Terracotta Classic Kung Fu Collection

Being a martial arts movie fan in the UK is tough. When I first really got into the genre at the turn of the millennium, when I was at uni, a DVD label called Hong Kong Legends appeared and it was like mana from heaven. They released 101 classic martial arts films in total, largely from the Golden Harvest vaults. Through their beautifully remastered DVD’s, usually packed with features, I was able to work my way through the early films of Jackie Chan, discover the joy of Sammo Hung’s master works and uncover a wealth of classic action movies from Hong Kong. Unfortunately, as the decade moved on, key members of the Hong Kong Legends team left to work for Dragon Dynasty in the US and the label’s output dwindled and eventually it folded completely. The Cine Asia label formed during this time, bringing out a number of modern Asian action films and even eventually re-releasing most of the big name Hong Kong Legends releases. They never delved deeper into the wealth of old school kung fu available in East Asia though and eventually they too fell by the wayside.

The biggest martial arts gap in UK home entertainment is the lack of Shaw Brothers films. Momentum Pictures started bringing out a few, but gave up before they really got going. Momentum have disappeared now too (although they were bought up by eOne), so these days fans of old school kung-fu are left with that one bunch of Hong Kong Legends releases, floating around in various formats, and little else to quench their hunger for retro kung-fu violence.

Praise the high-kicking Lord then for Terracotta distribution. Just when all hope was lost, they have introduced their very own ‘Classic Kung Fu Collection’. Since the end of last year, Terracotta have been gradually treating UK fans to some rare old school kung fu classics. They’ve only got four out so far, but as my brief reviews of them all below will attest, they’re well worth a watch and, fingers crossed, hopefully we’ll be seeing more in the future.

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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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