ActionFest got the second ever screening of the movie based on Hong Kong movie expert Ric Meyers’ book, and it’s a different cut than the first. Still a work print, Meyers solicited feedback at the screening. Even if this is the final version, it’s still a great highlight reel for newbies and veterans alike.
The documentary chronicles the Kung Fu movie and as such, shows highlight clips from the greatest movies. You may have seen some. You may discover cool titles to add to your Netflix queue. Somehow, even though I know most of this from just watching Hong Kong movies for the past 15 years, I enjoyed the recap. It would certainly sell anyone on checking out the originals.
An animated character, a video store clerk who “trains” a bullied weakling on martial arts films, hosts Films of Fury. The animation looks cheap, and the idea is sort of dumbing down the material, but the narrator (Yuri Lowenthal) actually does convey what’s cool and beautiful about the films. The audience was really into the narrator’s comments, so I guess I’m just a snob. The animated explanation of David Carradine in “Kung Fu” is well done.
The story of Kung Fu cinema begins with Wong Fe Hung and makes a vital correlation between musicals and martial arts. It even credits the Bond movies for pioneering proper martial arts on film. Frank Sinatra and James Cagney look ridiculous, on their own or by comparison.
They acknowledge that all the early kung fu movies were all the same (guy fighting in a field to avenge their master.) Side by side comparisons show what Tango & Cash and Bad Boys II “homaged” from Police Story.
In 81 minutes, directors Andrew Corvey and Andrew W. Robinson are able to touch on most of the famous Hong Kong figures. Die Hards may notice the omission of Yuen Biao and Yuen Woo-Ping is only mentioned in other artists’ sections, but it goes all the way to Cynthia Rothrock, Steven Seagal and Kung Fu Panda.
Due to the time constraints, some choices had to be made. Drunken Master is shown as Jackie Chan’s breakthrough but they have to skip Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow. The film finally answers my big question about the hole in Jackie Chan’s head. It’s sealed with plastic. Simple, but no one ever said that in the 15 years I’ve studied Chan. They just say “hole in head.”
I’m definitely going to read Meyers’ book (also on kindle, or he’ll sign it for you at www.ricmeyers.com) for the full details. Just from the movie clips, I’m going to check out The Five Venoms, Five Elemental Ninjas, Challenge of the Masters, Eight Diagram Pole Fighter, Executioners from Shaolin, Legendary Weapons of China, Come Drink With Me and the three Shaolin Temple movies Jet Li did. It’s also nice to be reminded just how fast Chan was in Legend of Drunken Master and how glorious the calligraphy scene was in Magnificent Butcher.