Posts Tagged ‘Shaw Brothers’

If you’re child of the 80’s like we are you’ll probably remember seemingly endless stream of Ninja movies staring mustachioed white ninja called Gordon on the TV. Later I would find out that those were directed by the notorious Hong Kong director by the name of Godfrey Ho (also known as  Godfrey Hall, Benny Ho, Ho Chi-Mou and Ed Woo) who routinely used cut- and- paste method producing dozens of Ninja movies every year. One of the tricks he used was to buy an unfinished Taiwanese film (or 10) and pepper it with his default Ninja fight scenes to create a unique mutant of the Martial Arts genre (often featuring dual storylines by sheer necessity).

Most of those Joseph Lai produced gems featured Harrison (sometimes even without his knowledge or approval), anything from Ninja Terminator (1985) to Ninja Strike Force (1988). And I can’t forget all the brightly colored uniforms or those headbands with Ninja written on them to this day!

Quite possibly the greatest scene in the history of Martial Arts cinema!

To go back in time even more so Harrison started his career much like Eastwood acting in Italian movies– albeit initially in the sword and sandals genre (The Magnificent Gladiator). He would eventually move up to the more commercial Spaghetti Western films (Gunfight at Red Sands, also first Ennio Morricone scored film ever) before becoming the European answer to 007 aka 077 (no, I’m not making this up). Also you should definitely check out his Italian team- up with  Bruce Le called Challenge of the Tiger. Eurospy meets Bruceploitationyou don’t see that every day!

Beware of that buff Italian guy!

He also famously turned down the opportunity to act in A Fistful of Dollars and recommended Clint Eastwood for the role. He jokingly said he considers that his greatest contribution to the world of cinema.

He first started collaborating with a Hong Kong studio when he played  the title role of Marco Polo in  Shaw Brothers‘s production in 1975 and Commander von Waldersee in The Boxer Rebellion a year later. More than a decent start. But in the 80’s with the fall of both Western and Eurospy movies he ended up signing a multi- picture contract with Joseph Lai’s Imperial Entertainment which lead him to Godfrey Ho and as they say- the rest is history!

We want to thank Guru Khalid Khan for this wonderful interview, It’s really uplifting to see a legend like Harris still alive and kicking  while being charismatic as he ever was.




In the late 70’s, the early days of post- Bruce Lee boom, we were bombarded with all kinds of Kung Fu flicks-from the Shaw Brothers to the to the rise of young Jackie Chan‘s to the budding American Martial Arts flicks but it’s a movie called Death Promise that really sticks out like a sour thumb. I mean to this day I haven’t encountered another a Kung Fu movie like that- a film about the common folk’s rise against their evil landlords. Combining Asian Martial Arts with the harsh social reality of the life in the projects and Charles Bronson or should I say Charles Bonet style complete overkill revenge movie.

In New York City, slum lords are resorting to using nefarious methods to evict tenants or have them leave so they can tear the buildings down for more commercial properties. One such victim is Charley Roman, a karate expert whose electricity and water has been shut off courtesy of the slum lords.
Unfortunately it doesn’t show that the effects of the late-70s New York
financial crisis also include Karate and Kicking Ass!

Obviously someone is dead set on evicting poor souls out of their homes but at this point we have no idea who. Their next play is to set buildings on fire. To that end we have some bad archival footage of fire.  They tried to set fire to his building too, even thou the few card-boards they have wouldn’t make much difference. But Bonnet won’t give them any chance, So he jumps in and immediately starts kicking ass. Unfortunately the bearded punk didn’t seem ready for this and he started going into some kind of spasms as soon as Charles Bonet touched him. I wasn’t sure should I laugh out loud of just feel sorry for the guy.

Well, at least the bearded guy survived…

After Bonet dispatches of the arsonist gangs we finally see the evil cabal that’s behind all of this aka The Landlords and for and I must say for an evil cabal they are very diverse group of people from very different backgrounds, everything from the elderly high court judge to the nasty ghetto pimp. I have to wonder just how all these people got together in the first place?

Anyway , Charley’s dad ends up mysteriously dead on the kitchen floor. He seemingly met his demise without any resistance, uncharacteristic for him. All the while Bonet and his black friend (with an awesome name Speedy Leacock) were having fun at the bar. But who could have defeated an old boxer like him so effortlessly? I mean we saw him dispose off some young punks with no trouble earlier in the film. The plot thickens. Bonet finds his father’s body and completely loses his mind– coupled with a ridiculous scream effect!

Now, despite the wishes of his late father his teacher Shibata show him the letter (revealing their enemies) right away, without a second thought. Unfortunately according to Shibata his skills are not up to par, so before any revenging is done- so he sends him away to China (or maybe upstate New York )  to his master Tony Liu (The Way of the Dragon, Fist of Fury) to sharpen up his skills. There’s just one thing, Liu is absolutely not an old man (hell, he is 65 now- 40 years later and that’s still not that old) and grey in his hair is painfully obviously a paint.

Also if you pay any attention the fact that his master- a Japanese Karate practitioner Shibata was taught by a Chinese Kung Fu Man who’s style is definitely not Karate doesn’t seem to bother anyone. But it’s an old American picture, maybe we should just be happy there’s no yellowface involved.

Returning to his home after months of heavy duty training he is right away reunited with Leacock. And with his help he is making a list of people he needs to kill. As we all know you can’t really achieve anything if you don’t make a list fist. They start of by pouring the poison down the string Ninja style, ending a life on elderly Judge in his sleep without anybody noticing a thing before it’s too late. Their next kill is a bit more public, Bonet dispatches of the evil businessmen by punching him to death trough a car window after a lengthy chase! They also get reinforcement, Liu’s other student shows up to help out- looking like a Bruce Lee’s mentally challenged third cousin.

Now, when they get to the pimp, Leacock insist on doing he deed himself. You can get complete picture of situation in those slums and it’s neighborhood when you hear his 12 year old brother had gone OD (must be some relative of  Drew Barrymore too).

He seems as shocked by her disproportionately large nipples as the rest of us.

The remaining Landlord, an old man with a cane sends his men on the three of them and tries to run away but gest a shuriken into his hand, then one in his back. Bonet follows him to the roof where he gets cut by a katana in front of his eyes !? It turns out, Shibata is a Yakuza!  He was behind the landlords all this time! So, wait, why did he then send his student to sharpen his martial arts prowess so he can more easily defeat him? Must be some Honor code we just can’t understand?

Aaaayyyy blonde dude is so fuckin’ awesome!

The remaining Landlord, old man with a cane got a shuriken into his hand, then his back. Bonet follows him to the roof where he gets cut by a katana in front of his eyes !? It turns out, Shibata is a Yakuza!  He was behind the landlords all this time! So, wait, why did he then send his student to sharpen his martial arts prowess so he can more easily defeat him? Must be some Honor code we just can’t understand?

They go into a prolonged fight with Shibata before killing him with his own sword– irony, right? Also he then throws his lifeless body aka something that is obviously not a human being down the building.  Also that something seems very, very heavy because someone in great shape like him  can barely lift it.

Maybe even a greatest fall in history of the cinema!

Verdict: Unfortunately Death Promise’s  Charles Bonnet never got to be the next best thing in Martial Arts movies, even though he did get to act again in his friend’s Roy Van Cleefe’s (another Martial Art legend)  Black Dragon Revenge and Way of Black Dragon. And for all the cheesiness of Death Promise I consider that to be shame ’cause the dude was a real life badass and  genuinely excellent Martial Artist and  different than many tournament fighters back in the day  he actually looked good on the camera. At least we finally did get a Latino American Martial Art super- star with Marko Zaror (Savage Dog, Reedemeer, Machete Kills, Undisputed 3) but we had to wait for 2000’s for that.

And now one more time: Death Promise theme!

Trivia: Interestingly in the old days when movies were made on the dime- posters were often masterpieces! Death Promise poster for example was done by the legendary comicbook artist Neil Adams (Batman, Deadman, X-Men). Now in the days of multi- million dollars franchises, we often only get bad Photohop photo- manipulation.



Hong Kong cinematography is without a doubt most famous for one thing and that’s action flicks- be it their period peaces or their contemporary action thrillers. On the other hand there is a whole genre that generally gets glossed over by a Western audience and that’s their Horror movies.

This movie was made by an major HK production (Shaw Brothers) but there is nothing commercial or ordinary about it. And you might find yourself mistaken by the name- ’cause this movie does have it’s share of Kickboxing but that is secondary to the bat-shit crazy and psychedelic sequences of mystical battles between Buddhist disciples and an Evil Shaman(s).


 The movie starts right out the gate with a fierce kickboxing fight between the Thai  champion Ba Bo (Bolo Yeung) and Chinese Chan Wai. Bolo loses the fight but proceeds to punch after the bell and with his inhuman power menages to send the Chinese fighter to the E.R (with a broken neck).

+ for having Bolo show some Martial Arts instead of just being just a strongman as he is regularly cast

Hung Chen’s brother promises to get revenge and arranges a trip to Thailand. But not before some brutal sex with his girlfriend! I guess we all have different ways of coping with stress. Then all of the sudden a mystical symbol appears in the air and this all takes a serious left turn.


Thai people (being really mean by nature) welcome Bolo with great pride and give him championship belt for ignoring the rules and crippling his opponent. They sure don’t like Chinese people over there.Hung Chen find the meaning of the symbol in the local (Thai) Buddhist temple. It turns out the Abbot of the temple expected him. The twist- Abbot is already dead, he was killed by an evil  black magician Mai Gussu just when he was about to achieve immortality (man that’s a bummer!)

But it tuns out Abbot’s spiritual powers are so strong he can communicate beyond the grave so Hung Chen finally learns why he is was summoned to the temple. Strangely it turns out he and Abbot are spiritually linked because they were twins in the past life. Also Chen Hung cannon live without him so as soon as Abbot’s body decomposes Chen will also die.

He gets angry and refuses to except his fate but eventually comes to terms with the situation. The only solution for his predicament is to become a monk and use his spiritual powers to defeat Mai Gussu.


Magical battle that ensues puts to shame Gandalf vs Saruman from Lord of the Rings. I mean, just look at this madness!

After seemingly defeating the evil Abbot Qung Zhao is now free to seek immortality and Chen is free to return to Hong Kong. Even though he “saw thru vanity of this world” first thing he does is have sex in the shower with his girl who doesn’t seem too pleased that he disappeared for Thailand for apparently two months. She even threatens to castrate him at one point- man, those Chinese girls really don’t mess around.

Unfortunately back in Thailand other evil wizards gather and a demon woman gets born from the belly of the giant crocodile. I’m sure this has some cultural significance that I just can’t get.

The Boxer's Omen ,1983 Part 2-1.mp4_000669235

Chen finally fights Bolo and menages to win in a back and forth match. Then he goes blind. He goes back to the temple in Thailand to seek help and they promise to organize another duel (strange how little do they actually help here). Chen unfortunately doesn’t tell Monks that he broke the vow of chastity and that cost him the victory and potentially dooms both him and his spiritual brother (man, why is it so hard achieving immortality over there). Though telling the truth they do give him the mystical essence that can be only acquired from the 1000 year old fungus found in the  giant stone  head of Buddha (we are not making this up).

After fucking things up his only hope is to find a sacred relic in Nepal. Unfortunately the witch shows up to spoil his plan and also summons a  bunch of evil stop motion alligators to help her. Fortunately when all seems lost the Chinese Santa shows up and the witch blows up and Chen can finally have his life back.

The Boxer's Omen ,1983 Part 2-1.mp4_002426424 Beware of Chinese Santa!!!

Verdict: This movie consists of Buddhism and Witchcraft presented via kaleidoscopic, psychedelic FX and cheesy but weird practical effect mixed with a dose of kickboxing and also nudity- and the result is in equal parts captivating and bizarre. All in all this is a movie everyone should watch at least once ’cause there’s just nothing quite like it.