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Friday, September 08, 2006

Cheepnis review: "Masters of Martial Arts" 4 pack

Note: this is an old post from a blog I used to have which is going away soon. Reposting for posterity.

The collection I want to talk about is called "Masters of Martial Arts." It's probably not the best collection to illustrate what I'm talking about, but it's the one I just finished watching. Smile The theme seems to be stars as we have Sonny Chiba, Bolo Yeung and Jimmy Wang Yu represented.

First off the bat, "Street Fighter's Last Revenge" (the cover loses the "last" though.) This is the third in the Street Fighter trilogy and undoubtly the weakest. Far less bloody than the other two, it's also a lot less serious. Rather than being a loose gun for hire, Terry Tsuguri (Chiba's character) attempts to bust up a heist for a recipe for synthetic heroin in a plot that feels more like a standard action film for the time than a martial arts film.

The worst thing I think happened to these movies was they tired to humanize Terry Tsuguri (Chiba's character) and when he lost his edge, so did the series. Really, this film could have been a Shaft sequel with it's busting up a drug ring theme and the amount of time Tsuguri spends in bed. Plus the caucasian in the Marachi getup with the laser belt is way over the top. Still, worth seeing if you like Chiba.

As presented here, "Street Fighter's Last Revenge" is the same letterboxed laserdisc dub everyone else has put out. While it's not exclusive to Brentwood, this film doesn't appear as frequently as the first two, so it's not unwelcome here.

Next up is the Jimmy Wang Yu film "Blood of the Dragon." This is much more what you'd expect from an old school martial arts film. Lots of weapon fighting (Wang Yu fights with a spear) and there's a really good end battle. I liked this movie quite a bit, though there's nothing in it I hadn't seen a million times.

The print quality here is pretty bad though. Pan and scanned and washed out plus there was an authoring hiccup near the end (could possibly be because I was watching on my PC.) I've seen worse, but the film was good enough I wanted to see a better version (seeing the letterboxed trailer on Something Weird's "Karate: Hands of Death" disc only makes me want this more.) Again, this film is avaliable from other companies, but it seems like they are all using the same or similar source.

The second disc in this collection purports to star Bolo Yeung. Well, that's not entirely true. In both films he plays the heavy, but he's not exactly the star. Breathing Fire actually stars Johnathan Ke Quan. Yes, Data from the Goonies is kicking ass and he and Bolo are the only real actors in this thing. "Breathing Fire" feels like a typical late 80s piece of cheese, except it's actually from the early 90s. Oops.

The plot here involves band robbers, Data and his adopted family, a terrible breakdancing scene and some actual fighting with the most wooden martial arts teacher I've ever seen. And there's a fight involving midgets. The fighting is so-so, but if you like bad 80s movies, you'll probably dig this.

Again, pan and scan with a definite VHS quality to it. Audio is strong however though it's slightly out of sync. I can't tell if it's edited or not. IMDB, which can't always be trusted, has this listed as an R rated film, though I can't see anything here that would have earned that rating. I can't see any edits either.

Finally we have Bloodfight, which actually does have Bolo in a stronger role. This movie also rips off Bloodfight quite a bit. I won't go into it a whole lot (my hands are getting tired) other than to say, there's a martial arts tournament, someone dies, some really silly "punks" drive around and the whole thing wreaks of something I would have rented on VHS in Jr. High. Pan and scan and probably sourced from tape, though I've seen worse. The best part is having an almost all Chinese cast (in China) of non-actors speaking English. Dialogue is a little hard to understand.

So, I realize I haven't made too convincing a case, with two 70s classics and two late 80s cheese balls. Well, I picked this up for about $2. For that price, with two movies I'll watch again and two I probably won't, I feel I came out ok.

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