One of the reasons I fell in love with kung fu movies is their penchant for stories about the value of perseverance, practice, community, learning and social justice.
Unlike most mainstream films that tend to go with a one size fits all mentality, these films are tailor made for people into over the top, really cool, action hero adult cartoon type shit. But unlike western comics and adventure films that play on militarism, nationalism, racism, sexism, etc. kung fu films seem to champion the underdog.
Leading roles often focus on people seen as marginalized, like in “The One Armed Swordsman” where a young martial arts student with one arm learns a kung fu style that makes him more powerful than his able-bodied adversaries.
Women often feature prominently in kung fu cinema, too. And while these films from the 70’s wouldn’t be considered progressive today in many respects, women are often given a strength, dignity and power unheard of anywhere else. This is no “Wonder Woman” or “Catwoman”!
Films like “Shaolin Vs. Wutang”, “Wing Chun” and of course “Woman Avenger” feature women in leading roles, kicking ass and saving lives as opposed to being treated like expendable sex objects for the audience/heroes enjoyment. Many of the films were made outside of any studio system or in Hong Kong, which at the time was free from the political control and censorship of the mainland, so there is a subtext of freedom, human rights and the value of personal integrity, decency and community that runs deep throughout the history of martial arts cinema.
So sit back and grab some snacks and get into this killer movie from 1980 centred around the magnificent Ha Kwong Li, who has been in a ton of great kung fu flicks including one of my all time favourites “The Invincible Kung Fu Legs.” It’s directed by Lee Tso Nan who you know from “Eagle’s Claw”, “Green Jade Statuette” and the aforementioned “Invincible kung Fu Legs.” In my view he was one of the most interesting directors of the time, taking some cues from the Shaw Brothers but adding his own underground sense of cool that makes his martial arts films hard to beat for the hardcore fans