CINEMA: MARTIAL ARTS
Some of you know just how much I loved Angela Mao from back in the day, but I haven’t really written about her. I want to take the time to talk about someone who could have been (in my opinion) the next best thing to Bruce Lee. Yeah, I know I know, a ton of you are probably saying already “he’s off his rocker!” “No way does she come close to being Bruce Lee.” However, when I say “the next best thing,” But are you sure about that? Sometimes I think that a lot of people who strongly disagree with me on that statement, are judging more strictly on the basis that Bruce was a male, and males (especially in those days) are seen as the ones with all the power and skill. In other words I think there’s a little sexism there. Granted, her first movies were weak, I have to be honest and give you that. However, it took her no time in improving her skill. I never saw anyone punch like her with such precision. Most importantly, I love the fact that she didn’t do a whole lot of “flying” as was so popular in the 70s. That flying made everything look sooo unrealistic.
If I remember correctly, the first time I saw Angela was I saw “When Taekwondo Strikes (1973),” or also known as “Tai quan zhen jiu zhou (1973).” Now, keep in mind, during that time, there were not that many female martial artists at the time. The industry was clearly male dominated, so to see her fighting skills, AND the fact that she was able to sustain her ultra femininity was huge in my book (given the culture at the time). Now, I loved this particular movie not because I felt Angela kicked ass in it, but because it was a powerful movie with a good story line. In essence, rebel leader Jhoon Rhee was part of a Japanese resistance. The Japanese were like the Nazis in this movie. They absolutely hated Chinese people, and they literally invaded China and tried to take it over. Angela, hot-headed Carter Wong, Ann Winton, and a few others were apart of that Japanese resistance. Unfortunately long story short, the Japanese captured Jhoon, and tortured him in order for him to hand over important documentation. The Japanese treated the Chinese so crewel, I just couldn’t wait until the heroes kick their butt! Lots of action, kicking ass, and emotion. This movie was a head of its time. I was hoping they would remaster this movie, but you’d be lucky to find DVD quality (that’s if you find the movie). It should still be available on amazon for streaming. To rent When Taekwando Strikes, it’s only $3.
Another movie I enjoyed very much was a movie called “Hapkido (1972).” She got her butt beat pretty bad in this movie, but she prevailed. One of my favorite scenes in this movie, was when she kick this dude’s butt with her ponytail! Her ponytail! Then I knew then she was a bad bitch. I never seen anyone do that before! Again, although she was well known in the martial arts world, I really expected her to blow up in America behind Bruce Lee. Especially since she had a small role in “Enter The Dragon.” But I forgot, most people remembered Jim Kelly, John Saxton, Bolo Yeung, and of course Bruce. That includes myself. I always forget Angela was in this movie. But I guess the culture for female fighters just wasn’t there yet. Although, you can’t tell me she didn’t pave the way for people like China O’Brian, Uma Thurman, and even Kelly Hu.
Black Belt Jones (1974) Starring Jim Kelly and Gloria Hendry. Looking back at some of Jim Kelly’s movies, I can’t believe many people saw him as skillful as Bruce Lee. I have to be honest, most of the time I only watched him because I thought he was incredibly handsome (and because he didn’t take the classic traditional roles that were available for most Black male actors at the time (the classic drug dealer, butler, or porter)). I really thoroughly enjoyed this movie, but not because I thought Mr. Kelly’s performance was exceptional, but because the movie had a great cast, and plenty of action. However, this was one of those rare cases I think the co star Gloria Hendry was a much better fighter than the lead actor Jim Kelly! Gloria not only whoop ass, but she looked very natural doing it; whereas Kelly was what I called “a strike and pose” TV martial artist. So long story short, a big time mob boss of some kind wants to steal a building (karate school) that was thought to be owned by a guy named “Papa Byrd” (Gloria Hendry’s father). The mobster wanted to resell the building to the city so that the area can be turned in to a money making district. But the building actually belonged to Gloria. Although this movie is not really a comedy, it had a lot of hilarious scenes in it. I heard phrases I didn’t hear since back in the day; such as, “I’ll slap the black off of you!” Lots of twists, turns, and setups. How will Jim Kelly and Gloria Hendry save the day without getting hurt? Order it from Netflix and find out.
Today I watched Dragon (2011) on blu-ray. I have to be honest, I wasn’t really interested in this movie at first. The only reason why I Netflix’d it was because Donnie Yen (Ip Man) and the VERY handsome Takeshi Kaneshiro was in it. That said, I knew this movie would be action packed, based on other movies I’ve seen Donnie in. There was actually much more to this movie than what the description said. I’m not going to lie, the movie does drag quite a bit, but Donnie’s action scenes make up for it. If anything, you should rent this movie just to see this guy get his ear chopped off, and fly in to a pile of fresh meat. Eeeewwwww! It was awesome though LOL. In essence Donnie plays a reformed killer, trying to live a quiet life. However, Takeshi is a detective that soon discovers Donnie’s true identity, and was determined to seek justice for Donnie’s crimes. What Takeshi didn’t know, was that his father raised Donnie to be a killer since birth. When Takeshi finally learns the truth, Takeshi then risks his life to save Donnie, when his crazy father comes to not only kill Donnie, but take his son too! Why? Simply because Donnie doesn’t want to be a part of the family clan any longer. Very nice martial arts in this movie. The movie will keep you interested. Spoiler alert!! The only thing I found corny though, they talked a lot about the technicals of the human body, and how someone was killed, etc. Yet, Donnie chops his own arm cut off, minimal blood comes out, and he still lives?!