Friday, May 6, 2016

7 Grandmasters

Hu bao long she ying; martial arts, Taiwan, 1977; D: Joseph Kuo, S: Yi-Min Li, Jack Long, Mark Long, Nancy Yen

After a note that he is not the best, Sang Kuan Chun, an old kung fu master, decides to prove otherwise before retiring by fighting each of the seven kung fu grandmasters. He takes three students with him on the journey - and unwillingly a fourth one, Siu Ying, who begs him to train him. Master Chun manages to defeat all of the grandmasters, and in the process Ying becomes his best student, after he proved his loyalty by taking care of the master after Chun caught a cold. However, a masked man misguides Ying into believing that Chun killed his father. Ying attacks and wounds Chun, but upon realizing he was tricked, he turns against the masked man and kills him.

"7 Grandmasters" is a proportionally well made martial arts film, popular in Asia's East at that time, that is somewhat ungainly and hastily assembled, yet still well made, which assured it cult status. Director Joseph Kuo leads a very straight-forward approach, and thus the narrative is simple and easy to follow, and is basically a 'swan song' for the old kung fu master who plans to retire as soon as he proves the maximum of his abilities one last time, whereas the mystery subplot involving a masked man who stole a part of his scripture was ranked high by critics and seen as refreshing addition in the kung fu lore, even though the ending resulting from it could have been far better derived. Of course, the highlights are definitely the seven battle and action sequences - even though they do not reach the level of J. Chan's "Police Story" or "Project A", they are meticulously choreographed (a student fighting Siu Ying while holding a cup of tea in his arm without spilling it; kung fu master Chun fighting an adversary without arms; Chun using the grappling hook of two swords of an opponent to jam them down on the floor with his bo...) and small crumbs of 'comic relief' were provided through the clumsy character of Siu Ying (especially when he is only left with eating the butt of a fried chicken during dinner in the open).


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