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Friday, March 18, 2016

KUNG FU TRAILERS OF FURY -- Blu-ray Review by Porfle



My first two kung fu movies consisted of a double feature of super-cheap, super-obscure flicks at my local cinema one night back in the early 70s.  The titles have long receded into the sodden recesses of my memory but I wouldn't be surprised if their trailers appear somewhere on this disc. 

For fans of Hong Kong chop-socky cinema, Severin Films' KUNG FU TRAILERS OF FURY doesn't disappoint.  I mean, how could they mess up something as simple as a collection of kick-ass martial arts movie trailers?

This baby is wall-to-wall chops, socks, kicks, flips, bad subtitles, insane wirework, and general weirdness of a kind that can only be found in the wildest and most creative examples of the martial arts genre. 


These newly-rediscovered trailers give us an overview of the early Hong Kong action films, whether contemporary crime dramas or the period mini-epics that mix fanciful Chinese historical atmosphere with furious kung fu action.

Many of them are part of the "Bruce-ploitation" wave of films that followed the death of superstar Bruce Lee, who helped popularize such films in the West, by cashing in on his image and offering a series of clone versions such as Bruce Li, Bruce Le, Dragon Lee, and Bruce Leung.  

We also get to see Jackie Chan and Chuck Norris in some of their early screen moments, as well as the young Sammo Hung who played up his "weighty" stature in such films as ENTER THE FAT DRAGON. 


Since the majority of these films were churned out like sausage, they're cheap, quick, and usually a lot of bad-movie fun with some amazing martial arts on display.  Given the rushed schedules on these films, much of the fight choreography is amazing.   

Their frenetic trailers are an interesting montage of the evolution of the genre, how it became Hong Kong's equivalent of the matinee western, how it came to capture the imaginations first of a country and then an entire world, and how it was eventually refined into something of an art form in itself.

To keep us abreast of who's who during this dizzying parade of film highlights, the disc offers an informative commentary track by experts Ric Meyers (author of "Films of Fury"), Michael Worth (author of "The Bruceploitation Bible"), Martial Arts Instructor Greg Schiller, and Rick Stelow of Drunken Master Video.


I was going to watch the film first and then watch it again with the commentary, but soon realized that since I can't understand anything the actors are saying and it's all subtitled anyway, I might as well just put on the commentary track to begin with. 

This turned out great since Rick and company are fountains of knowledge and enthusiasm for these films and to hear them discuss the trailers as we watch gives a whole new level of appreciation for them.   (I especially enjoyed hearing about the first meeting between Bruce Lee and Sammo Hung.)

The Blu-ray from Severin Films also contains the featurettes "A Brief History of Kung Fu Cinema" with Meyers and fellow expert Frank Djeng, and "The Way of the Cube", the story of a UK cinema devoted to showing martial arts films (where the original 35mm trailers were rediscovered).


Some of the trailers included in this collection are: THE WAY OF THE DRAGON, FISTS OF BRUCE LEE, KUNG FU VS. YOGA, DEATH BLOW, TWO CHAMPIONS OF SHAOLIN, DAGGERS 8, SNAKE IN THE EAGLE’S SHADOW, SHAOLIN WOODEN MEN, THE DAMNED, THE STORY OF DRUNKEN MASTER, ENTER THE FAT DRAGON, and BRUTAL BOXER.

While the Blu-ray's picture quality is fine, the trailers themselves still retain their aged "grindhouse" look, just the way you might've seen them on the big screen way back when.  For me, this is a nostalgic plus.

KUNG FU TRAILERS OF FURY is non-stop kung fu action without plots or dialogue scenes to get in the way--just a potpourri of freaky, frenetic, and often dazzling kung fu filmmaking that's done on the cheap but with lots of skill and, more importantly, lots of heart.

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