The Skyhawk

Mega Star has released this 1974 film in the VCD format, but unfortunately without subtitles. Even though I had some trouble following the plot – it was basic enough and had enough action to keep me entertained.  It has a historical aspect to it as well that interested me.

It was one of the very last films in which Kwan Tak-hing portrayed Wong Fei-hung. He had been appearing as this historical personage since 1949 and made seventy seven Wong Fei-hung films in his career. Perhaps more than any actor – Jet Li and Jackie Chan included – Kwan is identified as Wong Fei-hung in the memories of the Hong Kong people.

Though he was nearly seventy years old when this film was made, Kwan is still amazingly nimble and quick and projects a great sense of authority and calmness. He does have some help though – in the fine forms of Sammo Hung, Carter Wong and Nora Miao. The film is chock full of kung fu fighting and it is done quite well – and towards the end it gets very brutal. Though I have never been able to see any of Kwan’s earlier films, it is hard to imagine that they contained this sort of violence – but you have to keep up with the times. Again I am unclear about the plot – but here goes my best guess.
It begins with four scurrilous chaps meeting Carter Wong on the road and attacking him for no particular reason. There are lots of attacks in this film for no apparent reason except to fight – and with a plot that I could not easily follow that was just fine with me. Anyway, Carter beats the hell out of them and they go running home to their Rasputin looking Sifu (who I believe is Whang In Sik). Instead of giving them a pep talk and a plate of cookies, he too beats the hell out of them. He can’t let this humiliation stand so he goes and finds Carter, whom by now is looking very smug and happy with himself. Not for long though as the sifu takes about a minute to show Carter that he still has a lot to learn.
Who should come across his crumpled body but Wong Fei-hung and his student, Fai Fai, played by Sammo. They take Carter back to his home where Nora Miao is waiting for them. Sparks immediately fly between the husky often semi-clad Carter and Nora – Sammo looks to have a little heartburn for Nora as well – but you know fat guys never get the girl.
There is some wealthy guy – sort of a town bully who owns the casino and has a slave girl business on the side – you have to diversify your portfolio you know – and he teams up with the evil sifu to start causing trouble in town. Wong Fei-hung tries to keep to his Confucian ways – and avoid conflict – even when the evil sifu pours a pot of hot water over his head. Eventually though the bad guys go too far and it’s time for Wong Fei-hung to teach them a lesson. It’s a lesson they won’t soon forget.

Sammo has a fairly large role here – initially providing some comic relief, but then he gets involved in some excellent action. Carter looks particularly good in the final scene in which he completely loses his cool and gets mean and nasty. Nora looks adorable, but does not get to kick any butt unfortunately. And look for Lam Ching-ying in an early scene when he and a bunch of his boys attempt to mug Wong Fei-hung and Sammo. Not a good idea! The film looks to have been shot in Thailand with some lovely ruins and temples used for the background. Oddly, the town they all live in seems to be nearly deserted of people (or extras) – and by the end there are certainly a lot less than before!

My rating for this film: 7.0