The Shaw Brothers & Jimmy Wang Yu come correct
When Jimmy Wang Yu rolls up in your martial arts film, he comes correct.
He’ll leap buildings in a single bound and then pluck out your eyeballs after a perfect landing. And that’s honestly what I love about the man. He may not be as heavily trained and gifted in martial arts as his more famous counterparts in kung fu cinema lore, but he has a keen sense of what his audience is looking for and brings it for all of us to enjoy.
Most of my personal exposure to Wang Yu comes through multiple viewings of Master Of The Flying Guillotine (1976), which I wrote up earlier this year after an incredible opportunity to revisit it on the big screen at Fantastic Fest. Guillotine perhaps represents Wang Yu in his more complete self as an established star, writer, and director, working free from the Shaw Brothers studio system. The Chinese Boxer (1970), however, gives us an earlier hint at the essence of Jimmy Wang Yu taking the reins of a film even as he follows the directives of the rigid Shaw Brothers system.
Here Wang Yu stars as Lei Ming, a student of the martial arts who swears bloody revenge against a gang of Japanese karate practitioners after they kill his master. It’s about as standard of a kung fu revenge plot as you can get, yet as he is wont to do, Wang Yu fills his tale with memorable visuals that allow The Chinese Boxer to linger in your mind perhaps a little longer than other martial arts epics that might be technically superior, but don’t have Wang Yu’s panache.
As Lei Ming trains for the big showdown, he conditions his hands by plunging them repeatedly into some kind of hot cauldron full of burning embers. This apparently does some kind of damage, though it isn’t heavily commented upon. I surmise the damage because, once Lei Ming emerges from hiding to vanquish his foes, the dude is rocking straight up white mittens and a white surgical mask that looks just similar enough to an N95 mask to make modern viewing feel uncomfortable. There’s almost a superhero vibe to this section of the film, or at the very least a masked vigilante feel. And nothing secures your cred quite like beating down a few bros whilst wearing mittens.
More crass and salacious than many a noble martial arts film, don’t come to The Chinese Boxer looking for shaolin wisdom, or graceful wuxia enlightenment. Lei Ming rips, tears, and gouges his way to bloody vengeance and audiences will find a whole lot of satisfaction in witnessing it.
88 Films has long been a boutique label I’ve admired from afar as a home video fan and genre film aficionado. Originally based out of the United Kingdom, they’ve only just now (with this very release if I’m not mistaken) begun to release physical media Stateside, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. This package is a glorious one, stuffed to the gills with both physical extras like a poster, booklet loaded with essays and photos, and even a reversible cover and slipcase. The disc itself is also loaded with insightful and engaging extras enough to make this Blu-ray an easy recommend for action and martial arts fans.
Special Features (Adapted From 88 Films’ Site)
- LIMITED EDITION Slipcase with brand-new artwork from R.P. “Kung Fu Bob” O’Brien (I love the artwork and vastly prefer it to the original marketing materials, so I won’t be reversing).
- Double-Sided A3 Foldout Poster (You get the original art and Kung Fu Bob’s new work here. I never hang these things up but I love to have them).
- Booklet Notes ‘Hong Kong’s Famous Fight Life’ by Andrew Graves (Do yourself a favor and read your liner notes. Always highly informative).
- Tech Specs From 88 Films: Restored HD Master in 2.35:1 Aspect Ratio, English LPCM Mono 2.0, Mandarin LPCM Mono 2.0, Newly-translated English Subtitles
- Audio Commentary with Film journalist Samm Deighan. (I was thrilled by this commentary both because it provided context in an entertaining and informative way, and also because Samm Deighan is a female, and it brings me joy to hear a female being given an opportunity like this to school us in kung fu cinema knowledge. A highlight of this release).
- “Open Hand Combat” — Interview with Journalist David West
- “Wong Ching at Shaw” — Interview with Actor Wong Ching by Frédéric Ambroisine
- Trailers: US ‘Hammer of God’ Trailer, Hong Kong Trailer, English Trailer, US TV Spot
- Reversible sleeve with brand-new artwork from R.P. “Kung Fu Bob” O’Brien & Original Hong Kong poster artwork
- Region Code: AB
- Audio: DTS-HD MA Dual Mono
- Picture: HD 1080p 2.35:1
- Runtime: 106 mins approx
- Language: English / Chinese
- Subtitles: English
And I’m Out
The Chinese Boxer released on Blu-ray in the USA November 9th, 2021 from 88 Films