Saturday, April 09, 2016

Old School Kung Fu ’16: The Man from Hong Kong

You know it’s a successful co-production when both the Hong Kong and Australian leads are injured during the production. Reportedly, it was a slightly contentious set, but at least Jimmy Wang Yu shook off his hang-gliding injuries and George (one-and-done James Bond) Lazenby was not visibly scarred by his burns. The important thing is Ozploitation director Brian Trenchard-Smith got his shots. Fans will agree it was all worth it when The Man from Hong Kong (trailer here) screens during Subway Cinema’s Old School Kung Fu 2016 at the Metrograph.

Win Chan was busted smuggling drugs by Australia’s two most racist cops, but he clams up, playing the “No English” card. Inspector Fang Sing-leng of Hong Kong’s Special Branch will make him talk—and not just because he speaks Cantonese. The trip to Australia comes at an opportune time for Fang. It will give him a chance to hook-up again with Caroline Thorne, the hang-gliding bombshell who crashed landed on the Royal Police Academy grounds during the opening credits—and what credits they are, featuring some lovely aerial photography, Inspector Fang schooling a bunch of short short-wearing cadets in Kung Fu, and the infectiously smooth disco hit “Sky High,” performed by the British top-40 band Jigsaw, who would eventually evolve into the villain of the Saw franchise.

Even before Fang beats it out of him, everyone knows Win Chan was running drugs for the untouchable “reputable businessman” Jack Wilton. Unfortunately, Win Chan will not survive extradition (through no fault of Fang’s). Consequently, Fang will make it his business to create trouble for Wilton’s fronts, including his dojo.

Lazenby might have played 007, but Jimmy Wang Yu gets both girls in Man from Hong Kong, which was arguably rather progressive for 1975, considering they were played by Anglo-Australians Ros Spiers and Rebecca Gilling, both of whom were budding starlets who would have long and productive careers in Australian film and television. Spiers is particularly charismatic as Fang’s hang-gliding instructor.

When you combine the exploitation stylings of Trenchard-Smith, director of the original Turkey Shoot, with the fight choreography of Sammo Hung (who also appears as Win Chan), you know you are going to get plenty of action. Technically, it is several cuts above average, especially the sky high cinematography of future Oscar winner Russell Boyd and the appealingly 1970s trappings.

Jimmy Wang Yu does his thing, throwing it down with authority in the massive fight scenes. He also shows reasonably credible leading man chops, especially opposite Speirs. As Wilton, Lazenby and his moustache are entertainingly villainous. The ex-Bond seems to enjoy chewing the scenery in his second Golden Harvest production, but Stoner, his first Hong Kong outing with the awesome Angela Mao Ying, is far and away his best (whereas, he basically phones it in during Queen’s Ransom, co-starring both Mao and Yang).

To recap, Man from Hong Kong brought together Jimmy Wang Yu, George Lazenby, Sammo Hung, Brian Trenchard-Smith, and Jigsaw. It all comes together pretty much exactly as you would hope and expect. Highly recommended for martial arts fans, The Man from Hong Kong screens today (4/9) and tomorrow (4/10) as part of this year’s Old School Kung Fu at the Metrograph.