aka 馬永貞 aka Ma Yong Zhen aka Ma Wing Jing aka Killer from Shantung 1972 Written by Chang Cheh and Ni Kuang
Directed by Chang Cheh and Pao Hsueh-Li
The rise of a gangster from nothing to boss who goes down in a violent orgy of death is one of those classic tales that gets told a lot in cinema. Boxer of Shantung is no exception on delivering the basic story. What Boxer of Shantung does do, is deliver the story in an entertaining fashion that makes you cheer for the hero, even as the trappings of power cause him to abandon some of his principals.
Boxer of Shantung is Chen Kuan-Tai’s first lead role, and he brings such an energy of pride to his laborer character Ma Yung Chen that you know he is going places. As a penniless worker, he argues against the innkeeper treating his fellow poors like second-class citizens. He refuses to do a demeaning job for insulting carriage drivers, nor does he accept charity from a fellow immigrant from Shantung who has gone on to do well. He decrees that he is going to be just as successful as him one day, and soon he gets a little territory, then goes punching his way for more. During his rise, Ma remembers his poor roots and chastises his men for shaking them down for money, choosing instead to target richer districts.
The trappings of power are dangerous, and when you play the game of thrones, you play for keeps, even if the game is being a local boss in olden China. Each move leads Ma Yung Chen increasingly in conflict with the Axe Gang, their champions and boss at first seeing him as a distraction to their main rival, Boss Tan Si (David Chiang Da-Wei), but eventually focusing on Ma Yung Chen with their entire gang army.
The action starts slow in Boxer from Shantung, but builds and build until the end, where Ma Yung Chen is battling the entire Axe Gang by himself. This slow burn action may have fallen out of favor in our ADD/hyperediting modern reality, but it still works for me. The fight scenes are worth waiting for, Chen Kuan-Tai is a powerful force, and the choreography incorporates all the random objects around the landscape into the melees. With each bump into the Axe Gang, Ma Yung Chen battles both more dangerous members and just plain more and more members of the Axe Gang. Continue reading →
Shaw Brothers gives us a tale of bad girl factory workers! It is an interesting spin on the delinquent schoolgirl approach, having the girls just out of school and holding down jobs, but still being delinquent. Big Bad Sis is an interesting hybrid, because it’s an action film with clear influences from the Japanese Sukeban/Pinky violence flicks, but it’s also a Hong Kong Triad film and manages to throw in some left wing pro-labor and pro-women’s rights issues. With just enough exploitation to satisfy those who need that as well. Big Bad Sis may be a stew made from many random ingredients, but they work together to give an entertaining flick.
Big Bad Sis shows that sometimes you gotta fight. Whether it is for your job or to protect innocent people in the bathroom or because of crazy triad gambling den drama or because your boss is a piece of garbage or all of those reasons combined into a gigantic reason. A bid bad reason, which is why you need your sisters!
Fung Ying (Chen Ping) – Ah Ying is the tough as nails former gangster turned factory worker who defends the innocent and becomes friends with her fellow oppressed factory workers, even forming her own sort of gang. But her past begins to catch up with her.
Sai Chu (Siu Yam-Yam) – An orphan raised in the system, and then released where she starts biking around nude and stabbing people. Becomes Ah Ying’s biggest fan and a tough chick in her own right.
Chan Fong (Chong Lee) – A young girl with naughty stepfather who runs away from home to get away from his wandering hands. Her looks make her a target of everyone with awing hands, but her new gang affiliation allows her to be able to stand up and fight back.
Big Brother Dai Gi-Luk (Wang Hsieh) – Gang leader who used to employ/date Ah Ying, and is bitter about her leaving. Sends his goons to harass her.
Brother Shing (Chen Kuan-Tai) – Old friend of Ah Ying who defends her from Big Brother’s men.
Wai (Wong Chung) – One of Big Brother’s gang, but a friend of Ah Ying. He won’t renounce his boss despite his feelings for her.
The movie takes place in sort of a weird universe where it is World War 2 between Japan and China, but everyone wears 1970s fashion and there are 1970s Cadillacs. Due to the weirdness, I postulate that Challenge of the Lady Ninja takes place in the same alternate universe as Fantasy Mission Force. If you are familiar with both flicks, you will see that makes perfect sense, even if Challenge of the Lady Ninja doesn’t jump genres at the drop of a hat.
Thanks to crafty distributors, the film goes by several names. The version watched for this review is supposedly the uncut version dubbed into English on a widescreen VHS release. Whether there is a superior Chinese language version with subtitles I do not know. What I do know is this film is cool and has a chick kicking lots of butt, so it gains points from that alone!
Challenge of the Lady Ninja has been released under a bunch of names, see if you can find the name you saw it under!: Chinese Super Ninja 2, Never Kiss a Ninja, or Nu ren zhe.
Wong Siu Wai (Elsa Yeung Wai-San) – The last member of her band, only woman ninja – wu shao wai, ye hur band. At some points they call her Wu Shao Wei. See Elsa Yeung here also in Island Warriors and in several more films coming soon (or already here if you are reading this in the future!)
Lee Tong (Chen Kuan-Tai)- This traitor to China was fiancee to Wong Siu Wai. Don’t tell anyone the terrible secret of Lee Tong. Chen Kuan-Tai is still active in film today, and will be popping up again here soon.
Koloder (Peng Kong) – A jealous ninja who sees Wong Siu Wai as a threat because of her Chinese heritage. Becomes a bigwig in the Japanese war effort, which pits him against his ninja school rival once again. Peng Kong also was the action choreographer for Challenge of the Lady Ninja.
Chan Fung (Kam Yin-Fei) – Martial arts teacher, daughter of a famous master. The Japanese closed her gym, forcing her to do shows to earn money. Joins Wong siu Wai’s ninja school to fight the Japanese.
Li Fu Lang (???) – An angry girl, her father was murdered by Lee Tong and her home stolen, so she vowed revenge. She gets her chance by becoming a ninja under Wong Siu Wai. No one seems to know who played her.
Chan Yiu-Chen, aka Chi Chi (???) – Brothel Girl Miss Chan gets into the business by overhearing someone ask for girls who hate Lee Tong. Has master powers of seduction, to the point of ninja seduction. I have never seen anything like it in film. No one seems to know who played her.
Ron Yee (Yeung Hung) – One of the four bodyguards of Lee Tong. A Chi Kwan Do expert and weapons expert. Loves brothels, is rough in bed.
Ahn Lei (Yin Su-Li) – One of the four bodyguards of Lee Tong. A tae kwon do expert with no friends who is not adverse to do a little lady wrestling.
Yu Feng – (Sun Jung-Chi) – One of the four bodyguards of Lee Tong. A tribesman with no friends and strange weapons like spider webs and boomerang swords.
Yamamoto (Robert Tai Chi-Hsien) – One of the four bodyguards of Lee Tong. Has a goofy scorpion tattoo on his head. An expert with the Japanese sword and has a bad temper. Robert Tai is a prolific actor/director/action choreographer who worked on such genre classics as Shaolin vs. Ninja, Chinatown Kid, Devil Killer, and The Five Venoms. He is also responsible for Ninja: The Final Duel.
Skeletor (Himself) – Skeletor fights for the freedom of China from the evil Japanese. Even a heartless monster like Skeletor knows the Japanese are bad news, and he helps Wong Siu Wai at every opportunity. Which of the characters above is secretly Skeletor? Even I figured it out during his first appearance.
A Hong Kong Girls with Guns film, starring mainstay Yukari Oshima as well as costars Dick Wei and Phillip Ko. Directed by the infamous Godfrey Ho (though there are rumors that this Godfrey Ho was just a pseudonym for Phillip Ko!) and some random guy named Chris Li. This film followed in the wake of the Angels films and is filled with lots of action thrown together with a cops and triads plot where women beat up and shoot lots of dudes. The fad produced a great deal of these films before the market moved on to other things. So here’s one of them. It’s not the best, it’s not the worst, it just is. And some days, isn’t that enough?
Angel’s Mission is also known as Xian fa zhi ren, as well as Born to Fight, Buddha’s Justice, Kicking Buddha, and Sin faat jai yan. Welcome to the world of renamed Hong Kong movies!
Hing-tse (Yukari Oshima) – A Japanese police officer visiting her mother Song in Hong Kong and finds out her mom is involved in prostitution. Gets attacked by random guys constantly throughout the film, and even takes down a Triad boss for reasons not too clear but related to Japanese phobia of AIDS. See her also in Tomb Raiders, Godfather’s Daughter, and Deadly Target.
Lee San-Mo (Dick Wei) – A former triad who’s boss was murdered and is now searching for lost sister Anna. Gets sucked back into the Triad world while investigating. See him also in Angel Enforcers.
Mr. Ma Sheng-fung (Chen Kuan-Tai) – Crime boss, businessman, and not very bright. Gets killed due to his lack of killing his subordinate Crowbar like he should have. Don’t make that mistake, people! Kill your crowbars.
Crowbar (Phillip Ko) – Assistant to Ma Sheng-fung and planning to eliminate him and take over. Wins an award for having one of the dumbest names in a Hong Kong film, no small feat. Seriously, where’s Tire Iron and Jackhammer? Let’s have an “All Things Found in a Trunk” gang! That would rule. Warning Flare, Jumper Cable, Bag of Sand, all killer triad nicknames. Phillip Ko has been in a billion movies including Fatal Termination, Angel Enforcers, and Deadly Target.
Officer Karen (Ha Chi Chun) – Likes roughing up criminals and is a cop. Her brother was a triad boss, and just happened to be Lee San-Mo’s murdered boss. Ha Chi Chun is also known as Ha Chia Ling or Ha Chi-Jan depending on which translation you use, and was seen here in Angel Enforcers.
Creepy Triad #1 (????) – One of Crowbar’s men, this guy wears big sunglasses, big hats, and has a creepy grin. I could not figure out who the actor was.
Creepy Triad #2 (James Ha Chim-Si) – Another of Crowbar’s men, this guy also wears big sunglasses, big hats, and has a creepy grin.