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Review for CINEMATIC VENGEANCE! 8 Kung Fu Classics From Director Joseph Kuo

7 / 10


At the time of writing, a new law has been passed in Hong Kong, intended to censor cinema so that it doesn’t offend Communist China. What that means is anyone’s guess. The most generous reading of the law is that it will only apply to new films, and then only to specifically political content. That would be optimistic in the extreme. What offends the Chinese government seems to wax and wane, and change with the moods of the ruling party, and it won’t be surprising to see the law applied retrospectively to all of Hong Kong cinema, new, and the back catalogue. Could films made in Taiwan or featuring Taiwanese talent be erased, simply because Taiwan ‘doesn’t exist as a separate entity’ according to China? Could they suddenly decide to rewrite history, and that the UK never had dominion over Hong Kong, resulting in a whole chunk of Jackie Chan’s back catalogue being put onto the cutting room floor? The last few years have been a golden age of revivified classic Hong Kong cinema thanks to companies like Eureka Video and 88 Films, but the future is difficult to perceive.

When the unsolicited check discs for the Cinematic Vengeance boxset from Eureka Films showed up, four Blu-rays featuring films from a director I had never heard of, with stars that I didn’t recognise, from an era of kung fu cinema that I tend to avoid, my first instinct was to put it to one side. But then the news of that law popped up, and I changed my mind. It could very well be that we won’t get too many more releases like this from now on, and we’ve just got to appreciate what we do have right now. However, the discs didn’t turn up in a timely fashion, and with eight movies (nine if you count the extra features) to review in less than two weeks before the release date, I’m sure to burn out on kung fu movies to the point where I won’t be giving the boxset a fair shake. So for this release, I’m trying something a little different, posting a review for each movie as I review it. There are four discs in this collection, two movies on each, with the first two discs devoted to The Deadly Masters! and the final two to Fearless Shaolin!

These then, are links to reviews of 8 Kung Fu Classics from acclaimed Taiwanese Director Joseph Kuo.

Disc 1: The Deadly Masters

The 7 Grandmasters (1977 – 88:41)
The 36 Deadly Styles (1982 – 92:17)

Disc 2: The Deadly Masters

The World of Drunken Master (1979 – 88:11)
The Old Master (1979 – 88:01)

Disc 3: Fearless Shaolin

Shaolin Kung Fu (1974 – 92:10)
The Shaolin Kids (1975 – 87:59)

Disc 4: Fearless Shaolin

18 Bronzemen (1976 – 95:03)
Return of the 18 Bronzemen (1976 – 92:06)

I only received the review check discs, but the retail release, limited to 2000 copies will come with a 60-page booklet and 8 facsimile lobby cards, as well as specially commissioned packaging artwork. The discs all present their content with static menus, the screen split in half for each film. The booklet has 8 essays, one for each film, with about four pages of text for each, and there are plenty of stills and promotional imagery as well.

In Summary

These eight films have won me over to the idea of a curated boxset. If someone had sat me down in front of a Joseph Kuo movie at random, I would have been unimpressed, I would have maybe enjoyed the film, although most probably not, and I would have dismissed the experience as a one off, never to be revisited. But having a boxset of eight films from one director, from largely the same era, and sharing some thematic similarities, all makes for an educational experience. Exploring a director’s oeuvre in this way is a wholly different experience from just watching one film at random, and without the context that the other films, the commentaries and the texts add.

They aren’t the first films that come to mind when you think of classic kung-fu cinema, but this boxset presents a slice of film history that it’s easy to lose yourself in. It’s well worth picking up just to indulge that curiosity, and I doubt these films would have got this kind of presentation and restoration were it not for the boxset format.

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