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  Hell's Wind Staff, The Nothing is invincible, Tiger
Year: 1979
Director: Lu Chin Ku, Tony Wong Yuk-Long
Stars: Meng Yuen-Man, Meng Hoi, Hwang Jang-Lee, Jason Pai Piao, Lau Hok-Nin, Yip Fei-Yang, Kwan Yung-Moon, Wang Han-Chen, Hsu Hsia, Tai San, Lee Chun-Wa, Wong Mei
Genre: Comedy, Action, Martial ArtsBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Tiger Wang (Meng Yuen-Man) and Stone Dragon (Meng Hoi) are a couple of irrepressible kung fu rascals who don’t take their martial arts studies seriously. To that end Master Wang (Lau Hok-Nin), lures street hustling kung fu master Ching (Jason Pai Piao) away from his day job as a human whack-a-mole (!) to try to get his son Tiger to knuckle down and study hard. At first Tiger does not take kindly to this but when his frankly murderous pranks (which include poisoning coffee and planting a deadly snake in the bedroom!) prove useless against badass Master Ching, he reluctantly resumes his studies. Yet shortly thereafter one-eyed rapist Tiao Erh (Yip Fei-Yang) returns home looking for revenge on his uncle Master Wong. He and his new teacher Lu Shan Tu (Hwang Jang-Lee) wreak tragedy on our heroes' lives as the latter’s unstoppable mastery of the legendary Hell's Wind Staff drives them to seek some way to combat this lethal kung fu technique.

The Hell's Wind Staff was the first film adaptation of co-director Tony Wong Yuk-Long's seminal Hong Kong comic book or manhua. Originally titled Little Rascals then later rechristened Oriental Heroes the comic was hugely popular with children but criticized for its extreme violence. Tony Wong eventually replaced the graphic gore with energy beams and other effects more palatable to concerned parents. Much like Stan Lee with Marvel in the U.S.A. success in the comic book field enabled Tony Wong to become a business tycoon and major media personality, hosting his own TV talk show. Even his 1991 conviction and jail stint for corporate fraud did not dim his celebrity. Upon his release from prison Wong created a new publishing company, altered his hitherto cartoony art style to match the realism of Nineties superstar artist Ma Wing-shing (creator of Storm Riders and A Man Called Hero), drew Batman for DC Comics and eventually cameoed in the second adaptation of his comic: the enjoyable Dragon Tiger Gate (2006).

By comparison with that super-slick, stylized, Donnie Yen-starring action fantasy this earlier take is a much more stripped down, basic kung fu comedy heavily influenced by the early Jackie Chan crowd-pleasers Drunken Master and Snake in the Eagle's Shadow (both 1978). It not only features the same villain in Korean martial arts legend Hwang Jang-Lee but similar gags, elaborate slapstick fu routines and the same extreme training regime for its clownish heroes who even sport the same shaggy haircut as Jackie Chan! While very much of its time the film is none the worse for that. Co-director Lu Chin Ku had greater resources at his disposal for his later run of highly imaginative Shaw Brothers films (including Ambitious Kung Fu Girl (1981), The Lady Assassin (1982), Bastard Swordsman (1983) and Holy Flame of the Martial World (1983)) but whatever shortcomings evident in production value and the paper thin plot are compensated for in the astounding physical dexterity of its ensemble cast. The acrobatic prowess exhibited by Meng Yuen-Man, Meng Hoi, Jason Pai Piao and the ferocious Hwang Jang-Lee is nothing short of jaw-dropping with the near-twenty minute showdown a visceral highpoint. Theme music stolen from, of all things, Jesus of Nazareth (1977)!

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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