Slaughter in San Francisco
This film directed by Lo Wei presents a San Francisco
not often seen by visitors – a San Francisco where everyone speaks Cantonese
and practices kung fu. Apparently, Lo Wei had initially hoped to use this
as another vehicle for Bruce Lee but the two had gone their separate ways
by the time it got to production. Still, Lo Wei opportunistically brought
in Chuck Norris who had faced off against Bruce in The Way of the Dragon.
Other than that, a young Sylvia Chang and the unusual setting for a Golden
Harvest production there isn’t much to recommend about the film. It has
many of Lo Wei’s sore points – a clunky disjointed plot and poor action
choreography – but none of his strengths – the visual style that he brought
to many of his Shaw Brother films. This film has been available for a long
time in an English dubbed version that reviews I read indicated had some
bad camp value with Norris speaking in a British accented dub – but even
that small pleasure is missing in this version.
Instead of Bruce Lee, Lo Wei turned to Don Wong
(Wong Dao) for his lead role as a cop patrolling the streets of San Francisco
(sadly no Karl Malden guest appearances). Don Wong had a solid if far from
spectacular career in many Hong Kong martial arts films from the 1970’s
to the 80’s. He portrays Wang, a stolid unsmiling cop, who is partnered
up with an African-American – called John Sumner in the US version but
the cringe worthy “Blackie” in the English subs. One afternoon they come
across a woman crying for help and upon investigating they witness two
males trying to rape a Chinese woman (Sylvia Chang). After beating up the
culprits, Betty tells them it was all a joke and they were just playing
a game – clearly not one covered in Hoyle’s. She is a spoiled ABC who prefers
the company of husky white men with nice cars and dangles cigarettes from
her sulky mouth.
A few days later Wang’s partner is kidnapped by
a group of white men and taken to the beach for a beating – why? – who
knows – but Wang shows up in time to give them a kung fu lesson but kills
one in the process. Instead of getting a medal for saving his partner,
Wang is booted out of the force and has to of course take a job as a waiter
in a Chinese restaurant. I am only surprised it wasn’t a laundry. Later
Blackie is killed and the cops try to dump it on Betty’s parents – but
Wang investigates on his own. This leads him to a narcotics gang headed
by Chuck Norris – finally showing up about half way through the film.
Norris was still fairly new to film and still
played the heavy in those days – and he had yet to acquire the fine subtle
acting skills that he later brought to Walker Texas Ranger. Here he is
a typical thug adorned with cigars and a fedora who says things like “I
know two types of people. My friends or dead people” or “Men from our family
only play with women with yellow skin, we never marry them.” With his shaggy
hair and shaggier chest, he looks like a stock porn actor from the 1970’s.
At the climax, Norris and Wong take it to one another and no prizes for
those who guess who wins. The fight has some good moves but is most interesting
for the fact that though both take a good beating no one seems to have
a mark on their bodies.
The VCD quality is fairly poor – it is widescreen
but with tiny subs that are a chore to read at times and interior and night
scenes are extremely murky.
My rating for this film: 5.5