Blindspotting: The 36th Chamber Of Shaolin and Five Deadly Venoms



You may notice a distinct difference in the quality of the screen caps contained within this post. 36th Chamber Of Shaolin has a proper widescreen aspect ratio and clear image (straight from the Dragon Dynasty DVD) while Five Deadly Venoms has a poorly cropped 4:3 image that was obviously recorded years ago off TV to well-worn VHS (and then transferred to YouTube where I found it). Was I desperate to catch that second film and willing to watch anything I could source? No. It was actually a bit of a design point.


Several months ago when I first mentioned this pairing of Shaw Brothers Kung Fu films for my Blindspot, it was suggested to me that I should swing on down to Chinatown and get my viewing copies there. After all, crappy, English-dubbed copies are how most people get introduced to Kung Fu in the first place. Though I completely saw the merit in the idea, I was against it for two reasons…First and foremost, I really can’t handle cropped films and bad dubbing – hell, even Fellini films dubbed afterwards back into their own language (as Fellini intended) drive me a bit crazy since things like intonation never quite match up quite properly when dubbed. I’ve been a stickler for proper aspect ratios since realizing what they were (somewhere during the mid-point of the VHS years) and mostly seethe if I come across a film on TV or DVD in a bastardized form. Secondly, I already had that copy of 36th Chamber on DVD sitting at home on my stack of unwatched films. But the idea of watching at least one of the films in the format in which I would’ve seen my first taste of Kung Fu was still somewhat appealing. My knowledge of Kung Fu is not extensive (loads of Jackie Chan, the more serious Come Drink With Me, the much less serious Mad Monkey Kung Fu and all sorts of clips and scenes from Sunday afternoons long ago), but when I think of it, I do indeed think of desaturated videotape stock, people being cut out of the frame and halting English dubbed in an attempt to match with the characters’ mouths. Oh, and enough whooshing and whacking sounds to make a foley artist break into a sweat.

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DVD Review: Dragon (a.k.a. Wu Xia)

Director: Peter Chan
Screenplay: Joyce Chan, Oi Wah Lam
Starring: Donnie Yen, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Wei Tang, Jimmy Wang Yu
Producers: Peter Chan, Jojo Yuet-Chun Hui
Country: Hong Kong/China
Running Time: 115 min
Year: 2011
BBFC Certificate: 15

With Jackie Chan taking fewer and fewer leading roles and Jet Li jumping in and out of retirement, it’s Donnie Yen who has become China’s biggest martial arts movie star of the last decade. He’d been in plenty of action classics at the end of the 20th century such as Once Upon a Time in China 2, Iron Monkey and Hero in 2002, but was rarely the leading man. It wasn’t until 2005’s Kill Zone (a.k.a. S.P.L.) that Yen’s star truly shone in the Hong Kong/Chinese movie landscape. Working as action director too, his speed and strength were front and centre in the fight scenes and the intensity of his performance showed that he had more to offer than playing second fiddle to Jet Li or such.

Or at least that’s what most martial arts movie fans say. I finally got around to watching Kill Zone for the first time last week and to be perfectly honest I was very disappointed after hearing all the praise. Yen’s character is criminally underdeveloped, although the fight scenes are fantastic there are very few and the drama which replaces them is clumsy, poorly delivered and melodramatic. In general, although I think Yen is an exceptional action choreographer and a decent actor, I’ve not been blown away by any of the films he’s headlined over the last ten years to be honest. Even Ip Man, which also garnered a fair amount of praise, was good but not great in my eyes. Nevertheless, I still get excited about his latest releases and here we are with Dragon (a.k.a. Wu Xia), which infuriatingly has taken two years to make it to UK shores. Thankfully my good friends over at Metrodome took up the gauntlet and are releasing it on DVD next week after a short theatrical run back in May.

Dragon sees Yen play Liu Jin-Xi, a man living a simple and peaceful life with his wife and two children, working in a paper mill to make ends meet. When a notoriously violent criminal and his accomplice come into town and Jin-Xi manages to ‘accidentally’ kill them, Detective Xu Bai-Jiu (Takeshi Kaneshiro) smells a rat. No ordinary man could fend off such powerful foes, so he follows Jin-Xi around for a couple of days to try and find out who he really is. As Bai-Jiu discovers more than a few skeletons in Jin-Xi’s closet, this past comes back to haunt him and the calm family man must face up to his former self.

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Weekend of Trash X

With the 10th Weekend of Trash (backstory and previous write-ups can be found here – I, II, III & IV, V & VI, VII, VIII & IX) we pulled out all the stops, with a couple of films on the Friday as well as a record-breaking seven whole films on Saturday. We got a nice range of B-movies watched and picked wisely, with the only real dodgy titles being on Friday night.

The reviews are only brief as usual and with so many films being watched and the nature of their quality, my ratings should probably be taken with a pinch of salt. I’ve included clips and trailers when possible too.


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Weekend of Trash VII

The Weekend of Trash is back (backstory and previous write-ups can be found here – 1, 2, 3 & 4, 5 & 6). The guys visited me for the first time, saving me the trip down to Bristol. We didn’t all get together until the Saturday, but I snuck in a trash-classic on Friday to make up for it. There were no horrors this time around, but we got plenty of action films watched which is fine by me.

The reviews are a bit brief because I’m ultra busy, but I’ve included plenty of clips and trailers for your enjoyment. Lets have a look at what we watched:

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Don’t Interrupt his Kung Fu in any Media Format! Black Dynamite to Kick Comic Book Ass and TV Too.


A note from Scott Sanders, director of Michael Jai White’s wonderful blaxploitation homage/parody, Black Dynamite (Kurt’s Review) that we fell in love with last year sees the eponymous hero taking it to the Man in Comics and Animation on the TeeVee. If you haven’t caught up with this film, which is very much in the vein of Edgar Wright’s brand of loving-tribute-yet-still-very-much-its-own-film, then check it out on DVD or BLU-RAY before the blue leisure suit and the nunchucks make it to the hand-drawn world. The film was criminally unreleased by Sony, who only put it out in 6 cities (none of them in Canada, outside of the festival circuit.)

In 2011, our hero will bring his badass brand of kung-fu to two new mediums: the comic book and television.

Released by indie publisher Ape Entertainment with a story by Michael Jai White, Byron Minns, and myself, the one-shot Black Dynamite: Slave Island follows our hero as he seeks to put an end to a mysterious island… where an insidious 19th century legacy of The Man still exists.

As well, we are hard at work on Black Dynamite: The Animated Series for [adult swim]. The show is Executive Produced by Carl Jones (The Boondocks) and will take BLACK DYNAMITE to a new level.

Cinecast Episode 171 – Spiffed Up Stuffy Stuff

Waxing (on, and off) nostagic this week with glossy summer product. Two remakes from the heady cheese days of the 1980s dominated the multiplex last weekend: Will Smith Jr. in The Karate Kid and flying tanks in The A-Team. Contrary to what we say in the show it does not get very “spoilerific” at all; if you are over 30, these two films are more or less beyond that (your mileage may vary). Gamble has a quick take on the upcoming weekends behemoth Toy Story 3, from the perspective of someone (perhaps the only one) who didn’t like Toy Story 2. Kurt talks at length on The Duplass’ brother’s Cyrus which also opens this weekend in a few cities. Furthermore, in an ongoing behind-the-curve look at pop-cultural phenomenon LOST, Kurt continues to moan about the bad drama and stalling nature of the narrative, but does praise the heck out of the Season 2 closer and the Season 3 opener (there are *spoilers* ahoy in that conversation, be warned). Rounding out the show are DVD picks, a few other tangents – anyone up for Chinese cultural imperialism, or Communism vs. Fascism in 80s trash? How to parse TV awards shows? Ron Mann’s choice of having comic book authors read lengthy portions of their books on screen? Fashion Fan Boys? Oh, and another round of the piracy, file sharing, copyright debate ensues.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

To download the show directly, paste the following URL into your favorite downloader:

ALTERNATIVE (no music track):

Full show notes are under the seats…
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Why you should be at Sitges ’09

sitgesWhile I am still recovering from the Toronto Film Festival experience (45 films, 16 reviews, 4am walks, 3 parties, 2 interviews, no sleep!) I cannot but think that I wish I was planning a trip to the sunny coast of spain for the worlds biggest and most comprehensive genre film festival: Sitges. Now in its 42nd year, the line up is to die for.

Here are some of the highlights (links to Row Three Reviews):

Enter The Void (R3 Review) – The Best film Experience of the year! Seriously.

Grace (R3 Review) – Motherhood, biology and the parasitic infant. “He requires special food!”

Splice (R3 Review) – sexy and scary genetic experimentation with Sarah Polley and Adrian Brody.

Pontypool (R3 Review) – Semiotics! Zombies! Talk Radio!

Black Dynamite (R3 Review) – Blaxploitation Spoof. Badassery. You Dig, MuthaFucka!

Thirst (R3 Podcast Discussion) – Chan-wook Park does vampires in his own majestic and unpredictable fashion.

Mr. Nobody (R3 Review) – Donnie Darko meets Primer meets Sliding Doors. Rinse. Repeat.

[Rec]2 (R3 Review) – Just like [Rec] only more guns. And more crosses. (As [Rec] was to Alien, [Rec]2 is to Aliens.)

Genius Party Beyond – The best of strange animation from 4oC studios. Animation without boundaries.

Best Worst Movie – A doc on Troll 2 (a contender for worst film ever made) and its fandom. And Sitges is double billing it with Troll 2 for the complete package.

The Hole – 3D (R3 Review) – A great kids story of fears in the dark with astoundingly good 3D technology.

The Loved Ones (R3 Review) – John Hughes meets Carrie with a dollop of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Drag Me to Hell. This Down Under horror film won the TIFF midnight madness award.

Nymph (R3 Review) – Nature is Satan’s Church.

Deliver Us From Evil – A stylish revisit of Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs. With bonus added nail gun.

Danse Macabre – Drop Dead Gorgeous reverie on the final moments before a body is interred into the ground.

The Bad Lieutenant: Port of call New Orleans (R3 Review) – Shoot him again! His soul is still dancing. God Bless Herzog goofing on genre cinema and creating amusing, highly quotable, entertainment.

The Forbidden Door – Indonesian ‘mind-fuck’ of a successful artist discovering how badly things can go when you peer behind the red curtain of your own psyche. Stay until after the credits for more information.

Valhalla Rising – Vikings! Sergio Leone framing! Terrence Malick tonal poetry! Blood Eagling! Mads Mikklesen!

Vengeance – Johnnie To in fine form makes an urban western with French superstar Johnny Hallyday.

Moon (R3 Review) – Sam Rockwell in a stunningly designed hard science fiction film.

Some that I personally wish to see:

Stanislaw Lem’s “1”
O Lucky Malcolm!
The Countess
The Bullet Man (Tetsuo 3)
Paranormal Activity
White Lightin’
Cold Souls (R3 Review)

…And a word of warning (i.e. best to skip out) on these:

Les derniers jours du monde (Happiness at the End of the World) – Sexual confusion and promiscuity as Apocalypse metaphor could have been done in 10 minutes instead of 130 agonizing minutes! Unless you want to see Sergei Lopez and Mathieu Almalric graphically make out, avoid like the plague!

George A. Romero’s Survival of the Dead – He’s lost it with this one, blunt, directionless and looking more like a bad Romero imitation than anything else.

The Children (R3 Review) – A handsome and well shot ‘Children Slasher Film’ that seems to please the genre-crowd, but is braindead and blunt without being very scary.

All You Suckers Gather ‘Round for New Black Dynamite Awesomeness!


We’ve talked about Black Dynamite so much, I’m starting to think October 16th can’t come soon enough.

Scott Sanders’ film about an African-American badass brother who saves kids from smack addiction by putting away bad dudes while also managing to kick kung-fu ass and making love to the ladies…this appears to have everything any good Blaxploitation film should and according to Kurt, it marries it all beautifully.

I’m not a huge fan of the genre, mostly because I haven’t seen a lot of good ones, but Black Dynamite is certainly selling itself highly and if previous reception is any indication, we’re in for a treat.

New trailer is tucked under the seat!

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Toronto After Dark: BLACK DYNAMITE

bdposterThe challenge in spoofing Blaxploitation flicks is that really, most of the classic entries in the genre are well into self parody already (Dolemite anyone?). The solution brought to the table by writer-director Scott Sanders and writer-producer-star Michael Jai White is to make the film look as authentic as possible (re-purposing lots of 1970s b-roll footage in establishing shots) while picking at the overstuffed nature of the more serious entries (Shaft, Coffy). Police Procedural? Check. Neighborhood Vigilantism? Check. Kung Fu Island Assault? Check. Racial Conspiracy? Check. Revenge Plot? Check. It may be busy, but Black Dynamite is certainly Baadasssss.

As strange as it is to say in a film this broad in its aim, much of the best humour derives from exposing the structural short cuts of lower budgeted ‘give-em-what-they-want’ action flicks. There are a lot of things adding up to the conspiracy Black Dynamite aims to uncover, and the movie has no problem jumping from one set-piece to the next to keep things moving along. In the case of stretching things to the expositional breaking point, a scene that pulls all of this together is sublime in its unexpected lunacy. BD and the gang get together for a ‘chalk-board’ session to pull together all the clues and connects Asclepius to Malt Liquor, M&Ms to Little Richard and incidentally causes the invention of Chicken and Waffles. This is worthy of whiter-than thou comic genius of Monty Python or at least the Ealing inspired Without A Clue. More obvious sight gags like boom mikes dropping into the frame, choppily edited car chases, and a shoot out involving a man in a donut suit (with an uzi) are equally plentiful and interspersed with wordier gags like that mentioned above, or, for example a co-op of wildly nick-named pimps going through their blow and ho business plan. But to merely list the successful chuckle-worthy gags and ‘great’ scenes would be both exhausting and pointless. Suffice it to say that they are both a plentiful cocktail of both subtle and obvious. The only tricky part is to decide whether some of the clunkier moments, characters or side-plots in the film (and there are a few) are errors in judgment or a play for further authenticity. Perhaps one could make the argument on whether or not this sort of endeavor is worthwhile considering that there are boatloads of classic black-cinema out there waiting for discovery and enjoyment. The emphasis on comedy and style here is highly likely to be a catalyst in getting people to go back and look up many of the originals and that in and of it self is pretty cool. You dig.

blackdynamte-r2Michael Jai White, who is perhaps best known as the man in the Spawn costume or Direct-To-Video fare (although he has a blink and you’ll miss him role in The Dark Knight), gets a chance to really strut his stuff as a Robin Hood of the ‘hood with a CIA secret ops, Kung Fu and ‘Nam background. He is Richard Roundtree, Jim Kelly and Chuck Norris all rolled into a virile and buff lead who can deliver the Kung-Fu and Nunchaku along with tongue twisting monologues and wild wakka-chikka-wakka-chikka moments with the ladies. His comic timing is as impeccable as his martial arts. His reaction to meeting ‘the man’ and his wife at the very top of the food chain results into a worthy climax of the film, consecrating his superhero status with the destruction of the good china, that will be hard to top any future Black Dynamite sequels (BD in Africa?).

To put it quite simply, Black Dynamite is a the best parody/spoof film to be made in some time. It stomps on the line between gag-a-minute classics such as Airplane! and Top Secret! (I’m surprised Black Dynamite does not also have an exclamation point at the end of its title, it is certainly deserving of it) and more indirect homage films like Hot Fuzz and Austin Powers. While there have been a couple of quite passable parodies that have mined this territory (I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, Undercover Brother), Black Dynamite is best of breed. It understands and takes precise aim at the idiosyncrasies of Blaxploitation flicks and delivers an entry of pure popcorn entertainment. It keeps much of the spirit of good old fashioned (em)power(ment) to the people, even as it often pokes ‘the classics’ in the solar plexus.

blackdynamite-r1After picking it up at Sundance, Sony Pictures is giving Black Dynamite a limited 5-6 city release on October 19th, and hopefully this will expand outward after that. With a serious lack of black action heroes out there, “We need you Black Dynamite, now more than ever!” The “R” rating that this is destined to receive (due to mondo mammaries) may help or hinder its wide-release chances. But if this picture does make it into wide release, here is hoping that it shows the folks that flock to the soulless and offensive ‘____-Movie‘ parodies just how things ought to be done.