Hello! Welcome to the first ever ‘Heroes of the East’ column where I shall be discussing my favourite actors and directors from East Asian cinema. My reason for doing so? Well I’ve been a huge fan of movies from this region for some time now and while I am no expert on the subject, my aim is to hopefully raise the profile of various talents that I’ve admired for some time or that are currently breaking out onto the scene.
And I could think of no bigger way to start this column than by paying tribute to the larger than life, Sammo Hung! Now many might know Sammo from the slightly hokey TV series Martial Law. There is nothing particularly wrong with this, but if it’s your only exposure to the man, then you’re missing out on one of the greatest martial artists to grace the screen! Hung trained at the same Peking Opera school as Jackie Chan, and the lessons there certainly paid off as despite being a rotund gentleman, Sammo can move unbelievably fast and hit even harder. In fact he claims that he once met Bruce Lee in a corridor and challenged the legend to a sparring match. Hung says it was a draw and to be honest this wouldn’t surprise me. He may be large, but for power, stamina and speed, he was one of the best in the HK martial arts world.
TOP 3 SAMMO HUNG MOVIES
1- The Odd Couple– A fairly interesting concept for a movie, where Sammo Hung and Lau Kar-Wing play rival kung fu masters who specialise in the sword and spear respectively. They’re both equally matched so hire two students who they plan to train and have a duel to prove who is the greatest master…the twist is that the students are played by the same actors, so you get to see Hung train Lau and vice-versa. Now the story is decent enough and the comedy is as broad as ever, but the real reason for seeing this film is the stunning choreography. I don’t use the phrase ‘jaw-dropping’ lightly, as the moves Hung pulls off with a spear and sword are simply sensational. The speed and sheer talent in the final fight sequence makes it one of the best of all time. (Trailer)
2- The Magnificent Butcher- Just a purely entertaining kung fu movie, packed with everything you’d want from a Sammo Hung film such as outlandish training sequences, amazing fight scenes and plenty of fat jokes (Hung was never afraid to make fun of himself). To be honest it’s not too far removed from Jackie Chan’s Drunken Master, and even features the character of Wong Fei Hung! But the set pieces truely stand out, including a unique Calligraphy battle, which has to be seen to be believed! (Trailer)
3- Encounters of the Spooky Kind– Always a trend setter and one of the principal movers and shakers in the HK New Wave, Sammo Hung demonstrates his inventiveness again with ‘Encounters’, one of the freshest and most interesting kung fu movies of all time. While combining martial arts and horror had been previously done in films such as Human Lanterns, Hung took the concept of mixing genres one step further by adding his unique brand of comedy. The result is a film filled with sheer lunacy and the plot is madness! But the sight of watching Sammo battle hopping vampires is worth the admission alone. (Trailer)
(Please note I plan to cover some more Sammo movies in future posts. So while I have indeed left out The Prodigal Son here, I will be mentioning it in the Yuen Biao column)