DVD Review: Martial Arts Movie Marathon 2

There’s simple joys that refresh the soul in their unabashed pleasure. Taking a long walk on the beach at sunset. Hearing kids sing Christmas carols. Ordering Chinese take-out and watching way too many Hong Kong action flicks on a rainy evening. The arrival of Martial Arts Movie Marathon 2 means it’s time to check the weather and place an order with your favorite noodle shop. The boxset contains four films from the first glorious period of Golden Harvest. Among the selections are another entry in Angela Mao Ying’s oeuvre and the arrival of John Woo.

The Fate of Lee Khan (1973 – 105 minutes) takes place during a civil war in China’s past. Lee Khan is not a nice guy. He wants to get on his hands on a map. It’s up to resistance fighters to thwart his desires and put the Han Dynasty back on the throne. There’s quite a bit of battles between the various stars. Tin Feng is formidable as Lee Khan. Angela Mao Ying (Enter the Dragon) is in her ’70s prime as she steals the screen in a supporting role.

Shaolin Boxers (1974 – 75 minutes) should not be confused with the Shaw Brothers’ New Shaolin Boxers. This version stars James Tien (Fist of Fury & The Big Boss). The plot uses the classic device of a martial-arts tournament to show off various fighting styles. But there’s a bigger issue. The master of a Shaolin school wants to win it all so he can persuade the villagers to adopt his fighting style. Turns out they’ve been living under the control of goon squad controlled by a bigger goon. Can his victory in the arena inspire a true revolt?

The Young Dragons (1974 – 94 minutes) being released on home video would have been a major cult event back in the mid-90s when John Woo was a violent sensation after The Killer and Hard-Boiled. Way back then, it was common to travel 30 miles to Dave’s Videodrome to rent his earlier directorial work. We might have drove 50 miles get a VHS of this title if it was around. The Young Dragons was his first time helming a feature film. The newbie has his first whack at working out the action elements that would become his trademark. The film has the classic theme of young gangsters terrorizing a small town. They get so bold as to knock off a cop. The dead cop’s daughter promises revenge. So there’s a bit of female ass kicking on the screen. There’s plenty of hints of the cinematic style Woo would develop on his way to becoming the great action director in the early ’90s.

The Shaolin Plot (1977 – 109 minutes) marks the arrival of Sammo Hung (Martial Law) as a leading man in movies. There’s a robber roaming the globe and swiping the most valuable of books about fighting styles. His next victim will be a Shaolin temple. But can he really pinch their most precious text without being spotted by the monks? James Tien (Fist of Fury) joins in on the mayhem that revolves around a book thief.

Martial Arts Movie Marathon 2 is a fine mix of chop socky action with the proper touch of plot. It’s good to see more of Jame Tien’s screen time so his work with Bruce Lee can be appreciated more. Another glimpse of Angela Mao Ying is always appreciated. This quadruple feature should last you at least two weeks of Kung Fu theater night. You can easily sit back, eat your lo mien straight from the box and embrace the buzz.

The video is 2.35:1 anamorphic for all four films. The transfers for the films are fine. Golden Harvest films during this time had a bit of grit to the image that’s still there. The audio is Dolby Digital mono for the original Mandarin dialogue. Shaolin Boxers and Shaolin Plot feature an English dub. All the movies have English subtitle.

Trailers are provided for all four films.

Martial Arts Movie Marathon 2 continues the bountiful release of Golden Harvest films from their early years. John Woo’s directorial debut makes this collection a must have. Watch this with General Tso.

Shout! Factory presents Martial Arts Movie Marathon 2. Starring: Sammo Hung, James Tien and Angela Mao Ying. Rated: R. Boxset Contents: 4 movies on 2 DVDs. Released: August 19, 2014.