aka 迎春閣之風波 aka Ying Chun Ge Zhi Fengbo 1973 Written by King Hu and Wong Chung
Directed by King Hu
King Hu’s works are amazing, and he is one of the most influential artists in martial arts film history. That being said, The Fate of Lee Khan was made after Dragon Gate Inn and A Touch of Zen, and the biggest flaw is it just doesn’t live up to those classics. It is a good story, full of intrigue and great choreography. But it just feels smaller scale and lacks some of the smaller character moments that a smaller story should have. Lee Khan just doesn’t seem as dangerous as he should be considering he is supposed to be this big ultimate villain. The best way to describe him would be as the mediocre villain of the second film in a super hero series who bridges the gap before the more memorable villain in the third film.
The word is The Fate of Lee Khan was one of two productions of King Hu’s under his company, Gam Chuen (the other was The Valiant Ones). The films were to be distributed by Golden Harvest, who would gain the rights to Lee Khan while Hu would own The Valiant Ones. As usual, Hu’s films fell behind in filming, Lee Khan was barely finished by 1973, while The Valiant Ones wasn’t completed until 1975, and Gam Chuen then petered out.
It is a time when the Mongols have overstayed their welcome and General Zhu leads an army to fight them, spies are rife and everyone is paranoid. Lee Khan is a local overseer of two provinces and prince of the royal family, with his sister Lee Wan-Er as his loyal assistant. He found a member of General Zhu’s army to sell out and leaves to personally receive a map of battle plans. But this leads to opportunity and intrigue at a local inn, as these matters often do…
Madam Wan Ren-Mi (Li Li-Hua) – Runs the Ying Chun Inn, where Lee Khan is rumored to be staying at when meeting with a traitor that works for rebels. Is friends with benefits of the local governor Magistrate Ha Ra-Ku (Wu Jia-Xiang). Hires the waitresses who are all members of the rebellion, as is she.
Lee Khan (Tien Feng) – Leaves the safety of his palace to personally receive a map of the battle plans of the rebel general (the spy would only deliver to him personally) The map is legit but it is also an opportunity to attack Lee Khan out of the safety of his palace and numerous guards Tien Feng excelled at authoritative villainous roles in the 50s-80s, appearing in films such as Black Falcon, One-Armed Swordsman, Vengeance of a Snowgirl, King Boxer, Fist of Fury, By the 90s he had reduced his screen appearances, though still managed to appear in Green Snake and Sex and Zen.
Lee Wan-Er (Hsu Feng) – The sister of Lee Khan. Deadly villainess in her own right, including much more of a violent streak of wanting others to die for their crimes than Lee Khan. She seems to be the only person he cares about besides himself.
Black Peony (Angela Mao Ying) – Waitress dressed in black clothes. A former infamous pickpocket, Black Peony has mended her ways (sort of) by helping the Chinese resistance to the Mongol rule, and becomes a waitress at the Ying Chun Inn. I think she’s the only waitress whose character gets a name spoken on screen. Had her character been born rich, she’d probably be robbing from her rich friends and distributing it to the poor while wearing a super hero mask. For more Angela Mao films TarsTarkas.NET has covered, click on her tag.
Blue Waitress (Helen Ma Hoi-Lun) – A former bandit whose past makes her a poor choice as a waitress, but a good choice for someone you need in a fight. For more Helen Ma films TarsTarkas.NET has covered, click on her tag.
Red Waitress (Woo Gam) – A former street performer who now works for the rebels, she is adept with dealing with customers who have naughty hands than the other girls. For more Woo Gam films TarsTarkas.NET has covered, click on her tag.
Green Waitress (Seung-Goon Yin-Ngai) – The fourth waitress, she’s given the least amount of characterization except her character is hinted to be a con artist.
Wang Chun (Pai Ying) – A rebel sent to help, pretends to be Madam Wan’s cousin helping look over the books. Pai Ying was also in Dragon Gate Inn, A Touch of Zen, and Lady Whirlwind
Sha Yuan-San (Han Ying-Chieh) – Wandering singer and annoying rebel sent to help pretends to be Wang Chun’s assistant. Another King Hu regular who was in Come Drink with Me, Dragon Gate Inn, A Touch of Zen, and the non-King Hu film Sword of Emei.
Tsao Yu-Kun (Roy Chiao Hung) – High-ranking bodyguard to Lee Khan but also plotting against him. Roy Chiao had a prolific career including The Dark Heroine Muk Lan-Fa, Enter the Dragon, and Bloodsport.
aka 合氣道 aka He qi dao aka Hap Ki Do aka Lady Kung Fu 1972 Written by Yan Ho
Directed by Feng Huang
When you need villains for your martial arts movie, the Japanese are very handy. Not only did the Japanese actually do a bunch of bad stuff that seems only cartoon supervillains would do, but depicting them doing so helps stir up nationalistic feelings and potentially increases your box office bang. Thus martial arts schools are the setting for rebellion against Japanese occupiers in Hapkido, and Angela Mao Ying is more than capable of beating the snot out of all sorts of Japanese jerks.
Hapkido is one of Angela Mao’s earliest films for Golden Harvest. You can still see legacies of the Shaw Brothers influence, from the Golden Harvest logo having a strangely familiar shape to the film being advertised in “Dyaliscope”, whatever the heck that is!
We start out in 1934 Japanese-occupied Seoul, where three Chinese students are studying Hapkido before harassment by Japanese occupiers cause them need to return to China, but that also means they can open a Hapkido school in China. Just as Japan now controls Korea, Japanese influence in China is not something to be ignored, their impending invasion of the whole country means their people act arrogant and criminally. The watchword for Hapkido is “forbearance”, which works fine except when the Japanese are assaulting innocent people and Sammo Hung’s character has a wicked temper. Then it gets put on the wayside while people get punched.
Yu Ying (Angela Mao Ying) – Hapkido student who just wants to set up a school and teach everyone Hapkido, except the Japanese have other ideas. So it’s time to kick those ideas out of their heads and also kick many other parts of their bodies to get them to go away!
Fan Wei (Sammo Hung Kam-Bo) – Hot-headed Hapkido student who constantly gets into fights and causes trouble for his friends. But he also just happens to be around whenever the Japanese are doing something evil, so he also has very bad luck.
Kao Chung (Carter Wong Ka-Tat) – Hapkido student who tries to calm down all the trouble happening only to get a brutal beatdown to emphasize how the Japanese school is beyond reason.
aka 跆拳震九州 aka Sting of the Dragon Masters aka Kickmaster aka Tai quan zhen jiu zhou
1973 Written by Gwak Il-ro and Chu Yu
Directed by Wong Fung
When martial arts movies are talked about, there is the practice by certain people of just labeling all martial arts films as kung fu films. Of course, fans of the genre know there are many different types of martial arts cinema, from kung fu to karate to taekwando to Pencak Silat to Muay Thai. And all of those have their own subgroups and subsubgroups, and films will mix styles, often as a selling point. For When Taekwondo Strikes, taekwondo is obviously the featured martial art, even Jhoon Rhee – “the father of American Taekwondo” – is one of the stars in his only film role. You can also spot Sammo Hung, Lam Ching-Ying, and Yuen Biao in the stunt teams, which is always a fun game with these older flicks.
When Taekwondo Strikes is one of hundreds of films that takes place during the Japanese Occupation, this time on the Korean peninsula. It also scores points for mention the use of Korean women as comfort women to the Japanese troops overseas, as the evil Bansan Karate School engages in this practice.
When Taekwondo Strikes features some great cinematography tricks that make it a far better film than just your random basher. The shots while the Japanese are threatening work great in establishing a mood. In the beginning, the Japanese men are shot from an upward angle, thus making them look more powerful and threatening. The Koreans who are victimized are shot at a downward angle, making them look weak. As the heroic Koreans get more brave and powerful, standing up to their oppressors, the shots become even. Eventually, the triumphant Koreans tower over their former oppressors as the camera angles reverse.
There is also a lot of religious imagery, especially crucifixion. Both the captured Father Louis and then the captured Li Jun Dong are both tied up in a crucifixion manner. In the beginning of the film, the Japanese chase a Korean who knows taekwondo (thus marking him as anti-Japanese) into a church run by Westerners. The priest will not talk, and when the Japanese slap one of his parishioners, he slowly turns his other cheek towards them.
Besides the cinematography, the fight choreography is well done, the battles being consistently entertaining and feeling furious and dangerous, even if Angela Mao is always in control. The Japanese villains are always presented as threatening, and even though they can be defeated they will not hesitate to harm the loved ones of anyone who dares resist them.
Huang Li Chen (Angela Mao Ying) – A Chinese who grew up in Seoul, works in her mom’s restaurant. But due to her sympathies with the Koreans who share the same fate of being invaded by the Japanese as her homeland, she gets caught up in the intrigue and fighting. Luckily, she’s more than skilled in the fighting department.
Li Jun Dong (Jhoon Rhee) – Gardener and secret resistance leader for Japanese occupied Korea. Jhoon Rhee was the father of American taekwondo, this looks like the only film he had a role in.
Mary (Ann Winton) – The niece of Father Louis and resistance fighter once the Japanese start hassling her uncle. Ann Winton was on of Jhoon Rhee’s followers who came with him to Hong Kong to make When Taekwondo Strikes. As far as I can tell, this was her sole movie role.
Jin Zheng Zhi (Carter Wong Ka-Tat) – Fellow resistance fighter who helps free Li Jun Dong. Is in a lot of the film but is surprisingly underdeveloped because he’s taking a backseat to Angela Mao and Jhoon Rhee.
Father Louis (Andre E. Morgan) – French missionary in Japanese-occupied Korea who stays to support his flock. Father Louis looks like George Lucas. In the subtitles, he’s called Father Lu Yi