Five Fingers of Death
"Sure, this isn't the greatest kung-fu flick of all time, but it is an important one: this was the first kung-fu movie released in the US."
Five Fingers of Death (1973)
AKA: King Boxer, Hand of Death, Invincible Boxer, Iron Palm
Director: Cheng Chang Ho
Producer: Raymond Shaw, Run Run Shaw
Writer: Lo Lieh, James Nam, and Yang Chiang
Cast: Lo Lieh, Wang Ping, Wang Ching-Feng
Plot: A young man uses his martial arts skills to defend family honor.
Running Time: 102 min.
Availability: This title is available at HKflix.com
NUMSKULL'S REVIEW: If nothing else, this film proves that kung fu films did not die along with Bruce Lee, contrary to what his more simple-minded fans may "think". It holds up fairly well, considering its age, and the perfectly serviceable plot contains a few elements which may be old now but had not yet been beaten to death when it was made.
The late Lo Lieh (who also co-wrote) plays Chao Chi-Hao, a martial artist of moderate but far from outstanding skill. He goes to hone his skills with a renowned instructor and hopes to compete in a prestigious tournament. Unfortunately there's this real asshole in town who uses hired thugs, Japanese swordsmen, and his eye-poking shithead of a son to make life difficult for any potential competition for his school in the tournament. Also, one of Chi-Hao's fellow students gets insanely jealous when Chi-Hao learns their master's secret iron fist technique and becomes the object of a female minstrel's affections. Ergo, Chi-Hao must overcome all sorts of difficulties to realize his full potential, win the tournament, and save the day all without making too much of a jackass of himself. After a handful of short, mostly one-sided fights, tournament day arrives and numerous asses are kicked.
The version I watched was the EPI DVD...dubbed only (as with many, MANY old school martial arts movies), but a far better presentation than the muddy pan and scan backwash flooding the shelves. A pretty decent treatment for a pretty decent film.
NUMSKULL'S RATING: 6/10
JOE909'S REVIEW: I love CityOnFire.com, but I've noticed there's just a widespread discrespect for old-school martial arts movies on this site. Spoiled by "New Wave" slickness and stuntman Jackie Chan's crazy shenaningans, the modern-day, young HK film devotee totally ignores the movies that started the kung fu craze. Persons like myself ? too young to remember when these films were brand new, played in drive-in theaters across the country, yet old enough to remember Kung Fu Theater, Black Belt Theater, and a time when kung-fu videos were impossibly hard to find ? still respect these movies, regardless. To tell the truth, I'd rather watch Lo Lieh smash someone's face in any day, rather than fifty minutes of foolishness wrapped around Jackie Chan doing some whacky stunt.
The disrespect for old-school flicks on this site is no more apparent than on this very page. Two reviews for Five Fingers of Death, both of them negative. Reportedly, the movie is slow-paced. The kung-fu on display is subpar. Lo Lieh isn't a charismatic lead. The story is too simple and cliched. And so on.
Okay, let me ask this: how can a movie with not one, but two eye gougings (complete with the perpetrator holding the bloody eyeballs in his fist before tossing them to the ground), a severed head thrown hatefully at an opponent, multiple bloody deaths, sword slashings, impalements, and glowing red palms of death be slow moving?
Another criticism is that the story is cliched. Today it is. But when Five Fingers of Death was new, the story was most likely fresh. But now, decades later, after being inundaded with countless movies about a good school versus a bad school, it seems that Five Fingers is just a rehash.
Even though the story is familiar, Five Fingers is unique in that it gives us more of a ensemble piece, whereas "Fist of Fury," which had much the same story, was a solo vehicle all the way. That's one mark for freshness. Another is that it doesn't revert into the "hate the Japs" vibe of similar flicks. And another is that there isn't just one character looking for blood in the movie; everyone basically wants revenge.
The violence in this movie is hardcore and realistic. When someone gets stabbed, there's blood everywhere. The villains are menacing. The three evil Japanese blow away those depicted in "Fist of Fury." Two of them wear fright wigs that obscure their features, making them look like heartless monsters. The boss looks sort of like an uglier Lo Lieh (impossible?) and really doesn't mind getting blood on his hands. There's also a Chinese villain (who later has a change of heart) who favors slamming his forehead into people. Most of the cast will be familiar to those who have seen "The Chinese Boxer," a 1969 Shaw Brothers joint that starred Jimmy Wang Yu, with Lo Lieh as a villain.
So in short, if you want an old-school film that doesn't skimp on the violence and mayhem, then Five Fingers of Death is for you. The music isn't bad, and I love the "siren" effect that goes off every time Lo Lieh displays his Iron Fist technique.
Sure, this isn't the greatest kung-fu flick of all time, but it is an important one: this was the first kung-fu movie released in the US. Without its genuine success over here, who knows when, or if, successive films, such as Bruce Lee's and Jackie Chan's, would have ever gained such widespread acceptance and popularity. Respect is due.
JOE909'S RATING: 7/10
PERKELE'S REVIEW: "5 Fingers of Death"is a chop socky movie made in 1972 [it was produced in 1972, but released in America in 1973 (I think)]. By now you probably know whether you like early 70's chop sockies or don't. I'm not the biggest fan of them, though I found some movies like "One Armed Boxer" [Golden Harvest 1971] and a few Shaw Brother titles to be amusing and entertaining efforts. According to this I assumed that "5 Fingers of Death" just might be a fun little film to watch. Not to mention it's a classic which started the whole kung fu boom in the USA and therefore is a must-see for every HK movie fan. While this is nostalgia to most of the older generation of martial arts movie fanatics, I too found it to be a good film. Not a good film like "Pulp Fiction" or "Blade Runner" [two of my favourite US films], but a good KUNG FU film. You know what I mean.
The story is rather typical but interesting and versatile enough; there's even a martial arts tournament. Fighting is quite good and realistic for such and old film, in the level of "One Armed Boxer" [these two films have a lot in common: similar plot, a few same actors, fightingÉ]. There is stupid jumping and flying though. You know, when somebody jumps and then there's a shot of something that just flies rolling through the picture [usually this same shot is repeated at least two times (like in them cheap ninja movies)]. Surprisingly there's only one scene that is reversed [when a guy jumps on a wall]. The action's also quite brutal at times. Blood splatters out and there's and amazing scene where a bad guy rips [or actually pinches] one dude's eyeballs out. Young Lo Lieh, who would later play almost only villains, makes a convincing hero. Unlike him, all of the bad people are not convincing at all! They don't look like expert fighters; they look like idiots [like in so many other early 70's kung fuers, i.e. "Boxer from Shantung"]! But to sum it up, "5 Fingers" is an entertaining movie, and if you like these older ones, you know you should rent this. I'll choose this over "Fist of Fury" anytime. Recommended [but not for the close-minded faggots who think that every movie should be set in the modern day].
PERKELE'S RATING: 5.5/10
ALVIN GEORGE'S REVIEW: "Five Fingers of Death" is yet another old-school kung-fu flick with bad dubbing, cheesy dialogue, etc. I must admit that most of the fights were decent and the blood was interesting, but I don't think it stands out from the pack all that much. Sure, it reportedly kicked off the kung-fu craze in the U.S., but I feel that almost any semi-decent old-school flick could've been released in its place, and virtually the same stuff would've happened. As for the DVD, it sucks. Despite being in widescreen, it looks like a direct transfer from a videotape source. I felt like I had to adjust the tracking!
ALVIN GEORGE'S RATING: 4.5/10