# 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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Dragon Force (1982) Directed by: Michael Mak

When the Princess of Mongrovia (Mandy Moore) is kidnapped by ninjas, Jack Sargeant (Bruce Baron, who would go on to appearing in outings such as Ninja Champion) is sent to Hong Kong to join up the better of the law enforcing the island has: The Dragon Force. Led by Dai Lung (Bruce Li), Jack has to go through a series of tests before he can join the sect-like force. Michael Mak debuts with this internationally flavoured, at times very colourful B-movie extravaganza that sees us trying to endure the shenanigans of the worst action hero ever on screen... yes, Mr. Baron. Fancying himself being a James Bond-character and even meeting up with a Chinese Q called Ah Chu ("fine" humour and the "actual" James Bond is even referenced), thank god the filmmakers have an ace up their sleeve in the form of Bruce Li. Director Mak therefore neatly shifts gear from deadly boredom to making sure to imprint several fun sequences in our memories. Multiple bouts with colourful ninjas, ninja tricks, Bolo-esque fighters and Jack being cured of throwing star-poison by having a snake suck the poison out of him, Dragon Force becomes a fast rollercoaster of cheese eventually. Olivia Cheng also appears.

Dragon Force Operation (1976) Directed by: Tyrone Hsu

It doesn't take long sometimes to judge a film, rightly or not. Dragon Force Operation being a good example. Dressing itself up to be yet another one I call outside kung-fu where everyone has the same costume, are in outdoor locations all the time and little will likely feel distinctive, director Tyrone Hsu (The Red Phoenix) does delivers a hard hitting time with this basher as he gives us the framework of oppressed Chinese villagers by the ruling Japanese. At first Hsu takes the movie to playful but not broad places, creating fighting scenes with clumsy henchmen and Nancy Yen beating up her opponents in quite the sneaky way. The jump then to full on brutality and what defines Dragon Force Operation as a basher makes very much sense and is watchable for its ferocity rather than technique. Heck, even amidst the non-stop action Hsu finds time to slip in a banana peel joke that thoroughly works! Also known as The Revenge Dragon and The God Father Of Hong Kong.

The Dragon From Russia (1990) Directed by: Clarence Fok

One of the other loose Hong Kong adaptations of Kazuo Koike's Japanese manga Crying Freeman (Phillip Ko's Killer's Romance, shot in England, echoed it extremely loosely), Clarence Fok's odd charm as a visual thinker at breakneck speed reveals odd charms about his work on The Dragon From Russia (location work IN Russia included) but it doesn't make it any significantly better than any of his other wild, incoherent works. Starring a horribly miscast Sam Hui (his boyish charms combined with being a stone faced action hero is an embarrassing combo), his stunt double and Maggie Cheung as windowdressing, Fok rarely takes the time to breathe at all, moving to say the least with ludicrous speed through his scenes and ignoring pesky details such as logic. Obviously hard to feel anything and fans of the manga will feel that the connection matters very little. However Yuen Tak's action choreography goes well in hand with Fok's eye for the exaggerated, featuring several high flying excursions into creativity. Co-starring Nina Li, Loletta Lee, Dean Shek, Carrie Ng, Lau Shun and King Hu regular Pai Ying. Yuen Tak and Yuen Wah both play The Master Of Death while the former also has his own supporting role!

Dragon Inn (1967) Directed by: King Hu

Having established mood, atmosphere, a new kind of rhythm and elegance to the Wuxia picture in Come Drink With Me (and dazzled audiences in the process), he became a leader of the genre but King Hu’s relationship with the powers at be at Shaw Brothers was tense prior to making Come Drink With Me. It’s said they weren’t even that impressed with his take on Wuxia and the severe editing of his 1965 film Sons Of Good Earth wasn’t too his liking. Since King was not under contract, he skipped town and helped set up Union Films in Taiwan and this resulted in the pan-Asia hit Dragon Inn. Clearly feeling his take on the genre and voice could be extended especially having shed the shadow of Shaw Brothers and gained personal freedom, it turned out the execution of his style was no fluke.

Being a hands on director in all areas of the production according to retrospective remarks, the attention to detail is extraordinary from the set- and action design to the photography. Translating his inner vision for vistas and landscapes to key, indoor settings (mainly the inn, built from authentic materials) to his crew, King Hu was a director that proved environments do a lot of work for you but not THE work. Even simple establishing shots of characters travelling the world alongside a river gives a sense of being in it, the desolate inn pops and camera-moves within it gives the picture a professional, classy gloss. He was clearly happy to do a rerun of this setting as well because he had a marvellous take on tension, silence, establishing who’s who through looks, distinct faces and really demonstrates before even any action is unleashed the difference between those who hitched a ride on the Wuxia train and those who made landmark advances within it. It doesn’t need to feel clever or different in plotting therefore. The bursts of character’s techniques and action remain the most timeless elements such as individual pieces involving deflecting projectiles through windows and killing a guard outside (one of many pieces that deserves a shot by shot breakdown) and Shi Jun catching an arrow with his wine jug. Even though action is soft here in 1967 (a conscious design to work in tandem with the Chinese opera and Japanese cinematic influences), King Hu compensates with loud sound design, tense and stylish beats, the classical Chinese instruments and their rhythm add greatly and really, he still had a sharper vision than most Wuxia filmmakers of the time. The start and stop nature to the swordplay is also mesmerizing as King Hu can play tension over and over before another slash. And then silence again as characters size each other up. In silences that’s when his heroes and their opponents become icons of cinema. But it’s unfair to label all action soft as there’s some complex, loud slicing and dicing through multiple opponents that will get the pulse of the viewer going.

Far from a stiff director, he doesn’t forget to be cinematic in a fun way as Polly Shang Kuan Ling Feng (who was 17 years old when making this movie, adding to the roster of iconic leading lady performances for King Hu) kicks open the inn door amidst a lightning strike and they make no attempts to appear mild or keep the looming group of bad guys in the dark. On Polly’s impact, like the movie this has as much to do with the tense table scene at the inn as with her presence in the action scenes. Those fiery eyes and her instant snap into swordswoman-mode would’ve floored audiences. And still does. King Hu was one of the leaders of the Wuxia in transition. In 1967, it was already great. We were going to see progress and have tons of fun via other filmmakers for decades. His personal style might not have endured commercially and The Valiant Ones showed he was willing to flirt with the kung fu movie too but Dragon Inn is the leap off point as the unshackled King Hu truly arrives with this one.

Dragon Inn (1992) Directed by: Raymond Lee

While a competent remake of King Hu's classic (reviewed above), overall, Raymond Lee's attempt at bringing Dragon Inn to a new generation is only in parts inspired. Co-lensed by Arthur Wong, this Tsui Hark production looks lovely but Lee has trouble generating the tension he obviously is trying to emulate from Hu's film. Therefore, sadly, a chunk of the running time drags, despite crazy elements such as cannibalism, and also registers less than exciting on the action scale. There's plenty of it but I feel that there's less technique and more quick cut editing rather than an acceptable combination of both (although a confrontation between Brigitte Lin and Maggie Cheung involving clothes is highly memorable). Not all is redeemed but by the time we get to the final 30 minutes, action directors Ching Siu-Tung, Yuen Bun and Cheung Yiu-Sing seriously amps the creativity and Dragon Inn therefore finishes on a very strong note. In particular the action finale in the desert is a gory and wildly imaginative set piece.

Out of the main actors, the attractive trio of Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung Kar-Fai and Brigitte Lin, the two latter especially brings compelling and understated emotional interplay to their characters but in reality, a movie with huge character depth this is not. As with the original, the plot is rather straightforward and it has to be said, King Hu's film, in my mind, was cooler. Both have merits on their own in different ways though, the finale in particular in regards to this remake. The film also stars Elvis Tsui, Lawrence Ng, Lau Shun and Donnie Yen as the eunuch Yin.

A final note, the pace issue may be due to this 105 minute edit that has been most widely seen on home video. The film ran 15 minutes shorter in cinemas though and according to the book ''The Cinema Of Tsui Hark'' by Lisa Norton, the cinema edit is the filmmakers preferred version. The reason for the extended length may be due to Mei Ah wanting to fit the movie onto 2 laserdiscs way back when it debuted on that format. Reportedly, only the Taiwanese VHS offered the cinema edit but to the best of my knowledge, that version is rather hard to find nowadays. Thanks to John Charles of Hong Kong Digital for the information.

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The Dragon Killer (1995) Directed by: Lau Wing

Representing Conan Lee utilizing his final Hong Kong cinema stock before expiring altogether, The Big Boss co-star Lau Wing directs this thoroughly awful action-drama set mostly in Los Angeles. Minor enjoyment is definitely applicable to The Dragon Killer though. Lau plays Lung, a Chinese jumping a ship to America to find his wife Miu (Sharla Cheung). His best friend Liu (Simon Yam), a figure in the criminal underworld, has lost track of her though and Lung takes the hard road by committing crime in order to find out the truth about Miu. Chasing them is the not so badass cop played by Conan...

Lau Wing sticks with being harsh most of the film, shooting scenes where pregnant women are thrown off the immigrant boats, dogs being beaten to death and other quite gory bits are scattered throughout. There's action ambition here, especially so since Lau's character was an Olympic champion in shooting but the close cut acrobatics is not very impressive. But Lau scores points by exceeding the brutality for no real reason. Oh he argues that the increasing drama and social commentary warrants this but since he fails at creating actual cinema using that template, the end result is all very laughable. But the low level cinema does have its charm, in particular in the English dubbing throughout and Troma, IFD or even Filmark would've been proud of this product that shows anyone can be a director. A bit unfortunate that too. According to online credits, Rouge and Everlasting Regret director Stanley Kwan produced!

The Dragon Lives Again (1977) Directed by: Law Kei

Dedicated to the millions of Bruce Lee fans out there, this low-budget Goldig production goes per definition international on us, violating most copyright laws known to man. Not only Bruce Lee exists in the afterworld but Clint Eastwood (the screen persona from the Westerns), James Bond, Dracula (who can attack in broad daylight in this world), Zatoichi, Popeye (Eric Tsang!), the One-Armed Swordsman and on it goes. Anything is possible in this insane, often racy Bruce Leung vehicle and by featuring what it does, it automatically at least gives you something to smile about. Battling the various mentioned characters, skeleton- and mummified demons, Leung's duty as co-action director reveals his apparent kicking skills but little consistent "real" choreography. Director Law Kei concerns himself more with being out there, something that means we get displays of styles named after the little dragon's movies. But do not think of the choices as actual concerns.

Dragon Lord (1982, Jackie Chan)

Fine entertainment and a contender for my favourite Jackie Chan film of all time, despite being more comedy and stunt-oriented rather than the focus being on martial arts. A loose sequel to The Young Master but the transition from martial arts comedy fights to more stunt oriented in a period setting works delightfully well and it represents Chan growing as a man of spectacle, putting himself and his stuntmen on the line for our pleasure (the sports set pieces that could seem as indulgent are just perfect because of awe inspiring and jaw dropping execution). Chan wouldn’t let this vision go as evident by the record number of takes for one of the final shots of or the entire shuttlecock sequence and nothing about this light exercise as a movie annoys either. On the contrary, it’s funny, it hurts, is delightful viewing and no elements feels like a classic bad/good Hong Kong cinema exercise in contrasts. Even the recital of the story or poem with the text in his shoe shows him being in control of the comedic tone. Further fun and admiration pops up because Jackie adds more physical elements as simple scenes of characters tussling and wrestling have little stunts thrown in. Closest we even get to a first fight is the painful finale in the barn with Mars vs a tremendous looking Hwang In-Shik and Jackie may have taken his time, overshot but final edit shows growth as they are clearly hurting themselves so much for this finale and for us. Thus he crafted cinematic pleasure. Also with Michael Chan and Tien Feng.

Dragon's Claws (1979) Directed by: Joseph Kuo

Occasionally Joseph Kuo's period of making cheap independent kung fu movies in Taiwan made the sparsely decorated screen spark. Dragon's Claws ain't no The 7 Grandmasters or Mystery Of Chess Boxing however but rather a standard, clichéd cash in on popular and better kung-fu comedies (where the template was set by Snake In The Eagle's Shadow to best effect). During the main plot of Hwang Jang-Lee after the coveted Gold Tablet from Lau Ga-Yung's family, half of Kuo's plotting goes against the grain a bit admittedly. With little to no comedy, Lau is even trained by his mother and not a drunken master as expected. Kuo's movie may not bore or inspire at any time but daring to be a little fresh is a bold move considering where it is in the timeline. Second half goes the lazier route with said drunken master featured heavily and a much lighter tone is present as Lau Ga-Yung trains to defeat Hwang Jang-Lee (and eventually does in an impressively physical finale). You become rather neutral towards matters, urine jokes popping up a FEW times is not a sign of creativity and chemistry is lacking across the board. Somehow with a filmmaker like Kuo, he never truly embarrasses himself. Dragon's Claws just passes by unnoticed though.

The Dragon Tamers (1975) Directed by: John Woo

Although promoting the female acting- and fighting talent heavily in the trailer (only one of which makes any impact: Ina Ryoko as Sexy, Bad Girl according to the trailer) and featuring some rather unwarranted dips into exploitation (female mud wrestling with breasts exposed and a bath house scene), John Woo's eternal vision that he'll be remembered for across heroic bloodshed and martial arts films is actually polished to a noticeable degree here compared to his debut The Young Dragons. Carter Wong comes to Korea to learn Taekwondo. His master becomes Pai (Lee Tai-Yip) and Wong's goal of squaring off against Hapkido master Sheng (real life Hapkido instructor Ji Han-Jae) is accomplished. Having made friends with the likes of Nankung (James Tien) in the opposite school and falling in love with Sheng's daughter complicates matters about friendship and brotherhood but they have to unite as rival schools and associations are trying to become number one by murderous means...

The harsh Korean landscape is refreshing and after a clunky start with said nudity, Woo's script starts coming to life working with action director Chan Chuen who delivers several excellent, gritty training fight sessions and bloody fights. The furious pace and head on arm- and leg combat is highly memorable and standing out the most amongst the accomplished cast are James Tien and the badass and cool Lee Tai-Yip. Woo's pet themes and use of slow motion may be crude but ultimately sincere and well on their way to being refined. The goofier side to The Dragon Tamers as demonstrated in said trailer isn't the most memorable mix and feels like someone else's vision alongside Woo's but getting past that (whilst enjoying it) reveals something way above run of the mill that the Golden Harvest players respond well to.

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