The Man from Hong Kong (1975)

Man, I love this film. I must be on an Australian kick for these pages at the moment, but this Australian/Hong Kong co-production has it all in spades. This is a film that mixes brutal Kung-Fu action, George Lazenby, Sammo Hung, hang-gliders, car chases with a gorgeous blue Chrysler 'Charger' and some touches of nudity and sex as well. You've also got Australian setttings and actors all round. How can you go wrong?

In this case, you can't. Co-directors Brian Trenchard-Smith and Yu Wang have fashioned a dynamite little film together. To stories. At the famous Ayer's Rock in outback Australia, drug smuggler Win Chan (Hong Kong film icon Sammo Hung) is apprehended by the authorites after a martial arts battle on top of the rock. Hong Kong Police expert (and Kung Fu champion) Fang Sing Leng (Yu Wang) is brought in to extradite the crook. Fang has a knock-down, drag-out battle with Win, while he is supposedly interrogating him alone. Feeling sore and sorry, Win Chan is about to be brought to justice when Crime Boss Jack Wilton (a smarmy Lazenby) has him shot. Fang chases the assassin (stunt expert Grant Page, making ridiculous faces but fighting well) and battles him to the death in a Chinese restaurant. Fang tracks the killer's origin's to a martial arts school run by Wilton. As grizzled detective Morrie Grosse - a very apt name, as played by cult favorite Hugh Keays-Byrne - notes, Wilton is in control of all crime in the city of Sydney. We see Wilton training his cronies in the classic martial arts training scene. We also see that Wilton is a cheat, fighting with a loaded glove.

Fang tries to confront Wilton at his skyscraper complex but is rebuffed by one of the crime-lord's heavies, one of whom is played by the inimitable Frank Thring, always an excellent villain to boo and hiss at. Fang recruits the help of Caroline Thorne (the spunky Rosalind Spiers) an Australian Reporter he had earlier slept with in Hong Kong, and who had provided us with our first hang-gliding scene as she lands into one of Fang's martial arts training sessions back in his homeland. The connected Caroline gets Fang into one of Wilton's parties and the two clash, Wilton about to shoot Fang with a crossbow before Caroline intervenes. Fang leaves, and investigates the martial arts school again. This time he fights with a whole gang of martial arts experts. This is one hell of a fight folks, the blood flows freely and all sorts of blades and weapons are used. Great fun! Fang barely escapes alive, being rescued by the beautful Angelica (Rebecca Gilling) who takes the injured man back to her veterinarian father, after he refused to go to hospital. After he's operated on by the Vet, Fang recovers and he and Angelica fall in love. Cue the sex scene near a waterfall, but Rebecca Gilling is fairly easy on the orbs at least.

Sadly for the love-struck couple, the evil Wilton wants Fang dead. He tracks him to where the Vet and his daughter live, by the number plate of the van Fang escaped in with Angelica, and sends three heavies to kill him. One thug on a motorbike plants a bomb on their van and blows it to kingdom come, killing Angelica but leaving the bloodied Fang injured but alive. Enraged and seeking vengeance, he commandeers that beautiful blue Charger and runs them all into the ground, leaving the Charger a smashed mess by the finish. A great car chase scene, my friends, but it certainly left me sad at the car's fate! Fang then enlists Caroline's aid again and gets her to tow another hang-glider - there must have been a glider craze in my country at the time - so he can attack Wilton from above, as he hides in his fortress-like apartment. Fang manages to swing in the window and outfight the heavily-armed Wilton, for whom not even machine-guns can help him against Fang. The brutal hero then tapes a handy grenade into Wilton's mouth, forcing a confession out of him before his lackeys arc-weld their way in through the steel doors that were meant to protect Wilton. Then, because of a final act of violence, Wilton accidentally pulls the pin ... will Fang's gravity defying skills save him?

Boom! I've just got to recommend this film. It certainly doesn't take itself too seriously. There is something about the product of the fusion of the Shaw Studios and the Australian Crew that works. A unique new aesthetic perhaps? George Lazenby plays a fantastic villain, obviously relishin the role, all sickly smiles, and he fights pretty damned well too. Apparently he really was a martial arts expert and it shows. As far as his character goes, I almost expected him to twirl that thick moustache at a few points. Yu Wang plays a single-minded, determined hero who gets utterly bloodied and slashed one scene, then is mysteriously unmarked the next. The suppoting cast are great, particularly Hugh Keays-Byrne and Ros Spiers. They seem to be enjoying themselves in their small parts. The look of the film is wonderful, one minute multi-coloured hang-gliders fill the screen, then the redness of the outback, then blood spattered white martial arts uniforms. The soundtrack will borrow into your brain like a wombat (Aussie animal, folks) and refuse to come out. Very seventies, that's all I'll say. The whole film is a good companion piece to Bruce Lee's Enter the Dragon, perhaps not with the gravitas of that classic, but it does evoke a similar mood.

I would absolutely recommend this one to those of you who read these pages regularly. It throws so many good ingredients into the mix that you're bound to be entertained on more than one level. It really is worth a view for George Lazenby's performance alone.

© Boris "Wilting Lotus" Lugosi 2005.


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Review written: 07/14/2005 12:29:30