# 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 Palm (Part1) (1964, Ling Yun)

In order to track back to a kind of origin point and progression within the Hong Kong Wuxia film, Buddha Palm is not only a suitable reference point, important but also (if you employ the correct viewing perspective), a good time. The successful first out of five films (this one ends on a cliffhanger) released in 1964 and 1965, if anything it's calm for a fantasy film of its kind. No dizzying storytelling but rather a template this genre and many martial arts movies have employed of a bullied main character evolving into an honorable hero. Therefore training- and fight sequences with Walter Tso throwing superimposed energy bolts out of his hand await you. While no one can claim this is special effects work that had come a long way, the passion and energy is there to convey this and it works tremendously well within the framework (and even better when effects interact with physical elements such as when trees are hit). Martial arts choreography had a good ways to go before igniting the screen and Ling Yun's direction can feel like a filmed stageplay. Despite that, there is a swift pace to the film and for Hong Kong cinema fans, nothing we're not familiar with here. Easy to absorb therefore and it's just made a little earlier than all those other movies we've watched. Plus points for delightful creatures such as The Golden Eagle Tso's Long Gim Fei flies on occasionally, a fight scene mid movie with cave creatures and some gruesome deaths involving energy bolts stripping a head of its skin and even some gore.

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.

The Burning Of The Imperial Palace (1983, Li Han-Hsiang)

Having done lavish opera (The Love Eterne), erotica (Golden Lotus) as well as deep dives into the imperial palace drama as in the case of this movie, Li Han-Hsiang tells the story of Emperor Xian Feng (Tony Leung Ka-Fai in his movie debut) who loses control of Beijing to foreign invaders and the vast Old Summer Palace (known in Chinese as Yuanming Yuan) to a massive fire- and plunder session. A plot breakdown and historical notes help clarify matters because outside of the expertly crafted frame, Li Han-Hsiang's treatment of events from the pages of history feels spotty. Making a 90 minute movie, it seems like he had to carefully pick what beats will move the story forward but lacks the skill to connect at least with an outside audience. Historical accuracy might be elite as a matter of fact but it's hard to engage in much of anything outside of the technical qualities showcased in the scope frame. It's like a dance almost how he depicts palace life, setting up the coronation of Xiang Feng initially with production- and costume design of the highest order but it's not quite as hypnotic as the experience suggests through music and narration. The more grim aspects towards the end are suitably chaotic and atmospheric however.

Burning Paradise (1994, Ringo Lam)

Lam's period martial arts movie may have flopped on release but has deservedly maintained a reputation as a fresh take from the busy 90s period of this genre. Crafting a welcome tone shift versus what audiences were used to, the darkness of Burning Paradise gives way to a Fong Sai Yuk (played by Willie Chi) adventure of a different kind. Certainly little is truly different plot-wise as the Shaolin monastery is burned down, monks are pursued, imprisoned but it's within the underground setting of the Red Lotus Temple where a fun ride is created. Because the ingenious thing is that Ringo uses the temple to strike that balance between ride and violence, being a setting of entrapment and creative traps. And that's what it comes down to as well, demonstrating there's new sights to be done even for a busy genre while not getting too caught into the nihilism of it all. Remaining graphic on his terms is especially evident in Wong Kam-Kong's portrayal of our baddie Kung as he paints morbid portraits, uses blood from his concubines and even paint is a weapon at one point as this is the fantasy tinted martial world after all. Chris Lee's action also keeps fights admirably grounded with only select acrobatic feats and extraordinary abilities done with wires. Not by any stretch a cheery watch but a big chunk of creativity is put forth to renew the genre, at the very least in its atmosphere, and it's a shame audiences didn't respond. Or maybe 1994 was too late to re-invent, despite Tsui Hark's producing eye overseeing the movie. Also starring Carman Lee, Maggie Lam, John Ching and Yeung Sing.

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