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An action-packed double feature!
Bruce Lee. Sammo Hung. Jackie Chan. These are just three notable martial arts cinema stars who had their careers made by the Hong Kong-based production company Golden Harvest. Shout! Factory's release of Hapkido and Lady Whirlwind features a lesser-known—but no less awesome—figure in the HK scene: Angela Mao Ying. While she's best known as the sister of Bruce Lee's character in Enter the Dragon, Mao Ying talents get a nice spotlight in this two-fer.
Hapkido is set in China in 1934. After learning the martial art hapkido in Japan-controlled Korea, three young students—Yu Ying (Mao Ying), Fan Wei (Sammo Hung, Ip Man 2), and Kao Chang (Carter Wong, Big Trouble in Little China)—are forced back to their homeland of China. The three attempt to start their own hapkido school in their hometown, but a rival Japanese school isn't having any of it. The Black Bear Gang is ruthless, and their leaders can't wait to punish the Ying and her friends for trying to teach an "inferior" Korean art. In the face of adversity, the three hapkido practitioners try to keep their teacher's admonition for patience in mind—but patience can only last so long!
In Lady Whirlwind, Mao Ying plays Miss Tien, a mysterious woman out to get revenge. Seems like Ling (Chang Yi, The Victim) abandoned Tien's pregnant sister, resulting in her suicide. But Miss Tien isn't the only one seeking vengeance—Ling is after the Japanese mobsters who nearly beat him to death. So Ling and Tien team up with this agreement: Tien will spare Ling's life long enough for them to fight back against the gangsters. After that, all bets are off.
Both Hapkido and Lady Whirlwind were directed in 1972 by Feng Huang (Shaolin Plot), and both share a number of actors and filming locations. But that doesn't mean the movies are equal in quality—despite the similarities, Hapkido (original American title: Lady Kung Fu) is far superior to its double-bill partner. Hapkido works by sticking to that old Navy principle: keep it simple, stupid. The first couple of fights are both sloppy and cheesy; in short order, though, the movie really picks up. The film borrows liberally from Fist of Fury's plot, filling in any gaps with large-scale face-pummelling. The middle half of Hapkido is jammed with a string of jaw-dropping fight scenes. Hung and Mao Ying are the stand-outs; both trained in hapkido to prepare for the film, and these two use that fighting style's focus on throws and grapples to maximum effect. Hung also served double-duty as fight choreographer, and he gives so many of the fights in the film a playful edge. The movie is pretty funny in spots too—the villains are wonderfully corny, and the recurring gag involving the hanzi for "patience" is great. (For the keen-eyed: watch for a blink-and-you-miss-it turn from a young Jackie Chan, complete with creepy mustache.)
With Lady Whirlwind (released in the U.S. as Deep Thrust), the action takes backstage to some overwrought melodrama. A shame, too. Chang Yi gets into a crackling brawl at one point, but most of the movie involves the main characters sulking, lurking, or making poorly translated threats. And despite her prominence on the promotional material, Mao Ying is basically a supporting character here. A bummer, since she's fantastic whenever she's on screen. And in addition to the myriad of technical problems on this film, the movie was shot in a variety of dank and dingy locations that do nothing for the movie. There are some bright spots, but Lady Whirlwind is so-so at best.
Shout! Factory's double feature set or Hapkido and Lady Whirlwind is presented on a single disc. Both films feature a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and Dolby 2.0 stereo tracks in Mandarin Chinese and dubbed English. (The dubbed tracks are as silly as you can imagine.) The transfer of Hapkido is quite good, and aside from a few choppy frames it looks good. Same goes for audio track. Lady Whirlwind does not fare as good, though it's still worlds better than the raggedy VHS copies out there. The picture is often overexposed or filled with defects, probably a result of how poorly time has treated the master. Hapkido comes with a handful of neat extras: a collection of trailers, including some wacky American ones (7:46); the English version of the title sequence (1:44); and interviews with Angela Mao Ying (16:56), Carter Wong (16:59), and Sammo Hung with Yuen Biao (9:19). Lady Whirlwind comes with the follow extras: trailers (4:29), and the English version of the title sequence (1:32).
Even with a dud like Lady Whirlwind, Mao Ying blew me away; she has screen presence and serious fighting chops. Mao Ying retired from filmmaking in the early 1990s to spend more time with her family. While I applaud that, it still would've been great if her name was as well-known as Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee. Shout! Factory's one-two release of these films gives these films the bigger audience Mao Ying deserves.
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Scales of Justice, Hapkido
Perp Profile, Hapkido
Studio: Shout! Factory
Distinguishing Marks, Hapkido
• Alternate Titles
Scales of Justice, Lady Whirlwind
Perp Profile, Lady Whirlwind
Studio: Shout! Factory
Distinguishing Marks, Lady Whirlwind
• Alternate Titles
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