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DVD Review

DVD cover

King Boxer (1972)


Starring: Lieh Lo, Ping Wang and Hsiung Chiao
Momentum Pictures
RRP: £12.99
Certificate: 18
Available 23 March 2009

Following an assault from students of a rival martial arts academy,Shen Wu dispatches his best pupil, Chao Chi-hao, to master Shen Jin Pei’s prestigious school to prepare for the upcoming tournament. Not only is he the most promising pupil but he's also romantically involved with Shen’s beautiful daughter Ying Ying. Shen’s rival is also preparing his son to win the tournament and is willing to use all methods against anyone who stands in his way, including murder. On his arrival at Pei’s academy Chao starts his training doing menial tasks, but it is not long before the rivalry erupts into violence...

King Boxer (1972 - 1 hr, 37 min, 30 sec), also known as Five Fingers of Death, is another important film in the kung fu genre, being one of the films which increased kung fu’s popularity as an action genre following its release in America. The film was directed by Chang-hwa Jeong, from a screenplay by Yang Chiang and was another great film from the Shaw Brothers (Hong Kong) Studio. The film stared Lieh Lo as Chao Chih-Hao and Ping Wang as Sung Ying Ying. In its narrative and structure it laid the ground rules for thousands of films and animes which dealt with rival schools fighting it out to prove who is best.

Overall it’s a good if not great kung ku film; certainly if you are more interested in seeing groups of men beating the hell out of each other, as the narrative is a little thin at times. This may be a fault of time rather than of the film itself, it embodies so much of the structure that would be repeated endlessly in shows like Naruto that much of the freshness has dissipated over time, buried under a pile of cheap imitations.

Both Lo Leih and the unfortunately named Wang Ping, which sounds like its likely to hurt, put in solid performances, as do the rest of the cast. There is no hint here of the slide into caricature which would mar a lot of films which later appeared.

The disc comes with audio options for either mono Mandarin or English, with optional English subtitles. The film has been re-mastered and looks pristine, probably better than most theatrical prints. Once again, the Shaw Brothers haven’t cut any corners in the film’s production, the sets and costumes look stunning.

The disc does contain an informative full length commentary with Quentin Tarentino, David Chute and Elvis Mitchell, it’s well worth a listen as all seem to be knowledgeable about this film and the genre in general.

Once again there are some generous extras, for your delectation, including three interviews. The first is with Director Chang-Hwa Jeong (4 min, 58 sec), in Mandarin, talking about his involvement with the film and some of the choices he made, like using trampolines instead of relying on the slower wire work., this is followed with an interview with the Action Director, Lau Kar Wing (5 min, 35 sec) talking about how he came to learn kung fu and how this influenced the course of his life. Last up is an English interview with film critic/scholars David Chute and Andy Klein (6 min, 35 sec) which places the film in its cultural and historical perspective. There are two theatrical trailers on offer and a picture gallery. The disc is rounded off with biogs for the commentators.

So a good solid martial arts film which isn’t afraid to treat its subject with seriousness. I would advise you to listen to the commentary as, for once it will enhance your enjoyment of the film on any subsequent viewings.


Charles Packer

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