Copyright © Shaw Brothers 1972 / Celestial Pictures 2003
Boxer from Shantung - 1972
Yes I know that Spring is over but I had to get this last Shaw Brothers classic up on site , for one it will round of the number of Shaw Films we have reviewed for our special up to a magical twelve.
Now for our twelfth film I'm looking at one of the most influential films from the studio , it's also the basis for another review of a newly released film which is based on this very film.
1972 saw some of the best Martial Arts action grace the big screen, it was also the year Bruce Lee's Fist of Fury ( Chinese Connection in the USA) was released which sent Bruce's fame into the stratosphere. But it was also the year another Shaw Classic came out which originally kick-started the Kung Fu craze in the USA , that film was King Boxer ( Five Fingers of Death in USA) , it starred Lo Lieh a well established star at Shaw's and a expert Martial artist.
1972 also saw the release of ''Boxer from Shantung'' , this film directed by legendary film director Chang Cheh starred Daivid Chiang in a supporting role and Shaw's new leading man Chen Kuan Tai as Ma Yongzhen..
Ma Yongzhen is a country man who comes to Shanghai with his friend to find his fortune.
Versed in the Martial arts he is quite tough and does not like bullies, he also has a calm demeanour about him which might give the outlook that he is a pushover .
Sleeping in a local Inn where all the new arrivals sleep ,grabbing whatever piece of floor they can to get a roof over their head for the night.
By day Ma and his friend Xaobing wash the carriages of a local gangster by the name of Tan -Si ( David Chiang) , when Ma gets insulted by Tan -Si's men he fights with them much to the amusement of Tan -Si..
Tan-Si offers Ma a dollar ( a weeks wages for Ma) ,it's all a ploy to get Ma to fight him , the men dual ,but part on good terms ,each leaving with a mutual respect for each other.
Further in the day , Ma and his friend decide to go to the local tea house , ''Pot of Spring'' Now Tan -Si controls the area around the tea house and collects protection fees from the local businesses .
Now when they arrive they happen on a brawl where rival gangsters are trying to take over the tea house area. .
When a victim is killed and thrown and lands on Ma ,Ma decides to teach the attacker a lesson , what he doesn't know is that the man is one of the Four Champions , but Ma's strict training back home has set him in good steed and he easily defeats the man ,but not with out alerting the man's brothers in crime .
Challenging the next two men who approach him Ma becomes victorious , the Gang leaves and Ma is thought of as the saviour of the tea house area. .
Ching Li plays a local singer , she gives the impression that she feels Ma is a good man, but this all changes when Tan -Si gives control of the area to Ma as he defended it so well.
Ma has stepped up the ladder and his rags to riches story is about to get dangerous.
Of course the men he fought , who where three of the four champions want revenge , they work for Mr Chin and they have other plans , they plan to steal the Opium trade Tan -Si has in the works and then deal with Ma.
Ma knows he can't make loads of money controlling the tea house area ,also he does not like the way the locals are pressured in paying money just to do business in the area by the men Tan -Si has assigned to Ma to help him.
Ma plans to take over the casino area ,in particular the area run by Chang Chin Fa – Champion No'2 ( Ku Feng) , Ma goes it alone and challenges Chang for the control of the area and battles Chang and his men single handed for most of the battle.
But once Ma's men turn up it looks like Chang is set to defeat but when his brothers arrive he's persuaded to give up and leave.
This is of course a ploy to give Ma a sense of false confidence. Mr Chin plan's to get rid of Tan -Si and then rid Shanghai of Ma Yongzhen.
Of course this is the films build up to the end confrontation between Ma and Mr Chin's gang.
Boxer from Shantung is one of those films that have eluded many for years and when available outside of the East it's often of poor quality or savagely cut.
Of course with the re-release of the film fully uncut on the Celestial Pictures Label back in 2003 it can now be purchased for those lucky enough to own a multi region DVD player and access to import films.
This epic film is a great piece of entertainment that offers thought provoking scenes and adrenalin action filled combat that's not just about unarmed combat, here we have gangs with Knives,Axes and whatever they can get hold of .
It's a seedy violent world Ma has entered and he has to fight to keep his place .
But what also makes this film is the brutality is very in your face ,making it shocking as well as exciting.
It's said that the end fight scene took 10 day's to film and the film was filmed in total in a month.
Assistant director John Woo ( The Killer ) has acknowledged the films influence on Hong Kong Cinema , and if you study the film you can see many of John Woo's trademarks seen in his more recent films, of course a lot of this he learnt working with Chang Cheh.
Chen Kuan Tai went on to become one of Shaw's biggest assets and also established himself as a character actor with films like the 'The Teahouse' ..
Of the three films I mentioned it's hard to say which one to see first if you have not seen any, That's because to get the full picture of Hong Kong cinema circa 1972 , you need to see all three.
Boxer from Shantung is as much a ground breaking piece of Hong Kong cinema as much as Fist of Fury or King Boxer . Unfortunately Bruce Lee and Lo Lieh are no longer with us , Bruce dying in 1973 and Lo Lieh in 2002 .
Chen Kuan Tai is still making films and his most recent entry is a appearance as the character Baldy Bai in the film ''Once Upon a Time in Shanghai'' which is a remake of this very film where reviewing.
For us at K.I.T.G. There's only one Ma Yongzhen and he's played by Chen Kuan Tai.
Score out of Ten = 10
Review Date August 2014
Reviewer : Sertes Nake
Version reviewed : Region 3 DVD on the Celestial Pictures Label
|Directed by||Chang Cheh|
Chen Kuan Tai
Cheng Yong Hip
|Distributed by||Shaw Brothers Studio|
Ma YongZhen - Chen Kuan Tai
Chin LingTsu - Li Ching
Master Tan Si - David Chiang
Mr Chin - Hao Chen
Fan a Ken Champion 1 = Yi Feng
Chan Chin Fa Champion2 - Ku Feng
Li Tsai Chun Champion 3 -Ching Tien
Lu Pu Champion 4 - Ching Wang
Yang Shuang - Nan Chiang
1) The Film was shot in a month period ,when most of Shaw's films took at least two months.
2) The end fight scene took ten days to shoot .
3) The fight with the Wrestler took five days to shoot.
4) Chang Cheh was not able to direct all of the film due to other commitments and shared the directing with another uncredited director.