Kung Fu: The Invisible Fist (1972)
Kung Fu: The Invisible Fist is one of the most convoluted, disjointed, thrown-together, mishmash kung fu movies I've ever seen. It features a cast of thousands (well, it seems like it) and a lot of guys kicking and punching each other, but not much else. There's a plot in there somewhere, but it's pointless, just a limp-noodle framework around which an endless series of nondescript characters come and go and fight other nondescript characters in an interchangeable mixing bowl of 1970s Hong Kong martial arts movie badness.
Unnamed guys fighting each other for seemingly no reason other than it looks cool. This is one of those movies where everyone, from the shoeshine boy to the old man on the corner, knows karate and will start fighting at the drop of a hat with any random stranger that walks by and looks at them funny.
The setting is 1930s China (though ignore all those 1960s diesel trucks), mostly in the busy port hub of Shanghai. A violent crime gang has taken over the docks and is using their power to run a smuggling ring. The authorities are powerless to stop them (for some reason) and the situation is getting out of hand. Our plot concerns a policeman who is called to Shanghai by the local government to try and fix the problem.
The smugglers, that's the boss there on the left.
The Chinese-Cop (going to call him that) is here to bust up the smugglers, working undercover to gain the crime boss' confidence. The Chinese-Cop is a kung fu master (of course), and seems to specialize more in Sonny Chiba-esque fast punishing strikes than Bruce Lee-esque fluid graceful kicks and punches. He's also nasty ugly, with big John Elway teeth and a quart of 10W-30 motor oil in his hair. I understand from the web that this actor primarly played bad guys throughout his career, and with his looks, that doesn't surprise me.
The Chinese-Cop. This was actually the most flattering cap I could find.
The Chinese-Cop accompanied by a Junior-Chinese-Cop, who ends up being our movie's romantic lead (most likely because he's the only lead who isn't butt-ugly). In the process of his undercover work, the Junior-Chinese-Cop woos a "Russian girl" named Anna, who the crime boss was using as a sex slave due to some unpaid debts (much like my credit card bank is doing to me...). He shows himself to be quite the gentleman, and she swoons over his foppish Peter Tork hair and easy laugh (though the badly-paid Australian guy who dubs his voice/laugh seems to have read his lines without even watching the movie, so his tone and inflection never matches the on-screen moment).
The Junior-Chinese-Cop, he's so dreamy.
Anna is an actual white girl (the only Caucasian in this entire movie) played by then-nearly-almost-famous singer Irene Ryder. She's cute, I guess, but not hot by any standards, and whoever did her English dub apparently thought she sounds like a 7-year old boy. Still, she provides some romantic subplots for our movie, which sorely needs something light to break up the endless, monotonous fight scenes. Plus, we see her ankle once, which is the closest we get to porn in our film (to its credit, I say).
Anna. Ok, she's kinda hot, but she needs to ditch the Laura Ingels dress.
Now, while the cops are doing their investigating, they discover that the crime boss is playing host to a Japanese man! Keep in mind that China and Japan have distrusted (if not downright hated) each other for 3,000 years, and at this time in history (1930s movie-time) China was justifiably scared of a Japanese military invasion at any moment. So, when the Chinese-Cop sees this clearly-important Japanese guy here, obviously up to no good, his Spidey senses start to tingle.
The crime gang, all dressed in knock-off Chinese pajamas with wooden buttons and wide cuffs, authentic dress, I assume.
In fact, this foreigner is a spy! He is down here in Shanghai, hiding with the sympathetic crime boss, waiting for other Japanese spies to bring him vital reports on China's military preparations. When all those maps and reports are collected, the Japanese-Spy (going to call him that) will transmit them back to Tokyo and the invasion of China will commence. Why such an important task is intrusted to just one man is not said, as you'd think they'd have a much larger network of spies and drop points and all that other stuff you see in spy movies.
The Japanese-Spy. He's portrayed as 100% vile and evil, perhaps a sign of the poor state of Sino-Japanese relations at the time this movie was made.
The Chinese-Cop gets wind of this nefarious plan when he intercepts one of the spies, thumps him, and takes his map. Armed with such knowledge vital to national security, he rushes alone to confront the Japanese-Spy before he can escape (though you'd think he'd bring along, oh, I don't know, the entire Chinese Army with him).
One of the maps in question.
Every martial arts movie ever made (at least the ones that don't suck ass) ends in an epic duel between the Hero and the Villain, with either the Hero or the Villain (or both) dying a dramatic death before the closing credits. Our movie is no exception, as it ends with Chinese-Cop and Japanese-Spy going one-on-one to the death. What makes this closing battle so exceptional its length, which surprised even me (I watch a lot of these karate movies). It lasts a phenomenal 25 straight minutes of frenetic non-stop action.
The Chinese-Cop and the Japanese-Spy square off before the fisticuffs begin.
The duel is amazing, with both guys kicking, punching and smacking each other like pimps fighting over the ho with the best teeth. The coolest thing is that the Japanese-Spy is running to get to the docks and to a boat to escape the whole time, so the entire fight sequence is one long running battle through the strangely deserted streets of Shanghai. The Japanese-Spy runs and runs and runs, occasionally stopping to kick and punch a bit if the Chinese-Cop catches up, and then takes off again, running like he's just stole a VCR during a race riot. The Chinese-Cop never seems to be able to catch him, and if the Japanese-Spy didn't keep stopping to flail and kick every few minutes, he'd surely outpace him.
Finally at the docks, the running stops and the toe-to-toe smacking begins. The Japanese-Spy whips out some karate sticks and Chinese-Cop produces a pair of sais from somewhere under his shirt, and the final stage of the fight is brutal. In the end, the Japanese-Spy takes a mortal blow and expires, blood gushing out of his mouth and hands clenched in fists of rage.
These two dudes are really trying to kill each other.
The Chinese-Cop retrieves the maps and goes off happy, unaware that in a few short months battalions of seasoned Japanese troops will storm Shanghai and most likely execute him with a bullet to the head while raping his sister and sodomizing his dog. But for now, let him enjoy his moment of glory, ok?
The Chinese-Cop reads a map.
Written in May 2008 by Nathan Decker.
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