence in the film), Sibelle Hu and Waise Lee.

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Rock Kids (1988) Directed by: Tian Zhuangzhuang

Long Xiang is a modern dancing devotee, with the devotion leaning towards a Western style. But breaking onto a desired life path isn't particularly easy. By going freelance, he can claim his freedom but when getting an actual gig that has him being immersed deeper and deeper into the career, it's not sitting well. Enduring the constant stalemates he and his girlfriend are having over said attempts at career, Long Xiang has to face fame at a price potentially. Being talented but wanting to stay underground won't get you anywhere seemingly. Tian Zhuangzhuang (The Blue Kite, The Horse Thief) engages thematically anyway, with a Mainland Chinese production highlighting Western culture extensively. Also containing universal ideas of struggles for a dream, Rock Kids has much going for it except viewer devotion. Told with little else but half an eye and ear open, a plain style becomes Tian's enemy and his over-attention on the various dance scenes doesn't translate what he's trying to communicate. In fact, Rock Kids is a movie that claims nobility and depth but the notions turn on the filmmakers.

Rock N'Roll Cop (1994) Directed by: Kirk Wong

There's no shortage early of directorial booms courtesy of Kirk Wong as cats are massacred as well as humans in a chaotic and frenetic frame. What turns out to be a every 5 minute intensity type of direction pays off for Wong as he directs the plot of Anthony Wong as a music-loving cop who travels to Mainland China where co-operation awaits to bring down a brutal, crafty gang of robbers (led by Yu Rong-Guang). Wong's Hung is a bit of a blow hard and touts Hong Kong's superiority but truth of the matter is, the technically savvy Mainlanders and the Hongkies will have to unite. Yep, there's politics involved, a backstory to the leader of the Mainland cops, Wong (Wu Hsing-Guo - Temptation Of A Monk) that involves Carrie Ng's Hao Yee now dealing with the wrong side of the law and often kickass pace. The emotions and characters are a bit flimsy as conveyed but when dealing with the tension of the multiple operations to bring down the robbers, ensuing violence is done with appealing intensity and a little terrific, brutal finale cements the fair rep Rock N'Roll Cop has. It deserves more, even if only as a ride.

Rock On Fire (1994) Directed by: Lung Sang

The production company is Ramking and Rock On Fire (released in the UK as Girl On Fire) early on show signs of proudly wearing the Category III rating like a badge on its sleeve. The opening is a long, stylized sex scene with hints at S/M as it involves a knife and so it goes. Blending in an action plot to disrupt things, at least the choreography makes up for lack of consistent creativity with fair power (the finale at a construction yard sees the females duke it out with the boy machinery). You'll have some fun watching tough as nails cops flinch when firing guns, doctors examining head wounds by performing CPR and so it goes. Rock On Fire is indeed generally memorable thrash thanks to a duo of actors that spices up proceedings considerably. Starting with Mikie Ng (Girls Gang) as a deranged femme fatale and on the other side of the spectrum, Stuart Ong is at his depraved best, exploiting the female body whenever he can or even after he can as a bit of death by strangulation won't stop his lusts. Takajo Fujimi, Ken Lo and Shing Fui-On also appear.

The Romance Of Book & Sword (1987) Directed by: Ann Hui

Little known Ann Hui adaptation of Louis Cha's famous first novel The Book & The Sword. To date, this marks Hui's only foray into martial arts action (outside of a later co-directing stint on Swordsman) but watching The Romance Of Book & Sword, Hui's trademarks are spread over it as it at its core is a small scale character drama. This first part (the sequel being Princess Fragrance, shot the same year) clearly have taken a chunk only out of the important template of Cha's work and the 90 minute running time isn't devoted to fleshing out many characters to an epic extent, not even the main ones of rebel leader Chen Jalo and emperor Qian Long. Hui treats her characters simple but still emerges with suitable weight to that relationship and the imminent threat of the Red Flower Society exposing Qian's true heritage as part of the Han people.

Interest is maintained throughout via Hui's almost sedate atmosphere and consciously limited scope. No doubt, this mainland China production boasts fine production values but Hui approaches the scope with a laid back and naturalistic eye, allowing the characters to matter and not the eye candy. Even though there's a decent amount of martial arts action corresponding to the Wuxia traditions, there's more grounded work on display that shows acrobatic brilliance sporadically, especially during the large scale finale.

The entire extent of Hui's work can be judged after taking in Princess Fragrance as well but as a standalone effort, The Romance Of Book & Sword portrays the main piece of the cake of Louis Cha's work well.

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The Romance Of The Vampires (1994) Directed by: Ricky Lau

With Ricky Lau (Mr. Vampire) at the helm of another genre exercise and armed with a Category III rating, The Romance Of Vampires goes some expected routes and some astoundingly mature ones, considering the filmmaker responsible for it all. Having said that, nothing on display really validates Lau's status as a maker of drama, only occasionally his cinematography skills does. Rainbow (Yvonne Yung - A Chinese Torture Chamber Story) is a blind prostitute saving up money for her eye operation. Suave Fung (Ben Lam) comes to her rescue during an attempted rape but can he suppress his lust towards her? His blood lust that is...

Ticking off the checklist of what needs to be done in order to get this conflicted Hong Kong movie made (including featuring perverse men, a rap number and some Kingdom Yuen skits barely related to anything), Lau does for a while consider his call is to fill the running time with photogenic, steamy sex. Not that poorly shot to be honest, as with many filmmakers, he seems scared to let a momentum take over the film so you'll get switches like the displaying of a surefire way to stop a female vampire in her tracks, namely fondling her breast. Things take a turn for the straight on dramatic eventually as the doomed love story between Rainbow and Fung connects to past sins of his and Yvonne certainly does just a little bit better work than most here, especially in more tender scenes with Louise Yuen. Even previously grating Yuen follows the descent into the sedated to a certain degree of success (think an aaaalmost calmed down Eric Kot) but as this serious side to The Romance Of The Vampires is in reality rather sappy, it's merely a curious choice to see Ricky Lau trying. Considering that he launches into exploitation at the emotional end once more (reminding us why Yvonne Yung got cast after all), you can't really acknowledge the film as such. Especially not since the subsequent crescendo is almost completely destroyed of its poignancy thanks to ropey optical effects. Also starring Mondi Yau.

Romance Of The West Chamber (1997) Directed by: Lam Yee-Hung

The classic Chinese drama Romance Of The West Chamber is quite suitable for the Category III treatment as it centers around young lovers following through on their love outside of marriage and prior to consent to marriage. Thus challenging a system where marriage was based on convenience and influence rather than love. In Lam Yee-Hung's (The Woman Behind) hands, the depth is more clear on paper rather than in the stiff frame. Scholar Cheung Gwan Shui (Jimmy Wong - Don't Tell My Partner) and Ann-Ann (Kawamura Senri), daughter of a highly ranked official, meet in a Buddhist monastery as the former passes through and the latter is accompanying her mother while taking the coffin of their father to his hometown. After foiling a plan to have bandits take away Ann-Ann, Cheung is promised Ann-Ann's hand in marriage but the mother takes back her promise as Ann-Ann is already set to marry court official Cheng Hang. Ann-Ann's maid does carry out a plan to make the pining lovers go through with their desires...

The main story takes a backseat at first as Elvis Tsui's Monk Faben gives shelter to the character of Ming who's lost her parents at the hands of murderous thieves. Not knowing she's a girl initially, this monk character then acts as a catalyst for the main story but he seems awfully unexplored despite. But really, Romance Of The West Chamber isn't out to provide high art as evident by the transition from proposal of massage to almost full on lesbian love scene. Surprisingly the sex still isn't acting as THAT much padding to the running time and while certain sequences take their time, some end midact. A few dream sequences have a more lighthearted, silent movie style comedic flair to them that is a hit or miss concept but a standout concept in the dull frame nonetheless. It's almost a brave choice to want to focus on the important story strands but that is what Lam Yee-Hung does, even though the drama is handled with such a lack OF drama that there's no tension or emotional investment in the plight of the two lovers. Certainly doesn't help when our leading man or lady are sedated too, even though Kawamura Senri gets by with her incredible looks more often than not. Come ending time, the film may close with the exact meaning of the written work but you don't get automatic approval as a filmmaker in this case despite.

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