The Gratuitous B-Movie Column 4.28.14: Issue #304 - Five Fingers of Death (1972)
Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz on 04.28.2014
A look at the 1972 kung fu classic Five Fingers of Death, a mini-review of The Raid 2, a new B-Movie Babe is named, a new Douchebag of the Week is crowned and more!
The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #: Five Fingers of Death (1972)
Action April: Week 4
Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets movie review column that thinks public libraries are pretty cool, The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number three hundred and four, Action April concludes with a look at the kung fu classic Five Fingers of Death, which came out in 1972.
Five Fingers of Death (1972)
Five Fingers of Death, also known as King Boxer, is generally known as the movie that started the American kung fu craze when it was released in the United States back in 1973. Directed by Chang Ho Cheng, the movie is chock full of bloody kung fu violence, something that American audiences hadn't really seen in a movie at that time. Looking at it now, the movie isn't as powerful as it likely was back in 1973, but it's still quite good. It's a little too long, yes, but it's still worth checking out.
The movie stars Lieh Lo as Chao Chih-Hao, a badass martial arts student studying under the master Sung Wu-yang (Wen Chung Ku). After learning all he can learn from Sung Wu-yang, Chih-Hao is sent off to study under Sun Hsin-Pei (Mien Fang), an even more accomplished martial arts master who runs a school that plans on entering a major martial arts tournament. Chih-Hao hopes that he can learn enough from Hsin-Pei so he can defeat a rival school run by the thuggishly evil Meng Tung-Shun (Feng Tien). If he can win the tournament, Chih-Hao can be known officially as the best martial artist in the area and, finally, he can realistically ask Sung Ying Ying (Ping Wang) to marry him.
So then some stuff happens, Chih-Hao learns a bunch of stuff from Hsin-Pei, and Meng Tung-Shun comes up with a scheme to keep Chih-Hao out of the tournament picture. Basically, Meng Tung-Shun cobbles together his best students, henchmen, and three Japanese assassins to destroy Chih-Hao. Meng Tung-Shun sends them all out to track down Chih-Hao, find him, and hurt him, both physically and emotionally. It's a scheme that sees plenty of people destroyed. However, because Chih-Hao is all about honor and getting revenge, it doesn't matter if Meng Tung-Shun's men kill Chih-Hao's teachers or hurt his lover or viciously break his hands. Chih-Hao will overcome it all and win.
That, basically, is the movie's plot. There's plenty of other stuff going on, but most of it isn't all that interesting (well, it might have been interesting if I had been able to keep track of everyone, but I couldn't so I probably lost something in the plot). You can tell that it's a movie from the early 1970's as there's plenty of melodrama hooey going on. The love story is one of those things that isn't all that interesting. I just don't see or feel the chemistry between Lo and Wang. And the tournament, despite being the one thing that everyone talks about, really isn't that big of a deal. We're never told what the real stakes are for the tournament or why it's all that important. There's no trophy, no object that the winning scheme gets to take back to the school. Had the movie streamlined itself a bit and focused more on Chih-Hao's almost destruction and eventual return.
Now, the King Boxer title is the movie's original title and fits more with the tournament story. The Five Fingers of Death title is the American title and focuses more on the revenge part of the story, not to mention the whole "Chih-Hao will learn the deadly Iron Fist technique from Sun Hsin-Pei" thing. It probably would have made more sense to call it Iron Fists of Death, but then Five Fingers of Death is one of the greatest movie titles of all time. If you have a chance to have that as your title why wouldn't you want to use it?
The movie's big draw is its martial arts fight scenes and, for the most part, the movie delivers. Some of the fight scenes start out exactly the same but they all end differently, which is what you want in a martial arts flick. There are a few fantasy fight moments, where people fly through the air/jump incredibly high, but the majority of fights are on the ground. The actual tournament doesn't take up much time. In fact, the tournament part of the story blasts by and we hardly get to see any of the different schools fighting. And the tournament isn't the end of the movie, either. After the tournament is over there's another ten minutes or so, which is odd as you'd expect a movie about a tournament to end with the tournament.
The major fantasy aspect of the movie, Chih-Hao's glowing red hands, isn't overemphasized. His hands glow, you see them glow, and that's the end of it. Why isn't there more focus on them? I'm going to assume that it's all about director Chang Ho Cheng wanting to keep things as naturalistic as possible. That's the vibe that I get from the movie, anyway.
Five Fingers of Death is a great movie once you realize its place in the history of American cinema. It's a pretty good movie regardless of its position. It's way too long and it's story drags at times, but it's full of great kung fu battles and epic beat downs. Again, that's what the draw is. It's what you want to see. It's what you expect to see. And, for the most part, I enjoyed it. I can't wait to see more (classic martial arts movies, that is. It's one of the segments of the B-movie action world I just don't know much about but want to know more about). If you haven't seen Five Fingers of Death, do yourself a favor and track it down. It's worth the effort. And if you haven't seen it in a while, check it out again. I know I plan to.
See Five Fingers of Death. See it, see it, see it.
So what do we have here?
Dead bodies: 20+.
Doobage: Attempted mugging in the middle of the night, a kung fu beat down, eating, a sort of backyard brawl, multiple evil gangs, carrot stealing, juggling pins on fire, stomach punching, asshole with a gong, ass kicking on the street, attempted extortion followed by a kung fu showdown, hand biting, attempted kidnapping, a restaurant brawl, beating up an entire gang, a letter, spear catching, flying dropkick, serious hand breaking, kung fu practice, slow motion jump and kick in the air, arm breaking, a massive chop to the top of the head, sword attack, attempted positive reinforcement, serious concentration, more training, multiple double eye removals, man thrown head first into a tree with tree breaking, a kung fu tournament, glowing hands, gut stabbing, a heart punch, a second massive chop to the top of the head, bloody suicide, a severed head, sword breaking, wall breaking, and people walking off into the sunset (sort of).
Kim Richards?: None.
Gratuitous: Theme from Ironside, old man kung fu, a strongman competition, a Mongolian strongman, public musicians, dogs barking off in the distance, Japanese assassins wearing wooden sandals, attempted positive reinforcement, a kung fu tournament, multiple double eye removal, a severed head, and people walking off into the sunset (sort of).
Best lines: "If you fight one of you is liable to get hurt," "Hi, there. I love the way you sing," "I told you I was going to get even with you," "There! Now he'll never learn the Iron Fist technique!," "You know that is not the way!," "My eyes! I can't see a thing now!," and "Somebody! Get me some lamps!"
Next week: MAYhem begins with Metal Tornado (2011)!
The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: The Facebook Page!
Please check out The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Facebook page, which can be seen here. There's not much there at the moment, but, as time goes by, expect to see daily questions and musings and other B-movie hooey (this really is going to happen at some point). And it would be cool if you "liked" it, too.
And please check out my interview with director Brett A. Hart about the Ain't It Cool internet show and more!
Things to Watch Out For This Week
- Legend of Hercules: This Renny Harlin directed action fantasy movie didn't do well at the box office. In fact, it was a flop. But that shouldn't prevent home video audiences from giving it a shot. I know I'm curious to see if it should have done better. The great Scott Adkins is in it, so right there is reason enough to rent it. Anyone out there see this? Is it as bad as the reviews claim?
- Devil's Due: This low budget sort of found footage horror thriller didn't do all that well in theatres last January, but then it probably made enough money to allow people to talk about making a sequel (remember, I said "talk," not actually make one). And it'll probably do well enough on home video, where most horror movies, regardless of budget, tend to find their audiences. I'm willing to give it a rental just to see if it deserved its box office failure.
- Bad Country: Holy hooey does this low budget action thriller have a great cast. Tom Berenger, the gorgeous Amy Smart, Willem Dafoe, Matt Dillon, and Neal McDonough are all in this crime flick that apparently takes place in Louisiana (lots of low budget movies take place there now). Why isn't this getting a limited theatrical release? I mean, with this cast I'm sure someone would have paid to see the movie. I know I would have.
- Locker 13: This is apparently some sort of low budget anthology movie, something we're seeing more and more these days. This one looks a little better than most and has an outstanding cast including Rick "Ricky" Schroder, James Marsden, and Curtis "Booger" Armstrong, among others. Definitely worth renting just to see if it lives up to its cast.
- Dead Shadows: A French sort of sci-fi horror zombie movie? When was the last time the world had one of those? Love the concept, love the trailer, and am very interested to see if it's half as good as it would seem. Anyone out there see this?
The Gratuitous B-Movie Column B-Movie Theme of the Week
A Mini-Review of The Raid 2
The Raid 2 is an insane action extravaganza that must be seen. Chock full of brutal fights, unbelievable stunt work, and one of the best car chase sequences in the last ten years, The Raid 2 takes what was great about the first The Raid (you can read my review of that flick, The Raid: Redemption, here), amps that stuff up, and then adds even more stuff. The movie is a little too long but, at the same time, I have no idea what should be cut.
Iko Uwais returns as Rama, a badass cop/family man who just wants to do his job, survive, and be with his family. In part 2 he finds himself going undercover inside a hellhole prison so he can befriend the son of a major crime boss. Rama is told by his superiors that this undercover scheme will see him in prison for a few months at best. Rama, sadly, ends up staying behind bars for several years (it's what you get for attacking a politician's son, even if it's what your police boss tells you you have to so you can go to prison). After enduring several attempts on his life and several massive prison brawls (there's one in a patch of disgusting mud that is just mind boggling. How the hell did those guys act and fight in that slop, whatever the heck it is?) Rama finally makes friends with the son of a crime boss (Uco, as played by Arifin Putra) and gets out. It doesn't take long for Rama to "get in good" with Uco and Uco's father Bangun (Tio Pakusodewo) and see just what is at stake.
Basically, the story is about Bangun and his organization, a group of Japanese gangsters (led by Goto, as played by Kenichi Endo), and a local disabled thug named Bejo (Alex Abbad) trying to make money and take things over. Uco is a bit of a selfish, entitled prick who thinks he needs to be given more responsibility within his father's organization, the Gotos are just sort of hanging around trying not to start a war with Bangun, and Bejo wants to take over everything and is willing to make Uco his ally to get what he wants. Lots of people die and lots of people are betrayed. And Putra gives one of the best douchebag performances of the last five years. His Uco is such an asshole that you can't wait to see something bad happen to him. In fact, don't be surprised if you find yourself wondering how the hell he ever survived a day in prison, Even if he is the son of a major crime boss and has protection, how the hell did his protection not drown him in the mud patch or slit his throat just so he would shut up? I'm also a fan of how he can't stand white people and Americans. It's hilarious (they're all wearing sandals in a night club! Sandals!).
And Alex Abbad is excellent as Bejo. How he doesn't break down laughing as Uco nonchalantly kills five guys right in front of him, slitting their throats with a box cutter while talking about a business deal I'll never know.
I am a little confused about the character known as "The Assassin" and played by Cecep Arif Rahman. Why exactly is he in the movie outside of having a cool as hell street fight with some young hoodlums? I mean, why is he left alone in the dance club in that one scene? Is that meant to be some sort of weird hallucination? And the Hammer Girl and Baseball Bat Man assassins, played by Julie Estelle and Very Tri Ulisman, are very weird. They're cool in that martial arts movie assassin way but they also seem out of place in the movie. Would a gangster really have people like that working for him?
As for Uwais, he's simply brilliant as Rama. He's obviously a great martial artist, but he also knows how to act and emote and whatnot. You really feel for him when he finds out about the death of his brother, when he has to tell his wife about his undercover assignment, and when he has to bite his tongue and not punch Uco's face in when Uco is an asshole to two prostitutes. And the scene where Rama has to strip naked in front of Uco's father so Rama can be checked for a wire (Bangun doesn't trust anyone) is creepy as hell. How did Uwais not break down laughing when that scene was being filmed?
The action director Evans puts together is freaking amazing. Every fight, big or small, is brilliant and brutal and nasty. The subway fight between the Hammer Girl and a group of thugs is absolutely disgusting (I didn't think you could do that kind of thing with a hammer), and Evans may have put together one of the greatest, if not the greatest, fights in a bathroom in movie history. I also want to commend Evans for having two onscreen shotgun blasts to the face, not to mention a supremely disgusting shotgun wound (are those bone fragments mixed in with the skin and gore or is that something else?). Oh, and there's a great scene where a guy gets a full clip from a full auto handgun to the face. The victim of this attack may have been wearing a helmet at the time but, still, emptying a clip into a guy's face is something you just don't see every day. Bravo Gareth Evans. How the heck is he going to top that in The Raid 3?
And that's the question you're likely going to ask yourself once you're done watching The Raid 2; "How the heck is Gareth Evans going to top The Raid 2?" I mean, how can he? I can't wait to find out.
You need to see The Raid 2. It is an amazing experience. Amazing. See it, see it, see it.
The Gratuitous B-Movie Column B-Movie Babe of the Week: Amy Smart
What's Going On Here?: That Time Warner Cable commercial...
Have you seen that Time Warner Cable commercial featuring the woman above (the name of the actress is Nadia Quinn) wishing she hadn't married her schlubby husband and instead married the ripped underwear model washing his car across the street? Am I the only one offended by it?
First off, why should we assume that the woman is the one that "settled" and that the guy isn't the one who "settled?" Why is it wrong to assume that the guy is the one who settled and that he could have had any woman in the world? Non-rich fat guys can't land hot women? Since when? And why should we assume that the underwear model across the street is a better guy all around?
And second, can you imagine the trouble Time Warner Cable would be in if the roles in the commercial were reversed and it was some guy with a fat wife wishing he was banging the Victoria's Secret model across the street mowing the lawn? TWC would be the scum of the Earth and everyone in the world would want to know why that guy isn't worshipping his put upon wife (she could be fat because she just gave birth to a third child in five years! How dare that pig of a man even think of another woman!). Absolutely no one would point out to me that the commercial is silly and all about TWC telling people that they shouldn't sign up with some other TV entertainment provider. No one.
Someone is going to have to explain to me why this commercial is appropriate and why social media hasn't exploded with indignation.
The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Douchebag of the Week
This week, The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Douchebag of the Week once again goes to the ultra right wing media machine, for abandoning admitted criminal and spectacular racist Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy after he was recorded uttering spectacularly racist things but then still trying to make it sound like Bundy's "cause" was somehow justified. Some members of the URWMM have seen the error of the machine's ways and said so, like Chuck Krauthammer, but others are still trying to make it sound like Bundy, while absolutely despicable, had a point (Sean Hannity I'm looking at you). No, sorry, Bundy never had a point, and it's time that the URWMM own up to its own bullshit.
You made him a star. You made him a "folk hero." You own the guy. Now follow through and admit outright that you were wrong.
It won't happen, of course. Not until MSNBC and George Soros admit that they're behind the New Black Panthers or some shit like that. Fair's fair.
And then there's Donald Sterling, owner of the L.A. Clippers NBA team, for apparently telling his girlfriend not to bring black people to Clippers games. According to thisTMZ has the recording, and since the story broke plenty of people in the NBA have said they're not surprised by what Sterling allegedly said. How does this happen? How does this go on? Why has the NBA allowed Sterling to continue to participate? Is it because he's mega rich?
And finally there's the FCC for completely selling out the idea of the internets and allowing internet service providers to create a tiered internets. Instead of pushing for "net neutrality," which would have continued to allow any website have the same basic chance of getting noticed, this new "second highway" scheme is going to allow internets providers to charge some content providers more for the use of the internets. Internets freedom, after this ruling, is essentially over.
Good job, FCC, And good job, President Obama, for allowing this to happen. I mean, I can't say that I'm surprised, as all politicians, regardless of party, with few exceptions, eventually completely sell out, but it would have been nice if this was one of the things that the President didn't sell out on.
Sad. Very, very sad.
NASCAR and Indycar thoughts
Well, I managed to see the last half of the NASCAR Sprint Cup race from Richmond, and for the most part it was a good race. I still think Richmond Cup races are too long, but this particular 400 lapper was about as exciting as Sprint Cup races from Richmond get. There was plenty of passing all night long, and the final segment of the race, with Joey Logano, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. battling for the lead was excellent stuff. Logano ended up winning the race, his second of the season, but I didn't think he'd actually get the lead on that last restart. And before that, when he spun his tires on a restart I thought he was screwed.
I mean, Kenseth was fading at the end but he still seemed strong enough to mix it up up front. And Jeff Gordon, who was strong the entire race, told his crew that he thought he could win the race if he restarted on the inside (it didn't work out that way but it was nice to hear a confident Gordon). Kyle Busch appeared out of nowhere to finish third, and Brad Keselowski finished fourth. He wasn't happy with fourth (I'm still not sure what his problem was with Kenseth) but, hey, fourth is good enough, especially when there are six cars battling for the lead at the end.
And where the heck did AJ Allmendinger come from? He seemed to be in the mix up front for most of the race that I saw and, amazingly, he finished sixth. It looks like the switch to Chevrolet has helped that team out tremendously.
Kevin Harvick finished 11th. He dominated the Nationwide race on Friday night and, to a certain extent, was expected to dominate the Cup race, too. He did well and led laps and whatnot but, at the end, he was not a threat for the win. Ryan Newman was a threat to win until the last twenty laps or so. He got behind someone on a restart and he couldn't get by him and that was essentially the end of his night.
Why the hell was Casey Mears so upset with Marcos Ambrose? Why did Ambrose feel as though he needed to punch Mears in the head? And why the hell didn't the Fox Sports people get over there immediately to find out what was going on? Bad coverage there.
I didn't see the Nationwide race on Friday night. I was unable to stay awake past 9:30pm and, unfortunately, missed the whole thing. As I said, Harvick dominated the night, holding off Chase Elliott for the race win. I really need to find a way to watch these goddamn Nationwide races. I keep missing them and it's annoying the hell out of me.
The Sprint Cup series and the Nationwide Series are both back in action this weekend at Talladega. Nationwide races on Saturday and Sprint Cup races on Sunday. I should be able to see both events. Should.
Over in Indycar, Ryan Hunter-Reay dominated the last half of the "race" at Barber Motorsports Park, after pole sitter Will Power made a mistake in a corner, costing him the lead and destroying his car's handling. Once Power was out of the way it was Hunter-Reay's race to lose. Marco Andretti finally had some decent luck and finished second. Scott Dixon managed to finish third.
The race was delayed by rain for several hours and was eventually started in the rain. Most of the drivers seemed to be excited about the idea of racing in the rain, but for viewers it was a bad, bad experience. It wasn't even a race until the track started to dry out and the teams were able to switch over to slick racing tires, but even then it wasn't much of a show. Racing in the rain is not racing. It just isn't.
The Indy Lights race was boring as fuck. After the first two laps it was pretty obvious that the only way Gabby Chaves was going to lose was if he wrecked himself. He didn't wreck himself and he led every lap. There was a race on Saturday afternoon, too, and Zach Veach won that one. I don't think that one was on TV. The Indy Lights Series really needs to find more cars.
The Indianapolis road race is up next for the Indycar Series, and then qualifying for the Indy 500 will commence the following week. Indy can't get here fast enough.