Kung Fu Genius
"This is the sequel to Duel of the 7 Tigers. It actually manages to top the original, in spite of not sharing the predecessor's grand scale."
- Joseph Kuby
Kung Fu Genius (1979)
AKA: Duel of the 7 Tigers II
Director: Wilson Tong (Wai Shing)
Producer: Alex Gouw
Cast: Cliff Lok, Wilson Tong (Wai Shing), Hsiao Ho, Lee Hoi Sang, Chan Lung, Cheng Hong Yip
Running Time: 84 min.
Plot: Cliff Lok is the kung fu genius, a master of all styles of martial arts. On the suggestion of his friend (Cheng Hong Yip) he decides to open a school, but runs into conflic with Chan Lung's Spiritual Boxing gym. When a local brothel owner (Lee Hoi Sang) hears that his son was seriously wounded in the conflict, he brings in his brother, fan-wielding killer Wilson Tong, to deal with the genius style.
Availability: This title is available at HKflix.com
JOSEPH KUBY'S REVIEW: A classic sequel to a classic film!
This is the sequel to Duel of the 7 Tigers. It actually manages to top the original, in spite of not sharing the predecessor's grand scale. I suppose you could say that the limited geographic scope allowed the director to focus on intimate characterization.
Cliff Lok unwittingly proves very much so that he is to Kung Fu movies what John Wayne was to Western action cinema. He may not have the physical prowess of the late '70s troupe of fighting greats but he shows tremendous spirit. Something that can't be said about a lot of martial arts actors who may display tremendous skill but don't exude much in the way of charm or charisma.
Cliff has more heart to him than a lot of the stone-faced robotic martial arts protagonists that flooded cinema screens in the mid-to-late '70s. It's hard to imagine him playing a villain. Cliff's sense of character makes him equitably as endearing as Jackie. His interaction with a child conveys warmth to the point I wonder why he never got the chance to play Jackie's big brother or uncle. They would have made for a compelling match-up.
Like John Wayne in his lighter fare, Cliff exudes an aura of hospitality. If I was a casting director in the Hong Kong film industry, I would certainly want Cliff to play a father or some other kind of friendly elder.
The company who made this film is Goldig and I swear every film I see of theirs just keeps on getting better and better. The stories are gradually becoming more original, the scripts are tightly written with spots of genius peppered throughout and the production values are noticably higher (this is almost like watching a Golden Harvest film).
Even the visual quality of the film print is better. I'm assuming the more films they made that became successful, the more screen prints which were being preserved more. The increasing star power is becoming strikingly evident and the fight scenes are steadily increasing in magnitude. I can remember going on the Hong Kong Film Services Office site a few years ago and being surprised that they were still in business and now I can see why.
As I said before, the film's star power has improved immensely so we start to see more famous character actors from the era of Hong Kong cinema of which this film was made in. Examples here include Lee Hoi San, Peter Chan Lung and Hsiao Hou (from the Lau Kar Leung films and Sammo Hung's Eastern Condors).
Hsiao Hou, who plays one of the spiritual boxers in this movie, was an actor working at Shaw Brothers at the time Kung Fu Genius was made. I'm surprised the company executives lent him out to Goldig. Maybe they lent him out in the same way Lo Wei lent Jackie to Seasonal. Perhaps, it was a case of being payed a lot of money to lend out one of their stars at the time.
The action was choreographed by Wilson Tong (the last villain to be seen in this film) who also choreographed the fight scenes in Snake in the Monkey's Shadow. The fights in this are top notch, eminently so in the case of the duck fist scene which will obtain the status of classic once this film gets viewed by more people. I lent this film to a fellow Kung Fu student (who's more into Japanese cinema than Chinese) and he couldn't get enough of the duck fist scene.
Just like Duel of the 7 Tigers, this film has one of the best soundtracks assembled (if not composed) in a HK film. The introductory credit sequence remarkably opens the film with a bang thanks to the rip-roaring soundtrack (the effect is akin to the way Leone's Dollars trilogy opened). During the opening training sequence, a music cue from Rocky 2 can be heard. One of the best comedic music cues utilized here is the one from the Popeye/dream sequence in Jackie's Half a Loaf of Kung Fu and Sammo's Dirty Tiger, Crazy Frog.
Considering the allusions I made to Westerns, this film has the feel of a western and it would be nice to know if there were more films with Cliff that had been made which featured the same character.
Cliff Lok is becoming one of my favorite actors. He makes for an enthralling presence. His acting ability and charisma are such that his martial arts ability is merely a supplement than the focal point. Martially, he manages to be a tad more adequate than his rival Jimmy Wang Yu. Cliff's career pretty much came to an end in the mid '80s with the exception of a one-off film role in the early '90s. I find it alarming that, out of all the old-school actors employed for Kung Fu Hustle, Stephen Chow didn't hire Lok for an appearance.
Kung Fu Genius is the sort of film that can be evenly enjoyed by genre aficionados and general film viewers. The interactions between the characters is enthralling and you get the sense that the director is genuinely interested in telling a story.
If anything, it's a apt example of how the Western genre influenced the Kung Fu genre.
For those eager to see more of Cliff Lok, check out the camaraderie he has with Simon Yuen in Mad Mad Kung Fu. For martial enthusiasts, you can't go wrong with Ring of Death (a.k.a. Bastard Kung Fu Master) which was a Seasonal production with Hwang Jang Lee, Roy Horan and Shih Kien (from Enter the Dragon) in the cast. Corey Yuen worked with Hsu Hsia and Meng Hoi for the fights hence why I recommend watching that movie as primary Lok viewing before venturing into his other output.
JOSEPH KUBY'S RATING: 7.5/10