films seen
average score
Alive and kicking


The Chinese Ghostbuster

by Wu Ma
Zhong Kui Jia Mei
1994 / 88m - Hong Kong
Fantasy, Horror
The Chinese Ghostbuster poster

Wu Ma doing some ghostbuster filler. No reference to the Western Ghostbusters mind, but a take on the Chinese vampire hunter niche that was pretty hot back then (though already running on its last legs). It's a very simple film that recycles familiar concepts and faces, but because it was made in '94, the base quality is still pretty high for random filler.

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The story is basic, but that's not much of a surprise. A father is looking for a suitable groom for his daughter. To find one, they need to escape from the spirit world first. They do and find someone with potential, but haunting him doesn't seem to have the required effect. To make things worse, their target hires a priest to get rid of them.

Wu Ma isn't the greatest director, but he can fall back on a well-oiled machine to give his film some extra flair, and his performances are always very spirited. This one isn't up there with the best in the genre, but it's swift and entertaining filler that checks all the boxes. If you're looking for something light and short, The Chinese Ghostbuster won't disappoint.

Fox Legend

by Wu Ma
Ling Hu
1990 / 80m - Hong Kong
Fantasy, Action
Fox Legend poster

Fox lore is crazy popular in Chinese cinema right now, so it's no surprise older films that fit the criteria are seeing some newfound attention. Wu Ma made this little shelf filler more than 30 years ago, and while it's not as good as some of its more notorious peers, it's well worth checking out for people who love a dose of 90s martial arts/fantasy.

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A young boy rescues a young fox from its cage. The fox was caught by the Hunt King, who tracks down mythical creatures and keeps them separated from humans. The fox is grateful, but she loses track of the boy, it's only years later that they will meet up again. The fox's mother isn't too happy when she finds out one of her cubs has developed a fondness for a human.

The forbidden love between humans and demons is a common theme in these fantastical films, it's also the perfect excuse to mix, fantasy, action, and romance, so who am I to complain? The execution is solid, not up there with the best, but still way better than could be expected from mere filler like this. A pretty cool find, certainly if you've already seen all the big films in the genre.

Just Heroes

Yi Dan Qun Ying
1989 / 97m - Hong Kong
Drama, Action, Crime
Just Heroes poster

The Dead and the Deadly

by Wu Ma
Ren Xia Ren
1982 / 99m - Hong Kong
Comedy, Action, Horror
The Dead and the Deadly poster

Pretty much what you'd expect based on the era, the place, and the people involved. Wu Ma and Sammo Hung add a bit more focus on the action, the horror elements are never scary but more plot-based, and the comedy is cheesy but fun in its own right. It's all pretty amusing, but far from great.

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In order to get this hands on an inheritance, Lucho fakes his own death. His friend can't believe Lucho is gone and starts an investigation, getting a little too close to the truth. Trying to keep him from finding out what really happened, Lucho dies for real and ends up haunting his friend as a ghost.

Hung and Ma are funny, the martial arts scenes are decent enough (but nothing out of the ordinary) and the horror is pretty bland though it gets pretty over-the-top as the plot continues. If you've seen a couple of these films you should know what to expect, it's not a stand-out, but good fun regardless.

All Men Are Brothers

Dong Kai Ji
1975 / 101m - Hong Kong
All Men Are Brothers poster

A direct sequel to The Water Margin, a film I haven't seen yet. While I do my best to watch film franchises in the correct order, availability is somewhat of an issue with Chang's Shaw Bros output. And since most of his films are pretty basic martial arts stories anyway, I figured it wouldn't hurt much to go ahead and watch All Men Are Brothers. Turns out I was right.

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A bunch of rebels are holed up in a fortified base. The emperor has sent his best men to break through their defenses, but this turns out to be quite a bit harder than expected. The rebels even manage to capture some heroes, the others devise a plan to attack the base from the inside.

There's a bunch of familiar Shaw Bros faces here, the film is pretty action-packed, and it's nice to see Chang shot quite a bit on location. In the end though, it's just another typical Shaw Bros/Chang production that doesn't do quite enough to set itself apart from the rest. Not a bad film, but not really a standout either.

Deaf Mute Heroin

by Wu Ma
Long Ya Jian
1971 / 84m - Hong Kong
Drama, Action
Deaf Mute Heroin poster

70s girl power. A remarkably fun and creative martial arts film with a female lead that kicks some serious ass. The fight choreography is original and effective, the rest of the film is solid but basic martial arts fare. This is clearly fans-only material, but seeing how obscure this film is, it's a pretty cool find nonetheless.

The New Shaolin Boxers

Cai Li Fa Xiao Zi
1976 / 96m - Hong Kong
The New Shaolin Boxers poster

It's a mix of the old and the new, but ultimately little more than basic Cheh Chang filler. The training sequences really feel like classic Chang, but the setting is a bit more modern. Not exactly contemporary, but clearly not the rural, historical setting we usually see in the Shaw Bros films.

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There's plenty of martial arts action in New Shaolin Boxers, which is always a plus. The synchronized training sequences in particular jump out, but the fights themselves are nicely choreographed too. Add to that some familiar faces and most Cheng/Shaw Bros fans will have plenty to look forward to.

The romance and bits of drama in between though are of much lower quality, and slow the film down. Like many of Chang's films, the middle part drags a little, luckily it's a short film and it doesn't take too long before the finale kicks in. A pretty typical Cheh Chang film in other words, not bad, but not all that remarkable either.

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.