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.
1976 Written by Cheung San-Yee
Directed by Sung Ting-Mei
In the 1970s, the most dangerous occupation in Taiwan was being Polly Shang Kuan’s father in a movie. And once again, Shaolin Traitorous involves Polly playing a character that is avenging the deaths of her parents. But, shockingly enough, Polly isn’t the focus of the flick, it’s Carter Wong as Shang Yung, who survives the massacre of his family as a child and then trains at Shaolin Temple and eventually go get revenge.
Story wise, Shaolin Traitorous is a by-the-numbers revenge flick. But the choreography makes it rise a bit above the crowd. There is an obsession with array attacks, and there are multiple scenes with many guards stacked on top of each other in a huge human fence formation. Though fun to look at, I’ve never really understood how these attacks do anything except present a bigger target. But maybe that’s the trick…
Aside from the many guards stacking, if you’ve seen one of these films, you know the score. If they’re your thing, then you will enjoy the crap out of Shaolin Traitorous. If you’re just seeking some kung fu thrills, it will do the trick. But it’s not going to be a film you rave to everyone about on Twitter.
Shang Yung (Carter Wong Ka-Tat) – His parents were killed when he was but a lad, and after intense Shaolin training he’s back for revenge. Luckily the guy is so evil he wasn’t killed and didn’t die of natural causes in the meanwhile. Because that would be anti-climatic! Wears his slain mother’s bracelet as a necklace.
Hsiao Yun Erh/Tso Yun Lan (Polly Shang Kuan ) – Another victom of Tin Erh Keng wiping out her entire family, whe was even adopted by him (though randomly everyone thinks she’s a dude for a while, despite no disguise at all!) Now she wants revenge for her slain family.
Tin Erh Keng (Chang Yi) – Evil jerk whose favorite hobby is slaughtering all the members of a family except a young child who will then hunt him down for revenge. Eventually that hobby comes back to have consequences. Who knew???
First Head (Sammo Hung Kam-Bo) – Guard of East Gate who has a ridiculous name and he’s evil. EVIL!!!
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