Buddha’s Palm Part 1-4 and related films

One famous set of films from the heyday of Cantonese cinema is the Buddha’s Palm series of films, the main four parts were released in 1964 as Buddha’s Palm Part 1-4. (They are also known as The Young Swordsman Lung Kim-fei Part 1-4)

Starring Walter Tso Tat-wah as Lung Kim-fei and Yu So-chau as Kau Yuk-wah (mentioned because they reprise the roles in The Furious Buddha’s Palm, the 1965 film we are reviewing and thus inspiring this companion article!)

The Buddha’s Palm films are based on Shangguan Hong’s serial novel ‘Thousand Buddha’s Palm’ that was printed in ‘Ming Pao Daily News’. Series director Ling Wan went on to direct the three followups The Furious Buddha’s Palm (1965), Buddhist Spiritual Palm (1968), and Buddhist Spiritual Palm Returned (1968).

The first four parts all in 1964
Buddha’s Palm Part 1

Lung Kim-fei is disfigured and abandoned by his female junior disciple before running into an ambush sprung by her husband Auyeung Ho. The mythical condor of Wicked God of Fiery Cloud, Ku Hon-wan, flies the man in distress to safety. The master imparts his adopted son the skill of the Buddha’s Palm. A vicious duel six decades ago with Suen Bik-ling, dubbed the Capricious Flying Ring, left both challengers blind. To pay his debt of gratitude, Lung sets out to obtain the cure—treasure of the golden dragon—and wrestles to save Suen’s granddaughters Kau Yuk-wah and Yuk-kuen who come under the attack of a unicorn while seeking the cure. The unicorn blood that splashes onto his face miraculously restores his features. Taking a detour back, Lung chances on But Ku, the helmsman of the Cheung Lei Sect, who teaches the gifted young man the invincible Seven Spinning Gash. Regaining his eyesight, Ku instructs his disciple to return the treasure when he again runs into the sisters and offers aid to help Luk Yu to sever ties with a cult faction. Suen sees, to her shocked dismay, the Fiery Cloud armour that Lung is wearing and strikes him down with a lightning bolt.


Buddha’s Palm Part 2

Distressed by her sister Yuk-wah’s sacrifice for lover Lung Kim-fei, Kau Yuk-kuen pacifies their granny Suen Bik-ling with the scheme to lure out Wicked God of Fiery Cloud, Ku Hon-wan, using Lung as bait while devising a strategy with Luk Yu. The duo secure help from But Ku in their rescue plan but before they can reach Lung, he has already broken free despite sustaining an injury. Garbed in the Fiery Cloud armour, Yuk-kuen beguiles the guards into a futile chase but is struck down the cliffs by the elder. The mythical condor delivers her to Ku who takes her in as his foster daughter. Luk, however, is captured by Twin Talents of Kunlun. Having perfected four styles of the Buddha’s Palm, Yuk-kuen is aided by Yuk-wah and Lung to rescue Luk. Suen follows on their heels and allies with other adversaries to subdue the disciple with the Capricious Flying Ring. The master administers the ninth style of the Buddha’s Palm, ‘Ten Thousand Buddhas Paying Court’ to defeat his bitter foe and lays their feud to rest.


Buddha’s Palm Part 3

Lung Kim-fei and Kau Yuk-wah seal their nuptials following the reconciliation between their masters, Ku Hon-wan and Suen Bik-ling, but the auspicious day is marred by the assassination of Suen. Eager for revenge, Kau Yuk-kuen visits Ten Thousand-hand Lohan who reveals the killing weapon to be a silver thunderbolt shuttle and supplies a list of martial arts suspects. On her way to track down Lau Piu-piu, the helmswoman of Heavenly Fragrance Sect, Yuk-kuen is abducted by Auyeung Ho and the protege of the Three Invincible Palm. It is learned that Lau and the deceased are sworn sisters and the real culprit is still at large. Ku follows the leads which reveal the murderer to be the Three Evils, Auyeung’s conspirators, and apprehends the trio with the Buddha’s Palm. Nursing a wound inflicted by Auyeung in an intrigue, Ku flees into a temple where he imprints the ninth style of the Buddha’s Palm onto six tripods to bequeath to his protege with the enemies hot in pursuit.


Buddha’s Palm Part 4

Kau Yuk-kuen is delivered to safety by the mythical condor with one of the tripods while her foster father, Ku, continues the fight until his last breath. The Three Evils brutally beat and cripple Auyeung to intercept his scheme to appropriate the tripods but fail to prevent him from shoving two of them down into the deep valleys in frustration. Finding themselves no match for the Three Devils, the fellowship seek help from Lau Piu-piu. But the master declines out of a grudge against Suen Bik-ling with whom she was locked in a bitter love triangle which resulted in disfigurement of her face. Undaunted, they embark on a perilous journey in quest of the tongue of a mythical dragon and eyes of a crimson python for her cure. Meanwhile, Kau Yuk-wah has retrieved the two tripods from the deep valleys. Lau engages the Three Devils in battle while the sisters recover the remaining three tripods. Nonetheless, the missing palm print on the last tripod baffles Lung Kim-fei. As the Three Devils overwhelm Lau and But Ku to clinch the tripod, Lung shatters the vessel to find the palm imprint inside and vanquishes the devils with the ninth style of the Buddha’s Palm.


Three cool images of Buddha’s Palm Part 2 from HKMDB

Bird Guy:

Metal Dude:


Robot Kung Fu?!?!:

Buddhist Spiritual Palm (1968), and Buddhist Spiritual Palm Returned (1968) have nothing at all written about them except a few almost blank database entries. I didn’t even find any surviving ads. They don’t seem to star Walter Tso Tat-Wah, so I am not sure how they are related.

The 1982 Shaw Brothers film Buddha’s Palm even had Walter Tso Tat-Wah as the older master who passed on the scroll about the Buddha’s Palm that eventually resurfaced and started the film going crazy. I haven’t seen this one, but here are some reviews of it: Teleport City, LoveHKfilm

How the Ape Girl Stole the Lotus Lamp (Review)

How the Ape Girl Stole the Lotus Lamp

aka 白猿女三盜寶蓮燈

1962HKMDB Link DianYing Link
Directed and written by Wong Fung

There is a lot of old Chinese cinema. Many films were made in the post-war period based on plays, operas, folk tales, and old novels. There was also a bunch of original content created. These old films have handpainted backgrounds, origins in operas and classical tales, and were produced quickly and cheaply. That doesn’t stop many of them from being interesting. I am fond of old-style effects, goofy plots, and stylized action as long as the film remains interesting. And in between all the older love/opera/drama type stories, there is a large pocket of wuxia/swordplay movies just waiting to be discovered. Although the audience for these films was large long ago, nowadays few people are even aware of them. Older Chinese people know of the films, but most of them don’t watch them regularly anymore, and even fewer have websites on the internet. So any specific film backgrounds I can find is few and far between (or in the case of this film, almost non-existent!) Heck, there is no IMDB entry for this film (no surprise there), and even the often reliable Hong Kong Movie Database has the wrong English name for the film.

Tribute is paid to these classic movies in the film Kung Fu vs. Acrobatic, which even co-stars Walter Tso Tat-Wah, one of the stars here and dozens of other classic films. How the Ape Girl Stole the Lotus Lamp is a lucky pick grabbed from a Chinatown movie store based solely on the pictures on the back of the VCD, which included some kids dressed up like monkeys. I am happy to report there are crazy monkey children in the film, but there are also lots of other cool retro effects. Even if I didn’t have my wife there to translate the film for me I would have been entertained (although slightly more confused.) The VCDs for these old films have no subtitles (why would they? I am one of the few non-native Cantonese speakers who would watch these) so the best to hope for is lots of fun stuff happening on the screen.

The VCD case makes the presence of Josephine Siao Fong-Fong well known, though at the time this movie was released (1962) she hadn’t taken off into super-stardom (where her major competitor would be the other, bigger 1960’s Cantonese sweetheart Connie Chan – seen here in Lady Black Cat) so Josephine has a supporting role in this film. Josephine Siao would later become a major leading lady, and participate in many of the Jane Bond films of the late 1960s and even do many films with her “rival” Connie Chan. She first appeared in 1954 and two years later won the Best Child Actor award for Orphan Girl. Like Connie Chan, she also had an impressive output in the 1960s, but in 1969 she slowed down her acting to focus on education and marriage (to actor Charlie Chin, which lasted three months – she later remarried and had children) She later appeared on TV as the bumbling plain Jane character Lam Ah Shun in 1977, followed by three films (one of them was Plain Jane to the Rescue, directed by a young John Woo). She is probably best known to fans from the 1990s for her parts as Fong Sai Yuk’s mother in the Fong Sai Yuk films. See the Jane Bond article for more of her films.

Sek Kin is another major Hong Kong actor making a supporting role here. Usually Sek Kin played villains and evil men in his movie roles. He was the ultimate Hong Kong villain character actor for decades. Oddly enough, although his character is a jerk in several scenes in How the Ape Girl Stole the Lotus Lamp, he isn’t the villain, and ends up doing some pretty noble things near the end. It was sort of weird seeing Sek Kin as a non-bad guy, I have only seen him in a few films but he was always over the top evil. Bruce Lee chose him as the villain in Enter the Dragon. At the time of this writing Sek Kin was still alive and kicking at age 95! He is also in Lady Black Cat where he plays a more common evil villain role.

Fitting with Chinese films, the cast is enormous, so here are the major players listed out (that way we can get shoutouts to all the more obscure Chinese actors and actresses that probably have next to nothing written about them in English.)

Mo Kwun-tin (Walter Tso Tat-wah) – Strong fighter and student of the White-haired Nun, Mo Kwun-tin defends people being harassed and wants to marry Wong Kam-fung. His heroic nature gets him into trouble. Walter Tso Tat-wah began as extra and then a director in the beginnings of the Hong Kong film industry. He soon starred in front of the camera, and by 1941 he had appeared in over 80 films, but then Japan invaded and the industry ground to a halt. After making a fortune on the black market, he returned to films in 1946 and was part of the Wong Fei Hong series of films. He had his own production company, but he was also a heavy gambler and lost a lot. He starred in wuxia ad detective films in the 1960s and eventually wound up on television after returning from retirement.
Wong Kam-fung (Yu So-chau) – Daughter of Wong Yut-pao and training with the White-haired Nun. Wants to marry Mo Kwun-tin, though her cousin Lam Kim-sing is conspiring to marry her instead. Is a knife expert. Yu So-chau (or Yu So-chow) is the daughter of Master Yu Jim Yuen who ran the China Drama Academy. She started her stage career at age 8 in 1938 and began her film career in 1948, eventually making over 240 films. She was the Queen of the wuxia films and no actress has come close to appearing in as many as her (over 170). After her marriage in 1966 she retired a few years later, her last appearance was a cameo in 1970. Since she supposedly lives in San Francisco now I may have run into her on the street without having any idea who she was! I’ll just pretend I did because it sounds more impressive. More information on some of Yu So-chau’s films can be found at our blog entry and this SoftFilm blog tag, and don’t forget this Electric Shadows piece.
Leung Yin-yuk (Chan Wai-yu) – Sister who is training away, saves her brother who runs the restaurant. Is attracted to Mo Kwun-tin, but he doesn’t share her affection. Teams with Lam Kim-sing to steal the Lotus Lamp, but is betrayed.
Leung Yin Bing (Josephine Siao Fong-Fong) – The second Leung sister, instead of training under the White-haired Nun she guards the magic plant for Taoist Priest White Ape. Is called White Ape Girl, but is primarily called Yin Bing by her family. Steals the Lotus Lamp after overhearing her sister’s plans, disobeys her sifu, and generally causes a lot of trouble while not being evil or anything. I gave Josephine Siao a biography earlier, you better have read it!
Cousin Lam Kim-sing (Lam Kau Hei-ho) –He is trying to marry Wong Kam-fung, so he is against Mo Kwun-tin. Steals the Lotus Lamp, a lamp so lotus-y all other lamps are jealous. Eventually dies and is White skull driven reincarnated. You read that right! Lam Kau has acted for 50 years, from 1950 until his last film appearance in 2000. He was in many of the Wong Fei-Hung films. Lam Kau started his own drama school in the 1960’s and later became Sir Lam Kau Hei-ho.
Wong Yut-pao (Sek Kin) – Protector of the lantern and a jerk, but turns into less of a jerk after the lamp is stolen and when his future son-in-law Mo Kwun-tin is sick. Sek Kin got a mini-biography up top so I ain’t repeating it here. Yes, laziness. Deal with it!
Leung brother (Sai Gwa-Pau) – He runs the hundreds of restaurants the Leung family is supposed to own, has buck teeth and a stutter. He is called Ah Goh because that means brother. Sai Gwa-Pau (Sai Kwa-Pau) made films from 1947 until 1995! Sai Gwa Pau was famous for the role of Ah So in the Wong Fei Hung films. Sai was born on October 7, 1918 in Guangdong, China, and died in Hong Kong on March 21, 2001. His nickname was “watermelon scoop!”
Mo Kwun-tin’s father (Cheung Sing-fei) – Father of Mo Kwun-tin, hence his name! I don’t know his character’s name, they didn’t bother to mention it in the film. One of the two guardians of the Lotus Lamp along with Wong Yut-pao.
Beast King (???) – A great ape. Actually, a captive of White-haired Nun and pitted in gladiatorial combat against her students! Where is the ASPCA? This poor gorilla. I don’t know who is in the suit. Maybe it was a real gorilla in the gorilla suit. Because that would be cool.
White-haired Nun (???) – The female sifu! She trains the original four in the ways of swordfighting, knife-throwing, and gorilla destroying. Because they will run into plenty of gorillas in ancient China. I am not sure who played her.
Taoist Priest White Ape (Cheung Sing-Fei ?) – Trains Leung Yin Bing, master of the ape kids, and collector of cool artifacts. He can fly, teleport, hire apes, command apes, command ninjas, and make invading parties go through a bunch of challenges. Being a sifu must be boring if he has to mess with so many people like that. I think he was played by Cheung Sing-Fei (Cheung Seng-Fei) but I am not certain.

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