This weekend (April 8-10) is the 6th Old School Kung Fu Fest, put on by Subway Cinema and held at Metrograph in the Lower East Side. This year’s unifying theme is Golden Harvest. Co-founded by Raymond Chow and Leonard Ho, Golden Harvest was the quintessential Hong Kong action movie studio/distributor of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Chow and Ho had previously worked for Shaw Brothers Studios, the beloved company behind many martial arts classics.
There are eight Golden Harvest films being screened over the weekend, which gives just a taste of what the studio had to offer during its glory days.
Below is a brief rundown of the four of the major films screening this weekend: Enter the Dragon, The Man from Hong Kong, Pedicab Driver, and Rumble in the Bronx. Don’t get me wrong, Big Bullet, The Blade, The Prodigal Son, and A Terra-Cotta Warrior are great in their own ways, so also give them a watch if you’re in the city this weekend.
[The 6th Old School Kung Fu Fest takes place Friday, April 8th through Sunday, April 10th in New York City. All screenings will take place at Metrograph, which is located at 7 Ludlow Street. For tickets, showtimes, and more information, visit metrograph.com or subwaycinema.com.]
Enter the Dragon (1973)
Starring Bruce Lee, John Saxon, Jim Kelly, Bolo Yeung
Even though Fist of Fury (aka The Chinese Connection) is my favorite Bruce Lee movie, I can’t deny the importance of Enter the Dragon. The landmark movie brought Lee international stardom, and it helped kick off my personal martial arts movie obsession. (Ditto Infra-Man.) The film would also help propel the film careers of perennial bad guy Bolo Yeung (Bloodsport) and blaxploitation star Jim Kelly (Black Belt Jones). The set-up is simple: infiltrate an island, punch and kick people really hard, repeat. In addition to one of the most brutal kicks to the head in cinema history and a funky ass Lalo Schifrin score, Enter the Dragon manages to impart some martial arts philosophy amid the mayhem. Sammo Hung makes a cameo appearance, as does Jackie Chan in two blink-or-you’ll-miss-him moments while Bruce Lee dispenses of faceless goons.
The Man from Hong Kong aka The Dragon Flies (1975)
Starring Jimmy Wang Yu, George Lazenby, Roger Ward, Hugh Keays-Byrne
Australian exploitation movies are bonkers in the best possible way. Take The Man from Hong Kong for example. The film stars Shanghai-born Jimmy Wang Yu (Master of the Flying Guillotine, One-Armed Swordsman) as a violent Chinese supercop sent to fight an Australian crime boss played by George Lazenby (James freakin’ Bond). The film is recklessly enjoyable. Yu blows up cars, demolishes a Chinese restaurant, blows up buildings, and effortlessly seduces comely Aussie women (whom he apparently detested behind the scenes). Sammo Hung also appears in this movie, as does Roger Ward (Mad Max) and Hugh Keays-Byrne (Mad Max, Mad Max: Fury Road). For more on The Man from Hong Kong and other great Australian exploitation movies, I urge you to watch Mark Hartley’s excellent documentary Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation!
Pedicab Driver (1989)
Starring Sammo Hung, Nina Li, Lau Kar-Leung, Billy Chow
Both Enter the Dragon and The Man from Hong Kong are American and Australian co-productions, respectively. Pedicab Driver, on the other hand, is a Hong Kong movie through and through, featuring hard-hitting action, broad Cantonese comedy, machismo, and extreme melodrama. It may be a matter of taste, but I love that histrionic hodgepodge. (Though its gender and sexual politics are definitely of a different era.) The film follows the travails of some pedicab drivers as they look for love and seek justice against an irredeemable crime boss. Pedicab Driver features an exceptional fight between director/star Sammo Hung and Lau Kar-Leung. Lau was one of Shaw Brothers’ premiere action filmmakers, which makes his on-screen battle with Hung feel like a generational passing of the torch. Sammo Hung also dukes it out with Billy Chow (Fist of Legend). Both fights typify the fast, fierce choreography that Hung perfected in the 80s.
Rumble in the Bronx (1995)
Starring Jackie Chan, Anita Mui, Francoise Yip, Bill Tung
Jackie Chan didn’t break big into the US market until Rumble in the Bronx, which received a major push when Quentin Tarantino championed Chan’s work at the 1995 MTV Movie Awards. For most Americans, Rumble in the Bronx was Jackie Chan 101: Introduction to Jackie Chan. While not his best Golden Harvest movie, Chan shows off his prowess as a choreographer, stuntman, and cornball comedian, including a memorable clash with a gang in a hideout full of props. Based on the info listed by Subway Cinema and Metrograph, Old School Kung Fu Fest is apparently screening the longer Hong Kong version of Rumble in the Bronx rather than the American cut released by New Line Cinema. This means you get a better-paced film with the original score and sound effects, and you’ll be seeing a version of the movie not readily available stateside.