23rd Jan2017

‘Fists of Fury’ DVD Review

by Phil Wheat

Presented by Cynthia Rothrock | Written by Leroy Patterson | Directed by Charles Band

fists-fury-dvd

Trailer compilations have, in recent year, become big business, they have also become increasingly important in terms of keeping trailers alive. In this time of streaming and digital downloads, where films come sans trailers and extras, there’s no real way – beyond these types of compilations – of seeing interesting trailers for obscure films you may not be aware of.

Titles such as Trailer War, Trailers from Hell, the UK’s very own Grindhouse Trailer Classics, Drive-In Delirium, Attack of the 80s, and 42nd Street Forever have not only kept the trailers alive in a physical format, but also allowed new audiences to discover new (old) films. Keeping up this tradition is Full Moon, who have released a number of trailer compilations already as part of the Grindhouse line – mainly focussing on the sleazier end of genre cinema like Naziploitation and women in prison movies. However their latest compilation, Fists of Fury, takes a look martial arts movies of the 70s and early 80s, showcasing a wealth of kung-fu movies from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Fists of Fury is split into individually themed sections, each introduced by Cynthia Rothrock in brief skits, including:

Femme Fatales – those ladies that kicked arse and took names during the 70s and 80s. Opening with one of the greatest female-led martial arts films EVER, Righting Wrongs, aka Above the Law, the second film Cynthia Rothrock film I ever saw which – along with China O’Brien – made me a fan of Rothrock’s for life. This portion of the compilation also features appearances from other female superstars of the genre, such as the queen of 70s kung-fu flicks Anglea Mao. Highlights here include trailers for Deadly China Doll and Sister Street Fighter (a personal favourite).

Bruceploitation – the myriad of films that tried to cash in on Bruce Lee’s untimely death. This section features the works of actors such as Bruce Li and Bruce Le and a surprising appearance by Sammo Hung in his kung-fu spoof, Enter the Fat Dragon, which saw Hung channel the look of Lee in a film apparently inspired by the life of “a die-hard Bruce Lee fan.” If there’s one thing you can take away from these trailers it’s the fact that Bruce Lee’s nunchaku sequence AND Han’s claws from Enter the Dragon had a HUGE influence on the Bruce Lee wannabes of the time – they appear in almost all the trailers on show here!

Weapon Deception – taking a look at the use of weapons in martial arts, from samurai swords, fans, poles – of the bamboo and Shaolin variety, hair(!), tiger claws, and the flying guillotine (though how could you NOT include this one?). Of course no trailer compilation about weapons could exist without an appearance of the master swordsman himself, the Shogun Assassin Ogami Ittō, and this does not disappoint, including as it does a trailer for Lightning Swords of Death amongst its line-up.

Guns vs. Fists – pretty self-explanatory, this portion of Fists of Fury looks at how martial arts films combined kung-fu with gun play in films such as Blacklist, Jaguar Lives (released in the UK some years ago by Arrow Video) and Hammer Films, They Call Me Mr. Shatter. This portion of the film is easily the weakest as it eschews the sheer craziness for more serious action and crime drama mixed with martial arts – marking a period (post the success of Enter the Dragon) in which the West and the East came together to try and bring kung-fu to more mainstream cinema by incorporating it into other genres.

One Man Army – a look at those martial arts characters who took on everyone single-handedly and kicked arse! Includes trailers for the likes of Chinese Hercules, starring Bolo Yeung (under the Yang Sze), who’d later go on to fight Van Damme in Bloodsport; the all-time classics Five Fingers of Death from 1972 and 1974′s The Streetfighter; and, in one of the few appearances of ninjas in this compilation, Sho Kosugi’s Revenge of the Ninja.

Bizarre Brawlers – the final portion of Fists of Fury is its craziest. There’s kung fu vs yoga, martial arts kids (just how crazy is Lucky Seven – kids getting beat up and thrown thorough plate glass by grown men?!) one-armed swordsmen, and titles such as The One-Armed Executioner, a staple fixture in my local video store back in the day; The Crippled Masters; and an odd trailer for The Story of Drunken Master which is presented to camera by Yuen Siu Tien, who played Beggar So in the Jackie Chan version of Drunken Master!

As the saying goes, the best bits are always in the trailer and this compilation is no exception; and unlike some trailer compilations I doubt I’ll ever tire of re-watching this one. The kinect pace of each and every trailer and the sheer amounts of martial arts insanity on display means that Fists of Fury doesn’t give the audience time to breathe, let alone get bored; and that’s despite an almost two-hour running time!

If I had any qualms about this compilation, one is that the Femme Fatales portion of the film was too short, especially when compared to the overly long Bruceploitation portion – once you’ve seen one appearance of Bruce Li and Bruce Le, there’s really no need to see many of their trailers, the shtick never changed and neither did their films really. The other issue I had with this release is the chapter points – you’d think it would make sense to add a chapter point at the start of every section of this film at the point of Rothrock’s introduction. Sadly not here, instead the chapter points seem to be inserted completely at random, oftentimes in the middle of a trailer!

However my big problem with trailer compilations such as this has nothing to do with the production itself, it’s the fact that I end up spending a small fortune on the movies within – trying to track down the best print and most complete versions of the films whose trailers got me so excited to watch them in the first place! A not-so-small price to pay for enjoyment such as this.

The DVD release of Fists of Fury from Full Moon also includes a making of, showing Cynthia Rothrock at work on the set of her introductory vignettes; and a fantastic – if all too brief – interview with Rothrock discussing her start in the genre and her new projects. The disc also contains a handful of trailers for Fullm Moon’s most recent productions Killjoy’s Psycho Circus and Ravenwolf Towers; and other trailer compilations: Badass Mothaf**kas, Babes Behind Bars, Blood of a 1000 Virgins; and NazithonKings of Cult, the feature-length sit down interview with Charles Band and Roger Corman.

A fantastic example of an increasing important genre, Fists of Fury is available on DVD now from Full Moon. Buy it now from their online shop or, especially if you’re in the UK and want to avoid customs, the Full Moon Amazon store.

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