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100 Ways To Murder Your Wife (1986) Directed by: Kenny Bee

Made in 1986 before Chow Yun-Fat's breakthrough in A Better Tomorrow, this comedy involves two pretty stupid soccer players (Chow and Kenny Bee) trying to murder their wives (Anita Mui and Joey Wong). Not tasteless as such but incredibly unfunny and quite a chore to get through. The only mildly amusing moments are when Chow's character takes out his anger on any nearby plants. Other than that it's silly, stupid and typical Hong Kong comedy hysterics. The outtakes at the end are funnier than anything in the feature, which says a lot. It's great that Deltamac are re-releasing the Megastar catalogue but they should seriously considering firing their cover design department (who the hell is Aniya Mui anyway?).

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1941 Hong Kong On Fire (1994) Directed by: Cash Chin

Executive producer Wong Jing my bottom! Portraying the trials and tribulations of one family during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong during World War II, the interviews in the opening with the likes of Sek Kin and Wong Jing's dad Wong Tin-Lam (Election) gives way to the actor representing the trainwreck 1941 Hong Kong On Fire is: Law Kar-Ying. Of course times could be joyous and wacky but that's not Wong's statement. He's thinking of how to do it cinematically and because he's working in Hong Kong cinema, the contrasts doesn't need to logically fit. I'm all in favour of being a bit inappropriate in the name of exploitation, including having a bit of fun with it, but fun or wit isn't easily found here. As sisters played by Chingmy Yau and Veronica Yip are being victimized by the raping, murderous oppressors, we're apparently supposed to buy that it's a strong family portrait, about sticking together and about the celebration of the Chinese spirit. Riiiiight. Watch Law Kar-Ying ham it up comedically and dramatically to disastrous effect while newbie director Cash Chin (The Forbidden Legend Sex & Chopsticks) does his best to start a resume of hard hitting cinema. Admittedly some of his chaotic and violent images are effective but they're not in any way a saviour for the story. Above average production values and a fine cast (Tok Chung-Wa, Elvis Tsui, Frankie Ng etc) doesn't guide the movie into higher grade territory either, especially not when you have Ku Feng on hand and he's essentially an extra!

2000 A.D. (2000) Directed by: Gordon Chan

Action-thriller about computer warfare that works on enough levels to make it passable entertainment. Bad things: Gordon Chan's non-urgency to the proceedings does hurt the pace, in particular during the middle section. I would regard a movie more interested in plot higher but even that gets slightly confusing. Mooi Lam Mau's score is certainly refreshing and different but doesn't fit the action at times. This is especially notable in Aaron Kwok & Andrew Lin's fight and the car chase in Singapore. 2000 A.D. does however look terrific and Gordon Chan's stylish direction to the more subdued shoot-outs greatly enhances. Main performers do adequate work but Francis Ng's award winning supporting role rises above everything and everyone else.

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HK Flix.com

24 Hrs Ghost Story (1997) Directed by: Wellson Chin

The last of the "Date Horror" movies (referring to the Lunar New Year Calendar) Abe Kwong wrote for Wellson Chin, 24 Hrs Ghost Story sees friends Tai Mo (Francis Ng), Ah Ah (Chin Kar-Lok), Frankie (Simon Loui) and Siu-Wan (Gigi Lai) open up a new convenient store. Open around the clock, Tai Mo soon starts to hear singing and spooky encounters are not far off. All having to do with the past history of the location...

Shot very cheaply and certainly not aiming for dread, within the plain frame Chin employs tools such as cueing up scary music whenever something BARELY is mentioned that is BARELY ghostly in nature. And with spooks concerning Tai Mo hearing the singing over the convenient store telephone, no one is fooled into thinking filmmakers are aiming high here. When Dayo Wong enters as this dry, quirky cop with relationship troubles (his over caring girlfriend is played by Kingdom Yuen who essentially feeds him as shown in quite a well done stylish sequence that utilizes different filmspeeds), you definitely see a recipe for disaster in the making. It helps though to combine Dayo with Francis Ng as they try to solve the spooky mysteries together. Because coupled with the basic, cheap ghost story, you have a fun double act for a while as the two try and gather ghost busting tools. It involves kidnapping children for their pee, getting a black dog's tail that no one has the courage to cut and Francis Ng showing his forehead (by putting mousse in his hair). It's decent situational comedy that doesn't get a chance come "spooky" ending time but at least 24 Hrs Ghost Story had something. But it ain't much. Also with Helena Law, Jerry Lamb, Lam Wai and in quite a fun cameo, Michael Chow.

The 3-D Army (1989) Directed by: Chan Jun-Leung

Having jumped on the Mr. Vampire bandwagon with the Hello Dracula movies in Taiwan, New Seven Dragon Ball director Chan Jun-Leung heads this blend which was also shot in 3D. The video versions floating around are not however and largely this vehicle with and for kids is of the regular, low budget kind we could even expect from Hong Kong. Nothing is particularly noteworthy or obnoxious considering who it's with and aimed for as we mostly follow the trio of kids befriending a fox spirit and a hopping vampire (called zombie in the subtitles and eventually nicknamed Zomby). The adult rivalry and slight comedic inclusions, including an official character taken right out of the Billy Lau mould for these movies, doesn't grate either but it's all too slight and uneventful. Thankfully Chan and the action team have the kids enter another dimension to save their dead and supernatural friends and the last few reels are the selling points, including for the 3D aspect. Initially dancing with and battling an army of paper dolls in their personal playground and lion dancers, the baaaaaad vampire Hung Kun doesn't make the movie deviate into adult territory either but it's instead the kids displaying martial arts power and Lam Ching-Ying style techniques at the altar, making The 3-D Army quite focused overall and showing belief in its young ones. The 3D thrills may be obvious and even cheap but since the 2D energy is high, the mash-up becomes suitable and logical... even if only for one movie.

3 Wishes (1988) Directed by: Billy Chan

A fun contrast to Billy Chan's powerful No Compromise released the same year, the 80s hijinxs and skit structure gets a fun showcase in 3 Wishes. Japanese tour guide (Anthony Chan) finds a urine pot with a Devil Ghost (Wu Ma) hidden inside. He gets granted three wishes but at the end of those, the Devil Ghost can claim Chan's life (and must claim 8 additional) in order to gain access to heaven. You see, he was too nice when alive. Chan goes to work with not knowing of the end deal knowledge, trying to get money out of the opportunity (backfires) and trying to teach his female boss a lesson by employing the Horny Curse. A notion that also backfires but represents a peak in low, crass Hong Kong cinema creativity as of course a fat lady is initially the recipient of the curse. Soon an entire office of women AND men are affected but no one will even under this influence go after Sandra Ng. Not even a sex maniac played in a cameo by Wong Jing! Yes, it's repeated jokes against Sandra, high pitched, wild and often illogical behaviour put forth by director Chan, something that carries over to the dual role for Anita Mui. Playing Chan's abusive wife (kung-fu abusing wife rather, something that looks good on film) and her identical, DEAD twin Fa (who falls in love with Chan's brother Sing, played by Max Mok), Mui is a fine asset to the production as a comedienne and an echo of her character from Rouge. Other tangents involve Chan taking his tour bus across the border to China with disastrous results and also being mistaken for a child molester. Plus the literally spirited finale has minor Ghostbusters inspiration as both slime appears and the villainous ghost growing to proportions that will make anyone think of the Marshmallow Man. 3 Wishes is not a balanced and politically correct experience but 80s profiles executing at this frantic pace can suck you in at the best of times. Deannie Yip also appear as the ghostbuster of the group.

Anthony Chan and Anita Mui played husband and wife in Happy Bigamist and One Husband Too Many as well, both of which were directed by Chan.

The 36 Deadly Styles (1979) Directed by: Joseph Kuo

Criminally grating and unbearable, thankfully Joseph Kuo manages to cut through silliness and hairstyles to deliver an Taiwan indie scoring huge in the action department. Which it should be considering Kuo has Jack Long and Mark Long again part of his performers as well as Hwang Jang-Lee and Bolo. Mostly it's Nick Cheung's Wai Chi who's put into the middle of a martial arts conflict that will hopefully come to an end now that he's arming himself with a plethora of the deadly styles. All while he works for a monastery run by Yuen Cheng Tien (Yeung Chak-Lam) carrying secrets within as well as internal injury. Red nosed annoyance played by Chan Lau heads the search with his brothers in red.

The designs of the various styles are refreshing, familiar and delightfully odd as we get elements of crippled, drunken, fairy and glue-style! For long stretches stalling The 36 Deadly Styles via wacky hijinks involving some of the monks and Chan Lau plus having Bolo entering in a ridiculous wig meant to be dread locks, miraculously enough no harm is done when Kuo ejects the comedy and focuses on the true assets of the production, including the reveal of Hwang Jang-Lee. Fan Mei-Sheng trains Nick Cheung via a bamboo fence, the end fight takes place across several arenas and a call back involving smoke and fire is actually surprising. The 36 Deadly Styles overall injects a fine sense of professionalism for the independent, mostly shot outdoors genre effort but boy was it ever close to being one of Kuo's primary stinkers.

The 36 Crazy Fists (1977, Chen Chi-Hwa)

Preceded by a short behind the scenes segment showing Jackie Chan choreographing the red background opening, reportedly he came in for a day to assist his friend director Chen Chi-Hwa and the rest of the movie then contains action choreography by its stars Tony Leung and Lau Ga-Yung (thank you to Jay Lee and Mike Leeder for weighing in and providing information). But distributors wouldn't ignore the Jackie Chan-connection and The 36 Crazy Fists was sold as a full on Jackie Chan movie (and he was given sole action directing credit on the English print). The movie itself is juuuuust above average genre fare with little to no invention or clever takes on kung fu comedy shenanigans. It does the kung fu kid wants revenge on his parents, goes off to training-template a little bit differently though as Tony Leung is well trained and ready way before the movie is over. Also the fight scenes represent an aspect the production clearly spent some time on as they are of high standard, clear, complex, if a little slow. But for such a low budget production, it's nice to see a determination to make the sellable element stand out and it's not even that grating as a kung fu comedy. It's not funny but feels reeled in to a degree and a much smoother watch because of it. Also with Yen Shi-Kwan in full white haired villain mode for the finale, Ku Feng, Michelle Yim, Paul Chun, Fung Hak-On and Chiang Cheng as the drunken master of this picture.

The 36 Shaolin Beads (1977, David Lin)

While threatening to be jam packed with characters and twists, The 36 Shaolin Beads (aka The Gloomy Tower) reels it in and focuses well on a possible ghostly mystery across select few groups of characters (headed by Wong Goon-Hung and Pai Ying respectively). Trying to untangle a string of murders, how it connects to the Cold Green Pavilion, a local brothel and a deadly weapon of the martial world called The Needle Gun, director David Lin conveys a fun, spooky tone with the use of smoky indoor sets for starters. The spooky of it all leans more towards obvious deception so he isn't focusing a ton on the creepy-factor but rather the mystery of it all. Developing the plot at a nice pace and increasing swordplay action slowly but surely over the course of the movie, the story focus is welcome as well as the even tone. No comedic side tracks but rather there's an intelligence on display that goes for the stance of escalating as you should. Including during the busy ending amidst tons of enemies hiding behind paintings in the gloomy tower of the title. Lin even earns adding what is almost a traditional kung fu ending with our heroes vs Lung Fei, but with an explosive twist. Also starring Kitty Meng and Mark Lung.

The 36th Chamber Of Shaolin (1978, Lau Kar-Leung)

One of the breakout movies internationally for Shaw Brothers (certainly not the first) that stayed in the cultural consciousness via the international title 'Master Killer'. And its rep is well deserved despite not being Lau Kar-Keung’s best movie but that says something because the majority of his directed movies operated at a high level. Lau was a kung-fu FILMMAKER. Very approachable too despite because of the plot and aura concerning true kung fu-learning on a mental and physical level (stripping away the primal need for revenge being a key but the depth of the training and to see Gordon Liu acquire skills in detail makes this less of an cliché. It’s a valuable and deep train of thought about to be re-tuned under Buddhist principles), ultimately it’s also carrying tropes such as the creation of a folk hero and of course monk San Te was a real life legendary Shaolin martial artist who taught everyday people Shaolin martial arts. But you get a long way when your standard template is done on the Shaw Brothers budget and well. Fight choreography throughout is cinematic because Lau infused it with thoughts and theme of martial artistry, virtue and character and Gordon Liu is strong enough as an actor by this point to carry a movie. It's a fairly long but feels rather alive and while training sequences are always fun in movies featuring a contraption or two, here it’s obviously such a major inclusion, a lot hinges on it but it’s mesmerizing from first chamber to the last.  Lau has the skill to take us through a lot of training rather than montage only. All part of the full journey that means something philosophically and delivers the other audience appeal of martial arts as well.

4 Faces Of Eve (1996) Directed by: Jan Lam, Eric Kot & Kam Kwok-Leung

Or rather the 4 Faces Of Sandra Ng who stars in this art film divided into 4 separate stories. While this particular excessive form of cinematic expression could mean just about anything as being abstract opens up the floodgates for various interpretations, the directors seemingly examines relationships, starting with "Maö" where we see Sandra as a pesky patient of Jan Lam's psychiatrist, following him wherever he goes. "Blowing In The Wind" is an unsubtitled trip into the bizarre where Eric Kot and ugly wife hold a prostitute (Karen Mok) captive in their apartment. "Twins" is a family confrontation of some kind while "Love Game" puts us back into hysteric mode as Jan Lam leads quite a potentially damaging game show disguised as entertainment for the masses.

Directors Eric Kot, Jan Lam and Kam Kwok-Leung on one hand are clearly just messing around, allowing themselves and cinematographer Christopher Doyle to be completely free for all (Doyle can make that photography choice into an art form easily though) to see what content actually makes it into coherency, especially in regards to the first two episodes. If there was a concrete meaning to this though, I sure as hell missed the meeting but again, abstract art very much can lean towards appreciating select sections and overall, 4 Faces of Eve possesses that at heart. No great impact can be had even if "Twins" is easily the one with the clearest of dramatic substance but it's a minor joy to see the versatile talents of Sandra Ng through the various stages of the scattered film. Also appearing is Chingmy Yau, Ha Ping, Wyman Wong and Chan Fai-Hung.

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