The Skyhawk (Jeong Chang-hwa, 1974) — July 20, 2017
A weird confluence of the past, present and future of kung fu. Kwan Tak-hing plays Wong Fei-hung (as he did in almost hundred films from 1949 on), vacationing in Thailand with his apprentice Fatty, played by Sammo Hung. Sammo did the action choreography as well (and maybe you can catch his pals Mars and Lam Ching-ying doing stunt-work), but the direction is by Korean transplant Jeong Chung-hwa, who had a major hit for Shaw Brothers with Five Fingers of Death in 1972 before jumping to Golden Harvest the next year for The Devil’s Treasure, which also starred and was choreographed by Sammo Hung. The Skyhawk also features Nora Miao, in a far too brief role, which along with the setting amidst labor strife in Thailand, inspires echoes of Bruce Lee.
It doesn’t hang together very well, Kwan integrated better into the Sammo/Golden Harvest world a few years later with The Magnificent Butcher and Dreadnaught, and the moral philosophy of his Wong is on shaky ground in the vigilante early 70s. The villains have all the vices (gambling, drug dealing, forced prostitution, hiring Hwang In-shik, union-busting), but Wong is resolute in not responding to their provocations. His new disciple, played by Carter Wong (Sammo’s bland and handsome counterpart in the early 70s Angela Mao films), keeps fighting anyway, going so far as to ignore Wong’s command not to kill in the final battle. The tension is left unresolved, the two incompatible heroes just walk off into the sunset.
Dreadnaught (Yuen Woo-ping, 1981) — June 24, 2013
I want to spend a month or five just watching all the movies where Kwan Tak-hing played Wong Fei-hung. There's only like 80 of them dating back to the late 1940s. Should be pretty easy to find.
Weird seeing Yuen Biao, who played Wong's disciple Foon in the first Once Upon a Time in China film play a different Wong disciple here, right after seeing him play a third one in Magnificent Butcher. It's about time for Yuen to play Wong himself, isn't it?