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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
24 stills from the film, and one piece of poster art, does not a
worthy extra make...
Oh dear, oh dear...back to the dreadful "scrolling text, spoken
word" format which I hoped had been banished from HKL discs.
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
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.
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...
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.
Game Of Death 2000AD
In The Line Of Duty Police Story
Once Upon A Time In China 2
Hong Kong: 1941 Fist Of Fury Iron Monkey Way
Of The Dragon
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.
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.