Posts Tagged ‘Kara Hui’

Movie Reviews 440 – My Young Auntie (1981)

July 3, 2020

I have to admit that when I first picked up this DVD of My Young Auntie I thought that Michelle Yeoh was the star of this film. I realized my mistake as soon as the movie started, but my sorrow was relatively short lived. Part of the reason was that this was directed, written and starring Chia-Liang Liu who also helmed the classic The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, a film I now count on as one of my all time favorite martial arts movies. The other reason? Kara Hui, who is the star of this film can kick ass almost as well as Michelle.

While this film is another product from the legendary Shaw Brothers studio, it does depart in some ways from their earlier films, most notably the inclusion of several elaborate, flashy, dance scenes and a distinct catering to North American ideology and culture, sometimes mockingly, sometimes reverent.

An elderly dying patriarch of a family tries to divert his impending inheritance from falling into the hands of Yung-Sheng, one of his wicked brothers (hereafter referred to as “Uncle #3”), he can only legally pass on the deed of his fortunes to his favored nephew Yu Ching-Chuen (Chia-Liang Liu) by marrying his young devoted servant Tai-Nan (Hui) and having her passing it onto Ching-Chuen. She reluctantly agrees and upon the old man’s death travels to deliver the deed to the intended nephew.

Surprised, Ching-Chuen welcomes the young Tai-Nan into his humble home but has an ever greater surprise when arriving unannounced the next day is his bratty son “Charlie” Yu Tao (Hou Hsiao), who has returned from college for a break and clashes with the girl, misunderstanding who she is. Educated and adopting western style and demeanor, Tao brings Tai-Nan to the city where she is exposed to the sophisticated glamour and glitter of modern urban clothing and lifestyle. But even donning a gown and heels Tai-Nan shows that she can battle when confronted  teen goons. And her fighting prowess and pairing with Tao will be needed when Uncle #3 steals the deed to the dead man’s fortunes. The at odds pair must storm Yung-Sheng’s heavily guarded, booby trapped compound and the surprises waiting for the two once there.

While the usual tropes, battles displays of martial arts prowess (lots of trampoline aerials if that is particularly appealing) are there as expected, it’s the aforementioned unusual aspects that differentiate this film from other Shaw productions. One scene that even shocked me because it was so unexpected was Tao saying the F-word and giving ‘the finger’ to Tai-Nan. Not sure if this daring addition was something commonplace in later years, but it was certainly the first time I encountered it in this type of film. Director Chia-Liang Liu includes longtime colleague and star of The 36th Chamber of Shaolin Gordon “Chia-Hui” Liu in scenes, but surprisingly more for comedy relief and singing tunes than for combat.

As is often the case, the payoff is in the final battle and in this regard, Auntie delivers the goods, combining beauty with graceful force and speed all matched step for step by Tao. The deftness of their fighting is mirrored by their reluctance to admit they are falling for one another, although that plot angle is so minor it could have been excised altogether. While some of the slapstick is a bit on the heavy side, the handling of ageism and social evolution were welcome touches.

One thing viewers will have to contend with is the all too usual awful Chinglish subtitles that are not only incorrect, incomplete and misleading, but in some cases adding to the confusion of numbered ‘Uncles’. This may be an “Auntie” film, but the confusion of which uncle was which is the only thing that nearly had me crying “Uncle”.

Movie Reviews 285 – Clan of the White Lotus (1980)

January 26, 2017

Clan of the White LotusFor martial arts movie aficionados, what could be better than watching a battle featuring the great Pai Mei as the opening credits roll to begin a movie? Right from the first frame of Clan of the White Lotus we are treated to an awesome battle pitting two young men, Hu Ah-Biao (King Chu Lee) and Hung Wen-Ting (Chia-Hui Liu a.k.a the great Gordon Liu) battling the silver haired and lighting quick master. With dazzling acrobatics and breakneck speed the two determined antagonists finally overcome their seasoned foe and mete a final winning blow.

As the scene cuts to an emissary reading out a declaration from the emperor, a narrator explains that all prisoners that were followers of the Shaolin temple including Ah-Biao have been pardoned and are to be released. But the White Lotus Pai Mei (Lieh Lo who also directed the movie) does not take the news well and sends out his thug army to kill all of the prisoners that were released with the primary goal being to kill Ah-Biao, Wen-Ting seeming to have avoided incarceration. While the ambush is a slaughter for the newly freed Shaolin disciples marching their way home, Ah-Biao himself is spared having left the group earlier. But the clan of the White Lotus, eventually track him at his home where his pregnant wife Mei-Hsiao (Kara Hui), Wen-Ting the equally deft fighter Tsing-Tsing are welcoming the warrior back home.

No sooner does Ah-Biao settle in for a long awaited home cooked meal with his beloved and good friends does Pai Mei’s conscript’s arrive to settle the score with Ah-Biao and his his companions. But the two couples, each highly skilled fighters in their own right, put up an effective but eventual losing battle. Wen-Ting and Mei-Hsiao flee, leaving Ah-Biao and Tsing-Tsing to suffer the ultimate fate at the hands of Pai Mei.

The two take refuge with a relative of Mei-Hsiao, where she soon has her baby and as Wen-Ting endeavors to enhance his fighting skills so that he may one day enact revenge on the seemingly unbeatable master, so named after his bushy white eyebrows. Wen-Ting believes that the answer lies in combining Crane style and Tiger style fight manoeuvres, but every time he pits himself in battle against the silver haired Pai Mei, he still proves to be no match. Practicing against paper clothed bamboo mannequins, it is Mei-Hsiao that diagnoses his problem. His over aggressive, full force styles of conflict must be tempered with a soft touch. She teaches him that his Crane and Tiger stances must be abetted with tender, woman like strokes like that of threading a needle in order to have a comprehensive and effective fighting arsenal. The solution is further improved when Wen-Ting discovers acupuncture as a means of ‘threading the needle’. With that newfound technique in hand he takes one last stab (pun intended) at the villainous master.

While perhaps not as revered as other Kung Fu movies of it’s era, the Shaw Brothers studios’ Clan of the White Lotus (also known as both Fist of the White Lotus and Fists of the White Lotus) is the epitome of the genre. Superb and agile action sequences framing a quasi-realistic and passionate story line. The fighting and practice scenes are both streamlined and intricate along with a dollop of comic relief in the guise of a lazy relative and a few cliché Kung Fu grips such as the seven second death touch.

If some of the above seems familiar (as it should), the character of Pai Mei was more recently brought back into the spotlight in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill 2, and played by Gordon Liu for an ironic role reversal. Tarantino being a longtime fan of 70’s martial art films, often uses both characters and actors from the heyday of the genre and Clan of the White Lotus was obviously an influence.

While the English transfer does suffer some hiccups and slightly confusing bits (the exact nature of the opening sequence being one) presumably due to poor translation or actual scene omissions, the end result is still more than satisfying.This masterwork is not to be missed.