films seen
average score
China - 88 years old
Alive and kicking
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The Delightful Forest

Kuai Huo Lin
1972 / 93m - Hong Kong
The Delightful Forest poster

The by then typical Shaw Bros/Cheh Chang formula in full effect, only executed well enough to make this an enjoyable film. It's been a while since I watched a Shaw Bros feature, that always helps. Since their films are so much alike, watching many of them in close succession always leads to saturation.

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This film revolves around Wu Sung, a sword fighter who is exiled after he was found guilty of murdering his adulterous sister-in-law. When he arrives at the prison camp one of the guards decides to cut him some slack. When the guard get swindled by a local brute a little later, Wu Sung wants to return the favor.

The film is a bit bloodier than usual, it's always nice when the action is shot on location and there are some fun action choreographies, other than that this was a pretty regular Cheh Chang martial arts flick. Revenge is the keyword, the cast feels familiar and the pacing is solid. Generic but fun.

The Iron Bodyguard

Da Dao Wang Wu
1973 / 94m - Hong Kong
Action, Adventure
The Iron Bodyguard poster

A middle of the road Cheh Chang film. The man has made so many films in such a short span of time, all within the same genre, that some of them are inevitably forgettable. The Iron Bodyguard is one of such films. Not that it's particularly bad or disappointing, it just doesn't excel at anything in particular.

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Tan is trying to fight the corruption in the Chinese government, but they are on to him and manage to arrest him before he can do any real damage. Right before his arrest, Tan did get Wang on board, a skilled martial artist who will do his very best to keep Tan from becoming a martyr.

The Iron Bodyguard is a film with a slightly stronger focus on the narrative. There are still the usual Shaw Bros fights, but they are fewer and shorter. The story isn't all that exciting though and performances don't really stand out either. It's decent enough when you're pining for some Shaw Bros action, but only when you've seen all of their more prominent films.

Man of Iron

Chou Lian Huan
1972 / 99m - Hong Kong
Man of Iron poster

Cheh Chang filler, though he got a little help from Hsueh Li Pao this time around. The plot is situated in a slightly more modern setting (at least, compared to most other Shaw Bros martial arts films), which usually doesn't pan out too well. But the film stays clear from too obvious contemporary influences, so it doesn't come off all that outdated.

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Man of Iron is a sequel to The Boxer From Shantung, with Shaw Bros legend Kuan Tai Chen reprising the role of Wan. Wan has amassed a large group of followers, but he isn't the only bad boy in Shanghai. It doesn't take too long before he butts heads with some of the more established gangs. And they're not too happy with this new kid on the block.

The plot isn't too interesting, the film also takes a little too long to get going. The martial arts is decent, but not the best Chang has put on screen. But he compensates with plenty of martial arts scenes in the second half of the film. It gets a lot better from there on out, though I still wouldn't recommend this film unless you're dedicated to completing Chang's entire oeuvre.

The Water Margin

Shui Hu Zhuan
1972 / 125m - Hong Kong
The Water Margin poster

A pretty run-of-the-mill Shaw Bros production, based off of one of the more epic novels in Chinese history. Cheh Chang's The Water Margin handles only a small part of the story, but as someone unfamiliar with its plot, characters and cultural importance, this could've just been any random Shaw Bros flick.

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The Water Margin tells the epic story of 108 unique fighters banding together to battle the corrupt government, this film zooms in on the plan to kill the Liang Shan clan by hiring Golden Spear. When they hear of the plan, they go look for Jade Dragon, an equally skilled warrior, and the only one with a fighting chance to stop Golden Spear.

It's not a bad film, but these Shaw Bros productions are rarely good enough to support a 2-hour runtime. It's nice that Chang moved his camera out of the studio and there are some pretty solid fight scenes, but there's also too much filler and dead moments. Core Shaw Bros fans won't be too disappointed, but I'd hoped for something a bit more exciting.

The Pirate

Da Hai Dao
1973 / 92m - Hong Kong
The Pirate poster

Cheh Chang and pirates. Apart from a short introduction and some scenes on the beach, it's not that different from other Shaw Bros productions, and the whole pirate angle adds very little. I'd expected a slightly more unique film, but it's clear that deviating from the norm wasn't as easy as it seemed. This is just basic Shaw Bros fluff.

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We're following a capable but fair pirate here. Though he steals at sea, he also protects people who are in need. When his crew has to go on land to repair the ship, they find a little fishing community that's being oppressed by a local gang. Our hero sides with the fishermen and stands up to the gang on their behalf.

There are some decent martial arts scenes, the scenes on locations are pretty cool (no studio-fake sea) and the ending has somewhat of a twist, but it's not enough to give the film a real swashbuckler feel. The whole pirate setup feels a little forced and poorly executed, which is a shame as there was some potential there.

Boxer from Shantung

Ma Yong Zhen
1972 / 94m - Hong Kong
Action, Crime
Boxer from Shantung poster

A Shaw Bros martial art film in a slightly more modern setting. It may sound like a minor detail, but since so many of their projects are historic action films, it does come off quite different. It's no revenge flick either, but a zero-to-hero story about two competing fighters. Sadly, the changes here aren't necessarily for the better.

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Two young fighters make a name for themselves fighting against and beating some of Shanghai's most renowned fighters. The two seem to be doing well for themselves, but one of the biggest gangs in town is only interested in recruiting Cheng. This starts a rivalry between the two, making their rise to the top quite a bit more challenging.

At 120 minutes long, there is simply too much cruft here. The great martial arts choreographies are saved until the very end (which takes longer than usual) and the more contemporary setting feels a bit awkward with Chang in the director chair. Not a very remarkable film, even though it did garner quite a reputation. The finale is pretty cool, other than that I was left somewhat disappointed.

Naval Commandos

Hai Jun Tu Ji Dui
1977 / 112m - Hong Kong
Action, War
Naval Commandos poster

Not Cheh Chang's finest moment, but that was already obvious from the start of the film. When Chang strays from martial art cinema, it rarely goes well. To make things a little worse he entered a collaboration with two other Shaw Bros directors to direct a patriotic Chinese war flick, not unlike the ones we've been seeing these past couple of years.

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At the start of the Sino-Japanese war, a crew is sent out to stop a big Japanese warship from making inroads. Their mission is doomed to fail, but the crew is extremely determined to pull it off. Even when their ship is destroyed, they keep advancing by land, avoiding all enemy troops to get the job done.

There are some familiar faces here, but when there are no fists flying, most of the famous Shaw Bros actors can't really deliver. There's way too much drama, the cinematography is basic and it takes too long for the action to kick off. It's something different from Chang, but that's about all it is.