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Ten Tigers from Kwantung
   |     review    |     notes     |     availability     |
"You're so blurry I can hardly see you!"
  
Year: 1979
Director: Chang Cheh
Producer: Run Run Shaw, Mona Fong Yat-Wa
Writer: Chang Cheh, Ni Kuang
Cast: Alexander Fu Sheng, Ti Lung, Chiang Sheng, Phillip Kwok Chun-Fung, Lo Meng, Lu Feng, Sun Chien, Chin Siu-Ho, Johnny Wang Lung-Wei, Wei Pak, Lung Tien-Hsiang, Guk Fung, Dick Wei, Walter Tso Tat-Wah
The Skinny: The title characters attempt to protect a revolutionary from the Manchu government, but their actions have fatal consequences for their disciples in this Shaw Brothers "classic" that somehow isn't. Not even the combined star power of Ti Lung, Alexander Fu Sheng, and some of Shaw Brothers' brightest talents can save this unnecessarily convoluted film from being a total dud.
Review
by Kozo:
     How can a film directed by Shaw veteran Chang Cheh and starring some of the biggest names in Hong Kong cinema be so incredible uninteresting? Credit a poorly conceived double-plot device, choppy pacing, and a gross inability to harness the acting talents involved, and you'll have some idea as to why this movie fails to deliver the goods.
     The film begins by focusing on two assassins as they set out to murder the fabled Ten Tigers of Kwantung. But instead of going after the big cats first, they decide to start by killing their students one by one. To explain this madness, the film then flashes back to the incident that sparked the killers' lust for revenge, while at the same time illustrating what brought the ten heroic characters together in the first place.
     Though only second-billed, Ti Lung anchors the film as Li Chen-Chow, the head honcho of what will become a group of ten righteous warriors. As Lung's brother-in-arms, the top-billed Alexander Fu Sheng lights up the screen as the cheeky, ill-tempered Tam Ming. With little comprehensible explanation, the heroic duo and their close pals try to help hide an anti-Qing patriot (Lu Feng) from some dastardly Manchu officials. As the story progresses, the group slowly starts to pick up new members. However, each meeting results in the inevitable misunderstanding, which in turn, causes the kung fu masters to fight among themselves. Eventually, the Ten Tigers resolve their differences and join forces against General Liang (played by consummate baddie Johnny Wang Lung-Wei) before the film shifts back to the bloody events of the present day.
     Sadly, despite the intriguing premise, Ten Tigers of Kwantung amounts to a sometimes dull, often incomprehensible film experience. Some gonzo moments toward the end of the picture (a golden weapon shaped like a naked woman, geysers of blood, and a brutal decapitation) add some much needed spice to the proceedings, but unfortunately, it's yet another case of too little too late. But really, upping that trademarked Chang Cheh gore factor wouldn't have been the way to save the picture.
     The main fault lies in the lack of character development. In many ways, Ten Tigers of Kwantung proves to be a case of six or seven tigers too many. Ti Lung brings a certain level of respectability and grace to the proceedings, while Alexander Fu Sheng and Philip Kwok (as the hilarious Beggar Su) provide some welcome bursts of comedic energy, but otherwise, the film seemingly implodes under the burdensome weight of its own cast. When the focus shifts to other characters—and Ti, Fu or Kwok are not present—the film suffers immensely. If the filmmakers had simply eliminated the "present-day disciples in danger" plotline completely and taken a more streamlined narrative approach, the film could have benefited considerably. It's the formation of the Ten Tigers that's most intriguing, not the systematic elimination of their pupils in the future.
     Though this movie is often referred to as a classic of the genre, I'm sorry to say that Ten Tigers of Kwantung isn't all that it's cracked up to be. There are certainly some nice performances and several impressive martial arts sequences, but thanks to a convoluted plot and poor character development, the resulting film is nothing more than a star-studded, but otherwise run-of-the-mill chopsocky flick. (Calvin McMillin 2003)
Notes:

• Celestial Pictures will probably re-release Ten Tigers of Kwantung in a restored widescreen format with its original language track. However, the film does not appear to be on their 2004 release schedule.
The Ground Zero DVD has the words "Shaw Scope" on the cover art, but the image is actually cropped.

Availability: DVD (USA)
Region 0 NTSC
Ground Zero Entertainment
Pan and Scan
English Dubbed

image courtesy of Ground Zero

   
   
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