films seen
12/17
average score
2.50*
nationality
China - 64 years old
status
R.I.P. (1932 - 1997)
more info

Legendary martial arts director who is often seen as the founder of the genre. He never delivered the best martial arts scenes, but the overall quality of his films exceeded that of his contemporaries. Hu's oeuvre is a must for martial arts fans.

Solid pieces

Painted Skin

by King Hu
Hua Pi Zhi: Yin Yang Fa Wang
1993 / 94m - China
Fantasy, Horror
3.5*/5.0*
Painted Skin poster

Swordsman

Xiaoao Jiang Hu
1990 / 120m - Hong Kong
Action
3.5*/5.0*
Swordsman poster

The first Swordman film marks the start of a classic martial arts trilogy. Maybe it's not quite as famous in the West, but if you like martial arts this is a very easy recommendation. Not that big of a surprise when you know the film combines the talents of King Hu, Hark Tsui, and Siu-Tung Ching, some of Hong Kong's greatest and biggest action directors.

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The plot is quite intricate and detailed, but at its core, it is really very easy to follow. An important document is stolen from the Imperial Library. The guards are fired right away and the emperor employs the services of Ling to retrieve the document. Ling accepts his mission, but he isn't the only one looking to get his hands on the stolen pages.

Swordsman is a fun blend of the old and the new. On the one hand, it's easy to see the Shaw Bros legacy, but you can also find clear indications of what 90s HK martial arts would grow into. The action scenes are on point and the plot is solid, it's just that the runtime is quite long and the pacing a little lacking. Good fun though, and essential viewing before watching the two sequels.

The inoffensive

Legend of the Mountain

by King Hu
Shan Zhong Zhuan Qi
1979 / 192m - Taiwan
Fantasy, Mystery
3.0*/5.0*
Legend of the Mountain poster

A fine King Hu film with some surprising fantasy elements. It's clear that he was a better director than his Shaw Bros pals, his film aren't really in the same league as theirs, sadly they're not that good that they warrant a 3-hour running time. It's a shame, because if you would cut a full hour out of this one, you'd probably end up with a much better film.

Raining in the Mountain

by King Hu
Kong Shan Ling Yu
1979 / 120m - Taiwan
Action
3.0*/5.0*
Raining in the Mountain poster

Another solid King Hu film. Like most of his films, quite low on actual martial arts, with more attention given to the plot and surroundings. The pacing is a little slow and I wouldn't have minded a slightly shorter version, but visually it's well beyond the competition and the story is nice enough to follow. Good stuff.

A Touch of Zen

by King Hu
Xia Nu
1971 / 200m - Taiwan
Action, Adventure
3.0*/5.0*
A Touch of Zen poster

Probably King Hu's most famed martial arts classic, rightfully so. While the film fails as a core action film, the setting and camera work make for some truly stunning moments. Three hours is crazy though and it does drag in places, but the bamboo scene alone makes it worth your time.

Worthy but flawed

The Valiant Ones

by King Hu
Zhong Lie Tu
1975 / 102m - Taiwan
Action
2.5*/5.0*
The Valiant Ones poster

A more action-focused King Hu film. It's nice to see him do a straight-up martial arts flick for a change, though it does highlight why directors like Cheh Chang took over the genre. Still, the attractive setting (not filmed in a studio) and some pretty solid action scenes makes sure that boredom never set in.

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The Ming dynasty is dealing with a Chinese-Japanese pirate problem on its south coast. They are hard to battle, and regular military attacks are expensive and inefficient, so they send Yu Dayou, a tactical mastermind, to solve their problem. He quickly discovers that one of the Chinese officials is accepting bribes from the pirates.

It's always nice to see a film like this shot on location, Hu is also very capable capturing these lovely settings. Performances aren't too great, luckily there isn't too much drama or narrative. The fight choreography isn't the best either, though the editing is nice and punchy and the short runtime keeps things nice and tight. A solid Hu.

Dragon Inn

by King Hu
Long Men Kezhan
1967 / 111m - Taiwan
Action, Adventure
2.5*/5.0*
Dragon Inn poster

Dubious filler

All the King's Men

by King Hu
Tian Xia Di Yi
1983 / 100m - Taiwan
Drama
2.0*/5.0*
All the King's Men poster

A rather disappointing film from King Hu. I've been enjoying his later work, so I was quite hopeful when I sat down to watch this film. I didn't really expect a somewhat lengthy and rowdy mix of drama and farce set in the imperial court, but that's exactly what this is. And it turns out that's not really Hu's strong point.

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The emperor is quite ill and his treatment isn't really working out for him. They're suspecting that the medicine he's been getting isn't doing much for his illness. Luckily he has heard of a famed doctor who lives in a nearby kingdom, but getting to him will prove a lot harder than imagined.

The premise is simple, but the actual story is pretty complex, with characters having to jump through plenty of hoops to get everything done. It's also quite lively and loud, which usually doesn't work in favor of Chinese comedies. The cinematography is decent enough, but the comedy is poor and the film started to drag during the second half.

Sons of the Good Earth

by King Hu
Da Di Er Nu
1965 / 107m - Hong Kong
Drama, Action
2.0*/5.0*
Sons of the Good Earth poster

Early King Hu film that wasn't quite what I expected. Don't watch this for the serene/ethereal martial arts vibes, what starts off as a somewhat tepid drama ends up being a precursor of John Woo's heroic bloodshed cinema. That's quite something for a Shaw Bros film from the mid-60s.

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Ju Rui and Lao San are two painters who run into Hua, a woman employed by a local brothel. They decide to help her out, but the Japanese occupation of their village isn't making things easy for them. As the oppression of the Japanese invaders grows stronger, Ju and Lao will be forced to make a stand for their country.

Hu's clean style is already clear, but the first hour feels a little basic. There's a strong narrative focus and not much else, which makes it a tad dull. The heavy firearms in the action-packed finale make for a big tonal shift. While entertaining, it turns out that it's not really Hu's strong suit either, so it's no surprise he'd fare better as a martial arts directors in the rest of his career. Sons of the Good Earth is an interesting entry in Hu's oeuvre, but it's far from his best film.

The Story of Sue San

by King Hu
Yu Tang Chun
1964 / 107m - Hong Kong
Romance, Musical
2.0*/5.0*
The Story of Sue San poster

King Hu's first film is a romantic drama with strong musical influences, made for the Shaw Bros studios. Because of that, it's somewhat of an outlier in his oeuvre, but people familiar with his work are sure to recognize Hu's tranquil directorial style. That at least made it an interesting watch.

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The film revolves around Chin-Lung Wang, the son of a wealthy minister, who falls in love with Sue San, a prostitute. As their relationship grows stronger, Wang wants to buy off Sue San's deb. When he informs his father of his plan, he disowns Wang right away. Wang won't give up though and looks for other ways to get the money.

The plot is pretty basic, the musical elements are woven through the film and pop up once in a while to hold up the plot. Luckily the cinematography is above average and the pacing is solid. I don't think I'll ever become a fan of Chinese operas, but from all the early Shaw Bros musicals I've seen so far this was definitely one of the better ones.

Plain forgettable

The Fate of Lee Khan

by King Hu
Ying Chun Ge Zhi Fengbo
1973 / 105m - Taiwan
Action
1.5*/5.0*
The Fate of Lee Khan poster

A lesser entry in King Hu's oeuvre. It's clear by now that he loves remote inns, but without some decent fight choreography and with a strong focus on a storyline that fails to excite, it takes way too long to get going. It's all a little disappointing, especially since Hu has some decent entries in his oeuvre that predate this one by several years.

Come Drink with Me

by King Hu
Da Zui Xia
1966 / 95m - Hong Kong
Action, Crime
1.5*/5.0*
Come Drink with Me poster