# 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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Saga Of The Phoenix (1990) Directed by: Nam Nai-Choi & Lau Shut Yue

Nam Nai-Choi co-directed with Lau Shut Yue this sequel to the successful Hong Kong/Japanese co-production The Peacock King. Saga Of The Phoenix stumbles in the way it omits Yuen Biao for most of the proceedings and instead takes our spiritual magicians into modern day (Yuen already did that movie, it was called The Iceman Cometh). The introduction of a Jim Henson reject muppet will likely introduce the most groans though. This genie as it's called eventually becomes a full on gremlin and here things even turn unsettling despite it being a cheap puppet! Not sure if I need to condemn or applaud the filmmakers!

When all's said and done, Saga Of The Phoenix is as ludicrous and silly as you would expect a Nam Nai-Choi movie to be. That means that occasionally he delivers the expected b-movie sights and sounds to an entertaining effect (in particular the climactic battle). It may have been part of his most successful streak in terms of box-office but Saga Of The Phoenix is not the reference work of Nam's. His leading lady of choice Gloria Yip proves again that she's adorable but a horrible actress while Rachel Lee and in one of his last roles, Shintaro Katsu (Zatoichi) appears in support.

Buy the DVD at:
HK Flix.com

The Saint Of Gamblers (1995) Directed by: Wong Jing

Following in the trails of All For The Winner (or God of Gamblers II... it's damn hard to keep track), Wong Jing continues the "Saint of Gamblers" angle but sans Stephen Chow in the role, the script sets out to find a new one. Ng Man-Tat is still present however and is auditioning various characters with various degree of supernatural powers, he eventually settles on somewhat village idiot God Bless You (Eric Kot). Perhaps it's the mother (Ha Ping) who's born with the lesser of the brain as she thinks toilet paper is money but of to the World Cup of Gambling Tournament they head. Also befriending Macau ace master Ray Thai (Ben Lam), girlfriend Yuen Fan (Chingmy Yau) and kid (Sik Siu-Lung - Shaolin Popey), even though Ray is constantly physically abused in and around God Bless You's presence, he has a plan to use him to gain domination on the gambling circuit...

Out of the way first, Eric Kot is Eric Kot and no Stephen Chow or Chow Yun-Fat but for a fair amount of time he's made to fit the silly madness of Wong Jing's here that includes a lot of topical referencing for better or worse. Feast your eyes on multiple Michael Jackson is a pedophile-jokes, one of the card players in the tournament being Italian soccer player Roberto Baggio and Diana Pang Dan as the busty competitor from Thailand with hypnotic powers. Wong Jing does still know how to throw a lot on the screen in a successful manner though, even if it's sporadic great fun here. Gunplay with Chingmy Yau shows ricochet bullets being used to great effect and God Bless You's powers dealing with enlargement and mind reading generates amusing and unpleasant sights (mainly of Ng Man-Tat dressed as Pang Dan). Well versed at mimicking martial arts too, God picks up a book called Snake Ball (yep, obviously Dragon Ball, a copyrighted property Wong Jing couldn't use) and on it goes but the silly slapstick/reference/gambling package is slight enough not to annoy and even amuses. Also with Shing Fui-On, Manfred Wong, Nat Chan, Corey Yuen and Donnie Yen.

Sam The Iron Bridge - Champion Of Martial Arts (1993) Directed by: Fung Pak-Yuen

The sequel to White Lotus Cult, better action choreography and showcasing of better production values highlights this otherwise mundane and emotionally dormant new wave Wuxia. Sam Liang-Kun (Do Siu-Chun) still has to work hard to afford a potential marriage with Tieh (Yip Chuen-Chan). Entering and winning a local martial arts tournament in order to help out a friend in debt who's also addicted to opium, Liang Kun does get more directly involved in a government conflict over opium. As some officials are wishing to have the drug banned due to the effect on the people of China butt heads with those seeing the economic possibilities (and going to extreme lengths to make sure their path to riches is untampered), Liang Kun becomes the bodyguard for Admiral Kuan Yun-Feng (Yue Hoi - Shaolin Temple) and learns even more martial arts. Challenging Liang Kun's martial arts is Princess Keke (a gorgeous Fennie Yuen who also comes off well during the action she does do) who's also the daughter of the main official behind keeping the opium supply running. Keke is also stirring up emotions that is slowly but surely leading to a love triangle between Liang Kun, Tieh and herself...

While initially showing better fluidity and superb grounded action choreography, the middle of the trilogy is also plagued by its talky nature that fails to add any tension as well as the emotional resonance and throughline it clearly aims for. The serious historical backdrop again goes down ineffective routes and the sequel just goes to shows what a masterful grip on this balance Tsui Hark had with his Once Upon A Time In China-series. Lily Li reprises her role as Sister Hung.

Satanic Crystals (1989) Directed by: Cheng Kei-Ying

Produced by Tomas Tang but not a Filmark production featuring spliced in Western talent playing ninjas, Satanic Crystals is in fact a feature production utilizing both Hong Kong, Western and Thai talent for Tang's take on an Indiana Jones style adventure starring Leung Kar-Yan. As drab looking and at times as incoherent as a cut and paste Filmark production though, at heart you only need to know that many people are after the colored jade stone including director Cheng Kei-Ying in a supporting role (mean sideburns included). While certain stunts and action comes off as both choppy and shoddy, overall the energy and violence carries Satanic Crystals. Some goofy detours into exploitation (lead Leung Kar-Yan even has a sex scene) and gory encounters with the animals of the jungle are highlights but the prime ingredient comes in the form of a radio controlled helicopter that plays a wonderful part of the finale. Shing Fui-On and Ng Man-Tat also appear.

Satan Returns (1996) Directed by: Lam Wai-Lun

Judas (Francis Ng) is on a mission courtesy of Mr. 666 himself. He has to find Satan's daughter and after cutting out and eating a few potential candidate's hearts, he soon settles in on the one, Ching (Chingmy Yau)...

Failed and forced, two impressions I seriously hope all viewers take with them if deciding to suffer through this inane Wong Jing excuse for a movie production. Shot on the cheap and echoing certain classics such as The Omen and Se7en, all that referencing would be acceptable if Wong and director Lam Wai-Lun (The Blacksheep Affair) had any storytelling competence. You guessed right, they don't. All that's provided are elements such as stylish lighting, tilted angles, rainy cityscapes and to be fair, a story that has opportunities to really scare the pants out of the viewer. But seeing as this has Wong Jing's mark all over it, you're obviously not going to get any compelling, deep exploration of Christianity and Satanism.

The hyper stylization is enough cause for annoyance, Dayo Wong brings it to a whole other level as requisite crowd pleasing comedic element. Not that the darker mood of the film works in any way but for Wong's character, and in fact most of the cops, an approach concerning the wild, wacky nonprofessional ways of the force is employed that even the most forgiving viewers will find a major detraction.

The only slight positive out of all this is Francis Ng's performance. For roughly half the show, he's more of a goofy force than a genuine threat but Lam Wai-Lun manages to capture a dangerous charisma as we move on. Obviously even a talented performer like Ng can't save doomed material such as this every single time though. Donnie Yen and Yuen King-Tan co-stars.

Buy the VCD at:
Yesasia.com

Satin Steel (1994) Directed by: Tony Leung

Embarrassing for both production company Mandarin films and quite competent action director Tony Leung Siu-Hung who arguably has done more effective work as a director when exploring other genres (the horror flick Vendetta chief among them). Here we have a Hong Kong, Singapore and Indonesia set Lethal Weapon rip-off but without any effective chemistry between leads Jade Leung and Anita Lee or any edge. Some early imagery of action and violence are effective and at least on one occasion the gorgeous Lee looks badass. But drowning the flick in clichés, poor direction and excessive behaviour such as a bad guy henchman with a steel hand and Leung hanging from a helicopter during the climax simply doesn't elevate Satin Steel to any worthy level. Coupled with the fact that Kenneth Chan as the boyfriend of Anita's character is an annoying, dopey inclusion, plot holes of equal grave annoyance (Leung and Lee seemingly has no police support from anywhere) and that Tony does no inspired action, dud is the key word.

The Savage Five (1974) Directed by: Chang Cheh

A village is held hostage by a group of bandits in need of a safe to be opened and the senseless killings start. A small band of villagers and a thief try and find a way to fight back. With his regular cast and crew Chang Cheh is crafting a basic frame story but it's rare to see him create something THIS dark. With the bandits initially led by Kong Do and Wong Chung that are then eventually joined by Wai Wang and his dual guns, in The Savage Five innocents are executed in cruel fashion continually and it's a really hopeless time. With the likes of Ti Lung, David Chiang, Chen Kuan-Tai and Danny Lee planning in the background to strike back, the movie stays true to its dark tone even when fights are at the forefront. A gritty and violent tone like few Chang Cheh movies is present here and that warrants strong praise. Truly is savage.

Savior Of The Earth (1987, Roy Thomas)

One of the only Korean made animated titles Joseph Lai bought and dubbed for release by AAV that turned its head away from Japanese influence (ripping off properties and imagery is the actual translation to that) and to an American production instead. In this case 1982's groundbreaking Tron was the HUGE basis for the 1983 production Computer haekjeonham pokpa daejakjeon (credited to director Jeong Si-Yong). Meaning it pretty much rips off Steven Lisberger's movie in animated and shorter fashion. From the perspective of this line from Joseph Lai however, it is one of the more fun and coherent ones since it doesn't repeat a space opera template yet again. Told in a swift manner, the bigger fun of it is of course how it shamelessly replicates plot lines and imagery out of Tron of course with everything from the in movie arena-game, the design of David Warner's Sark, weapons and robot guards coming straight out of the production from the year before. Adding a few minor tweaks of their own, maybe due to inability to copy it, there's nothing here animation-wise that stands out. Fairly lively and not as stiff as some of these productions of the time though, it still screams being low on means, skill and vision so recommended merely for those having fun with the wildly uneven anime line from Joseph Lai and how it plays into the history of his company.

The Saviour Monk (1975) Directed by: Leung Chit-Foo

Mix of spiritual enlightenment, black magic and men in rubber suit action, each element stands as noble and valid but overall The Savior Monk bores rather than dazzles. David Tong is the prince of a ruthless warlord who sets him up with marriage from a perspective of military tactics. The prince has ambitions to go the Buddhist way though and manages to escape the clutches of a father, wife to enter the world of people who's faced oppression by his father and from a black magician (Phillip Ko). It's great when the very low budget men in suit action and animated effects take over for a while and there's something to dig about its mix of spirituality and genre entertainment. But it never gels as especially the outrageous side needed to be a little bit more outrageous. As it stands now, The Saviour Monk sparks sparsely.

Saviour Of The Soul II (1992, David Lai & Corey Yuen)

Although genre, casting and certain costume-design I suppose warrants it, for all intents and purposes this is unrelated to Saviour Of The Soul. And really should've had a different title. Maintaining rapid pace, comedy and special effects, the tone is decidedly sillier, making it more a close relative to the Stephen Chow brand of humour. That has its problems as the trio of Andy Lau, wacky inventor played by Corey Yuen and a kid do not generate many laughs despite being very game. At times it also feels like we're looking in from the outside at gags that would play well with locals. Key to making it a fairly entertaining product though? Insistence and energy. Shot with an elegance evoking the cinema of Clarence Fok too, big set pieces such as the pool-game (previously there's been a parody of All For The Winner too) where a looking glass with the ability to enlarge objects plays a role are winning because of just how frenzied and cranked everything is. Ranging from acting to editing. Comedically uneven but the wild tone is compelling, well executed effects on a budget has a valid place as well. It all evokes the feeling of confident Hong Kong filmmakers willing to try out anything and to find the solution that will work for the kind of product they are crafting. Saviour Of The Soul II isn't reference material (that's what you turn to movie 1 for) but because of just how much it does and wants to do to us, it earns a recommendation. Maybe it's numbness after being battered for 90 minutes but I'll take it. Also starring Rosamund Kwan, Richard Ng and Shirley Kwan.

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