Saturday, 11 November 2017

Zoo



Title: Zoo
Director: Robinson Devor
Released: 2007

Plot: Documentary based on the life and death of Kenneth Pinyan Aka: Mr. Hands who died of peritonitis after having sex with a horse.

Review: While the bestiality subject matter might scream the short of subject matter for late night shock docs but what we get here instead is actually thoughtful and strangely beautiful documentary on one of the last great taboos - bestiality while looking at the zoophile’s who the film derives its title from.

Constructed using muted reinactments charting the events which lead up to Pinyan’s death, the film is narrated by the extensive interview footage which director Robinson Devor collected with both the members of the group that Pinyan belonged to but also with those such as Jenny Edwards who were called in to deal with the aftermath of Pinyan’s death.

Rather than just focus on the Pinyan’s death Devor instead makes the most of his access to the key members of the group all referred to by their internet handles such as H, Coyote and The Happy Horseman rather than their real names clearly happy to maintain anonymity in exchange for the real insight their interviews provide. This anonymity is also extended to Pinyan who throughout the film is only referred to as “Mr. Hands” though the use of radio footage he does tease revealing his identity only to cut it off at the last second. Still how this anonymity currents holds up is doubtful now, especially when a quick wikipedia search can bring up the details of everyone involved, but back then it did mean that we get the best possible insight into this secretive world.

By using only interview footage to narrate the film, Devor avoids sharing his own opinions when it comes to how he views the actions of the group, nor their less than conventional sexual tastes, the group surprisingly not being portrayed as weirdos for their sexual desires towards animals and instead the result of finding more of a connection with animals than they find with fellow humans. This is certainly the case with Pinyan whose Devor takes great pains to include footage which highlights his normal white collar lifestyle as an aeronautical engineer and devoted father with his trips to the farm clearly being like many of the group a separate part of their lives which they revealed only to their fellow group members. Its also perhaps unintentionally twee looking at the film now to hear the group talking about the internet, more so when the films soundtrack is often punctuated with the sound of dial up modems, but it does serve to remind how the internet really did help everyone to find their tribe as was certainly the case for the group at the centre of the incident.

The second half of the film focuses on the ill fated events surrounding Pinyan’s death and the inevitable fallout that unsurprisingly came from the discover of what the group had been doing including what happened to the members in the aftermath. Devor surprisingly never judges any of them for their less than traditional desires though the events which lead to Pinyan’s death are left largely foggy, thanks in no part to the unique way that he chooses to portray those ill-fated events.

Its also during this second half that the question over whether these acts can be considered abuse or not, especially when the animals are unable to provide consent to being involved in such acts and to Devor’s credit he manages to provide both sides of the argument though its doubtful that you mind will be changed by the evidence provided it and certainly the opinion of the government on the subject is made clear by their classification of bestiality as a felony offence.

Despite the subject material the film is fascinatingly shot and with none of the lurid shots that you might have expected, especially with Devor punctuating the re-enactment with numerous shots of the breathtaking landscape of Enumclaw and its rocky vistas. The footage throughout only being added to by a mesmerising score from Paul Mathew Moore which only serves to heighten the experience drawing you further into the story as it builds to its grim climax.

A facinating documentary on a less than typical subject and which well elevates itself being a shock piece to instead perhaps go some way into providing some kind of insight into this world.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

The Nines



Title: The Nines
Director: John August
Released: 2007
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Melissa McCarthy, Hope Davis, Elle Fanning, David Denman, Octavia Spencer, Ben Falcone, Dahlia Salem, John Gatins

Plot: A troubled actor, a show runner and a videogame designer discover that their lives might be more linked than they suspect.

Review: While John August might not be a name which leaps out at you he has worked on several noteworthy screenplays for the likes of “Titan A.E.”, “Frankenweenie” and the cult indie movie “Go” which initially launched him as a screenwriter with this film marking his directorial debut with decidedly mixed results.

A three part existential drama  this pet project clearly has the feel of someone trying to imitiate the experimental style of Charlie Kaufman only with none of the quirky charm as here Ryan Reynolds plays the three lead roles each heading up their own chapters starting with “The Prisoner” which see actor Gary barbequing his ex-girlfriends things before flipping his car and landing himself on house arrest. Soon however he finds himself being being plagued by the continual appearance of the number 9 around him.

Next up is “Reality Television” which now sees Reynolds playing the Television writer Gavin who is trying to get the pilot for his TV show “Knowing” off the ground while being followed for a reality show. The whole segment being shot in reality TV show style making for an interesting change of pace and helping the segment to stand out along with elements such as Melissa McCarthy’s role in this segment being to play the fictionalised version of herself. This segment perhaps the most autobiographical for August who based most of the plot on his experience’s working on the failed television series “D.C.” while he wrote the film with McCarthy in mind for her role, mirroring Gavin’s own writing were he wrote his TV show for this reality’s version of her.

The final segment is “Knowing” were Reynolds now plays the acclaimed video game designer Gabriel whose car has broken down in the middle of nowhere with his wife Mary (McCarthy) and daughter which aims for the big reveal of what has supposed to have been happening throughout the film and bring all the parts together. Instead we get the feeling of August self congratulating himself for what he’s created even though its still very much feels like a half baked and largely confusing mess.

Released before Reynolds achieved the mainstream approval he got from “Deadpool” and when many critics for some reason were keen to write him off like Ben Affleck as box office poison a tag I never really understood for either, especially Reynolds who might have come to the forefront through throw away cult comedies like “Van Wilder” and “Waiting” he’s constantly remained an intresting actor to watch especially when given a more dramatic role like he got with “Adventureland” or “Smokin Aces” and here he certainly gets that by getting to play three different leads all three of which he manages to make stand out from each other. This is certainly true in the case of “The Prisoner” and “Reality TV” two characters which are at polar opposite to each other with Gary coming across as bratty and self indulgent compared to the self-doubting and moody Gavin its just more frustrating that neither character ultimately get the interesting arc’s that they deserve and instead are left in meandering plotlines blogged down by August’s attempts to link all the segments together and play into his end game.

The supporting cast are equally great with both Melissa McCarthy and Hope Davis joining Reynolds in playing multiple characters across the different stories with mixed results due to the strength of the material rather than either actresses performance.

While I might have entered into the film with an expectation of what I was going to get it was somewhat disapointing to ultimately end up with a plot so plodding and ultimately navel gazing as the one that August chooses to craft here, as a potentially interesting idea is squandered by his attempts to really tie together three half baked stories that perhaps would have been better developed on their own than stuck together here.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

The Mist




Title: The Mist
Director: Frank Darabont
Released: 2007
Starring: Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden, Andre Braugher, Toby Jones, William Sadler, Jeffrey DeMunn, Frances Sternhagen, Samuel Witwer, Alexa Davalos, Nathan Gamble

Plot: When a strange mist descends on the small Maine town of Bridgeton, the local residents soon discover that it hides an assortment of horrifying monsters. Now barricaded with his young son and several of the town residents in the local supermarket David (Jane) soon finds himself having to deal with the prospect of worst things amongst his fellow residents.



Review: The forth Stephen King adaptation for director Frank Darabont following his debut “The Woman In The Room” before following it up with “The Shawshank Redemption” and “The Green Mile” and with this film he continues he showcase his flair for adapting King’s stories while somehow managing to avoid the issues which have plagued the Mick Garris adaptations.

On the surface this might just seem like another straightforward monster movie which it certainly more than delivers on throughout, but the real interesting aspect for the film is instead the study of human behaviour which runs below the surface as the residents in the town begin to choose different ways to process the situation they find themselves in. The first time I saw the film when I certainly enjoyed it, it didn’t seem to resonate in the same way that it did for friends who raved about the film and in particular that ending. Still re-watching it this time watching how the residents fracture into the two rival groups actually proved to be surprisingly more interesting than what’s lurking in the mist and really were the real story can be found.

One of the key aspects for the story working though is with the religious zelot Mrs. Carmody (Harden) viewing the fog as a sign that the end of days is upon the town quickly gathering a following behind her firebrand sermons. Darabont here really does a fantastic job of making her more than just a religious nutjob, instead having her follower numbers growing as a result of the situation becoming the more dire and the town residents not being able to logically comprehend what they are facing. To her credit Marcia Gay Harden plays the role pitch perfect managing to go from background annoyance to cult leader with very natural evolution even if perhaps a little more quickly than seems plausible.

This however is a minor quibble and one easily overlooked when given such an interesting and extensive group of characters who despite being so numerous all feel fully developed and not just monster fodder. Darabont’s casting choices gathering together many fantastic character actors only to pull out surprising sides such as Toby Jones assistant supermarket manager being a crackshot with a pistol, or William Sadler’s typically belligerent mechanic’s mind snapping after a failed supply run to the nearby pharmacy store. Throw into the mix a military conspiracy which the soldiers in the store might know more about than they are letting on and its a real tinderbox.

David however as the lead really is what makes this story work aswell as providing the best counterpart to Mrs. Carmody as he attempts to keep order in the group as he’s forced into taking a leadership role when all he wants to do is insure the safety of his young son and get back to his wife who is still back at the family home. Thomas Jane though truly sells this every man character thrust into this extraordinary situation subtly fleshed out by the smaller details of the story such as his attempts to make up with his stubborn neighbour Brent (Braugher). Here these two clashing forcing being less about Stephen King’s usual battle about the forces of good and evil and instead more a battle between logic and religion.

While the breakdown of social norms combined with this “Lord of the Flies” style situation which we watch unfold might certainly be one of the key aspects of the film, it is not to say that the monster element is not without its charms as Darabont introduces throughout the film a wide variety of monsters that come with this fog, from over grown insects to his larger creations which he manages to make either creatures of pure horror as in the case of the centipede like tentacles yet at the same time he is able to make us look at some of these creatures with a kind of awe when we get scenes of the long limbed goliath during the finale montage.

Unquestionably with extensive use of CGI for his monster creations, the fog helps keep an air of mystery to these creations, certainly as the effects have dated over the year which have surprisingly held up well with perhaps the tentacles being one of the rare moments when the effects taken you out of things slightly. At the same time Darabont really knows how to use these characters, especially when it comes to the more gory elements of the film in which he frequently manages to catch us off guard thanks to its sporadic placement and usually when he clearly feels that the audience might be getting too comfortable with what’s happening much like the hysteria being whipped up by Mrs. Carmody.

Of course it would be impossible to talk about this film without talking about the much discussed finale which honestly I still don’t feel that it earned. True it is certainly a surprising not to mention bleak ending and one which I certainly didn’t see coming the first time I watched the film. Still it was one of the key conditions of Darabont making the film with “Dimension” and it turned out from the general response to the right one with Stephen King even giving his approval. However looking at the alternative endings such as the vision of a world of mist which stayed more true to King’s original more ambiguous ending I can’t help but feel that its the ending I would have been happier with.

Unquestionably this is one of the more fresher horror films of the decade, especially when the horror genre seems so focused to keep bashing the same tired tropes to death, its always great to get a film which is actually trying to do something new.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

The Bad Batch


Title: The Bad Batch
Director: Ana Lily Amirpour
Released: 2014
Starring: Suki Waterhouse, Jason Momoa, Keanu Reeves, Jim Carrey, Yolonda Ross, Giovanni Ribisi, Jayda Fink, Diego Luna, Cory Roberts, E.R. Ruiz

Plot: In the near future criminals and other society rejects are dumped in a fenced off area of desert wasteland outside of the Texas. The latest addition to this community is Arlen (Waterhouse) who soon finds herself having to traverse the landscape of scavengers, cannibals and cultists if she is going to survive this dangerous and lawless world.

Review: Following on from the critically adored “A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night” director Ana Lily Amirpour chooses to follow it up here with this sun soaked dose of dystopia while at the same time seemingly channelling the cinema outlaws Harmony Korine and Greg Araki to craft a fiercly unique vision which will likely prove too abstract for the mainstream movie goer but there is unquestionably something here.

Bringing to mind Richard Kelly’s fiercely diversive “Southland Tales” here Amirpour clearly sets out with a vision for her sophomore effort, though at the same time its one which will either enthral or bore you depending on your own opinion of the film the former of which I certainly found myself in even if at times its hard to actually know what is supposed to be happening other than a whole lot of cannibalism and desert wandering and this of course makes it the sort of film as a critic you kind of dread encountering. I mean how are you supposed to write about nothing? Still as I sit here writing this two days after I first watched it this is a film which continues to run through my head so that I feel compelled to get something down about it.

Opening to Arlen being dumped into this world we are mere moments into the film before she is set upon by one of the resident cannibals who quickly relieve her of one of her arms and a leg before she sets out to escape across the desert on a skateboard reminiscent in a scene reminiscent of the opening of “There Will Be Blood” whose record of no dialogue for the first 14.5 minutes this film smashes by none of the characters actually talking till we are 30 mins in. Its also during this sequence that we are introduced to the Hermit played throughout the film in complete silence by Jim Carrey just one of a series of interesting casting choices which also sees Keanu Reeves showing up as the cult-like leader of the town Comfort known only as “The Dream” who runs a sideline in pot with his harem of pregnant ladies.

Across the desert landscape we encounter a number of settlements which has sprung up with Amirpour following in the footsteps of George Miller as the residents have constructed shanty towns out of aeroplane parts and broken down trailers, creating a new society for themselves and one seemingly styled by the same costume department Harmony Korine uses from Arlen’s winking booty shorts to Jason Momoa’s “Miami Man” chest tattoo which serves like an alt-culture name tag, though why she went with that name like so much of the film is a complete mystery.

Arlen though is quick to adapt to this world as the film skips forward six month once she arrives in comfort to were has she gained a prosthetic leg and spend her time wandering the wasteland which is were the main story of sorts begins when she picks up the Miami Man’s daughter Honey (Fink) after killing her cannibal mother. From here though its really a lot of wandering as Miami Man tries to find his now missing daughter before further wandering with Arlen when Honey gets picked up by Keanu Reeve’s cult leader “The Dream” during an acid infused rave sequence.

Miami Man on the other hand is a slightly more complex character as Momoa spend the film wandering around shirtless and looking like he was carved out of wood, a cold warrior hardened by the enviroment around him, who feels nothing about keeping a woman chained up in his yard to use for food, inbetween painting detailed paintings of his daughter, though its a connection more confirmed in the wikipedia plot summery than in the film, were she comes across like a girl from his camp. He however like the other characters is a fascinating to watch on screen with Amirpour only giving us small hints of details about these characters and leaving us as the audience to figure things out, which while certainly a bold choice is also the kind of thing which put off audience not wanting to sit through something so abstract.

Now if any of this is sounding like a confusing mess then you probably would be right and yet its a fascinating mess which Amirpour allows you to get lost in using minimalistic dialogue and instead attention grabbing visuals to tell her story if you can even really call it that. Instead what it often feels like is more of a snapshot of these characters lives as we follow them like ghosts in this world and much like with “Ghost World” we are just along for the ride as events play out acting more like the observers than actually being part of this world. Of course if David Lynch can get away with telling a story on the latest season of Twin Peaks over 18 episode when he really only needed four, then why can't we enjoy a visually arresting and minimalist desert romp? Yes this really isn’t going to be for everyone and already I can see this film ending up like “Southland Tales” as its as hated as its adored.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

The Maze Runner



Title: The Maze Runner
Director: Wes Ball
Released: 2014
Starring: Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Ami Ameen, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Ki Hong Lee, Will Poulter, Patricia Clarkson, Blake Cooper

Plot: Awakening in an elevator with no idea of how he got there, Thomas (O’Brien) now finds himself in “The Glade” at the centre of a large maze along with a group of other teenage boys. Now they must unite to the not only escape the maze but also the cyborg monster known as “Grievers” who prey on anyone who ventures into the maze.

Review: While I might have initially ignored this film on its original release dismissing it as another Young Adult novel adaptation especially with “The Hunger Games” being such a success and yet there was still something which appealed about the concept. So having it play recently on one of the movie channels I thought I’d finally give it look.

The directorial debut of Wes Ball who’d originally approached 20th Century Fox with the intention of getting his short film “Ruin” made into a feature length production only to instead be offered the chance to direct this film seeing how it shared a similar tone to his short film.

Hitting the ground running this is a world which is quickly established for the audience with the Gladers having carved out an lfe for themselves in the centre of Maze over the three years which have passed since their appointed leader Alby arrived while appointing members known as runners to explore the maze and find their way out. Its somewhat refreshing that Thomas doesn’t straight away take over as the leader, even if he adapts to the situation he finds himself in surprisingly quickly especially when it comes to facing the Grievers.

The design work for throughout the film is fantastic from the high walls of the ever changing maze bringing back memories of “Labyrinth” through to the bio-mechanical design of the Grievers who look great and whose seemingly unstoppable nature only adds to their threat its really an immersive and believable world that the story takes place in.

Despite being an adaptation of the first book in James Dashner’s “Maze Runner” series here we have a film which is actually free of the usual hang up’s which plague the genre such as the dashing whip smart lead, the love intrest and goofy sidekick. Instead what we get is what could be seen as a regular sci-fi thriller were it not for the young cast who manage to put across convincing performances throughout, especially as the film frequently drifts into several darker moments especially as the structure of the group beings to fall apart and certain members begin to make their own power plays

The real question mark amongst the group here is Teresa (Scodelario) the first and only female to be sent to the Glade, which might have you thinking that she’s there to play the love interest for Thomas but she really isn’t and ultimately bring little to nothing to the story other than being eye candy for the film and perhaps to relive any potential homoerotic undertone that some might have garnered from the group being consisted solely of boys. Yes she might share a history with Thomas which is touched upon and seeing how we have another two volumes in the series to cover which might give her more to to, but at this point I constantly found myself questioning what role she was supposed to be playing.

The other issue here comes with the ending which decides to info dump the secrets of the Maze and reason the Gladers were placed there ultimatly coming as something of a let down especially having gone through the thrill of that final run through the maze. This is only added to by the introduction of the fantastic Patricia Clarkson as the mastermind behind the maze who leaves almost as quickly as she enters and while I can understand her late introduction due to wanting to maintain an air of mystery but she could really have benefited from having a little more room for her character to breathe, which looking at how the film ends I assume she might get in the next film.

An entertaining romp throughout it might not be the deepest of films, but certainly as far as one of adaptations of Teen fiction go this is miles ahead of the competition making me keen to see were the story goes next. 

Monday, 9 October 2017

Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse



Title: Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse
Director: Christopher B Landon
Released: 2015
Starring: Tye Sheridan, Logan Miller, Joey Morgan, Sarah Dumont, David Koechner, Halston Sage, Cloris Leachman, Niki Koss, Hiram A. Murray

Plot: Ben (Sheridan), Carter (Miller) and Augie (Morgan) are a trio of high school sophomores aswell as the sole members of their local scout troop. The trio however soon find their skills being put to a completely different kind of test as they are forced into battling the undead hordes alongside cocktail waitress Denise (Dumont)

Review: The Zombie genre might currently be one of the most overworked sub-genres of horror at present, largely down to the fact that its also one of the easiest for any aspiring director to put together on the cheap. The obvious downside to this of course being that the zombie market is now saturated with direct to DVD throwaway titles and “28 Days Later” clones and none with any of the charm of the Romero Dead saga which gave birth to the modern zombie movie in the first place. Combine this with the fact that zombies since “28 Days Later” now have to be a fast moving swarm than their original shuffling unrelenting horde clearly lost on modern audience and the problems only increase. This situation however does makes it only the more special when a decent zombie film does turn up.

A 2010 blacklist script, right from the start its clear what sort of film this is going to be as Blake Anderson’s dim-witted janitor manages to unleash a zombie virus from the local science lab. The shots of him being thrown around the lab by a recently awakened zombie in the background while the scientist argues with the vending machine perfectly setting the tone for what is to follow as we get treated to a delicious blend of slapstick and gross out gags.

Meeting our heroes for the first time, its clear that their troop have fallen on hard times as they are now the only members with Ben and Carter only sticking around to support their friend Augie who is working towards his condor patch while his friends are more focused on sneaking out to a secret seniors party they hear about from Carter’s sister. This party providing the final battle ground for the trio as they battle the hordes across the city. Still thanks to them being such a likeable group its a fun journey to follow them on, even if their characters aren't especially deep outside of a few surface characteristics. Adding to the group is cocktail waitress Denise who is no damsel in distress especially when she spends most of the time saving the boys as she joins them on their quest. Yes she might be there largely for the sex appeal factor but thankfully by having her be so capable of holding her own as a zombie slayer it at least makes her character arc a little less obvious.

One of the strengths of the film though is how quickly we dive into the zombie fun as with the film running at a rapid pace which only further works to its advantage as the shocks and laughs come fast and heavy especially during the escape from their neighbourhood were it seems each escape leads them into a worse situation as they are forced to battle an OAP zombie and her horde of zombie cats building to the final showdown with the hordes at the seniors party. This finale only being added to by the trio showing up with a small armoury of makeshift weapons to the strains of “Rock You Like A Hurricane” by the Scorpions.

A genuinely funny and splatter heavy comedy here director Christopher B. Landon manages to tap into that magical formula that Peter Jackson captured with his early splatter films like “Bad Taste” and “Braindead” (or “Dead Alive” as its known in the states) while running the film through the lens of 80’s cinema such as “The Monster Squad” or “The Goonies” and thankfully sidestepping the usual attempts to recreate this era by keeping the story firmly in the present. Needless to say this is the film the zombie fans have been craving.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Come Drink With Me



Title: Come Drink With Me
Director: King Hu
Released: 1966
Starring: Cheng Pei-pei, Yueh Hua, Chan Hung-lit, Lee Wan-chung, Yeung Chi-hing, Ku Feng, Jao Li-jen, Wong Chung, Cheung Hei, Angela Pan

Plot: When a group of thugs kidnaps a young official in a bid to free their imprisoned leader Golden Swallow (Cheng Pei-pei) is sent to rescue him, while finding unlikely help in the beggar and secret kung fu master Drunken Cat (Yueh Hua)

Review: For a film which is seen as such an important milestone for martial arts cinema its somewhat frustrating that like the majority of films in the Shaw Brothers back catalogue that like the Godzilla series the lousy distribution has meant that bar a handful of titles few have made it over to region 2. True Amazon have now started to add some of these films but it still doesn’t answer the question as to why this film has been so frequently over looked while we can get 7+ releases of every Bruce Lee movie.

Noteworthy for being the first Martial arts film to move away from the Chinese opera inspired theatrics which had for the longest time been a staple of the Martial Arts genre, here director King Hu ushered in a brief era of serious minded martial arts movies which ultimately would meet its demise with the rise in popularity of the wire-fu movies. However its ideals would not be squashed entirely with the early 2000’s it was clear that they were instead merely dormant as the influence of this film can certainly be seen in the likes of Zhang Yimou “Hero” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” which saw Ang Lee bringing the star of this film Cheng Pei-pei out of retirement to play the villainous Jade Fox.

Despite only being 19 when she headlined this film Cheng Pei-pei confidently plays the role of Golden Swallow, a role she would play again in the sequel, but also setting her on the path of being one of the more identifiable Swordswomen in martial arts cinema which has seen her working almost continuously since. Here though she is captivating in the role from the first scene we see her in as she enters the local Inn looking for information on the bandits holding the official who is also her brother.

While more restrained in its action than other titles in the Shaw Bros. Back catalogue when we do get an action scene it is still entracing to watch her movements, especially with her fighting style being less based around power but instead focusing on graceful movements which plays to Cheng Pei-pei’s advantage with her background as a dancer much like Michelle Yeoh with her ability to memorise choreography here proving much key than the martial arts training she undertook prior to making the film. That being said Pei-pei already establishes herself as a badass before she even draws her sword warning a group of would-be attackers with the use of chopsticks and coins which she embeds in the walls of the inn with ease. My favourite of these subtle little movements though is the slight shift of her gaze to the side which would go on to be one of her trademarks.

Outside of Pei-pei’s scenes there is plenty of enjoyable sword play with the film opening to the bandits massacring the government official's guard. A scene which is surprisingly bloody even including a hand being almost comedically hacked off in the fray. At the same time we do get some surprisingly shocking moments of violence mixed in including the murder of a child monk by the villain Smiling Tiger (Lee Wan-chung) which comes seemingly out of nowhere and seeing how its so jarring compared to the rest of the film, I can’t help but wonder if this was as shocking back when the film was originally released.

One of the more jarring aspects of the film though is how Golden Swallow is pushed into the background when she gets hit with a poison dart around the halfway point with the focus instead shifting to Drunken Cat (Yueh Hua) the begger and martial arts master in hiding. Infact even our main villian at this point, the pancake makeup loving and generally theatrical Smiling Tiger is changed out for the evil abbot Liao Kung (Yeung Chi-hiung) who he attended the same Kung-fu school as Drunken Cat. There conflict providing one of the more fantastic elements of the film as the pair exchange magical blows as they battle for control over the bamboo staff of their master.

Seemingly this shift was down to King Hu doubting the abilities of Yueh Hua as a leading man, even though he does end up stealing most of the scenes he appears in, while Jackie Chan has noted the character was an inspiration for his own comedic and physical style of moment as Yueh Hua paints a very different idea of the martial arts hero, especially when compared to Golden Swallow.#

A enjoyable romp with some standout action sequences which alone are worth giving it a look, let alone the star making turn by Cheng Pei-pei


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