It is hard to imagine that so much talent could
have come out of the same school. But in one of those amazing stars in
alignment occurrences Sammo Hung, Jackie Chan and Yuen Biao all went to
the same Peking Opera School at the same time. When they and others from
the school performed during that time in theaters they were called The
Seven Little Fortunes. Others such as Yuen Wah and Corey Yuen were also
at times part of this troupe. But it certainly is Sammo, Jackie and Yuen
that have had the most effect on HK cinema. Between the three of them they
have been involved in hundreds of films as either actors, directors, producers
and fight choreographers. All three are obviously incredibly gifted athletes
and to watch them perform their magic in fights or stunts is to wonder
how humans can do such things. But their talents go far beyond this - their
impact and influence on HK film is immeasurable and still I hope ongoing.
Project A - this was Jackieís first breakout
modern action film . Previously, he was stuck in the kung fu genre, but
here he sets the story at the turn of this century and utilizes his vision
of mixing action, incredible stunts and comedy to near perfection. Sammo
and Yuen are along for the ride.
Police Story - in his next masterpiece,
Jackie brings the story into modern times as a HK policeman. I think most
people consider this the best film in the series and there are a few set
pieces - the car plowing down the hill through the town, hanging on to
the bus and the final fight in the mall - that are truly death defying
and no matter how often viewed - simply awe inspiring.
Drunken Master II - in 1994 Chan returned
for one more kung fu outing as the same character that he had played many
years earlier - Wong Fei Hung - and this film broke many box-office records
all over Asia - for good reasons. It is an incredible film - full of humor
and incredible fights. The legendary matchup with Ken Lo apparently took
months to film before Jackie was satisfied with it.
Miracles: The Canton Godfather - perhaps
my personal Chan favorite - and one of Jackies as well. This story based
on an old Frank Capra film - has a real plot line and a huge amount of
heart . For once Jackie designed his fights around the plot rather than
vice-versa. Nevertheless, the three major set action pieces are absolutely
a wonder to behold - the choreography is amazingly complicated and clever.
Dragons Forever - Jackie, Sammo and Yuen
team up for what is thus far their last time together. Itís a wonderful
little film - with less action than many of their other films - more character
development than usual - but it is delightful. In particular, Yuenís slightly
paranoid wacky incredibly acrobatic character is an original and he nearly
steals the film. There is action of course and the final set piece is one
of the best ever.
Millionaire Express - a film that I enjoy
more with every viewing. Donít worry about what a flimsy plot it is or
the less than great acting. It just has so many great action stars - all
having at least a few minutes to shine. We have Sammo (who directed), Yuen
Biao, Yuen Wah, Cynthia Rothrock, Yukari Oshima and Dick Wei to mention
My Lucky Stars - my favorite of the Lucky
Star series - directed by Sammo. Most of the film focuses on Sammo and
his crew of goofy adolescent male friends, but Jackie and Yuen also have
solid roles. There is some excellent action and the sight of Michiko Nishawaki
all pumped up in her bathing suit still sends goose bumps down my leg!
Encounter of the Spooky Kind - this 1980
Sammo film was one of the ground breaking films of that period. It was
one of the best mixtures of comedy, action and the supernatural - and one
of the first uses of the hopping vampire. It is a terrifically enjoyable
Eastern Condors - Sammoís homage to The
Dirty Dozen. He and other Chinese prisoners go into Vietnam to blow up
a munitions dump left after the war is over. Sammo, Yuen and the others
have to fight all the way there. Some great violent action - Joyce Godenza
as a Cambodian guerilla in particular is a standout.
On the Run - Yuen Biao stars in this almost
HK film noire. Yuen and sleek hitwoman, Pat Ha, team up to fight corrupt
cops who are trying to kill them. Some brutal unexpected moments, but Yuen
actually does very little fighting until the final scene when he gets into
as down and dirty and real a fight as witnessed in HK films. It was as
if Yuen was saying - no tricks here, no acrobatics - I want to show men
fighting for their lives as it really would be - nothing graceful - just
trying to survive.
Iceman Cometh - based slightly on the American
film - Time After Time - Yuen is an imperial guard who ends up following
a brutal rapist (Yuen Wah) into modern day HK. There he meets his match
in a charming conniver played by Maggie Cheung in one of her most delightful
roles. Then suddenly women are again being raped and killed and Yuen knows
who it must be. Great story, fights and humor in this film.
Kid from Tibet - Yuen Biao plays an innocent
unworldly Buddhist monk from Tibet who must journey to modern HK to fight
a terrible evil in the form of Yuen Wah. Yuen is perfect in this role and
there is a lot of wonderful action with large elements of fantasy and magic