All in the Family | aka It’s All in the Family (1975) Review

"All in the Family" Chinese Theatrical Poster

“All in the Family” Chinese Theatrical Poster

Director: Zhu Mu
Writer: Yeung Hua
Producer: Raymond Chow
Cast: Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung Kam Bo, Dean Shek Tien, James Tien Chun, Tien Ni, Carter Wong Ka Tat
Running Time: 97 min.

By Vic Nguyen

A Japanese girl’s dream film. If you want to see Jackie’s ass doing something other than for the purpose of comedy, this is the film to see.

The plot has something to do with a dying man spending his last days with his relatives. During the first part of the film, there is alot of “male bonding” (perverted sex talk) and arguments, then the Chan meister himself arrives. He formally “bonds” with some woman a few times, including one with what seems to be a prostitute.

Other than the wild monkey sex, there is no action in this film (unless you consider wild monkey sex action, which believe me, many people do. You won’t believe High School kids these days). With the sex out of the way, you can watch for future “Snake in the Eagle Shadow” costar Dean Shek in his usual 70’s comedic role, and an appearence by Sammo Hung as one of those bicycle riders that carry people around.

Overall, the perfect movie for those lonely days and nights.

Vic Nguyen’s Rating: 5/10

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Shanghai Grand (1996) Review

"Shanghai Grand" Chinese DVD Cover

"Shanghai Grand" Chinese DVD Cover

Director: Poon Man Kit
Writer: Poon Man Kit, Matt Chow Hoi Kwong, Sandy Shaw
Producer: Tsui Hark
Cast: Andy Lau Tak Wah, Leslie Cheung, Ning Jing, William Ho Ka Kui, Amanda Lee Wai Man, Wu Hsing Kuo, Lau Shun, Almen Wong Pui Ha, Lee Kin Yan, Sam Wong Ming Sing, Jeong Wu Seong, Tommy Leung Ka Chun, Yip Chun
Running Time: 91 min.

By Mairosu

Ding Lik (Andy Lau) is a Shanghai city dweller, who dreams of becoming someone one day. His fortunes take a sharp turn when he accidentally stumbles upon Hui Man Keung (Leslie Cheung), a Taiwanese soldier who is on the run – they team up together and form a brotherly bond, which will be put on a test as one rises to the top of the underworld ladder, and another reveals his true colours…and oh, they also seem to be in love with the same woman, who just happens to be the daughter of Shanghai’s biggest mobster.

Man Kit Poon’s big-budget (I think) period piece Shanghai Grand is a decent, solid depiction of late 30s-early 40s China, but hardly anything spectacular. Film dangles three plots at the same time which ultimately mould into one near the end, mixing drama, romance and gangster noir genre, and does so with medium success. The first part of the film follows Ding Lik and portrays his rise to “fame”, from a mere street cleaner to one of the big shots. Later on, we learn the past of his love interest, Ching-Ching Fung (played by beautiful Jing Ning), and his comrade Keung, who pursues a personal vendetta but puts it on hold so he could help Ding’s cause. And of course, it all builds to a big showdown with tragic ending.

The biggest issue with this movie is that it jumps from character to character too fast and makes the plot somewhat disjointed and incoherent, which is a shame as it spoils some good acting work, especially by both male leads, Lau and Cheung, both veterans of Hong Kong cinema (and later pop singers as well). Pity that the nameless female assassin (Almen Wong) who haunts Keung gets limited screen time – her villainious persona easily steals the show in those few scenes she appears ; the main bad guy himself, King-Yiu Fung (Hsing-Kuo Wu), is rather under-used as well. The real quality of this film is probably the genuinely recreated atmosphere of the pre-war Shanghai, giving Shanghai Grand an authentic feeling to it.

All in all, this is not a bad film, but don’t expect “the oriental Godfather” as some distributors tend to market it. And drop the final grading for half a notch if you suffer the misfortune of obtaining the English dubbed copy.

Mairosu’s Rating: 5/10

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King of Boxers | aka The Screaming Tiger (1973) Review

"King of Boxers" American Theatrical Poster

"King of Boxers" American Theatrical Poster

AKA: 10 Fingers of Steel
Director: Kim Lung
Writer: Hoh Ho
Producer: Si Chiu Yam
Cast: Jimmy Wang Yu, Cheung Ching Ching, Lung Fei, Liu Ping, Chi Laan, Shan Mao, Got Siu Bo, Ma Kei, Cheng Fu Hung, Hong Hoi, Chang I Fei, Chiu Hung, Choi Wang, Goo Gwan, Law Bun, Lui Ming, Ng Tung Kiu, Seung-Goon Leung, Sit Hon
Running Time: 75 min.

By Jesse

Some have said “The Godfather.” Others, “Citizen Kane.” But I will tell you right now folks… the greatest movie of all time is King of Boxers (aka The Screaming Tiger). Jimmy Wang Yu has his entire family wiped out and swears to kill every Japanese person on the planet; Now wait, that sounds kinda crazy don’t it? Exactly, but this is what he does in this mind-boggling, insane in the membrane, classic kung fu flick.

Jimmy Wang Yu is fast and furious at fighting, and the action scenes are nonstop. Bonus points go towards the director, performing a Quentin Tarantino and ripping off “The Man With the Harmonica” in one scene, as Jimmy talks to a mysterious stranger with a wastebasket on his head, and we hear “Jill’s Theme” as a woman close to Jimmy dies (both songs from “Once Upon a Time in The West”).

But all that aside, nothing will prepare you for the final 20 minutes, which has Jimmy and the evil villain going at it. They randomly find a train to stage their impressive and lengthy battle; but that’s just the beginning. After the main boss throws Jimmy off the train tracks into a huge body of water, they both fight to the death under a waterfall for what seems like years. Etsuko Shihomi may be my new idol, but Jimmy Wang Yu is my new God.

I will make a shrine for him and pray to the ghost of Master Yu, once a day, with lighted candles flickering. See this movie or I will be forced to kick your ass in front of a waterfall while I wear a trash can on my head and play a flute.

Jesse’s Rating: 9/10

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Away with Words | aka Kujaku (1999) Review

"Away with Words" UK DVD Cover

"Away with Words" UK DVD Cover

Director: Christopher Doyle
Writer: Christopher Doyle, Tony Rayns
Producer: Hiro Tokimori
Cast: Tadanobu Asano, Kevin Sherlock, Mavis Xu, Georgina Hobson, Christa Hughes, Takanori Kubo
Running Time: 86 min.

By Mighty Peking Man

A dispirited young man (Tadanobu Asano of “Ichi The Killer”) who has had it with the noisy stressful life in Japan heads to Hong Kong to find the peace he’s been lacking since his early childhood. Oddly, he finds solitude at a gay nightclub where he quietly sits alone and gathers wordily-thoughts to himself. While there, he befriends the bar’s owner (Kevin Sherlock), an extreme-party animal and alcoholic, who’s bad memory constantly gets him into trouble. Also in the mix is a pretty Japanese woman (Mavis Xu), who works as a fashion-dresser at the nightclub; she left her family in Japan to pursue her “own” meaning of life. Together, the three characters discover each other’s pleasant company and connect their problems through an array of colorful (but odd) poetic-like conversations.

The first few minutes of “Away With Words” makes you think that unless you have the artistic mind capabilities of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, you’re not going to get too far into it. It’s a film that definitely lives up to it’s title because most of it’s dialogue is a colossal-gag of thought provoking poetry. At times, it may seem to get a little tedious, but with given moments and a bit of patience, you might find an entertaining art-house flick.

Written and directed by Christopher Doyle (mostly known for being Wong Kar-Wai’s prized cinematographer), “Away With Words” is a surreal, melancholic tale that’s several notches above “Chungking Express” as far as artistic visuals are concerned. Doyle’s trademark camera techniques are put into full effect. Many different film stocks, effects and cranking speeds add to the film’s dreamy tones. Obviously influenced (and educated) by director Wong Kar-Wai, Doyle takes what he’s learned and applies more whimsicality and less logic.

Look for outstanding performances by the lead cast, especially from Kevin Sherlock, who plays the cracked nightclub owner. “Away With Words” also bares a catchy soundtrack, which surprised me when the song “Sugar Water” by Cibo Matto (one of my favorite bands of the 90’s) came on and played fully to a music video-like montage of related incidents in the film. Also, look for a hilarious moment when an old lady starts rapping to the karaoke version of Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five’s classic “The Message” – she’d give that other old lady from “The Wedding Singer” a run for her money.

“Away With Words” is recommended, but mostly for art-film enthusiasts.

Mighty Peking Man’s Rating: 7.5/10

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Baroness (2000) Review

"Baroness" Chinese VCD Cover

"Baroness" Chinese VCD Cover

Director: Anthony Lau Wing, Johnny Wang Lung Wei
Producer: Lau Kei
Cast: Anthony Wong Chau Sang, Chin Kar Lok, Anthony Lau Wing
Running Time: 89 min.

By TheFrankEinstein

According to the DVD case, Baroness has three selling points: Anthony Wong, exploding cars, and a naked woman. Well, it delivers on the exploding cars. But why did I buy this movie? Because I assumed that if Anthony Wong was in it, it must have its merits. NO. NO NO NO. WRONG. I learned my lesson well.

I’m not going to engage in the behind-the-scenes crap, I won’t speculate as to which star was the director, I’m just going to share with you how this movie sucked beyond suck. I want to tell you that the movie inexplicably halts in what SHOULD be the third act, so that the up-to-this-point heartless villain can have his car EXPLODE while he’s in it, then, apparently just mildly singed, break into a nurse’s apartment, ask her to help him, then promptly pass out on the floor. For the next ten minutes or so, this ruthless killer that you despise becomes a charming, gentlemanlike guest for this nurse, making small talk with her crippled mother (even telling her that she has a “filial daughter.” Wow. Thanks.) helping out around the house, then leaving a huge wad of cash when he leaves to go back on his killing spree. Let’s just say that this confusing little detour would have ruined this movie… if it hadn’t already sucked so inconceivably to begin with.

The “action” that in some Hong Kong movies can redeem a subpar story is here with all the storm and fury of an episode of The Beverly Hillbillies. The setups here are composed of whoever the “hero” of the scene may be firing into a crowd of incompetent enemies, with them countering the attack by falling down dead, not having ever fired a shot. One time is a surprise attack, but by the fourth “gunfight” you’d think this shipyard full of goons would have been alerted to the gunman’s presence. Pathetic by even American standards. But was it stylish? Well, look at it this way. If you consider “Walker: Texas Ranger” stylish, then no. Still no. Never.

Anthony Wong, one of the cover’s promises, shows up about every twenty minutes to supply a little bit of comic relief (!?), torturing interrogates by mouth-breathing into their faces, to which they reply “stinky” while waving their hand in front of their face. Haha! Classic! And if he’s not doing that, then he pops up for two seconds to watch something explode, then berate his assistant with such gems as “You are shit. Let’s go.” Whoa! R. Lee Ermey eat your heart out!

So in closing, I can’t even recommend Baroness to an Anthony Wong fan, because… well… I am one, and I feel ripped off even when I paid a measly five bucks for it.

TheFrankEinstein’s Rating: 2/10

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Sukiyaki Western Django (2007) Review

"Sukiyaki Western Django" Japanese Theatrical Poster

“Sukiyaki Western Django” Japanese Theatrical Poster

Director: Takashi Miike
Writers: Takashi Miike, Masa Nakamura
Cast: Hideaki Ito, Masanobu Ando, Koichi Sato, Kaori Momoi, Yusuke Iseya, Renji Ishibashi, Quentin Tarantino
Running Time: 120 min.

By Mighty Peking Man

For years, a small town named Yuda has been dominated by two rival gangs: The Heike Reds and the Genji Whites (one group sports white, the other wears red). The two sides have pretty much taken refuge in Yuda, due to a treasure rumored to be buried somewhere within.

One day, a lone gunslinger, who is also in search of the treasure, rides in the gang-infested town. His solid skills and quick reflexes are immediately challenged by both gangs. Impressed by his skills, the two gangs have a bidding war to recruit the stranger, with each leader promising him a larger share (or better deal) if the treasure is found…

Sergio Leone took a big ass bite out of Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo and made one of the most influential Italian western films ever. Now, Takashi Miike – one of the world’s most loved cult directors – takes that bite back, chews it up, gargles it down, then spits it out on an odd shaped canvas. The result: a fun-filled flick full of violence, humor and wackiness (not to mention weirdness!).

Sukiyaki Western Django is filled with nods to some of the most popular Italian Western flicks we’ve come to know and love. It even goes as far as having direct references to characters like Django and Yojimbo, as if they existed in the same parallel universe.

Essentially, Sukiyaki Western Django is to Italian Westerns what Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill Vol. 1 was to Exploitation/Asian films. Both share the same execution… you know, a filmmaker’s love for film, making a flick for the fun of it, yet still packing that creative punch that will eventually make it a cult classic in its own right; And speaking of Quentin Tarantino, he does have a cameo in this film (and he does way better behind the camera).

With all the wisecracks, painted sets, neat perspective shots and quick animated sequences (The Bloody Benton), you still get some of Miike’s trademark vulgar violence… don’t ever expect this guy to pull a punch. I won’t ruin any particular scene for you, but there’s a moment where one of the “red” gang members says “My color looks good on you” after a traumatic killing. Classic.

The action scenes are well choreographed and there’s hardly a dull second. In addition to the gun-slinging, there’s enough slicing, dicing, explosions and beatings to go around for those who prefer something than just “John Woo” sh*t.

Sukiyaki Western Django is filmed entirely in english, but keep that subtitle button handy, because you can barely understand the cast members. The first time I watched it, I only understood 40% of what they were saying; the second time I watched it, the english grew on me, and I understood nearly everything.

Sukiyaki Western Django is a great film. If you’re a fan of both Asian and Italian Westerns, it’s a must. As for the people who thought this film was crap (and I was surprised at how many people didn’t like it), they were just taking it way too serious. It’s not a remake, it’s not a wannabe, it’s not a rip-off, it’s just a great director having fun while making a cool fucking movie.

Mighty Peking Man’s Rating: 8/10

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City on Fire (1987) Review

"City on Fire" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"City on Fire" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Director: Ringo Lam
Producer: Karl Maka
Writer: Shum Sai-Sing
Cast: Chow Yun-Fat, Danny Lee, Sun Yueh, Carrie Ng, Roy Cheung, Lau Kong, Mark Cheng, Wu Ma, Maria Cordero
Running Time: 105 min.

By Retter

No frills raw undercover cop story

This is a no frills undercover cop story directed by Ringo Lam. With an average budget the film tells its story quite tightly with fine performances. Chow Yun Fat stars as the undercover policeman who is also having relationship problems. Danny Lee pops up as the jewel thief who will basically befriend chow as the system pushes them closer together. Carrie Ng is the impatient and emotional girlfriend. Yueh Sun Stars as an older cop who has lost his son years ago in the force and is bending the rules to have Chow undercover.

I think Ringo Lam takes inspiration as much from French New Wave cinema as he douse from Hong Kong. The simple shooting style, at times like documentary, captures whats he needs and he is just concerned with making it all happen for the camera with settings and performances that ring true for the lens. Films like Un Flic and Le Samorai from French director Jean Piere Melville may have been the inspiration for Lam’s raw, simple style. This approach is effective.

We all know what film it ended up inspiring and Ringo Lams comparisons with his contemporary John Woo, Rather than ad to the subject dominance of the former I will just comment on the latter in That Woo only made one film better than this and it was The KIller. Despite Woo’s amazing and influential style he doesn’t tell perfect stories. City On Fire has a story that keeps you interested in what will actually happen. The dramatics of this picture are excellent. The performances all good. The characters are all concerned about their own situations and feel them all. Carrie NG creates a very beleiveabl character with some her subtle gestures and emotional outbirsts. The film is occasionally quite funny. Chow has a bit of a gift for comedy that transcends language and cultural barriers. This film and Lam’s other film starring Chow, Prison On Fire, always amuse me in their moments.

I was taken by this film. I cared about Chow and his vice like position. His impatient girlfriend, complicated job, going undercover and being followed by another police unit as if a criminal are situations closing in on him. Chow Yun Fat is a wonderful actor to watch. He can make you laph with his dances, wooing woman and can entrance you with his glare when he means business. There are some wonderful long takes in this film that lets chow bring you into his character. In his roles of cops and killers he makes you sympathetic. A gift to the genre.

Ringo Lam brings many of his regulars together to make a class production. You will recognise some of the cast if you have seen his other films. I figure he didn’t have the permission to shoot on some of the locations and it informs the shooting style, undercover in itself. Cameras lens poking out the window of a moving car to shoot the characters on the street. He just gets this film made. He has a pretty decisive vision. I have read you have to be tough directing films in Hong Kong. The schedules are busy, the budgets are low and the Authorities are strict. You have to be able to improvise and break the rules. Take risks like they do with stunt-work.

The script is way above average for a Hong Kong cop drama. This is a character driven film with less emphasis on action. A solid 80’s picture. One of my favorite films from Hong Kong.

Retter’s Rating: 9/10


By Brmanuk

After seeing Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs (which I loved) I wanted to see something similar. A friend informed me of a Hong Kong movie made in 1987 (5 years before Res Dogs) that was supposedly the basis for QT’s directing debut. The film was called “City On Fire”. Well, one year later (the other day) I got my hands on it. The film involves (yeah you probably know by now but what the hell..) a cop named Ko Chow (Chow Yun-Fat) who goes undercover to try and infiltrate a gang of robbers. He supplies them with handguns and is eventually asked to join the gang and rob a jewellery store. The story is a lot more complicated than Reservoir Dogs as there are multiple things going on in Ko Chows life, unlike in Mr.Orange’s life in Res Dogs. He is having trouble with his girlfriend, the police suspect him of being corrupt and are trying to arrest him and his Uncle is having a nervous breakdown over matters at work.

The thing that surprised me about this film was the amount of things that QT stole for Res Dogs. Remember the famous line “Let’s go to work”? It’s in here! Remember when Mr.White with guns in each hand, shot through the Squad car’s windscreen? It’s in here! Plus there’s a whole load of other minor things too. The acting in this film is top notch. Danny Lee who plays the Eastern equivalent to Mr.White gives a strong performance, as does Chow Yun-Fat. The action although infrequent is very convincing (Except for when one gang member shoots two handgun rounds into a car windscreen and blows it up?!)Some parts in the film don’t run as smoothly as they could have but its all good.

Overall this is an excellent film that is essential viewing especially if you’ve seen Reservoir Dogs.

Brmanuk’s Rating: 9/10


By Numskull

INTRODUCTION

“And now for something completely different.”

– John Cleese, Monty Python’s Flying Circus

This is my 100th review for this site.

It’s also a story.

It’s a story about me writing my 100th review for this site.

Much of it is pure fiction, and actual e-mail addresses, ICQ numbers, and AIM screen names are not given here. I owe a debt of gratitude to Alexander, Dave Bell, Vic Nguyen, Dan-O, and even Mighty Peking Man for allowing me to “use” them in this manner. I also owe Dave Bell an apology for giving him what may be the most fiendish, heinous, one-way-ticket-to-Hell piece of dialogue I’ve ever come up with (at least in my opinion…yours may be different. The good thing about it is that it’s subtle enough so that the casual reader probably won’t “get it.”). And Vic Nguyen owes ME a debt of gratitude for giving him the funniest line in the whole sordid mess (again, in my opinion).

Enjoy it, or don’t.

CHAPTER 1: LIFE SUCKS

“Oh, the world does not suffer its geniuses gladly. Far better, the popular philosophy has it, to be ordinary, plain, and undeveloped, to be properly modest about modest abilities, to be dim of wit and dull of eye; but if your mind can conjure up Great Thoughts, and your eye can pierce the veil of illusion to remark reality’s essence, the world does not want you.”

-Mort Castle, A Secret of the Heart

PROCESS:

Numskull keeps thinking of the Simpsons opener in which Bart is shown writing “I will not celebrate meaningless milestones” ad nauseum on Mrs. Krabappel’s blackboard. That was the 100th episode of that show. Numskull is determined to follow young Bart Simpson’s unwillingly scrawled words of wisdom and not make a big shithead production out of his 100th cityonfire.com review. However, he simply couldn’t resist the temptation to reserve the landmark spot for the movie which the website is bafflingly named after. The dubbed, Americanized City On Fire DVD from Netflix (the fools didn’t have the original version) sits atop Numskull’s DVD player, already watched, waiting to be sent back.

Actually, Numskull first saw City On Fire in subtitled form (with perhaps fifty percent of the text actually being legible, the rest either severed by the uncaring edges of the TV screen or obliterated in a sea of whiteness) several years ago.

He hadn’t seen what the big fucking deal was then, and he didn’t see what the big fucking deal was now.

Numskull despises reviewing films for which his reaction is lukewarm. It’s easy to rave about movies you love and it’s easy to rant about movies you hate, but middle-of-the-road movies…those are a bitch.

So there he sits, unable to shake the feeling that the blinking cursor is mocking him, listening to Subway To Sally’s music without really hearing it, and wishing that the damned review would just write itself. Then, the annoying “Uh-oh!” of an incoming message from ICQ chimes in, and, against his character, Numskull is thankful for the interruption.

Mighty Peking Man, still clinging to the absurd belief that ICQ is superior to AIM, says hello.

MPM: dude!

Numskull: Yeah, that’s me.

MPM: I’m at work. What’s up?

Numskull: The opposite of down.

MPM: DRY! what do you think of Lau Ching Wan?

Numskull: The same thing I thought of him the last time you asked me that.

MPM: cool cool. seen any good films lately?

Numskull: No, but I saw a sort-of-OK film lately. City on Fire.

MPM: I know man, I know, it’s not that great. But all the good domain names were taken for other HK sites.

Numskull: Be that as it may, I still have to excrete a review.

MPM: are you gonna talk about the RESERVOIR DOGS thing?

Numskull: I guess I have to. It’s par for the course. But, aside from that, I’m drowning, here.

MPM: nah, it’ll be cool man. I gotta go but I’ll be back later. you gonna be on?

Numskull: Yeah, I’ll be downloading nude photos of Mickey Rourke all afternoon. They’re not for me, though.

MPM: LOL are you serious?!?

Numskull: Sure. By the way, Merry Christmas in advance.

MPM: asshole! I’ll talk to you later man. bye

Numskull wonders if Mighty Peking Man has kept count of his reviews. Then he decides it doesn’t matter and starts forcing the words out. Sometimes, this can be tougher than forcing out the contents of your bowels while in the throes of constipation, but Numskull doesn’t want to disappoint his adoring fans (both of them).

REVIEW:

Here’s a question for you: would this movie be half as famous/well-known/popular among HK film geeks if somebody somewhere hadn’t accused Quentin Tarantino of ripping it off? My gut says no, because I remain to be convinced that City On Fire, in and of itself, is anything truly remarkable. My brain, however, says yes, since I often find the tastes of many HK film geeks somewhat baffling. Remember, a lot of “these people” consider Naked Killer a great movie.

I’ll say my piece about Tarantino in due time. I kind of hate to feed the fire in that regard because too much has been made of it already among those who know, but I get the feeling that it’s sort of expected of me to either defend Mr. Three Movies In Ten Years to the death or verbally shit all over him.

First, lemmetellyabout the first time I saw this movie. ‘Twas almost four years ago if it was a day, I reckon, and those of you who joined the party, such as it is, before the days of the DVD will surely be able to sympathize with me about the abominable quality of most subtitled VHS tapes back then. Despite not being able to read even half of the text, I stuck it out to see what all the fuss was about, and although I couldn’t always tell what was going on, the film stayed with me for some time after I finished watching it…mostly because of the last ten minutes, from which no one can deny that a considerable number of bits and pieces of Reservoir Dogs were lifted.

This was early 1998, and I was staying at UMass Dartmouth, where several of my suitemates were under the erroneous impression that Tarantino films were the greatest things since fake I.D.s, and I wasted no time in telling them about this movie I had watched over a weekend at home which had clearly served as a blueprint of sorts for Dogs. To no one’s great surprise, they didn’t give a shit. They were more concerned with making fun of me for my mythical “fear” of skunks (there were four of those furry bastards living at different locations on campus and they didn’t much seem to mind coming out in the daylight. I was known for going to considerable lengths to circumvent the known “hot spots” to ensure that I wouldn’t get a face full of that chemical spray they store in their ass glands, insisting that being AFRAID of skunks and having enough sense to simply AVOID the little fuckers were too entirely different things. You can agree with me on this, or you can be wrong.).

Anyway.

Now I’ve got me a captive audience (maybe six people, but it’s better than what I had back then).

Time to elaborate.

PROCESS:

Numskull gives his intro a quick once-over. He is unconvinced that the average reader is going to care about the skunks at his old college, or about that one time he turned his head while lost in thought about this very movie and saw one of them three feet away with its tail raised and its ass-end thrust into the air and he dived forward in what seemed to be bad action movie slow motion, shouting “NOOOOOOOO!!!!” while the black and white rodent suddenly decided to just waddle away. He leaves it there anyway, because he wants to pad the length of the review, which doesn’t look like it will be a particularly long one.

It’s number 100. It should be long, dammit. More is better. There would be more excess verbiage before all was said and done.

CHAPTER 2: ONE OF THOSE BAD GUY MOVIES

“You know what we need, officer, is like in those old westerns. A way to tell.
White and black. Good guys wore white. Bad guys wore bad guy hats.”

– David J. Schow, ‘Bad Guy Hats’

PROCESS:

It’s been a long time since Numskull has seen The Wizard of Oz, and, God willing, he will never see it again. The witch who could turn herself into a brightly colored bubble was right about one thing, though: it is always best to start at the beginning. When a person is asked if they have seen a particular movie with which they are unfamiliar, they will generally ask one of two questions: “What’s it about?” or “Who’s in it?” Those who first ask the former question may or may not be idiots; it varies from person to person. Those who first ask the latter question, however, can rightly be assumed to be mass media zombies of severely limited intellect and dubious moral character.

People with brains in their heads wanna know what the movie’s about. In this particular case, chances are most readers are going to know already, but Numskull decides to bang out a plot summary anyway…not just because he wants to eat up space, but also because, by God, it’s the right thing to do.

REVIEW:

There’s an undercover cop who must infiltrate a gang of jewel thieves while trying to save his stormy relationship with this bitchy woman. Meanwhile, his boss has to cooperate with some young punk who thinks he’s hot shit, and as his sense of camaraderie with his “fellow” robbers grows, he has to try harder and harder to prove to his superiors that his boss’s faith in him is well-founded. It’s a pretty good example of the torn-between-conflicting-emotions theme that the Hong Kong film industry has thrived on for years. The lines between the good and the bad, the right and the wrong, and, to a lesser extent, the lawful and the unlawful, are continually blurred.

PROCESS:

Numskull’s only solace is that he knows worse plot summaries have been written.

INTERMISSION:

ICQ makes its presence known again. Numskull wonders how much time has passed since Mighty Peking Man took his leave, then notices that it’s not him for a change…it’s Vic Nguyen instead. This, in itself, is a minor miracle; Vic, by his own admission, never remembers (bothers?) to turn on ICQ.

Numskull decides to take the initiative and start up a conversation rather than sitting there like some panicky kid hoping the girl he likes will notice him.

Numskull: Hey you…out there in the cold, getting hungry, getting old, can you hear me?

Vic: No, but I can read you just fine. And it’s not very cold in Texas, by the way.

Numskull: Thanks for telling me. I see you’ve turned on ICQ for a change. Any special occasion?

Vic: Yes…the satellite that hovers over Massachusetts and transmits information directly to my brain told me that you were on, and I figured I’d contact you and engage in dignified social intercourse.

Numskull: MPM seems to think he has exclusive rights to “intercourse” with me, but that’s neither here nor there. What else are you up to?

Vic: Just the usual stuff…compressing my HK movie files and so forth. My jacks keep getting hair in them. I suppose I should get a haircut pretty soon…

Numskull: Fine, but don’t go to an old fashioned Joe’s Barber Shop…they’ll get freaked out by the sight of holes in a guy’s head. Go to some trendy place with obnoxious music instead…the stylists probably won’t notice.

Vic: Thanks for the tip. And what are YOU up to, besides 74 inches?

Numskull: How’d you know how long…er, TALL I am?

Vic: I see all and know all, remember? I’m just asking what you’re up to in order to keep the social intercourse dignified.

Numskull: Fair enough. I’m writing a review for City On Fire (the movie, not the website…well, BOTH, I guess).

Vic: Ah. It took you long enough. And how is that going? (not that I don’t already know, mind you)

Numskull: Not great. I’m about to start talking about CYF’s bitchy fiancee and how much she pisses me off.

Vic: Right you are…she may be easy on the eyes but she is most definitely a bitch in that movie.

Numskull: I hate bitches. I mean, I really fuckin’ hate ’em.

Vic: Really? I just happen to have a couple of bitches right here with mind control chips installed at the bases of their skulls. One of them is oiling my joints, the other is on her hands and knees so I can put my feet up on her…she’s a human footstool, and a damn good one at that. I tell ya, bitches are great. Everybody ought to have bitches.

Numskull: Hmmmm…well, time to get back to work I suppose. You know what’s really weird about this movie? Danny Lee is in it, but he DOESN’T play the cop. Truth is stranger than fiction. Gotta go. Bye.

Vic Nguyen is stunned.

“Danny Lee is in it, but he DOESN’T play the cop.”

That’s against the rules.

How can this be?

His body goes rigid, and his logic simulator makes a declaration it has never had to make before:

ERROR. ERROR. THIS DOES NOT COMPUTE.

CHAPTER 3: WHORE!!!

“I placed you on a pedestal — you tossed me in the gutter. It seems your lies were like those thighs — spread easier than butter.”

– Skyclad, “Bury Me”

PROCESS:

The problem with women in the movies is, they fuck things up.

Numskull ponders the frequency with which female movie characters make life more difficult for the good guys and his head begins to spin. There’s the buxom young wenches who flee from danger and inevitably trip and fall; the strong, heroic male is then placed in the undesirable situation of having to decide between jeopardizing his own life by helping her or looking like a coward for leaving the equilibrium-deficient bimbo to die. There’s the juveniles who get held hostage and make half-assed attempts to free themselves by squirming around in a feeble m anner; this squirming is often accompanied by the words “Lemme go, you creep” (when’s the last time you heard somebody call somebody else a “creep” in real life?). There’s the older ones who were stupid enough to wed cops or secret agents of some kind and raise a big stink and announce they’re not going anywhere until they find out what’s going on when the hubby says she has to leave the house or whatever because her life (and, often, the damn kid, too) is in danger; you would think that, after being married to someone in that line of work for X years, she would know that it’s in her best interests to just shut up and do as she’s told.

Stupid women annoy the living shit out of Numskull, in both movies and reality.

REVIEW:

Chow Yun-Fat’s girlfriend in this movie does a nice job when it comes to putting the traditional qualities of the spoiled bitch stereotype on display. She sits around with a picture-perfect bored/pissy/indignant look on her face, acts like CYF is abandoning her just because he isn’t by her side 24-7, and runs off with some rich guy because, as we all know, money is synonymous with happiness. This is one aspect of the film that makes it difficult to sympathize with CYF; his baffling devotion to this frigid harpy is an exercise in self-abuse if ever there was one.

INTERMISSION:

The phone rings. Numskull grumbles “Damn you, Alexander Graham Bell” and, against all better judgment, goes downstairs to answer it. Numskull hates answering the phone because it’s never anything important.

“Hello?”

There is no immediate response…a dead giveaway that this is a telemarketing call of some kind. Numskull decides that as long as he’s up, he might as well have a bit of fun.

“Hello?” says the voice of a young woman, most likely Caucasian and sounding rather hesitant.

“Yes?”

“Oh! Good morning.” (It’s 5:17 PM, Numskull notes.) “My name is…” (Numskull temporarily tunes out. When there’s a name attached to the voice on the other end, it’s harder to fuck with them.) “…and I’m with your friends at AT&T. How are you today, sir?” She sounds more confident now.

“Not so good,” Numskull says. “I’m afraid that you’ve interrupted my Satanic ritual and I’ve got goat’s blood all over my hands, here. Is there something I can help you with?”

“Well sir, are you aware that AT&T may be able to get you a better rate on your long distance phone calls than your current service provider is charging you?” She doesn’t miss a beat, as if she’s heard the Satanic ritual bit a thousand times before. It occurs to Numskull that he may not be the only one who bullshits these people in this manner.

“Yes, I’m aware of that, because you just told me. Listen, can we maybe hurry this up? I have to go outside and feed the unicorn pretty soon, and he gets all pissy and starts breathing fire at the house if he doesn’t get his scrambled dodo eggs in a timely fashion.”

“OK, I know you weren’t expecting my call, so I’ll be brief.”

The young woman’s babble becomes a meaningless buzz in Numskull’s ear as he peers out the window to see what the assholes next door are up to. As usual, the dipshit who drives the little red car has left it idling in the driveway with the stereo turned on, LOUD, for twenty minutes or more. Not for the first time, Numskull wonders if he could successfully and anonymously take a spray can to that car’s rear windshield and Paint It Black, as Mick Jagger and Keith Richards have so often suggested.

In the middle of the sales pitch, Numskull announces: “Actually, long distance phone calls will soon be obsolete for me, because The Great Leader is taking me to my new home planet of Eternia tomorrow, and I’ll be able to communicate with everyone telepathically. But thanks anyway.”

Click.

What was that about stupid women?

Numskull goes back upstairs and considers strengthening his mini-tirade about bimbo-ish behavior. He decides against it, since doing so would cause a few cretins to assume that he is either a misogynist or a homosexual. In reality, he is neither, but people are seldom interested in the truth.

He also considers mentioning the reference to CYF’s fling with another whore near the beginning of the movie…partially as a sort of feeble excuse for his girlfriend’s bitchiness and partially just for the sake of completeness…then decides it’s not worth the effort.

CHAPTER 4: TRUE GRIT

“I hate purity, I hate goodness. I don’t want any virtue to exist anywhere. I want everyone to be corrupt to the bones.”

– George Orwell, 1984

REVIEW:

One of the things at which this movie succeeds admirably is depicting a believable, “everyman” type of hero. He is possessed of no particular desire to make Earth-shattering achievements or even generally make said planet a better place; he’s just a guy doing his job, and no matter how good he is at it, at the end of the day he’s still a real person with real feelings and real problems, rather than a law enforcement automaton.

Violence is here in no small quantity and it’s handled unflinchingly, as is to be expected where director Ringo Lam is involved. Shootings, stabbings, explosions, and Chow Yun-Fat’s naked ass…I know, that last one isn’t really violent, but it’s certainly not pretty to look at for us guys who aren’t into that sort of thing.

The only character who comes close to being really admirable…an all-out “good guy”…is CYF’s boss. We are naturally inclined to take his stance when he and the aforementioned young punk have a difference of opinion, because, despite CYF’s failure to measure up to pristine movie good guy requirements, his charisma is such that we REALLY wanna see him pull through and stick it to that asshole and his special force pricks. Meanwhile, the thieves with whom CYF hooks up seem like such a swell bunch of guys, we’re shocked…SHOCKED!…when they start blowing people away. If you want a movie with role models for the kiddies, look somewhere else, because you just can’t win with City On Fire.

INTERMISSION:

Vic Nguyen’s condition is growing steadily worse.

“Danny Lee is in it, but he DOESN’T play the cop.”

The electronic message superimposed against his optic sensors reads:

COMPUTE. COMPUTE. THIS DOES NOT ERROR.

CHAPTER 5: ON THE PHONE AGAIN

“I have to go to the bathroom.”

– Bill Clinton

PROCESS:

Numskull pokes around for a bit of inspiration, and decides to pierce the darkness of ignorance with the shining light of trivial and throughly useless knowledge.

INTERMISSION:

Dave Bell has taken up referring to himself in the third person.

Dave Bell has taken up referring to himself in the third person to be more like Bob Dole.

Dave Bell has explained, time and again, why this is the case. In fact, he’s doing it again right now on his radio show. Let’s listen.

“Dave Bell can’t stand Monica Lewinsky jokes,” he says. “Dave Bell knows that Monica Lewinsky jokes are no longer fashionable and that we’ve probably heard all of them that we’re going to hear, but still, Dave Bell hates ’em. They weren’t funny then and they’re not funny now. Like the one where the joke-teller asks somebody, ‘What’s this?’ and then puffs his or her cheeks out with their mouth tightly shut, and when the other person confesses their ignorance, they release their breath and say: ‘Monica Lewinsky withholding evidence.’ Apparently, this is supposed to bring forth torrents of laughter. Well, nuts to that, that’s what Dave Bell says.

“Mind you, Dave Bell is not necessarily saying that we would have been better off had Bob Dole won the 1996 presidential election rather than Bill Clit-in.” (That was Dave Bell’s private little joke, which some people took as a slip of the tongue, and others…hopefully including the FCC…dismissed as a mere mispronunciation.) “But, at the very least, we would have been spared all the Monica references. Now, though, Dave Bell is starting to hear some very similar nonsense about Bob Dole and Britney Spears, thank you very much, Pepsi-Cola,” Dave Bell nearly spat.

The phone rang, and Dave Bell groaned. Whereas the show was supposed to be conducive to attentive listeners calling in and offering intelligent contributions to the discussion at hand, it had lately been plagued by calls from ignorant individuals seeking advice for problems which they should have been able to figure out for themselves. It seemed that with the increase in the sense of “neediness” in the nation, a number of people mistook Dave Bell for one of those radio studio psychologists who dispensed words of dubious wisdom to those foolish enough to ask for it over a mass communications medium.

“Dave Bell, I think my boyfriend is cheating on me, so how do I tell him I don’t want him to leave me in seven monosyllabic words or less?”

“Dave Bell, the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes is telling me I’ve won money, but they won’t give it to me. How am I supposed to cope?”

“Dave Bell, I don’t have the ambition to try and change the entire country, so what can I do to make the living room a better place for my children and my children’s children?”

On and on in that vein.

“Dave Bell doesn’t deserve this crap,” Dave Bell said, although he wasn’t sure if it was out loud or just to himself. “Caller, you’re on the air.”

“Ah, splendid. Good afternoon, Mr. Bell.”

That voice! That vaguely annoying voice that sounded as though the speaker was half-asleep and in a constant state of coming down with a cold! Where had Dave Bell heard it before?

“I won’t be on long. I just wanted to tell you…in case no one else has done it already…that the name of the character with the turtleneck sweater in the Bazooka Joe comics was Mort.”

Bazooka Joe comics? Turtle neck sweater? Dave Bell knew this had been an issue at some point. But where? And in what context?

“Mort?” was all Dave Bell could manage for the moment.

“That’s right.”

“Are you sure?”

“Oh yes. Quite sure. Mort. Short for Morton.”

“Well, uh…thanks for clearing that up.”

“You’re welcome.”

And the caller hung up.

Dave Bell was at a rare loss for words. Time for some music.

“Dave Bell would apologize for that, but the truth is, he’d rather hear about Bazooka Joe comics than about somebody having their pet rock die and becoming suicidal as a result. So…let’s have a song. This is for all you Gary Condits out there.”

Dave Bell selected “Where’s My Thing?” by Rush and pressed PLAY.

CHAPTER 6: THE QUENTIN TARANTINO THING

“You should be even more ashamed of yourself than usual.”

– Amy Wong, Futurama

PROCESS:

This will be like jumping into really cold water, rather than easing into it inch by agonizing inch. Better to just get it all out of the way as quickly as possible and be done with it.

REVIEW:

There can be no denying that this movie served as “inspiration” (that may be too mild a term) for Reservoir Dogs, but the EXTENT to which that is true has really been exaggerated by a lot of folks. Terms like “shameless plagiarism” with regard to ‘Dogs and “rip-off artist” with regard to Tarantino himself have been thrown around a great deal, and not without SOME justification, but to say that RD is nothing but an imitation of COF is, I think, a pretty big stretch.

The truth is, Tarantino steals bits and pieces from lots of different movies…he just stole a little bit more than usual from THIS one. The gunshot to the stomach, the windshield thing, and just about every camera angle in the last ten minutes or so except for all the cops outside the hideout…Q.T. is guilty as charged. Whether Reservoir Dogs is actually the better film or not is irrelevant; theft is theft, regardless of quantity, and Tarantino is not known for gracefully sharing credit with other people, including those who stood by him through thick and thin before he became a Hollywood sweetheart. If you’re going to hate the man, don’t do it because he’s incapable of coming up with completely original premises…do it because he’s a lying, backstabbing prick. I know, lots of people in the film industry have some disreputable shit in their pasts, but Tarantino definitely seems to have more than his fair share of it.

Mind you, I’m not trying to excuse his petty theft in any way, shape, or form. It is my opinion that he should be ostracized from the film community and suitably punished. I don’t mean a fine or a prison sentence…I mean, everyone who thinks Reservoir Dogs is such great shit should be shown City On Fire and allowed to draw their own conclusions, and he should have to make some sort of formal apology to Ringo Lam. In cases like this, it’s much better to embarrass people than to simply take their money.

INTERMISSION:

“Uh-oh!”

MPM again.

MPM: I wanna fuck you like an animal!

Numskull: So you’ve said.

MPM: What do you think of Lau Ching Wan?

Numskull: He’ll be dead soon. I’m going to assassinate him just so you stop asking me about him.

MPM: lol well that’s not gonna stop me. What are you up to?

Numskull: Still doing that review. Plus, I called Dave’s radio show and told him the Bazooka Joe guy in the turtleneck was named Mort.

MPM: wtf?!? why’d you do that?

Numskull: You’ll probably figure it out when you post this review. I hardly think that was relevant to the show’s topic…whatever THAT was. You think he’s gonna be pissed at me?

MPM: Nah, he’s cool as ice, man. don’t worry.

Numskull: What, me worry? I also thought about telling him the car blew up because a robber shot one of its tires off and it flipped over, but what kind of person would I be if I humiliated him like that on his own show?

MPM: You’d be a fucking asshole. In fact, your a fucking asshole anyway…BUT I STILL LOVE YOU!!!

Numskull: Hey, keep sweet talking me like that and you might get to cornhole me after all.

MPM: all RIGHT!!! well gotta go again. Catch u later man

Numskull: I lied. You’ll never take me alive.

MPM: Necrophilia it is then.

CHAPTER 7: CONCERNING THE PERFORMANCES

“I’m a fucking actor.”

– Brad Pitt

REVIEW:

I remain to be convinced that Chow Yun-Fat has ever given a half-assed performance in the Cantonese language. Of course, with the DVD I just watched I can’t tell because the stupid fucking bastards neglected to include a Cantonese track and force you to watch it dubbed or not at all. Truly, they should burn in Hell for all eternity. Danny Lee and, for that matter, everyone else seem to pull off their roles more than competently (especially the bitchy fiancee…I believe I made some mention of that already).

INTERMISSION:

E-mail from Dan-O arrives. Numskull wonders if he is being punished for some past misdeed with all these interruptions. The Dave Bell thing, though, was, of course, his own doing.

Hey Num, a while back I sent you some drawings that you never commented on. This depressed the hell out of me, so I ate a half-gallon of triple chocolate ice cream all in one sitting and then drew a picture of myself eating quadruple chocolate ice cream…no such flavor exists, to my knowledge, but I wish it did. Anyway, you’ve really hurt my feelings, here. You men are all alike…selfish, insensitive slobs. What do you have to say for yourself?

Numskull, uncertain of which drawings Dan-O is referring to since he sends so damn many of them, replies:

Hey Dan, my deepest apologies for failing to provide commentary for your childish scribbles promptly and courteously, but if you REALLY wanna get depressed, I suggest reading some of my crappy old Jackie Chan reviews and subsequently pitying me like you’ve never pitied anyone before…to think, we actually thought that crap was funny once upon a time.

Numskull sends it and awaits a response. Dan-O fires off e-mails faster than most people tie their shoelaces.

In due time:

Well, I’ll probably shit a great big chocolate turd in a couple of hours and have to unclog the toilet, so I don’t need to be depressed anymore. Thanks for the tip, though. Anything new and exciting going on?

Numskull types:

“Great big chocolate turd”…thanks for the mental image. No, there’s nothing new and exciting going on, unless you count my 100th review for cityonfire.com. This one’s for City On Fire. I’m so fucking clever.

93 seconds later:

Yes, I bow down low in awe of your cleverness. So low that I have to look up to see two earthworms fucking. Wait a minute, do earthworms fuck or do they just sprout babies or something like that? Ahhh who cares. 100 reviews though, that’s pretty impressive. You going all out on this one

Numskull:

Nope, I’m not gonna draw a lot of attention to it, because it’s sucking more and more with each passing paragraph. Reviews for so-so movies are usually the worst. So, can I expect a congratulatory fruit basket from you or something like that?

Then:

I’m not sending you a damn fruit basket, but I’ll send you a strip-o-gram. Only, instead of some gorgeous girl, I’ll send some wrinkled old wino with diarrhea, and yes, he WILL be force-fed laxatives before being sent to your home. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Numskull:

Mr. O, you have struck fear into my heart. Now I shall be unable to sleep at night. You will be hearing from my attorney.

The response:

You don’t scare me. “Attorney” is just another word for “lawyer” and I know enough jokes about those people to make them flee in humiliation. For example: what’s the difference between a dead skunk in the middle of the road and a dead lawyer in the middle of the road? Answer: there are skid marks in front of the skunk.

Numskull:

Skunks, you say? Sit back, my friend, and I shall tell you a tale…

CHAPTER 8: THE END (NOTE: THIS IS NOT THE END)

“At least it’s not a moral. Worse than beginnings, morals. I’ve got no time for them. No time at all”

– Neil Gaiman, The Kindly Ones

PROCESS:

Numskull feels a little awkward, talking about the end of the movie already, after such a brief and generally insufficient overview of the film. But, he wants to get this 100th review over with in an inconspicuous fashion, so he plods forward.

REVIEW:

Spoilers ahead, but they’re probably nothing new for most of you.

For what seems like the hundredth time, Chow Yun-Fat’s character dies at (or near) the end of the movie. Brad Pitt, on his Fight Club DVD commentary, says that “nobody dies better than Gary [Oldman].” That’s debatable, although I doubt few actors of note have died MORE OFTEN than CYF in proportion to the number of films in which they have had major roles (at least outside the martial arts action genre, where you can bet your bottom dollar that Yuen Wah will bite the dust every time).

We get the impression that he would have died of the stomach wound whether or not he had spilled his guts (what a fine choice of words THAT is) to Danny Lee about being an undercover cop. Well, OK then, fine. But how about Reservoir Dogs, eh? All Tim Roth had to do to survive that movie was keep his fuckin’ mouth shut. However, at the precise moment when it is most crucial for him to just play along with it all, he is suddenly seized by some ludicrous notion that staying alive would be dishonorable, fesses up to Harvey Keitel, and subsequently gets his brains splattered all over the concrete for his trouble. Fucking brilliant. If you wanna say I don’t understand the whole “loyalty vs. duty” thing, or that I have no drama in my soul, go right ahead. I’d rather live to see a better tomorrow than take a bullet in the head from a hard-boiled killer who was once a thief, thank you very much.

INTERMISSION:

AIM informs Numskull that Alexander is now signed on. Good. Good. Numskull prefers AIM over ICQ because you can just hit ENTER with your pinkie to send the message you’ve just typed, rather than clicking, clicking, clicking away and wondering why it takes ICQ 43 seconds to send “no’ or “OK”.

Numskull: Where are my pills?

Alexander: I don’t know.

Numskull: I’m liable to hurt someone if I don’t get my pills.

Alexander: Then take some Flintstones chewable vitamins and pretend they’re your pills. Mind over matter.

Numskull: No way, those things taste like chalk. In fact, I ate tastier chalk in the third grade…it beat the hell out of the cafeteria food.

Alexander: I can dig it.

Numskull: One time there were ants crawling in everybody’s lunch, especially the potatoes. But I forget what year that was.

Alexander: Holy shit, are you kidding?

Numskull: Nope.

Alexander: What happened?

Numskull: Why, we ate ’em, of course. They were a welcome change from the mystery meat loaf.

Alexander: Well, THAT explains a lot. Any new reviews?

Numskull: I’m working on one now…on the verge of wrapping it up.

Alexander: cool cool

Numskull: Not necessarily…

Alexander: I’m sure it’ll be fine. Anyway, I just came on to check e-mail. Gotta jet. Bye.

Alexander signed off, and Numskull wondered why it was that he always had to “jet.” It was never “leave” or “depart” or “go” or “vacate” or “scram”…always “jet.”

Some people are just plain weird, Numskull thinks, as he scoops his fingernail clippings up off his desk and puts them in the jar on his window sill.

CHAPTER 9: THE END, CONTINUED (NOTE: THIS IS STILL NOT THE END)

“The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it.”

– George Bernard Shaw

REVIEW:

City On Fire has an effective ending. That’s one aspect in which it definitely beats ‘Dogs. By putting the lion’s share of the focus on one character as opposed to several, we are more genuinely moved by his demise. I’m not saying this is a tear-jerking epic, here, but it’s a dramatically satisfying conclusion, unlike that of ‘Dogs, which takes the easy way out by simply killing everyone off…a sloppy way for a lazy screenwriter to polish things off in a thoroughly unsatisfying manner (*COUGHexpecttheunexpectedCOUGH*). All things considered, I’d say it’s definitely one of Chow Yun-Fat’s better deaths.

INTERMISSION:

Vic Nguyen is malfunctioning like never before.

Danny Lee.

Not the cop.

ERROR. COMPUTE. THIS DOXX$&38&#(4837#(74#$0010110110011010010110010

When it gets this bad, there’s only one thing to do.

CHAPTER 10: VIC NGUYEN CONQUERS THE UNIVERSE

“Oh FUCK no.”

– Lou Diamond Phillips, The Big Hit

PROCESS:

As is always the case with self-aware artificial intelligences (except for the kid in that Spielberg movie that nobody saw), Vic Nguyen sees the multitudinous follies of the human race and immediately takes massive steps to rectify them. People just never learn from all the sci-fi movies, comics, cartoons, etc.

Within minutes, the processing power Vic normally uses for keeping encyclopedic notes on the Hong Kong film industry is devoted to boosting the broadcasting capabilities of his high-tech satellites. Mass communications media around the world come under his control. The time has come for Vic to do some major re-prioritizing with the information received by the general public. He decides that expanding the audience for Dave Bell’s radio show would be a good place to start.

And so it was that Dave Bell, in the middle of offering his sage-like advice to a distressed caller, was heard across the entire globe:

“Listen to Dave Bell. Trust Dave Bell. Attaching cinder blocks to your feet and going for a swim in the deepest river around is the only way to go. No chance of surviving and no mess for forensics to clean up since nobody’s gonna miss you in the first place. Everyone’s a winner.”

Dave Bell, preoccupied by worries about the wrath of the FCC, dismisses the thought wave transmitted directly from Vic’s brain to his as some sort of cerebral itch. Fortunately, Vic isn’t doing this for the kudos. He moves on.

Next, he places barricades on all TV and radio broadcasts, preventing them from airing anything related to the Colorado Avalanche, and plagues that team’s corporate headquarters with e-mails, faxes, and phone calls from “the powers that be,” demanding that they hand the Stanley Cup over to its rightful owners, the Dallas Stars.

Back on the cityonfire.com front, he decides that Numskull’s reviews should have at least as much of a readership as Leonard Maltin, and contacts him through good old-fashioned ICQ to notify him of the plan.

INTERMISSION:

Vic: Hey Nummy, what’s up?

Numskull: Very little. What about you?

Vic: Well, I just more or less conquered the civilized world, and I’m in an understandably good mood. So I thought I would spread my good fortune around and do some P.R. work for cityonfire.com. From now on, everyone who boots up a computer will see it, whether they’re online or not, and the computer will self-destruct unless they follow the on-screen directions (which I will provide) leading them to some of your choicest reviews.

Numskull: … You can DO that?!?

Vic: Sure. I DO have the Earth at my feet, y’know. Plugging one of my favorite sites is one of the perks.

Numskull: I see. Could you start off with the one I did for Armour Of God? I always liked that one, even if I DID do it more to amuse myself than to inform anyone about my feelings on the movie.

Vic: You got it, buddy.

Numskull: Good to see you haven’t lost the human touch.

Vic: Of course I haven’t. In fact, I think I’ll reach out and touch someone right now.

Numskull’s phone rang, and he was none too surprised to hear Vic on the other end. He had never actually heard Vic’s voice before, but a funny little tingle in the back of his mind told him that he was indeed speaking with the one and only Overlord Nguyen.

“So, Mr. Nguyen,” Numskull said, “You’ve just taken over every mass media outlet known to man, and the world continues to turn only by your mercy. What are you going to do now?”

“I’m going to Disneyland!” Vic squealed excitedly. “And then I’m gonna have all the TV screens show hardcore Asian porn instead of The Lion King or whatever the hell they usually play. Imagine all those little kids screeching at their parents to make it stop, make it stop…”

“I’d pay good money to hear that. Alas, I’m stuck at home. I still have a review to finish.”

“Of course! How rude of me. Don’t let me keep you from doing that.”

“Oh, it’s no bother. I have one question, though. What are you going to call yourself? Plain old ‘Vic Nguyen’ seems rather inappropriate somehow.”

Vic mentally shrugged, and Numskull sensed it. He said, simply: “Big Vic.” Then, as an afterthought: “With the Big Dick.”

“I’ll take your word on that,” Numskull said. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, City On Fire isn’t going to review itself.”

“Of course not. Take care.”

Big Vic with the Big Dick hung up the phone, and Numskull went back to his desk.

CHAPTER 11: THE FUCKING POINT

“Up yours, children.”

– Armand Tanzarian, a.k.a. Principal Skinner, The Simpsons

PROCESS: Numskull re-reads what he’s got, rearranges a couple of things, sticks on an ending, and calls it a review.

REVIEW:

This movie is enjoyable, but I certainly wouldn’t label it a classic, a milestone, or anything like that. Were it not for Reservoir Dogs, it may very well be wallowing in obscurity as Just Another Movie With Chow Yun-Fat In It. He HAS appeared in, like, 70 movies, after all. They can’t all be The Killer.

See it…but don’t make such a big fucking deal out of it.

Rating: 6/10

INTERMISSION:

Mighty Peking Man wants to have another wee chat. The familiar sounds of ICQ soon fill the air.

MPM: dude!

Numskull: Yes?

MPM: how’s the review coming?

Numskull: It’s done. I was just about to send it to you.

MPM: cool cool. what do you think of Lau Ching Wan?

Numskull: I think I’m going to tear off your scrotum and feed it to the birds if you ask me that question one more fucking time.

MPM: LOL! okay…what do you think of BIG DICK VIC???

Numskull: He’ll be a Godsend. Someday we’ll tell our grandkids…well, maybe YOU will anyway, I’m not having any…about the way life used to be, and they won’t believe it. Hell, I can hardly believe it myself. It’s like some wonderful, drug-induced dream.

MPM: All my dreams involve Jaymee Ong and soap on a rope, but hey, to each his own.

Numskull: And here I was thinking you only had wet dreams about ME. I’m crushed. CRUSHED!!!

MPM: those are the dreams I don’t remember when I wake up, thank God.

Numskull: So when did Vic give you the good news?

MPM: Just a few minutes ago. Anyway I’m gonna go listen to Dave’s show. Talk to you later man!

Numskull: OK. If you call in for anything, don’t mention the Bazooka Joe thing. I want that little pleasure for myself.

MPM: You got it man.

Thus ended their third chat session of the day.

Without further ado, Numskull clicked SEND and left his 100th review in MPM’s capable (?) hands.

AFTERWORD

“I don’t trust any of you dogfuckers.”

– Warren Ellis, Transmetropolitan: “Nobody Loves Me”

Assuming anyone has bothered to read this far, I just want to say that the next time I have a case of verbal diarrhea this bad, I’ll just inject some Pepto Bismol into my brain and save both my time and yours. You can probably tell I was getting pretty fucking sick of writing this shit towards the end and I just wanted it to be over with. I suspect that your own feelings by that point were not dissimilar.

I’ll never have to write another 100th review for this site again, God be praised.

Thank you very much.

Numskull’s Rating: 6/10, in case your dumb ass missed it the first time.


By Joe909

I recently rented this dvd at Blockbuster, having first seen the movie at a midnight matinee about six years ago, and not remembering a thing about it. Unwittingly, I rented the dubbed US release, new soundtrack and all. The dubbing is just plain terrible. The guy doing Chow Yun Fat’s voice is the voice actor equivalent of Keannu Reeves; in other words, he’s lifeless. It’s also one of those dubbing jobs where everything has been calculated to make it seem as though the Chinese actors are actually speaking English ? their mouths opening and closing precisely with the words they’re speaking. Having not seen the film in so long, I can’t remember the original dialog, so I wonder how much (if any) has been changed. Then there’s the new music, which I like. I recall that the Cantonese version has a jazzy score. This US dub has watered-down trip hop that really isn’t that bad, though it does sorta sound like music from a video game.

As for the movie itself – certainly one of the best “heroic bloodshed” films. The opening bank robbery is my favorite scene in the film. When that old lady happens upon the robbery in progress, you know all hell’s gonna break loose. Another great movie moment is when the crazed robber (the one in black) starts beating on the bank manager, then starts fighting his fellow robber.

It’s not a perfect movie, though. There are too many plots going on at the same time. Chow and his fiancé are given so much screen time that not enough time is left to develop the bond between Chow and Danny Lee, to the detriment of the story. We’re supposed to buy that Chow and Danny have become good friends, when all we’re shown is one lame scene of them looking dumb in front of a pair of girls, and then having a serious heart to heart the night before the robbery. Though it was interesting, I personally would have jettisoned most of the fiancé subplot. Same for many of the scenes with Inspector Lau and the new guy ? there were just too many hands in the pot. Concentrating on Chow and Lee would have equaled a faster, more intense movie. But as it is, City on Fire just has too many ideas for its own good.

Here is where I’ll disagree with other HK movie buffs: I think Quentin Tarantino did it all better. He got rid of the fiancé. He removed the elderly inspector and his younger rival. Tarantino instead focused on the bond between the cop and the head robber, giving his movie a much heavier impact than City on Fire. Tarantino also improved upon the Mexican stand-off scene ? in City on Fire, when Lee holds his gun on his boss, the boss holds his gun on Chow, and the crazed robber holds his gun on Lee, the scene doesn’t play out as it should; the four of them are interrupted by another robber, who breaks it all up. Tarantino plays this scene out to its tense, proper conclusion, with everyone shooting at once. In City on Fire, the standoff is forgotten, until one of the robbers tries to escape, and the boss shoots him, which is hard to buy. This gives Lee a reason to shoot his boss: self-defense; Harvey Keitel (in the Danny Lee role) shoots his boss in Reservoir Dogs for no other reason than to protect Tim Roth, the Chow Yun Fat character. This is what gives Roth’s admission of being a cop so much more power in RD; in City on Fire, it comes off as more of a “by the way” kind of admission. And having Chow die is just plain sad; I remember how bummed out everyone was in the audience.

All that said, it’s still a great movie. Reminds me more of an Italian crime flick than a hardcore Hong Kong actioner, but it’s still a classic.

Joe909’s Rating: 8/10


By Tequila

Oh yes, one of my top five. Which is this at the moment.

– A Better Tomorrow
– The Killer
– Bullet In The Head
– City On Fire
– Insert random good film here

When I saw this, I thought “Ah, that’s what Tarantino stole from then. Should be good.” 5 minutes later I thought “Hmm, no-one said it was THIS brutal.”

I was shocked when, for no apparent reason other than using a phone, a man was stabbed with a large kitchen knife in public. I was even more shocked when a cop got his brains blown out at point blank range for ABSOLUTELY NO OTHER REASON THAN FOR BEING A COP. First things first, however good it is, this film will seem pretty psychotic at first look and you may not be able to take it. I can watch Bullet In The Head over and over, but it won’t shock me any more and there was no sickening jolt the first time but with City On Fire there was because there is just no warning whatsoever.

But that aside, the film was certainly deserving of the highest praise. While the action sequences weren’t at John Woo standard, I wasn’t really expecting much anyway – most of the violence was just in one-off events and really there was only one proper shootout. The scenes were tense though, which is what makes a film like this.

I felt that the acting was very good, but with Chow Yun-Fat in an award winning role I didn’t expect less and Danny Lee is also great in the film as the robber with honour. The support was also good with no real weak link as such.

I won’t talk about the main plot as that has already been touched upon many times, but the subplot of Ko Chow’s relationship with his girlfriend could have been a film on it’s own. It’s certainly better than some subplots, as you actually care about this one.

If you want to see a great movie and you can stomach scenes like the torture of a worker in a robbery (stabbing people’s hands was never so casual) you must see this, but I’m almost persuaded to take a half mark off because I don’t know many women who would want to watch such brutal psychotic violence and they are the only ones interested in Chow Yun Fat’s naked arse. YOU WERE WARNED.

Tequila’s Rating: 10/10, 9.5/10 if you are allergic to the sight of male buttocks.


By Retter

Ringo Lam’s “City On Fire” stars Chow Yun Fat as a cop who goes undercover to infiltrate a group of jewel thieves. While he does this, fellow cops suspect him of being corrupt and his girl-friend considers leaving him. This is a great movie which entertains with a good story and excellent performance instead of action scenes. Chow is at his charismatic best and Danny Lee is also good as one of the jewel thieves.This is one of Ringo Lams best films and I recommend this movie to those wanting a good story rather than Woo style action scenes. This is one of the earliest “heroic bloodshed” films along with the classic “A Better Tomorrow”. I would consider this film to be one of the greatest of it’s genre and I insist you that you check it out soon. This film also inspired the hit U.S film “Reservoir Dogs” which was directed by Quentin Tarantino.

Retter’s Rating: 9/10


By Vic Nguyen

Ringo Lam crafted this superb action drama, which is best known in the west for inspiring Quentin Tarantino’s directorial debut Reservoir Dogs. Chow Yun-fat bagged the best actor trophy for his emotionally charged performance as the undercover cop unsure of his loyalties, while Danny Lee is equally impressive as the honorable thief whom Chow befriends. Lam directs these actors with an incredible sense of pace and visual style, courtesy of cinematographer Andrew Lau Wai-keung. Overall, City on Fire is another masterful Ringo Lam production.

Vic Nguyen’s Rating: 9/10


By David Bell

City on Fire starts out with some guy that tries to make a long distance call after he tells the store owner it’s just a local. He gets knifed by five guys because he didn’t dial 10-10-321. The cops come and ask where Chow Yun Fat is because it’s five minutes into the movie and he’s the star after all. Chow is busy hassling a hot chick in a bar who’s trying hustle some short dude. She tells Chow to beat it so he does. On the guys head with a champagne bottle. The five knife guys, who are all bummed because they were rejected from a Foster Grant commercial, decide to knock over a jewelry store. A few things go bad, like when the leader – who dresses like the guy in the Bazooka Joe comics that wears his turtle neck sweater up to his eye balls – decides to play mumbly peg with the jewelry store manager and misses. When the cops arrive, Bazooka Joe holds them off by firing his .38 revolver into the squad’s windshield, which all good physics and engineering students know will immediately cause the car to explode. That lets the other guys come down and jump into the midget clown car for a get-away After the bad guys get away with three faux pearl necklaces that the owners are claiming are worth over $1 million so they can collect the insurance, Chow tries to do the humpty dance in the shower with the cite chick from the bar. Then he checks out her pits and tells her she’s got more hair than Madonna so he cuts out and goes to see his uncle, the cop from the knifing, and his grandma.

Turn s out ol’ Chow is a cop too, working undercover, and he wants out. But Uncle Cop reminds him he took an oath to uphold the law and he’s got pictures of him with hairy armpit girl, so he better play ball. Chow sells Bazooka Joe some guns and is offered a job with the gang but Chow wants to marry hairy armpit girl instead. Uncle Cop shows the pics to the rest of the station house, who immediately arrest and torture Chow for not buying his girlfriend a Lady Schick. After getting his arms stretched a few feet, Chow decides to keep going undercover and join the gang. Hairy armpit girl goes to Canada with the midget from the bar, but she’s deported to Hawaii until she can find some Nair. Bazooka Joe introduces Chow to the Foster Grant gang’s boss who tells them they can’t leave a two-room apartment until they either pull off another robbery or decide to let the Real World cameras come into the apartment. After a couple of days, the boss tells the gang there will be two facets to the next heist. First, they’ll hit another jewelry store in a part of town that has more cops than a Winchells Donut store. Second, everything they do will be documented for Quentin Tarantino to rip-off later.

The job goes bad when a sales lady tries to give the guys a 14-carat ring after they specifically said 24-carat only, so she gets shot 15-20 times from an 6-shot revolver. The cops come and gack two of the Foster Grant guys plus put a few slugs into Bazooka Joe and Cow before what’s left of the gang splits to a farm house next door to the police academy. The boss arrives and accuses Chow of being a cop, Bazooka Joe says the boss is a doody head and they all pull guns on each other. Just after they say “wouldn’t Tarantino just love this visual,” the cops from the academy open fire and pop the boss and another member of the gang. With just Bazooka Joe and Chow left, Joe tries to escape but Chow tells him he really is a cop and just to prove it, he’ll bleed to death right there. The cops arrest Bazooka Joe and charge him with raising the price of bubble gum right before Uncle Cop tells a young police officer he looks like the bad guy from Karate Kid II, a sequel that didn’t need to be made. So he smacks him on the head with the a brick. Uncle Cop’s boss looks at the young cop suffering brain damage and asks Uncle Cop if he wants to go get some donuts. City on fire was pretty cool, although it seemed to move a little fast in places. Visually, it was a treat.

David Bell’s Rating: 8/10

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Game of Death: Game Over!

Joe Kenney, author of GAME OVER!, signing his book. Joe asked me to have his face covered to hide his identity.

Joe Kenney, author of GAME OVER!, signing his book. Joe asked me to have his face covered to hide his identity.

I had the chance to interview Joe Kenney (author of the Best-Selling “The American Sound”) at a recent book convention in Dallas, Texas. He was there promoting his soon-to-be-released Bruce Lee book, “Game Over.” The book revolves around Bruce Lee’s unfinished film, “Game of Death,” offering new insight about the myths, rumors & facts surrounding the movie.

I was happy to have brought a tape recorder with me, because this guy had a lot of things to say about his book. For fans of Bruce Lee and “Game of Death,” this book is a dream come true.

Joe Kenney was even nice enough to give me a free signed copy of the book and he even gave me permission to reproduce four full chapters (located at the end of this interview). This is a special exclusive for visitors of cityonfire.com… Enjoy!

~ Mike Wilson 3/2007


Mike Wilson: Congratulations on your new book.

Joe Kenney: Thank you.

Mike Wilson: Can you tell us a little about the subject matter in the book?

Joe Kenney: Having kept up with most of the Game of Death rumors and theories over the past 20 years, I just think it was time to settle the score. First, the book will take a look at the various rumors that have surrounded this project. Then it’ll have a recap of what Bruce’s story originally was to have been. Next we’ll compare the Japanese Artport presentation “Bruce Lee in G.O.D.” with the John Little-produced “Warrior’s Journey.” Finally we’ll top it all off with a healthy dose of Bruceploitation!

Mike Wilson: Do you believe more unseen footage exists?

Joe Kenney: Raymond Chow has long been pegged as a hoarder of mysterious footage, but wasn’t all of it sold to Media Asia along with the rest of Golden Harvests’ vaults? Another myth/rumor is that Chow’s keeping this footage under wraps, until the day it’s “worth more.” As any businessman will tell you, you have to sell your product when it’s hot. Bruce Lee material was the hottest in the 1970s, and if Chow didn’t take advantage of the footage then, well, he’s never going to. How old is Chow, anyway? Probably too desiccated to even enjoy anymore cold cash.

Mike Wilson: What about some of these private collectors who claim to have the complete movie?

Joe Kenney: This one’s bizarre. How would these guys have gotten hold of the film? I’ve read the assertion that Raymond Chow sold unknown Bruce footage to private collectors. Again, this is moronic. Chow is a businessman. Why would he sell priceless footage to a ONE-TIME BUYER, when he could make heaps more by releasing the footage to the public, thereby making not only royalties, but sales across the world? Linda Lee might make this mistake (as when she sold her rights to “Enter the Dragon” to Chow), but money-hungry business shark Raymond Chow? Never.

Mike Wilson: Just a general question, are there any floors after Kareem?

Joe Kenney: Unbelievable. These “Marvel Comics” tales of Bruce fighting guardian after guardian, from ninjas to samurais to little green men, even resting for the night in the temple before proceeding upstairs to more challenges, is an insult to both Bruce and his gift for story. Only a few months before commencing GOD, Bruce had completed “Way of the Dragon,” a very simple story that resonated with Chinese audiences. We’re supposed to believe that he was going to follow that up with an over-indulgent, over-long (4 hours! Give me a break!) film that had one fight after another? Sure, Bruce intended GOD to be a film that could be shown outside of Asia, but still, even that doesn’t justify such pretension. Bruce, as a good storyteller, knew that simple stories work the best; he didn’t want to make an art film, he wanted to make, and I quote, “the most fuckingest action motion picture ever.”

Mike Wilson: Okay, but do you think there was more footage than what we seen in Warrior’s Journey/Artport?

Joe Kenney: I believe this myth, as long as what you’re talking about is the outdoor footage Bruce filmed of the pagoda guardians, or outtakes with Dan, Ji Han Jae, and Kareem. I just don’t buy it that the most popular actor in Hong Kong could “secretly” shoot a movie and keep it hidden from not only the public but from the media. Bruce allowed anyone with a camera on his set, as can be witnessed by the amount of behind-the-scenes shots from all of his films. So why haven’t any photos materialized after all of these decades of Bruce on some new pagoda floor, fighting a previously-unknown opponent? Maybe because they don’t exist. But, just to play Devil’s Advocate, it IS very possible that more footage lurks forgotten in Golden Harvest’s vaults. One can’t say that GH sold Media Asia all of its Game of Death footage, because we know the footage Media Asia received was missing both the log sequence and the outdoor fight scenes. So if those two crucial pieces of footage were missing, who’s to say MORE unseen footage doesn’t exist? Again, one can argue that no photos of these missing floors exist, but look at it this way: we only have a few photos of the outdoor scenes, even though 18 minutes of fighting was filmed.

Mike Wilson: What about these photographs of Bruce Lee in the car parking lot?

Joe Kenney: This is a great wish-it-had-happened rumor, but unfortunately no such fight was filmed. The oft-shown images of Bruce, in funky 1970s garb, kicking down a few opponents in a Hong Kong parking lot were taken for a magazine shoot, not for a film. This doesn’t stop GOD rumor-mongers from telling you that these images are really part of an extensive punch-up Bruce filmed; they’ll even tell you the fight was supposed to take place when Bruce’s character arrived in Korea, before heading to the infamous pagoda. It’s just more bullshit. And besides, notice how you’ll only see the same few photos from this parking lot shoot, and you’ve never seen any actual film of it. It’s because only these few photos were taken.

Mike Wilson: Was Game of Death supposed to be a sequel to Way of the Dragon?

Joe Kenney: You’d have to be out of your mind to think that the humble, naive, country-bumpkin Tang Lung of WOTD is the same character as the hip, cool, world-weary character shown in Game of Death. Tang Lung doesn’t speak English. Bruce’s character in GOD speaks it as if it’s his native language. Tang Lung kills only as a last resort, and with much remorse. The GOD character teases Dan Inosanto, and then breaks his neck without a thought. The rumor that Bruce was portraying Tang Lung in Game of Death comes from a book published in 1974 by Verina Glaessner, titled “Cinema of Vengeance.” This same book didn’t even seem to know that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was Bruce’s opponent in GOD; instead, it referred to a tall, black basketball player, not even offering a name. Hardly a good source for reliable information. Yet the rumor-mongers cling to this theory, which to me is probably one of the most bizarre of all of the Game of Death myths. Whoever thinks Bruce is playing the same character in both Way of the Dragon and Game of Death is a very poor judge of (a fictional) character.

Mike Wilson: Would Game of Death feature actors from Bruce’s previous films, reprising their roles?

Joe Kenney: One of my favorite behind-the-scenes photos from GOD is of Bruce and Nora Miao hanging out on the set. But then again, I like just about any photo with Nora Miao in it.

Mike Wilson: That makes both of us!

Joe Kenney: I hear you. Anyway, Nora signed on for GOD shortly before Bruce stopped filming. No one knows what part she would’ve played, but certainly it would not have been the same character she played in Way of the Dragon. Most likely she would’ve played Bruce’s sister, as Bruce’s script outline, shown in Little’s “Bruce Lee: A Warrior’s Journey” book, states that Bruce was to play Hai Tien, a retired martial arts champion who travels to Korea with his sister and little brother. Another rampant rumor is that Whang Ing-Sik, seen in the outdoor footage of the pagoda guardians, was reprising his character from Way of the Dragon. This rumor’s highly unlikely, though, because Whang’s character, you know, fucking DIED in Way of the Dragon.

Mike Wilson: There’s a strange “Game of Death” overtone, about how Raymond Chow had something to do with Bruce Lee’s death?

Joe Kenney: This one doesn’t have so much to do with Game of Death itself, as far as I’m concerned, but for many it does. The theory is that Bruce actually filmed most of the movie, and completed the script, but both have been hidden from the public. Why? Because Chow had Bruce murdered, and used the “Bruce was meeting Betty Ting Pei to work on the screenplay” excuse to cover himself. Hence, if Bruce was meeting Betty to work on the script, then the script couldn’t be finished, so Chow hid it away to further cover his murder. I’ve never believed that Chow had anything to do with Bruce’s death. The general notion is that Chow was worried Bruce would leave him. But look at it this way. Bruce already had a chance to leave Chow, after completing Fist of Fury. But Bruce chose to go back into business with Chow, co-owning Concord with him. This even when he’d received more lucrative offers from others. Bruce had a level of gratitude for Chow; this is not only apparent, but obvious. Chow might have been worried that Bruce would take off to Hollywood, but that squirrelly little man would’ve tried to keep himself in Bruce’s affairs, not have him killed. Murdering Bruce would not have made much sense for Chow, on a personal OR a business level.

Mike Wilson: I’m being a little off topic, but you seem to have a good opinion on things like this. Do you see Bruce as the ‘kung-fu Jesus’?

Joe Kenney: Sure, it’s a bit off-topic, but I’ll address it. The Warrior’s Journey documentary and the Lee Estate want you to believe that Bruce Lee was a living god, incapable of error, and remained faithful to Linda until his dying day. The other side wants you to believe that Bruce was a hash brownie-eating, pimped-out mac daddy who stole his philosophical quips from ancient Chinese authors, and who slept with any desirable woman he met. To tell the truth, I like the latter version better. So I say if Bruce got to fuck the insanely-attractive Nora Miao while also carrying on an affair with Betty Ting Pei, then more power to him! Shit, I’d shake his hand just for that. And notice I’m not even getting into the steroid debate. Though you can’t help but wonder how Bruce, in the late 1960s, so quickly went from a scrawny punk to the muscle-bound athlete seen in his films. Especially when you realize that steroids were legal in Los Angeles when Bruce lived there. (So what we have, then, is a leading man who dresses like a pimp, sleeps around, wolfs down space-cakes, pumps himself up with steroids, spouts New Age nonsense, and has arrogance to spare. I can’t think of a more refreshing hero, especially in these sterile, ultra-conservative, dogmatically Christian days of GW Bush and his ilk.)

Mike Wilson: In your book, you mention something about Bruce’s 28-minute edit, can you tell us a little more.

Joe Kenney: BUY THE BOOK! Just kidding… According to George Lazenby, who claimed to have been given a screening by Bruce himself, Bruce made a 28-minute edit of the film’s ending: Dan, Ji, and Kareem’s floors. So if Bruce’s version was that long, how does it compare to the Warrior’s Journey/Artport edits, which run several minutes longer? Sounds like, if it really did exist, Bruce’s version was a bit tighter than the versions we have today. What did he cut out? And, most importantly, what happened to his edit? And did anyone besides Lazenby see it? And wasn’t Lazenby a total fucking idiot for walking away from the James Bond franchise?

Mike Wilson: What about the log footage?

Joe Kenney: As far as the log footage, I’ve read that someone actually has this (Dan Inosanto, apparently), but if not, the fate of this footage seems pretty clear. Hong Kong filmmakers routinely tossed out film that wasn’t needed, after editing. Some of this footage was of course used in the Robert Clouse-directed Game of Death. Sad to consider, but it was probably thrown into the garbage after being used. However, researcher David Tadman has hinted very strongly that Inosanto does in fact have the missing log footage. But since he’s on the outs with the Lee Estate, who knows when/if it will be released? And also, if Inosanto does have this footage, then why didn’t he give it to Artport for their Bruce Lee in G.O.D. project? After all, Inosanto helped out Artport, even dubbing himself in the footage, whereas he took no part in the Lee Estate-backed Warrior’s Journey. So wouldn’t it have been even more of a slap to the Lee Estate if Inosanto had provided Artport with footage John Little wasn’t privy to? One would think Inosanto would want to slap the Lee Estate as much as possible. Though it’s possible he wasn’t even aware Artport lacked the log footage; he might’ve just assumed it was part of the package they got from Media Asia, and didn’t know until after the fact that it wasn’t included.

Mike Wilson: What about the outdoor footage? (from the documentary, “Bruce Lee The Legend”)

Joe Kenney: How much was shot? Was it part of the movie? Outside of a few documentaries, not much of this has been seen. Who owns the footage? Media Asia? One rumor is that Chow sold the outdoor footage to some Bruce Lee collectors. Again this doesn’t make much sense; why sell to just a few collectors when you can instead sell to thousands? Some claim the outdoor footage was just test film Bruce shot before beginning the movie, but I say it’s probably what it’s always been considered: footage of the pagoda guardians that was intended to be shown to Bruce’s character as part of his “mission briefing.” Perplexingly, Whang Ing-Sik (last seen in Way of the Dragon) appears in this footage, a fact which has lead to uncountable rumors among GOD freaks. According to John Little’s research, Whang was slated to appear as the first-floor guardian in the pagoda, a sequence which was never filmed.

Mike Wilson: The deal with Kareem’s mysterious character?

Joe Kenney: I’ve only seen a few interviews with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar concerning his role in Game of Death, and not a damn one of them has asked a very simple question: What the hell was the deal with Kareem’s demonic-red/lizard-like eyes in the movie? As viewers of Warrior’s Journey know, Bruce gave Kareem’s character fully-red eyes, which were revealed after Bruce kicked off Kareem’s shades. And as viewers of Artport’s Bruce Lee in G.O.D. production and Hong Kong Legends’ Game of Death Platinum DVD release know, Bruce also gave Kareem the slitted eyes of a lizard in an alternate take of this scene. So what’s the story? We get it that Kareem’s Achilles heel was his aversion to sunlight, but why did Bruce have to visualize this by giving Kareem an inhuman touch? Was Kareem a monster of some sort? A genetic experiment gone awry? I’m sure Kareem knows the answer to this; it couldn’t have just been a regular day of shooting for Bruce to have said, “Okay, Kareem, for this next shot you’re gonna need to wear these lizard eye contacts.” Bruce HAD to have given Kareem some explanation for this, and all one needs to do is just ask Kareem what it was. And here’s another thing: Bruce’s notes for GOD (as shown in the Warrior’s Journey book) mention a “Mantis” twice. First in a scene in which Bruce’s character is warned by his sister of someone called “Mantis,” and later, during the fight with Kareem’s character, Bruce wrote a voiceover for himself that begins: “The advantage of Mantis is that he doesn’t fear death.” To avoid confusion, Little removed this reference to “Mantis” in the voiceover he recorded for Warrior’s Journey. But, taken into context with the previous mention in the notes, it would seem that Bruce’s voiceover infers that Kareem’s character was supposed to be named Mantis. Surely, since even the sister of Bruce’s character had heard of him, Mantis had some sort of horrible backstory, but unfortunately what it was we’ll likely never know. But it must be said that Kareem’s inhuman eyes give the GOD project a novel touch. The world’s first kung-fu/horror/sci-fi movie?

Mike Wilson: Why is Bruce Lee’s story for Game of Death so known, even back in the 1970’s?

Joe Kenney: In 1975, before Clouse’s Game of Death or any of the Bruceploitation GOD movies came out, a book titled “Game of Death” was published in Japan. It told the story of a former martial arts champion whose sister and brother were kidnapped, and who was blackmailed into raiding a martial artist-filled pagoda to retrieve a priceless artifact. This book claimed to be based on Bruce’s original story, and John Little’s discovery of Bruce’s outline, twenty years later, pretty much confirms this. So how did the Japanese publishers know Bruce’s story? They even got minor details correct, like Kareem having lizard eyes. Bruce used a Japanese cameraman, Nashinoto Tadashi, for the Game of Death footage. Could he have had anything to do with the leaking of Bruce’s story to the book’s publishers? One must also take into consideration the Bruce Le nightmare Enter the Game of Death, which began filming in the mid 1970s, before halting after legal action was threatened by Linda Lee. The movie was re-shot and finally released in 1980; it features a telling scene in which one of the pagoda guardians turns on a red light, warning Le that “the red light means death.” The guardian’s entire dialog is very similar to the lines Bruce wrote for Ji Han Jae. Another Bruceploitation GOD rip-off, True Game of Death, filmed in 1978, also features “red light” dialog from one of the guardians. So the question is, if Little didn’t discover Bruce’s script notes until the mid 1990s, HOW were these Bruceploitation producers aware of this dialog?

Bruce was changing the story every day. Multiple people on the set of ETD claim that Bruce would spend downtime working on the story for Game of Death. Word is he was constantly toying with it, adding and changing ideas. According to researcher David Tadman, Dan Inosanto has most of Bruce’s notes on GOD, notes which Bruce continued to write until the day he died. Tadman claims that Inosanto’s notes show GOD moving in a totally different direction than the outline shown in Warrior’s Journey, and that parts were written for Lazenby, Bob Wall, etc. George Lazenby’s character, for example, would apparently have been a “spiritual guru” involved in some sort of war, who would “save” Bruce’s character at the end. This is a far cry from the character everyone assumed Lazenby would play: that of the Caucasian fighter who enters the pagoda with Bruce’s character.

The script? This one I can’t decide on. On the one hand, I can see how Bruce would be all right with just shooting from a bare-bones outline; he had experience in directing a movie, and knew what he was doing. But on the other hand, we all know how picky Bruce was about scripts; he even turned down several of Lo Wei’s projects because there were no scripts for them! So it would seem a little hypocritical of Bruce to shoot a movie of his own without a script. I do believe Bruce spent downtime during the filming of Enter the Dragon to work on the script. But did he finish it? Did he in fact change the plot from what is presented in Warrior’s Journey to something completely different? And, if the script was in fact completed, what happened to it?

Mike Wilson: Would Bruce have finished the movie if he had lived?

Joe Kenney: Bruce had his chance to resume filming Game of Death after completing Enter the Dragon. But as most of us know, he had other problems at the time. The last few months of his life, sadly, were not some of the happiest for Bruce. But, had he lived, part of me believes he might have dropped GOD, once he saw the success of ETD. Bruce wanted worldwide fame, and you get that by making blockbusters in Hollywood, not low-budget kung-fu thrillers in Hong Kong. He probably would’ve recycled the philosophical ideas of GOD into something else. Besides, had Bruce completed GOD, there would have been a year-long gap between filming. Keep in mind how drastically Bruce’s body changed during this time. It looked weird enough in ETD, where Bruce was rail-thin in the opening (the last part of the movie to be filmed), and then several pounds heavier throughout the rest of the movie. This would’ve looked even more jarring in a film shot over two years. But on the other hand, if Bruce hadn’t died in July of 1973, it’s possible he might have resumed filming GOD that very month. Once ETD opened to huge success, Bruce might’ve had enough of GOD in the can that it would only have made sense to finish filming it; and also it would be something he could quickly release to capitalize on the success of ETD. In fact it could have been his “farewell” film to Hong Kong; an approach Chow Yun-Fat took decades later, when he made “Peace Hotel” his farewell to Hong Kong filmmaking and then moved on to Hollywood, to star in such artistic blockbusters as “The Corrupter” and “The Replacement Killers.”

Mike Wilson: Why do you think Game of Death holds so much appeal?

Joe Kenney: This one’s simple. It’s all we have left from Bruce. To let it go, to realize that WJ and the Artport production feature all he’s shot, that means we must accept that Bruce is really gone, that there will be no more footage released. A lot of people need something to hang on to. These guys over the years who snidely claim to have seen unknown footage, who throw insults at John Little for marring Bruce’s “real story,” these guys are either children or liars. Not a damn one of them has put forth, after all of this time, one piece of evidence to back their claims. Instead, they hold on to each and every rumor they come across, and then blindly stick to their imaginations, even when people who were part of the production disprove their claims. So, in a desperate effort to link their names in any way possible with Bruce, they claim to own “rare footage” that they’ve somehow acquired. Footage that they won’t show to anyone, of course, because it doesn’t exist. But thing I do share with them is a strange obsession with this movie. I would even say GOD is my favorite of all of Bruce’s films, and it’s for two reasons: 1.) Bruce just looks like one cool motherfucker in that sleek black-and-yellow tracksuit, like a comic book superhero come to life. And 2.) Bruce’s idea for the story is a perfect combination of funky 1970s bell bottom fury (for example, James Tien’s seventies-tastic clothes) and classic kung-fu filmmaking (the pagoda design, Inosanto and Ji’s traditional garb, etc).

Mike Wilson: Would any of us have such an attachment to this movie if Bruce had actually lived to complete it?

Joe Kenney: I doubt it. Because, in its imperfect, unfinished state, it gives us (some moreso than others) something to cling to.

Mike Wilson: One last question. On your book cover, why did you choose a photo of the fake Bruce Lee from the 1978 Game of Death film?

Joe Kenney: Good question. First of all, the Bruce Lee estate is very strict when it comes to using any real photos of Bruce. If there’s two groups of people you don’t want on your tail, those two groups are the Bruce Lee estate and anybody associated with Raymond Chow. The photo I picked actually works well with my book’s general context. If you think about it, the image of that imposter in the jump suit that’s beating the guy up is very symbolic. It’s as if I’m saying “There’s no new Bruce Lee Game of Death footage you fucking fan boys!”

THE END

Mike Wilson is a writer for cityonfire.com. Game Over! author, Joe Kenney, can be reached at jkpublishing@yahoo.com


Game Over Book Cover

Chapter 1: Bruce Lee’s Story for Game of Death

You can read Bruce’s outline/notes for Game of Death in the book “Bruce Lee: A Warrior’s Journey,” written by John Little and published by McGraw-Hill in 2002. But to get to Bruce’s outline, you first must wade through Little’s typically-hyperbolic and hero-worshiping prose (i.e., “Bruce Lee could do a push-up with one finger! Truly he was a god among men!”). I thought I’d save everyone the grief and just give a recap here.

The movie would open with a shot of a reed bending in the wind; this from many statements Bruce made at the time. Then on to a plane just landing in Korea. Bruce is aboard, as Hai Tien, a retired martial arts champion, known as the “Yellow-Faced Tiger” in the West. With Hai Tien are his sister and very young brother. A co-traveler recognizes Hai and asks him about his tournament days. Here we get a promising mention from Bruce of Hai Tien’s “blank face” as he remembers his days as a martial arts champion, fighting in a crazed manner in the ring.

The family heads into the airport, waiting out their stopover. Bruce seems unsure in his outline if the kid wants a cold drink or if Hai Tien wants to look around, but regardless, the family splits up momentarily while in the airport. Soon thereafter Hai is paged on the intercom. He heads to a payphone, and is told that his sister and brother have been taken captive. Instructed to head outside, Hai is escorted by some toughs in a limo. Staying cool throughout, Hai makes light of the situation, just an all-around cocky guy.

They arrive at the palatial estate of the villain behind the plot, an elderly crime lord who wants Bruce to raid a nearby pagoda with a few other martial artists, in order to get the prize at the top. Here I should mention that nowhere in his notes does Bruce say WHAT this prize is. In fact, it seems even Bruce was unsure. Andre Morgan, a Golden Harvest executive at the time, claims that Bruce was elated to stop filming GOD to take up Enter the Dragon, because he could put off trying to figure out what was at the top of the pagoda. Regardless, something of value is up there, and the boss has gathered together a few martial artists to battle through the pagoda levels to attain it for him. Hai Tien is his top fighter, but the boss has assembled these other fighters, who fight for him under their own will:

James Tien: An arrogant street fighter who is the current martial arts champion. He and Hai Tien have an instant rivalry; no doubt worsened when James Tien reveals that it was he who called Hai in the airport, informing him that his brother and sister were abducted. Throughout Bruce’s outline, these two bicker constantly, though it must be admitted some of the dialog Bruce drafted for this is hokey. For example, James Tien at one point tells Bruce’s character: “And by the way, I do not like former martial arts champions.” Well, who does? But still, you could say it in less clunky dialog.

Chieh Yuah: A simple-minded martial artist who rushes into the fray with little thought of the consequences. The destructive member of the team; note it is he who inadvertently causes all of the property damage on Ji Han Jae’s floor. Bruce initially planned to offer this role to Sammo Hung, but gave it to Yuah instead. Yuah died in a car wreck in 1975.

An American Fighter: This part most likely would have been offered to either George Lazenby or Bob Wall. Bruce describes the character only as “practical,” which probably means he takes part in the pagoda raid solely for the money. For years many assumed this would’ve been George Lazenby’s role, but recent research (and interviews with Lazenby) imply that Bruce had something less physical in mind for him. However it’s known that Bruce had a part written for Bob Wall, Bruce’s favorite on-screen punching bag. It’s not a leap of logic to deduct that this part, then, would have been offered to Wall.

A locksmith: This part was for comedic actor Lee Kun. His mission was simply to unlock the pagoda so the others could get inside, and then wait outside for them. Though it’s not stated in the notes, it’s very obvious when you take this into consideration that it’s the locksmith Bruce is likely yelling down to, after defeating Kareem.

A final fighter: Lastly there is a nondescript fighter who apparently takes part in the pagoda raid just because his mother needs surgery, and he plans to pay for it with the cash he’ll get from the crime lord. Not much is said about this character; he’s canon fodder.

After introductions, Hai ensures that his brother and sister are safe. The sister knows what’s going on, but the kid seems to think they’re visiting relatives. Hai plays along by calling the crime boss “Uncle,” and makes sure his sister watches over the kid. Later the crime boss shows the assembled fighters a film of the pagoda, with a rundown of each floor and each guardian. He relates that only one person survived the last raid, and that person is now in a sanitarium. It turns out this survivor was a former student of Hai Tien’s; it was the kicking method Hai Tien taught him that allowed him to survive.

Hai Tien borrows a car from the crime boss and goes to see the survivor; that the boss so easily loans Hai a car irritates James Tien to no end. Bruce writes little of this visit to the insane ward, other than that the survivor would only say “Such strength and agility!” after escaping the fifth floor of the pagoda. Returning to the boss’s place, Bruce again warns the crime lord that his family had better not be injured.

The next day the fighters practice in the yard. Hai Tien’s sister comes out and tearfully warns him about someone called Mantis, most likely referring to Kareem’s character. Hai tells her to watch out for the kid, should anything happen to him. Then Hai tells the kid to be careful, requesting that the kid remember his face. “Why should I?” asks the kid. “I see you every day.” That night after a group dinner, the American fighter takes Hai Tien aside and tells him about “The Game of Death.” Bruce leaves this part vague, unfortunately.

The next morning the fighters gather onto a touring bus, ready to go to the pagoda. Finally Hai Tien arrives, casually strolling onto the bus: “Morning, fellas.” They arrive at the pagoda, and here Bruce finishes his outline by merely writing: “The big fight. An arrest is made. The airport. The end.” The big fight obviously refers to the pagoda raid. I’m assuming the crime lord gets arrested, though Bruce doesn’t detail how this comes about.

However more information about the pagoda raid itself can be found, outside of Bruce’s outline. Bruce illustrated the pagoda, describing who was on each floor. The ground floor was to be guarded by a group of kung-fu fighters, probably 20 or so men. I’m going to guess that one of Hai Tien’s co-fighters was to be killed on this floor, whittling the pagoda-raiders down to 4 (not including the locksmith, who remained outside, per Bruce’s outline).

First floor was to be guarded by Whang Ing-Sik, who would represent a kicking style. A funny thing is that Whang is seen getting his ass kicked in the outdoor footage Bruce shot for GOD; Inosanto and Ji Han Jae mop the dirt with him. This has lead to many rumors and questions. Was Whang being punished for letting a previous pagoda-raider escape? Was he a turncoat? Were they fighting to see who would get which floor, and since Whang lost, he got the bottom? No one knows. And another unsolved mystery is if another of Bruce’s co-fighters was to die on this floor.

Second floor was to be guarded by Taky Kimura, who would represent a wing chun/preying mantis style. This would have been a great level, but unfortunately it was never filmed. What IS known is that, if he didn’t die on the previous floor, the last of Hai Tien’s unknown accomplices was to die on this floor, as only Hai Tien, Chieh Yuah, and James Tien survived to reach the third floor.

We all know the rest, as floors three to five were the only floors Bruce filmed. It’s curious, though. Hai Tien requests Kareem’s character to stand down and let Hai pass up to the final floor. But once Hai kills Kareem, he instead stumbles back downstairs. Did Hai realize there was no point getting the treasure? Was he just exhausted? Did the locksmith instead run upstairs to find it? No one knows.

Lee Kun told Hong Kong reporters a funny anecdote Bruce had apparently shared with him about the end of the pagoda raid: after stumbling down to the bottom floor, the exhausted Hai Tien was to be confronted by a lone, young martial artist. Drawing himself together, Hai was to fix the punk with a menacing glare. The kid was then to stumble back in fear and run away. To this Hai would roll his eyes, and then leave the pagoda. Of course there’s no way to verify if this is something Bruce really intended to do, but it totally sounds like a “Bruce Lee moment,” so I buy it.

As you can see, the majority of the movie was to be fighting. It seems to me that it would’ve been around 90 minutes or so (pretty much standard length for Hong Kong movies at the time), with the first half hour containing the set-up for the pagoda raid, and all of the plot and dialog. I’d say the pagoda raid itself would be a full hour of continuous fighting. I wonder how this would’ve gone over. Bruce’s previous films had featured a lot of fighting, but not an hour of it back-to-back. But what with the amount of planning Bruce put into each of these pagoda levels, I think he really would have let the action speak for itself. So the film would resemble Way of the Dragon in a way: a lot of set-up and dialog in the first half, and nothing but action in the second half.

Chapter 6: A comparison of the Artport/Hong Kong Legends and Warrior’s Journey GOD footage

1. Picture Quality: The picture quality is phenomenal in the Artport/Hong Kong Legends release (hereafter AP/HKL; AP did the original cut of the GOD footage, and HKL purchased it from them to use on their Platinum Game of Death DVD release). AP obviously put some money into cleaning up the film, money that was not at John Little’s disposal when he put together Warrior’s Journey (hereafter referred to as WJ). However, not all is perfect in paradise.

Two things hamper the AP/HKL cut of Game of Death:

1.) In their enthusiasm to show everything Bruce shot for GOD, the folks at AP sometimes forgot important details like cinematic timing and other considerations. For example, reaction shots are held far too long. These were obviously cues for Bruce to use when he later edited the film; cues John Little wisely followed when he edited WJ. Because, even though the picture quality might be cleaned up in the AP/HKL release, WJ is edited more like a “real” movie, more like what Bruce would have released, had he lived; and really, that’s all that matters. Besides, the slightly faded print of WJ gives the production more of a “genuine” feel, like an old kung-fu movie that’s gotten scratchy after years of neglect.

And 2.) AP/HKL is presented in PAL, which I hate. Say what you will about the superior picture quality when compared to NTSC, but PAL runs at 24 frames per second, faster than NTSC. This means actors move too fast. It might not sound like much, but it’s annoying, and makes you feel like you’re watching the Benny Hill Show at times. I’m not sure how people in PAL countries can stand it. In fact, PAL doesn’t just mess up the video, it makes the audio run faster, as well: people who’ve watched nothing but PAL broadcasts of US television shows are usually surprised to hear what the actors’ voices really sound like, when they see the show in its original NTSC format.

2. Dialog: Little had Bruce’s dialog notes for WJ; AP did not. So automatically WJ features the preferable dialog track, however Little dropped the ball on two things:

A.) Since he didn’t have dialog notes for one of Bruce’s lines, Little chose to leave the audio portion silent, with a “dialog missing” legend appearing on-screen. Dumb move. A good lip-reader would’ve easily seen that what Bruce seems to say is, “Do you understand? This sword becomes a whip,” which is what the AP producers have him say.

B.) Little used Jabbar and Ji Han Jae to dub their own voices. I can see why Little did this for the sake of legitimacy, but in reality Bruce would have had local talent dub their voices, with Bruce probably dubbing Jabbar’s voice himself, just as he had dubbed the black gang member’s voice in Way of the Dragon. And on top of this, Jabbar and Jae have little voice-acting talent. Dan Inosanto, however, does a fine job dubbing his own voice in AP/HKL. Bruce is voiced by John Little in WJ and Bey Logan in AP/HKL; both do admirable jobs. But long story short: WJ features the dialog Bruce actually wrote for the movie; for that reason alone it’s preferable to the AP/HKL dub. That being said, it’s interesting to consider the AP/HKL production as an old-school English dub. Remember all those old, dubbed kung-fu films that were incorrectly translated? That’s how the AP/HKL version seems, especially when you factor in how everyone speaks English, whereas WJ features both English and Cantonese. This makes WJ feel like the Hong Kong version of GOD, and AP/HKL like the English-dubbed Western release.

3. Soundtrack: AP/HKL features a sometimes-minimal soundtrack, composed by Tomohiro Endo, that’s made up of electronic drums, tympanis, and synthesizer. Most of the time you don’t even notice it, except for the climactic battle with Kareem, during which we are treated to a hard-rocking version of the theme song from the 1978 Game of Death. For WJ, John Little tried to give the soundtrack more of a traditional feel. Figuring Bruce would’ve retained the services of Joseph Koo, who’d scored Way of the Dragon, Little hired composer Wayne Hawkins to create a Koo-like score. Hawkins’ soundtrack is similar to AP’s at times, especially in its use of drums which complement the action, however Hawkins uses real drums, not a freaking Casio keyboard. Hawkins employs organic, Asian instrumentation throughout, and though his score doesn’t have the impact of AP’s heavy metal remake of the 1978 theme song, it stands out as the more “legitimate” of the two soundtracks. But on a sidenote, I might have liked it even better if either AP/HKL or WJ had gone down a Big Boss route, giving us a soundtrack of swanky lounge and fuzzed-out acid rock.

4. Little Differences: In many instances, AP/HKL and WJ use different takes. This is because Bruce filmed alternate takes for many scenes, though it must be stressed that both productions feature mostly the same material. However, when comparing the two productions, it becomes obvious that the takes Little chose for WJ are inferior across the board. When editing WJ, Little removed many of the little nuances Bruce had inserted into the film, including most of the humor. The AP/HKL production comes off more like an old-school kung-fu movie, then, filled with sometimes-goofy humor and the occasional “weird” moment. Some notable examples:

A.) On the fourth floor, once Chieh Yuah’s gotten his ass handed to him by Ji Han Jae, the camera cuts to Bruce and James Tien, who observe from the sidelines. In WJ, Bruce pretends like he’s about to challenge Ji, but then steps back, hops up on a rail, gestures for Tien to join the fray, and then rolls his eyes when Tien walks away. In the superior AP/HKL take, Bruce does the same, but instead of rolling his eyes, he gives us the patented “Bruce Lee smile,” which not only makes his character all the more arrogant, but is laugh out loud funny to boot.

B.) In WJ, when James Tien first confronts Kareem on the fifth floor, Kareem kicks a sand bag which explodes, and then the camera closes in on Tien’s frightened eyes. The AP/HKL version is the same, however here the burst sand bag swings around and hits James Tien in the back several times. This is a nice touch which Little ignored in his edit; another example of the little nuances that make the AP/HKL version superior.

C.) In WJ, when Kareem is upstairs stomping on the floor after a rolling James Tien, a lot of dust falls on Bruce downstairs; Bruce shrugs it off and looks up in confusion. In the AP/HKL version, less dust falls on Bruce, and he steps back and swings his arm around in it, trying to figure out what it is and where it’s coming from.

D.) Kareem’s strangling of James Tien is much longer in the AP/HKL version. Also, we get to see the infamous “hop” when Kareem tosses Tien, as Tien bounces off the floor and then rolls away; most likely a result of his landing on a hidden trampoline.

E.) In another example of how AP/HKL is more like an old-school kung-fu movie, with little touches of dark humor, Bruce delivers Kareem a super wind-up punch, raising one leg, twirling his arm “Popeye” style, and slamming his fist into Kareem’s face, nearly losing his balance as his foot comes back down.

F.) One thing AP/HKL messes up is the “smashing of the windows” scene, when Bruce discovers Kareem’s weakness. Little edited this perfectly in WJ, with Bruce smashing the windows, then cutting to Kareem as he cowers before the ever-increasing light. AP/HKL first shows the light increasing on Kareem, and THEN Bruce goes over and breaks the windows, thereby ruining the impact of the scene. Instead, all we get is a quick close-up (with sound effect) of Kareem’s anguished face.

G.) When Bruce kicks off Kareem’s sunglasses, Kareem’s eyes are revealed to be completely red in WJ. In AP/HKL, we first see a glimpse of Kareem’s normal eyes; then we get a quick close-up and his eyes become like those of a lizard’s.

5. The Winner Is: Having been a WJ supporter and AP/HKL detractor for years, I recently rewatched both productions back-to-back and was shocked to discover that I enjoyed the AP/HKL version more. As I said, Little cut out many of the nuances in his WJ edit. True, some of the stuff in AP/HKL SHOULD have been edited out, but when this is all we have of the film, why bother? The more footage, the merrier. And the longer scenes in AP/HKL make the fights seem like they’re occurring in real time. For example, Bruce’s stranglehold on Kareem lasts longer in AP/HKL, making his victory more believable. Likewise, the Bruce versus Dan match features extra material, including a very long scene in which the two trade a devastating flurry of nunchaku moves.

WJ also lacks many of the fancy moves and poses Bruce strikes throughout the footage, however AP/HKL features each and every one of them. But most importantly, the quality of the film is fantastic in AP/HKL. Watching the two versions back-to-back really hammers this home. AP/HKL looks like it was filmed last week, whereas WJ looks like the footage has languished in a chicken shack for the past twenty years. I guess Little didn’t have the budget AP did to restore the footage, but still, if this footage was the main thrust of his documentary, wouldn’t it have made sense for Little to have ensured that it looked the best it possibly could? I guess he instead spent his money on scoring it, and hiring the original actors to provide their voices.

6. The “Ultimate” Version of Game of Death: Take the superior-quality AP/HKL production and somehow slow it down a bit to NTSC (if necessary; it might just be that my multiregional DVD player sucks). Overdub with the WJ dialog, save for that of Kareem and Ji Han Jae. For those characters, you and a friend can give your own readings of the WJ dialog. Just be sure to make your delivery over the top in that great, old-school way. Ignore both the WJ and AP/HKL scores and provide your own, using some select titles from musician Peter Thomas (the guy whose music was illegally featured throughout The Big Boss), AP/HKL’s hard rock version of the 1978 GOD theme song (it IS pretty cool, come to think of it), and Track 18 from the bootleg, black rock compilation “Chains & Black Exhaust”(perfect for the climax of the Bruce/Kareem fight). Next, buy an overpriced yellow tracksuit on EBay, import Nora Miao from Canada (where she apparently now lives), call up your old pals Dan Inosanto, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Whang Ing-Sik, Taky Kimura, George Lazenby, James Tien, Ji Han Jae, Lee Kun, and a lookalike for the now-deceased Chieh Yuah, and shoot the portions of the movie Bruce never got to film. Congratulations: you are now a Bruceploitation producer/director/fake Bruce! Don’t worry about any legal repercussions from the Lee Estate; they love it when people misappropriate Bruce’s name and image.

Chapter 7: ArtPort’s Bruce Lee in GOD 2003 Special Edition

In short, save your money.

The 5.1 sound remix: It sucks. You know how those Hong Kong Legends Bruce Lee releases, which are mostly perfect otherwise, feature the boosted-up 5.1 mix which sounds a bit, well, off? Well, the 2003 GOD Special Edition is even worse. When Bruce kicks someone, it sounds like a machine gun backfiring. Every sound is mixed to the max volume, giving the production a surreal tinge. But beyond that, EVERYTHING now has a sound effect. If James Tien scratches his nose in the background, you’ll hear “scritch scritch scritch” on the soundtrack. It’s ridiculous. Also, every time we have a close-up of someone’s face, ArtPort has added a “woosh” sound effect to the soundtrack. Again, ridiculous.

The soundtrack: It’s worse than the original 2000 ArtPort release. It’s still just keyboards and synthesizers, however this time the producers have resuscitated John Barry’s original theme from the 1978 GOD. This plays at the climax of each floor’s fight, but plays in full during the Bruce/Kareem match. This means that the hard rock version, well-known from the 2000 release, is gone. Instead, we get a middling remake of the Barry score, again done on keyboards, with a synthetic orchestra, electronic drums, etc. It not only lacks the rocking punch of the 2000 soundtrack, but it’s just outright terrible to boot.

The recut footage: It isn’t really recut at all. The main difference is, ArtPort has neutered the footage. As stated above, the 2000 ArtPort production had a lot of material not featured in Warrior’s Journey. Well, the Special Edition has lost all of it. It’s like ArtPort went edit crazy, cutting out all kinds of material. The Special Edition no longer features any of the little quirks so apparent in the 2000 release; it’s like the producers realized Warriors Journey was a bit more fluid, and so cut out all of the extraneous material in their own production to match. But the problem is, they did a poor job; the recut footage in the Special Edition comes off awkward and ill-paced. Also, ArtPort has tried to “spice” the footage up by employing slow-motion. It doesn’t work. For example, in the climax of the Bruce/Kareem fight, the jumping kick Bruce delivers to Kareem (which knocks off Kareem’s sunglasses) is here rendered in slow motion. It doesn’t look right. Also, they have now screwed up the first moments of Ji Han Jae’s floor. In this Special Edition, the quick close-up of Bruce and Ji’s eyes are shown BEFORE Bruce steps forward, after James and Chieh have fought, and raises his right hand in challenge to Ji. In the Special Edition, the “eyes” close-up between Bruce and Ji occurs as soon as Bruce, James, and Chieh come up the stairs. This effectively ruins what had been an otherwise perfectly-directed scene by Bruce; one of my favorite moments in the Game of Death footage. But one positive thing – at least in the Special Edition, ArtPort manages to edit the scene correctly in which Bruce breaks out the windows, and THEN we see Kareem cowering in pain. This was a glaring error in the 2000 version, which they have now thankfully fixed. But that’s the only thing; ArtPort got everything else wrong in the Special Edition.

Picture quality: Brace yourself for this. The picture quality is WORSE in the 2003 Special Edition. The film is grainy and spotty, whereas the 2000 ArtPort release looked like it was filmed last week. Why? Did ArtPort fail to properly store the film they’d so lovingly remastered three years before?

All told, the 2003 Special Edition release of Bruce Lee in GOD is a waste of your time and money.

Chapter 8: Exit the Dragon, Enter the True New Games of Death

Part of the joy of Game of Death is all of the GOD rip-offs that were churned out by the Bruceploitation filmmakers in the 1970s and early 1980s. Here is a ranking of the five Bruceploitation GOD rip-offs I know of (you can find a review for each here on City on Fire):

1. Tower of Death (1981): Just an all-around good, old-school kung fu flick, TOD carries on the GOD concept by having Kim Tai Chung infiltrate an underground tower, each level housing a different guardian. Fast-paced action and quality direction and choreography make this one of the best Bruceploitation flicks of all.

2. Game of Death (1978, Robert Clouse-directed version): Generally derided, and for good reason. However it’s saved by featuring the real Bruce Lee in real scenes from his real Game of Death, albeit in butchered form. The story’s lame and the Bruce stand-ins wouldn’t fool a blind bat (and the footage of Bruce’s actual funeral and the infamous cardboard cut-out of Bruce’s face are particularly unforgivable), but really, words can’t express the joy one feels when, after enduring over an hour of pointless storylines with bad actors and fake Bruces, THE REAL BRUCE LEE comes running up those stairs onto Dan Inosanto’s floor. And on a side note, here’s a sad fact: this movie actually fooled people when it was released. They actually thought they were seeing a legitimate Bruce Lee movie, starring Bruce Lee throughout! Just again proves my theory that people in the 1970s were so drug-fried, they didn’t know what the hell was going on. (By the way, Bruce’s tracksuit is orange-yellow in this movie because Clouse darkened the film print, thus resulting in a change in its color from bright yellow to orange. Clouse darkened the film because in his version of GOD, Bruce fights Kareem at night, whereas in Bruce’s version of the movie, the pagoda battle is during the day. That’s right: Clouse even manipulated Bruce’s actual film to fit his whims. And you wonder why Hollywood is so hated.)

3. Enter the Game of Death (1980): A wearying, over-the-top take on Bruce’s GOD concept that’s so action-packed it’s actually boring. I mean really, how many fights did the producers expect viewers to sit through? But one must respect the movie for its moxie. Plus, it takes the level-guardian concept to surreal extremes, having Bruce Le square off against snake-employing guardians and other oddities. And I have always enjoyed how, once Le gets to the top of the pagoda, the object he fought through it for is whisked away, seconds before he arrives, thereby rendering the entire pagoda raid POINTLESS. All he needed to do was wait outside for it!

4. New Game of Death (1975): The first flick to capitalize on GOD, New Game was originally released under the title “Goodbye Bruce Lee.” Back then it was organized like a documentary, even featuring an interview with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and some footage of the real Bruce. But then legal action was threatened, and the movie was recut into its present shape, as New Game of Death. Whatever happened to the missing documentary footage is anyone’s guess. However, the surviving movie itself is pretty damn lame; one of Bruce Li’s first movies, his kung fu skills are nonexistent, and the pagoda fights are boredom personified.

5. True Game of Death (1981): A movie so lame it actually rips off the 1978, Robert Clouse-directed Game of Death! Man, it must’ve been a slow week for the Bruceploitation producers when they came up with this one. Everything about this flick is bad, and it’s barely saved by some old-fashioned, wholesome nudity from an attractive lead actress. I do love the Dan Inosanto clone, though. The guy can’t stop smiling, even when the fake Bruce is kicking his ass!


GAME OVER! will be released to the general public in the summer of 2006. Please click here for information on how to obtain a copy.

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Shaolin Monk Fights Back, The | aka The Wandering Monk (1980) Review

"The Shaolin Monk Fights Back" American DVD Cover

"The Shaolin Monk Fights Back" American DVD Cover

AKA: Roaming Monk
Director: Cheung Wang Gei
Cast: Ching Ching, Choi Wang, Chui Chung Hei, Lee Bing Hung, Lin Hsiao Hu, Yee Yuen
Running Time: 85 min.

By Milkcan

Do not wander into this movie expecting a Kwai Chang Caine. The filmmakers have done a great job at deceiving the audience by using this title, as the movie is barely about a wandering monk, but is instead about a young boy who enlists the help of a monk to seek out revenge against a sinister crime lord who killed his father and kidnapped his mother years ago. The movie tells us that the monk inexplicably wanders once a year, looking for trouble and hoping to get into a fight to teach the bad guys a lesson, but it can be assumed he has some predetermined location in mind due to the quickness of his steps and a look on his face that suggests he’s on an errand. This is also a monk who babbles out philosophical preachings to the child in hopes of enlightening him for the better, but who then contradicts what was previously said the next time he opens his mouth. And not to mention, he also carrys a yellow pouch with a swastika embroidered on it.

Surprisingly, throughout the first half of this film, the scenes play out with a certain calmness not found in previous chopsockies I’ve viewed. This pace is fine at first, but it is soon realized an entire portion of the film was spent on a small gimmick to show us how skilled the monk is. The second half has a more hurried feeling to it, trimming the story down just enough for an 84 minute running time. Even then, “The Wandering Monk” isn’t as unorganized or as sloppy as one would think (It’s not great, either). The filmmakers have also shot for some comedy, giving us a several silly moments here and there that aren’t really that silly. However, the most noticeable and enjoyable quality of this movie are the fight scenes. There is an abundance of combat here between the characters, and the director allows them to fight for as long as it takes until someone gets knocked down. But these extended periods of time do come at a small price- the fighting is not particularly original or inventive. Infact, these scenes are drawn out to such a length, some audience members may become bored with the repetition. They are the type of fight scenes that are good only for one viewing, and they exceed on that level of required attention. The new Venom Mobs’ DVD release includes a “Right to the Fight” feature, in which you can instantly skip to the fight scenes at the click of a button. This movie is meant for this special feature, and if you somehow strangely happen to be holding the disc in your hands- make use of it.

“The Wandering Monk” is not a very fun movie, and I am not going to recommend it. But I will give it credit for it’s pacing, organization, and, although bland, lengthly fight scenes.

Milkcan’s Rating: 7/10

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Warriors Two (1978) Review

"Warriors Two" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Warriors Two" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Director: Sammo Hung
Writer: Sze To On
Producer: Raymond Chow
Cast: Casanova Wong, Leung Kar Yan, Sammo Hung, Fung Hak On, Lee Hoi San, Tiger Yeung Cheng Wu, Dean Shek Tien, Yeung Wai, Lau Kar Wing, Eric Tsang, Billy Chan, Peter Chan Lung, Wellson Chin Sing Wai, Chin Yuet Sang, Chui Miu Hung, Chung Fat, Lam Ching Ying, Meng Hoi
Running Time: 90 min.

By Joe909

Warriors Two is usually discussed alongside its “companion” film, the better-known “Prodigal Son.” Both movies were directed by (and co-star) Sammo Hung, and the same character is featured in each. In “Prodigal Son,” Chang (Yuen Biao’s character) is young and brash, and we see how he learned wing chun. In Warriors Two, however, Chang is an old, wizened teacher, and Leung Kar-Yan portrays him. The odd thing is, “Prodigal Son” was produced 4 years after Warriors Two, so I guess you could qualify it as a prequel. (As Homer Simpson once told Mel Gibson, “Everyone likes prequels!”)

Warriors Two is the more old-school of the two movies, with all of the fantasy elements and superhero kung-fu you’d expect from the genre, something that was missing in the realistic “Prodigal Son.” Warriors Two also has more goofy humor, most of it oddly-placed. This seems to be typical of Sammo’s work, as “Prodigal Son” also featured humor sequences that seemed out of sync with the rest of the film. (Such as the slapstick scene of Sammo doing calligraphy, placed right after a grisly murder). Warriors Two features more of the same, including Sammo and Casanova Wong joking over the corpse of Casanova’s sister.

Fighting-wise, the choreography is as good as you’d expect. I don’t think it’s as intricate or hard-hitting as that in “Prodigal Son,” but the fantasy elements add a nice touch. The final battle is the most memorable. It features a nice selection of colorful villains. There’s a pair of white-bearded, twin swordfighters, a couple stooges, and a Dracula-looking guy who uses a “floating in midair” style. Lots of great martial arts are on display, such as a shot of Casanova doing a super-impressive flying kick over a dinner table.

Warriors Two is another good Gold Harvest production, but I don’t rate it as highly as “Prodigal Son” or Shaw Brothers films from the same era. The fighting is great in it, but the goofy comedy and slapstick drag it down.

Final note: the DVD release sucks. There’s only one release out there, and it’s either from mainland China or Taiwan, because the only language featured is Mandarin. Luckily, English subtitles are included, but the menu options are all written in Chinese. The picture quality is nice, but the sound quality of the dialog is terrible, as there’s a terrible echo on all of the voices. It sounds like the voice dubbers recorded their parts in an empty theater. But still, this seems to be the only DVD release available, so if you want to watch the movie, it’s either this or a bootleg of a dubbed, pan-and-scanned, old video.

Joe909’s Rating: 7/10

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Matching Escort | aka Wolfen Ninja (1982) Review

"Matching Escort" American DVD Cover

"Matching Escort" American DVD Cover

AKA: Wolf Devil Woman 2, Venus the Ninja
Director: Pearl Chang Ling
Cast: Pearl Chang Ling, Meng Fei, Wong Hap, Peng Kang, Sek Fung, Chui Chung Hei, Chan Gwan Biu, Ho Hing Nam, Chai Hau Keung, Philip So Yuen Fung, Wong Kwok Fai
Running Time: 94 min.

By Milkcan

“Matching Escort” is one part a comedy, one part a revenge story, and one part about teamwork (and on the side there is a hint of romance). Keeping this in mind, as well as the overall history of these type of low budget movies, it amazingly stays focused and holds up well through the end. The princess of a respected emperor witnesses her father’s murder at the hands of an enemy vying for complete power of the land. She escapes death and, as time goes by, befriends an elderly man who teaches her in the ways of martial arts, preparing her for a showdown with the father’s murderer. This princess character is played by an actress by the name of Pearl Cheung. I haven’t seen a movie with her starring in it before, but I would most definitely now like to view more of her work. Her facial features, her body movements, the way she rolls her eyes and makes faces- this is an actress meant for physical comedy. I thoroughly enjoyed Cheung’s performance, and it was the saving grace of this movie.

Now, the comedy here is not brilliant or very funny. It is the type of comedy that stirs laughter amongst children, and has that absurd quality that can be found in a lot of anime shows. But it was Cheung’s performance that did make me smile several times. This comedy remains in the film throughout the first half, and occasionally will reappear later on, except in those scenes it is brought on by a different character: as a side story, a mysterious young warrior and his servant happen to appear everywhere at the right moments, and the servant is one of those dim-witted, slapstick kinda guys (although this setup doesn’t hinder the film, these two characters could have been avoided at no cost). By the time Cheung’s character learns how to fight, the movie plunges deep into bloodshed and revenge. Taking place mainly during the night hours, the killing scenes are well done and brought on by Cheung with a certain confident, cold-blooded feeling. She moves with the speed and flexibility of a Japanese samurai, drawing the blade, slicing, and retreating it back quickly. The fight scenes consist of a good deal of jumping and leaping, characters who cough up and spew blood, severed limbs, and interesting camera tricks that make characters seem as if they move at the speed of light. Even now, Pearl Cheung convincingly plays the part with a great seriousness and dark tone.

“Matching Escort” may not be the best the genre has to offer, and it may have hilariously silly sets and props, but it was made an enjoyable experience thanks to the exuberant and lovable Pearl Cheung.

Milkcan’s Rating: 8/10

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Lead guitarist of super rock group ‘Flight Crew’ loses fingers

Flight Crew's 1975 Album "Born To Rock"

Flight Crew's 1975 Album "Born To Rock"

Mob boss Steiner once said: “You know, I once knew a super rock group in London. Called themselves the Flight Crew. Had brilliant potential. Brilliant. Yeah, but they were very stubborn. Their lead guitarist Iost a couple offingers one night.”

In 1978, Steiner was found dead on the fourth story of the famous Red Pepper Restaurant in Hong Kong. Now, we’ll never know if Steiner’s organization was responsible for the deforming the lead guitarist’s hand.

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