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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic finally gets its due, June 19, 2007
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This review is from: King Boxer: Fingers of Death (DVD)
King Boxer (aka Five Fingers of Death) came out in 1973 and is a classic example of a Shaw Brothers kung fu film - a genre they helped pioneer and perfect with this movie being one of the finest efforts from this time period. It also has the distinction of being the first kung fu film to be released in the United States, just ahead of Bruce Lee's equally influential Enter the Dragon. In the 1980s, it inspired filmmaker John Carpenter to make Big Trouble in Little China and more recently was a huge influence on Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill movies.

The filmmakers maintain just the right level of pacing with very short lulls between action sequences. Let's face it - we're not watching King Boxer for its thoughtful characterization. That is not to say that this film is not well made or doesn't take itself seriously because it does, but it is hardly Shakespeare either. Director Cheng Chang Ho employs sudden zoom in and outs and even the occasional freeze frame during many of the film's dynamic fight scenes. This is a beautifully shot movie with expert use of the 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio with superb compositions of every frame. The use of shadows for dramatic effect in one scene, and a brief fight that takes place at sunset that looks like something right out of 1950s Technicolor era, is part of the reason why this film is so revered among kung fu film fans.

King Boxer features betrayal, torture, revenge and even some heroic style redemption thrown in for good measure - all heightened to melodramatic levels making for a very entertaining ride. Our hero has to deal with a devastating injury and his own self-doubts before he can face the bad guys and use the Iron Palm technique to save the day. You soon find yourself rooting for Chi-Hao to win the competition and the cute woman he loves as well. Even though our hero triumphs at the end, it is a terrible cost with friends, family and his mentor dead or horribly maimed all because of a petty rivalry between two martial arts schools.

There is an audio commentary by filmmaker Quentin Tarantino and film critics Elvis Mitchell and David Chute. Love or hate Tarantino, the guy knows his film history, displaying an impressive encyclopedic knowledge of kung fu cinema. For example, he not only talks about how it was the first kung fu film released in America but then rattles off 5-6 other films that came after. This is a very entertaining, information-packed track by three guys who are fans of the film and display a genuine love for the genre. Highly recommended.

"Interview with Chang-Hwa Jeong." He talks about how he got involved with the film. Initially, he found the script to be "common" and studied Chinese history and literature in order to make improvements. He talks about some of the techniques he used to make the action sequences so exciting and visceral.

"Interview with action director Lau Kar Wing." Kar Wing was the kung fu director on the movie and speaks about how he approached the many fight scenes, including the challenge of matching the actor with their stunt double seamlessly.

"Interview with film critic/scholars David Chute and Andy Klein." Chute gives the film a historical context in terms of American cinema including its shocking level of violence at the time. They point out that the soundtrack was a pastiche of music ripped off of other film and that this would often hamper its distribution because of rights issues.

Also included are two trailers and alternate opening sequence that features very crude opening credits.

Finally, there is a "Stills Gallery" with poster and promotional photographs.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 19, 2007 7:56:22 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 19, 2007 7:59:17 PM PDT
Sunnyside says:
Do us a favor, please, and USE SPOILER ALERT WARNINGS before you tell us that the hero's "friends, family and his mentor [are] dead or horribly maimed"!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I know that that's not too much of a surprise, anyway, given this sort of flick, but please, for God's sake, don't bother with synopses and whatnot in the future -- especially for this kind of a movie.

Otherwise, an exemplary review.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 23, 2007 9:57:13 PM PDT
amster says:
I agree with Troll. You had me then you lost me. Thanks a lot. :(

Posted on Aug 1, 2007 8:37:25 AM PDT
ZeeMan says:
I disagree with the other comments, I think you wrote a descriptive review of the film and spoiler wasn't much of a spoiler at all if one has ever seen any kung fu revenge film before. I really appreciated your review and hope to see you review the other Shaw Brother releases by Weinstein Company (Dragon Dynasty).
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