Iron Fisted Monk
HONG KONG LEGENDS
 
Starring:
Directed By:
Sammo Hung
Year:
1977
Run Time:
87 mins
Producer: Hong Kong Legends
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Languages:
CANTONESE 5.1, English 5.1
Subtitles:
English, Dutch
W/S Subtitles:
Yes
Ratio:
2.35:1
Region:
PAL 2 & 4
Genre:
Traditional Kung-Fu - 18 (UK)
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MOVIE
6/10

The Iron Fisted Monk marks the directorial debut of the legendary Sammo Hung, and so it was with a great deal of excitement that I viewed this HKL disc.

The film's most striking element is its sinister tone and plot, which features more nudity and sexual content than in all of Hung's subsequent films put together.
The dark plot centres around Hung's character, 'Husker', seeking revenge for the murder of his uncle at the hands of the invading Manchus.
In addition, there is dye factory worker Liang (Chu Ching), and his quest for vengeance after the murder of his mother and the rape and death of first his sister and then his wife...
So, as is apparent from that brief synopsis, this is a far cry from many Kung-Fu films of the same era, in terms of its adult storylines, and fairly graphic scenes.

Although the mood is lightened at times with the inclusion of comedic moments, they feel awkward and unfunny when put into context of the violent scenes which precede them.
The acting is generally very good throughout the cast, and Fong Hak-On plays the dastardly rapist/murderer/Kung-Fu expert with his usual aplomb.
At times though, the performances (particularly from Chu Ching) shade into melodrama. However, thanks to some effective direction, scenes which are serious by nature, come across as intended.

To some, the most important question will be "Are the fights any good?!?"...Well, yes and no.
The variety of techniques and styles (Crane, Tiger, Eagle, Snake etc.) on show are impressive, as is the usage of traditional weaponry.
However, whilst the choreography is generally inventive, its direction just doesn't grab you in the way Sammo's later offerings do. The film's finale goes a long way to remedy this, with a large amount of superb action and bloodletting, but it's just not enough to change my feelings towards the film as a whole.
That is, a film with a mature plot and some well choreographed action, which fails to be anything other than a collection of disparate ideas.

PICTURE
6/10

Having been lensed in 1977, the print is not in the greatest shape. Grain is very evident in the film's opening scenes, but thankfully calms down considerably afterwards.
As I would have expected from HKL, the print has been extensively cleaned up. Marks are very infrequent, and sparkles are equally rare.
However, a fluttering, almost water-like effect is seen on several occasions, which is apparently due to sun damage on the original negatives. This is almost identical to the effect seen in The Magnificent Butcher's calligraphy fight, but unfortunately is more noticeable as it occurs more than once, and lasts longer.

Generally, good detail is exhibited, which fluctuates at times between very good and mediocre, but for the most part remains pleasing.
Although shadow detail is almost completely absent, blacks remain deep throughout.

Taking into account all of the aspects of this transfer, I'm awarding it a 6. Although this film probably couldn't look any better, the recurring damage to the print becomes very distracting at times.

SOUND
6/10

Classed as a 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack, HKL could be charged under the Trades Description Act... To my ears, just about everything is pumped through the centre speaker, with little or no activity in the surrounds.
A rather harsh-sounding Cantonese track is presented, which is workmanlike in its presentation. A few crackles can be heard at times, and dialogue often has a rasping/shrill quality.

One nice surprise is HKL English track, which is the original dub used for the film. Although I'd not watch the film with it on, the original English dubs are utterly superior to any of HKL's newly commisioned ones.

SUBTITLES
7/10

A good set of subtitles are provided by HKL, which remain very faithful to the spoken dialogue, although some liberties have been taken.
The worst offender is the translation of the brothel's sign "Rainbow Garden", which is translated as "Madame Fifi's".
As soon as I read that, I knew it was falsified by HKL, and after listening to Bey Logan's commentary, my suspicions were confirmed.

EXTRAS
6/10

Photo Gallery
24 stills from the film, and one piece of poster art, does not a worthy extra make...

Biography Showcase
Oh dear, oh dear...back to the dreadful "scrolling text, spoken word" format which I hoped had been banished from HKL discs.

Trailer Selection
UK Promo trailer
Original Theatrical Trailer
Encounters Of The Spooky Kind - An excellently composed trailer for this soon to be released title.
The Magnificent Butcher
Eastern Condors

Features Archive

Sammo Hung Interview
A disappointing and rather uninteresting interview with Sammo, which lasts for little over 6 minutes.
Whilst Sammo is as engaging as ever, he really doesn't say anything particularly eye-opening about his time working on the film.

Restoration Featurette

An interesting, if somewhat self-congratulatory piece about HKL and their DVD transfer process.
Each aspect of the disc's production is described, and shown, although I had to laugh at the subtitling segment.
They claim that they try to adhere to the film's script as closely as possible. However, having just pointed to their self-made subtitling error above, I wonder how hard they're really trying...

Commentary
A good commentary is provided by Bey, but unlike his previous work, my attention often began to wander.
Bey still manages to insert many interesting facts, and reels off actors names at the drop of a hat, but overall this pales in comparison to his past commentaries.


Futher Attractions
Miracles • Game Of Death • 2000AD • In The Line Of Duty • Police StoryOnce Upon A Time In China 2 • Hong Kong: 1941 • Fist Of Fury • Iron Monkey • Way Of The Dragon •

CUTS / CHANGES

A cut of 1 minute 16 seconds has been made to the rape scene by the BBFC.
Although the scene still makes sense, and is quite disturbing, this cut does show.
I wouldn't think it necessary to seek out the missing footage (although I'm sure it's available on the Chinese VCD), and seeing that I'm not particularly taken by the film, I certainly won't be doing so.

CONCLUSION
6/10

Whilst this will undoubtedly be a collectors item for fans of Sammo Hung, such as myself, the film offers little in the way of sustained excellence in either its plot or action.
That isn't to say that the film has no redeeming features, it's just that they're few and far between.
Just because a film is old doesn't make it a classic...and this 24 year old movie most definitely isn't.

MOVIE 6/10
PICTURE
6/10
SOUND
6/10
SUBTITLES
7/10
EXTRAS
6/10
MENUS
8/10
PACKAGING
7/10
OVERALL 6/10