Silver Emulsion

Film Reviews

Uncle Jasper reviews: Challenge of the Masters (1976)

Challenge of the Masters [陸阿采與黃飛鴻] (1976)

Starring Gordon Liu Chia-Hui, Chen Kuan-Tai, Lau Kar-Leung, Kong Yeung, Wong Yu, Lau Kar Wing, Lily Li Li-Li, Fung Hak-On

Directed By Lau Kar-Leung


 

I was a little nervous on revisiting Challenge of the Masters after such a long time in-between viewings of it. It’s a film that I have a long history with since copying it off of a well-worn VHS copy back during the infancy of Blockbuster Video. Yeah, that’s how we did shit back in the days before digital distribution, instant streaming, and the rise of the World Wide Web. Back then, I had no idea what the deal with the Shaw Brothers was. I recognized Gordon Liu in a couple of other films, but directors, actors, and choreographers meant very little to me at the time. I just knew that when I saw that big, fat SB shield accompanied by the thundering fanfare, it was going to be a higher grade kung fu film than I was used to getting. Challenge of the Masters wound up becoming my favorite martial arts film of the Shaw Bros studios. Now revisiting it 17 years later, I can safely say that is an accolade which still stands.

The film is an “origin story” of sorts to the character of Wong Fei-Hung, whom Gordon Liu plays masterfully here. Jet Li did such a good job of making him seem like a righteous and invincible badass in the Once Upon a Time in China series, that it may come as a shock here to find the character portrayed as a clumsy, unsophisticated, buffoon of sorts, prone to bouts of self-pity and frequent temper tantrums. This is all for the sake of the film however, as Challenge of the Masters presents the ultimate journey in martial arts cinema by taking the “unteachable” teenage Fei-Hung and details his transformation into China’s most well-known folk hero.

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November 4, 2010 Posted by | 1970s, Action, Foreign, Martial Arts, Movie Reviews, Uncle Jasper Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Ghost Warrior (1986)

Ghost Warrior (1986)
AKA Swordkill

Starring Hiroshi Fujioka, John Calvin, Janet Julian, Charles Lampkin, Frank Schuller, Bill Morey, Andy Wood, Robert Kino

Directed by J. Larry Carroll

Expectations: Low. The concept is great, but I don’t wanna get my hopes up.


 

Forget everything you know about physics and medical science and get ready for a pretty serious little movie about a frozen samurai. Yes, you read that right I said serious and frozen samurai in the same sentence. Admittedly, when I heard the premise for this film, I simultaneously squealed and cringed, as something this good has an ultimate potential to disappoint. Surprisingly, that’s not the case though as Ghost Warrior is one very enjoyable film.

Ghost Warrior is about an ancient samurai named Yoshimitsu who falls in battle in the 1500s, landing in an icy lake at the moment of his death. Through some simple twist of fate his body is preserved until the 1980s when two skiers happen into an ice cave and notice a hand frozen in a stalagmite. The body is rushed to the California Cryonics Institute where the scientists are tasked with performing an autopsy on this rare and important anthropological discovery. The head honcho has another plan though… to bring the ancient warrior back to life!

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November 2, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, Drama, Fantasy, Martial Arts, Movie Reviews, Rating: 3 Stars | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974)

The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974)
AKA “The Seven Brothers Meet Dracula” & “Dracula and the 7 Golden Vampires”

Starring Peter Cushing, David Chiang, Robin Stewart, Julie Ege, John Forbes-Robertson, Shih Szu, Chan Shen, Lau Kar Wing, Robert Hanna, Lau Wai Ling

Directed by Roy Ward Baker & Chang Cheh (uncredited)

Expectations: Low. It’s a team-up, I’m not expecting much.


 

For my first foray into Shaw Bros. horror, I picked the film poised to unite the two renowned cult studios of Hammer and Shaw in one great grab at the money from both studio’s fans. Honestly, I don’t know how the film’s production came about, who asked who and all that, but I do know this. The Hammer studio was a giant at the time, primarily making lavish Gothic Horror productions on small budgets with great actors. The Shaw studio was also a giant at the time, primarily making lavish Kung Fu epics on small budgets with great actors. Wait a minute… Yes, I’ve always viewed the two studios as brothers from another mother, banging out their brand of films for the huddled masses. The idea of both studios producing one movie may be too much for celluloid to contain. Realistically, the film could never live up to these kinds of expectations though, so I tried to go in with the mentality that team-ups are always less than the sum of their parts.

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October 26, 2010 Posted by | 1970s, Foreign, Horror, Martial Arts, Movie Reviews, Rating: 2 & 1/2 Stars, Special Features | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Uncle Jasper reviews: Rage of Honor (1987)

Rage of Honor (1987)

Starring Sho Kosugi, Lewis Van Bergen, Robin Evans, Gerry Gibson, Charles Lucia, Richard Wiley, Carlos Estrada, Ulises Dumont

Directed By Gordon Hessler


Like a sneak attack from the shadows, I bring you another stealthy actioneer from Sho Kosugi: Master Ninja™!

Rage of Honor is definitely a low point in the Sho Kosugi arsenal. Taken as a straight 80’s actioneer it will definitely satisfy. The film not only contains genre staples such as jungle warfare, shirtless dudes with machine guns, and slick-haired assholes in bright suits and aviator sunglasses, but it also seems to stem from that holy trifecta of all great action films of the era: Heroin, Uzis, and Organized Criminals.

That’s great if your name is Chuck Norris, Arnold Schwarzenegger, or Sylvester Stallone. But if you are Sho Kosugi, purveyor of all things ninja, you come to expect a little more. Don’t get me wrong, Sho does a lot of ninja-like things this time around. You’ll get your shurikens, grappling hooks, and exploding smoke bombs. Unlike previous films however, he decides to ditch the ninja costume and Japanese mysticism for a more Americanized, guerrilla warfare approach. The result is not a ninja film, by any stretch. It’s more like a ninja-tinged, loosely tossed together version of First Blood, Part II.

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September 30, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, Action, Martial Arts, Movie Reviews, Uncle Jasper Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Uncle Jasper reviews: Pray for Death (1985)

Pray for Death (1985)

Starring Sho Kosugi, James Booth, Donna Kei Benz, Norman Burton, Kane Kosugi, Shane Kosugi, Matthew Faison, Parley Baer

Directed By Gordon Hessler


Digging into the archives here at Silver Emulsion brought a staggering discovery to my attention. Although we have done our best to bring you reviews of classy motion picture entertainment on a regular basis, we are still far from perfect and definitely have a long way to go in our quest for celluloid gold. In our first six months we have covered a whole slew of classics but have sadly remained deficient in one of the greatest genres of film known to mankind. No I’m not talking about film noir, westerns, or Hollywood musicals. I’m talking fucking Ninjas! And when I’m talking fucking Ninjas, I am of course talking Sho Kosugi.

For those not in the know, Sho Kosugi is pretty much the Henry Ford of ninja lore. What child of the 80s could not remember begging mom and dad to buy a couple of those cheap ass plastic ninja swords in the supermarket toy aisle, banging them together with friends until they bent in half, sadly drooping along while they carried out stealth assaults? Who cannot remember the deluge of ninja related video games and TV shows at the time? That was all courtesy of Sho Kosugi and a little movie from 1983 titled Revenge of the Ninja.

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September 27, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, Action, Martial Arts, Movie Reviews, Uncle Jasper Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Uncle Jasper reviews: The Mighty Peking Man (1977)

The Mighty Peking Man [猩猩王] (1977)

Starring Danny Lee, Evelyn Kraft, Norman Chu Siu-Kung, Lam Wai-Tiu, Ku Feng, Corey Yuen Kwai

Directed By Ho Meng-Hwa


There are definitely a lot of oddities in the Shaw Bros catalog, from the Japanese superhero inspired Super Inframan to the zany, breast milk squirting antics of Black Magic. But I don’t think any separates itself from the pack more than The Mighty Peking Man, which has about as much in common with Shaolin monks and rival kung fu schools as it does with Shakespearean comedies. If you’ve ever begged to find out what happens when a movie studio famous for its kung fu films decides to remake King Kong, then The Mighty Peking Man is just the movie for you.

We’re all familiar with the story by now. A giant gorilla living in some faraway uncharted land is captured by a bunch of ignorant humans, only interested in pimping out the oddity of nature for profit. The monster naturally breaks loose, whereupon it systematically rampages through the city, causing millions of dollars in damage before being tragically massacred… You’ll get all of that here, but I think this film has enough going for it to separate itself from all of the other imitators. This is the Shaw Studios we’re talking about here and you can bet that they’re sure to stamp their indelible charm onto the proceedings.

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September 23, 2010 Posted by | 1970s, Action, Foreign, Martial Arts, Movie Reviews, Uncle Jasper Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Uncle Jasper reviews: The Young Master (1980)

The Young Master [師弟出馬] (1980)

Starring Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao, Tien Feng, Feng Feng, Wei Pei, Shih Kien, Lily Li Li-Li, Hwang In-Shik

Directed By Jackie Chan


Dogged for years by contractual obligations and careless mismanagement of talent, Jackie Chan finally broke free of the substandard Lo Wei cycle of pictures in 1980 and began his long-term partnership with Golden Harvest. Chan was able to impart at least marginal creative input into the Lo Wei films, separating himself somewhat from the pack, but it was only after finding total freedom with The Young Master that the public first got a glimpse of his unique take on kung fu films, done “The Jackie Chan way”. No longer would we be forced to waddle through total misfires like The Killer Meteors, or face frustration by “almost there” glimmers of hope like Spiritual Kung Fu. No longer stifled by studio politics, Jackie was able to create a film on his own terms, finally unleashing the storehouse of talent that would pave the way for one of the great bodies of work in martial arts cinema.

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September 16, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, Martial Arts, Movie Reviews, Uncle Jasper Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Tai Chi Master (1993)

Tai Chi Master [太極張三豐] (1993)

Starring Jet Li, Michelle Yeoh, Chin Siu Ho, Fennie Yuen, Yuen Cheung Yan, Lau Shun, Yu Hai, Sun Jian Kui

Directed by Yuen Woo Ping

Expectations: High. Haven’t seen this one in years and remember really liking it.


We’re doing something different with this review. I won JP’s DVD comment contest and he let me pick any DVD or Blu-Ray I wanted. Oh, the possibilities! I ended up deciding on this film and I’m glad I did. In honor of this awesome gesture, my review will be featured exclusively on JP’s website, complete with neato video clips from the film selected by yours truly. So what are you waiting for?

Head over there now and check out the review!

September 11, 2010 Posted by | 1990s, Action, Comedy, Fantasy, Martial Arts, Movie Reviews, Rating: 2 & 1/2 Stars | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Uncle Jasper reviews: Men from the Monastery (1974)

Men from the Monastery [少林子弟] (1974)

Starring Alexander Fu Sheng, Chi Kuan-Chun, Chen Kuan-Tai, Deng Tak-Cheung, Feng Yi, Feng Hak-On, Kong Do

Directed By Chang Cheh


Men from the Monastery continues the “Shaolin Cycle” of films that Chang Cheh kicked off with Silver Emulsion favorite, Heroes Two in 1974. More or less a direct sequel of sorts to Heroes Two, Alexander Fu Sheng and Chen Kuan-Tai return as legendary folk heroes Fong Sai-Yuk and Hung Si-Kwan. Except this time they are joined by the revenge driven powerhouse Hu Huei-Chien, played by the sleek Chi Kuan-Chun in what I assume is his acting début. Men from the Monastery is a pretty apt title, but I am hoping that in some alternate reality this film goes under the much cooler moniker of Heroes Three. It just makes so much sense.

To my surprise this film actually manages to outdo its prequel despite some really strange narrative devices that eventually end up growing on you the further you get into the film. The movie is divided up into segments, each focusing on a particular character. These segments overlap each other well enough before finally unifying themselves in the film’s absolutely stellar fourth and final act. It sounds great on paper, but if you don’t know that (as I didn’t) before going in, you will wonder what the hell has happened to Chen Kuan-Tai, who isn’t even mentioned by name until 41 minutes into the film.

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September 9, 2010 Posted by | 1970s, Martial Arts, Movie Reviews, Uncle Jasper Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Once Upon a Time in China 2 (1992)

Once Upon a Time in China 2 (1992)

Starring Jet Li, Donnie Yen, Rosamund Kwan, Max Mok, Zhang Tielin, David Chiang, Hung Yan-Yan, Yen Shi-Kwan

Directed by Tsui Hark

Expectations: High. I haven’t seen it in a while and I’m really looking forward to the Jet Li / Donnie Yen fight.


So back when I started this site in April, I wrote up some of my thoughts after revisiting one of the classics from my youth, Once Upon a Time in China. I’ve wanted to get down to business and watch the much-loved sequel since then, but only recently got around to it. Wow, I gotta say… this one is even better than the first. It’s possible that I feel this way because I recently watched the original and I had less of an adjustment period, but whatever, Once Upon a Time in China 2 is a damn pleasing film.

While the recently reviewed Ip Man was set during the Second Sino-Japanese War, Once Upon a Time in China 2 takes place just after the First Sino-Japanese War. Taiwan has been handed over to Japan and outside influence is getting stronger. The White Lotus clan is angry that Westerners have come to China and brought all their nasty wares with them. They wish to kill the foreigners and rid the land of everything related to them. Led by the Immortal Kung (Hung Yan-Yan), they are ultra-nationalists and will stop at nothing to achieve their goals.

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September 8, 2010 Posted by | 1990s, Action, Drama, Martial Arts, Movie Reviews, Rating: 3 & 1/2 Stars | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments