1979, 97 minutes, 35mm
Directed by: Lau Kar-wing
Starring: Sammo Hung, Lau Kar-wing, Leung Kar-yan, Mars, Dean Shek, Lee Hoi-sang, Karl Maka, Yuen Biao, Benny Lai
Friday, April 19th at 6:15pm
Sunday, April 21st at 9:15pm
There are 18 different weapons in Chinese martial arts, 9 long and 9 short, and by the end of this movie someone’s going to get stabbed by every single one of them. Sammo Hung and Lau Kar-wing play elderly martial arts masters, one a master of sword, the other a master of spear, who meet every year to fight in an attempt to figure out which weapon is better. And every year, their duel ends in a draw. Now they’ve each taken a student (also played by Sammo Hung and Lau Kar-wing) and decided to leave it to the younger generation to duke it out for technique supremacy. Unfortunately, their students get kidnapped by an old enemy of both masters (played by the inimitable martial arts mimic, “Beardy” Leung Kar-yan). Solution: both masters team up to kick maximum butt with maximum weaponry.
A face bomb of comedy kung fu as well as serious, old school action, this might be one of the lesser-known movies in Sammo Hung’s filmography, but it’s one of his best. A product of Sammo’s most fertile early period that saw him, in only five years, invent his own style in Warriors Two, turn in the only worthwhile Brucesploitation movie ever made (Enter the Fat Dragon), launch the career of Yuen Biao (Knockabout, Prodigal Son), reinvent the career of Jackie Chan (Project A, Winners and Sinners), and invent the hopping vampire movie (Encounters of the Spooky Kind), it’s endlessly inventive and is known among fans for featuring the best onscreen weapons work of any 80’s martial arts movie.
And, unlike a lot of movies of the time, the comedy is great. Director and co-star, Lau Kar-wing, is the brother of the legendary Shaw Brothers director, Lau Kar-leung, and he’s not content just to rehash the same old stale gags. Revolving around the grudge match between Sammo and Lau as well as their students (whom they also play), it’s character-based comedy at its best, punctuated by almost non-stop acrobatic beatdowns and truly jaw-dropping, life-threatening slapstick. To be honest, action movies don’t get any better than this, and we’re using it as the opening and closing movie of the Old School Kung Fu Fest because it is, quite simply, the alpha and omega of martial arts movies. Truly unbeatable.
Print provided courtesy of the American Genre Film Archive