Blu-ray Review: The Chinese Boxer

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The Shaw Brothers were the kings of Hong Kong cinema for decades. Their Movietown studio complex was a hive of activity. They cranked out over 30 films a year during their glory days. While their movies were massive hits in theaters around Asia, America was a tough market to crack until the early ’70s. What happened? The adoption of the MPAA ratings allowed Shaw Brothers films to not be hacked to death. More importantly was the “rise” of deteriorating downtown movie theaters. These decaying palaces couldn’t afford to show the big Hollywood films. They wanted to put titles on the marquee that sounded badass and attracted an audience willing to risk their lives. That is how Shaw Brothers’ The Chinese Boxer arrived in America although at the time it was retitled The Hammer of God. Anyone who dared take the subway into the combat zone adjacent neighborhood were treated to movie that pushed action to a next level.

Lei Ming (One-Armed Swordsman‘s Jimmy Wang Yu) is the prize pupil of a Chinese Kung Fu school. A former student shows up to try to get a bit of revenge only to get beaten down. But this doesn’t cause him to give up his quest for revenge. He returns in the company of Japanese Karate experts who are ready to not merely shutdown the school, but take control of the town. The Japanese thugs arrive at the school and don’t merely beat student, they beat them into bloody messes. Lei Ming looks like he’s dead. In the pile of bodies, he barely clings to life. Somehow he survives, but he won’t go quietly into the night. He retreats to wilderness to teach himself “Iron Palm” and “Light Leaping.” It’s an intense practice routine that involves putting his hands into super hot coals. While he’s rehabing, the Japanese goons have turned the town into their casino. Although locals better not plan on walking out with any winnings in their pockets. When Lei Ming returns to town, he plans on being a one man wrecking crew. But will his new techniques take out all the goons?

Ever see the Three Stooges when Moe tries to poke Curly in the eyes with his fingers and Curly blocks the move by putting his hand in front of his nose? In The Chinese Boxer, we get to see what happens if you don’t block Moe’s fingers. Ouch! There’s various death blows delivered that pierce the skin. These scenes were ruled too intense and edited out when the film was released in England. But all the blood and mayhem is in the Blu-ray.

The Chinese Boxer is an extremely influential film. There are dozens of films that used its plot of a marital arts school being attacked. This is what Bruce Lee used in Fist of Fury. This also set the standard for the hero having to go off and learn a new technique as seen in every ’80s action film including Footloose. Although Lei Ming does it solo so it’s not even the old teacher variation. Finally there’s the one man clearing the room fighting style. You don’t question why all these guys couldn’t beat Lei Ming amidst the whirlwind of his fists. Tarantino ripped off elements of this fight for Kill Bill. The Chinese Boxer is one of the essential films to view to fully grasp the glory of Shaw Brothers and why people get excited when the Shaw Scope logo hits the screen.

Video is 2.35:1 with a transfer taken off the original camera negative. The image looks sharp with vivid colors. You’ll see the eye poking’s full effect. Audio is 2.0 English Dual Mono for the dub track. There’s also the original Mandarin Dual Mono if you want to feel more authentic. The movie is subtitled.

Audio commentary with Samm Deighan has her giving background on The Chinese Boxer and The Shaw Brothers. She explores why the movie was sold around the globe as The Hammer of God.

One Hand Combat: David West on The Chinese Boxer (17:29) points out that this was Jimmy Wang Yu’s first directorial effort after he had established himself as a box office star. He gives the background on the various ways fights were done reflected by the language used in the film. Mandarin was usual sword fighting while Cantonese was open hand. The Chinese Boxer lost the weapons and stuck with Mandarin. West also gets into how Wang Yu made himself a self-trained fighter in his various movies including here.

Wong Ching at Shaw (13:46) interviews Wong Ching about he moved up from stunt man at Shaw Brothers studio until he began to get major parts. He would later become a screenwriter and editor. As a stunt guy, he points out that safety wasn’t quite a priority and they learned by being injured.

US Hammer of God Trailer (2:01) is all about one man taking on an army of fighters. “A blood clash of open hand terror” is promised by the announcer.

Hong Kong Trailer (4:04) promises a wide variety of martial arts including Judo, Kendo and Karate as we see which rule supreme.

English Trailer (3:08) starts off with a screen full of action clips and the burning sand treatment.

US TV Spot (0:31) focuses on the restaurant and casino fight scenes. Hammer of God was Rated R.

Booklet with an essay by Andrew Graves that talks about the rise of martial arts movies in America along with Carl Douglas’ “Kung Fu Fighting” into a massive radio hit.

Two-sided poster suitable for framing.

88 Films presents The Chinese Boxer. Directed by Jimmy Wang Yu. Screenplay by Jimmy Wang Yu. Starring Jimmy Wang Yu, Lo Lieh, Wong Ping, Chiu Hung, Cheng Lui,Fang Mien, Chan Sing, Wang Chung, Wong Kwong Yue & Wong Ching. Running Time: 90 minutes. Rated: Unrated. Release Date: November 9, 2021.

Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.