Also known as The New Legend of Shaolin
Made in Hong Kong, 1994
Directed by Wong Jing, choreographed by Corey Yuen, starring Jet Li as Hung Hei Kwun, Xie Mao as Ting Man and Chingmy Yau as Miss Red Bean. A full cast list can be found here: http://www.hkmdb.com/db/movies/view.mhtml?id=7802&display_set=eng
A synopsis of the plot can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legend_of_the_Red_Dragon_(film)
Random Thought Number 1: Cute kids kung fu style.
No blog about this film would be complete without mentioning the amazing Xie Mao who plays Hung’s son as a boy. In his review of this film in At the Hong Kong Movies, Paul Fonoroff describes Xie as “… a boy whose grave demeanour and kung fu prowess steal the spotlight from the adult superstar.”( p. 375). The other boy actors who fill the roles of Xie’s little friends also deserve an honourable mention for turning in solid acting performances and impressive displays of martial arts. Xie and Li went on to co-star in the Corey Yuen helmed My Father is a Hero, which is a most interesting film and much darker in tone than Legend of the Red Dragon.
Random Thought Number 2: Director Wong Jing hones in hard and fast on the lowest common denominator (as always).
In his review in At The Hong Kong Movies, Paul Fonoroff states that “Wong has a knack for reducing every genre to its most common elements.” (p. 375). Yep, and then he screws with them. This film contains its fair share of Wong Jingian touches such as:
- a fart joke
- Granny (played by Deanie Yip) accidentally gets doped with aphrodisiac and ravages her daughter’s fiancé
- A man gets his dick squeezed
- One character spits a huge gob of saliva into another’s mouth during a fight
- A boy without any pants on falls on top of a monk’s chest
- A fly gets eaten
- A child sits on Granny’s face, having mistaken her for a corpse
- A general abundance of sadistic violence and cruel slapstick.
Most of the comedic business in this movie leaves the viewer in no doubt that Wong Jing is a case of arrested development.
Random Thought Number 3: Great work, unsurprisingly, from Corey Yuen, Yuen Tak and Chan Sek.
Master choreographer Corey Yuen Kuei was the main action director for this film, which means that the action is dynamic and entertaining. Wong Jing loves referencing other movies in his own films and Yuen has indulged him in this by referencing choreography or themes from other Jet Li films in some fight scenes in Red Dragon. The no shadow kick, forever associated with the character of Wong Fei Hung that Jet Li so famously played in a number of films, is referred to a few times. In the fight between the boys, Xie Mao is seen performing some Tai Chi moves reminiscent of those used by Jet Li in Tai Chi Master, and the music from this film plays in the background. In fact music from Tai Chi Master is used several times during the film as background music to the fight scenes.
Random Thought Number 4: The Poison Juice Monster
“… Shaolin renegade Ma Linger drives around in a cross between an insect carapace and a bizarre 18th century mini car” Leon Hunt, Kung Fu cult Masters, p 70
The main bad guy in Legend of the Red Dragon is referred to as the Poison Juice Monster and I absolutely love that. I think that’s one of the best titles I have ever heard. Ma Linger, the character in question, has immersed himself in poison as part of an occult procedure (apparently) to make his body and his martial arts near impregnable. He looks gloriously disgusting, as he is completely covered in crusty, oily, dripping stuff. As mentioned in the quote above, he does indeed zoom around in a strange silver mechanical contrivance. Why, and how he came across such a contraption, is never explained. Ma Linger’s emergence as a partially mechanically powered monster is prefigured in the first fight scene of the movie when he suddenly shoots claws / hooks out of his sleeves – this is a villain with a taste for metal accoutrements. I like Hunt’s description of his car as an insect carapace. If Ma Linger’s car is an exoskeleton then his oozy, sticky body does look like some mutant insect’s guts.
Random Thought Number 5: The old meets the new.
The insertion of a few industrial effects in this film is interesting, as it is set in Qing dynasty China and, overall, features old fashioned traditional Chinese clothing and settings. Apart from Ma Linger’s peculiar sports car, we see a wax doll factory with industrial sized cauldrons and pulleys, and the climactic fight takes place inside the workings and in front of the face of a giant western style clock.
Random Thought Number 6: Horror elements.
There are quite a few weirdly occult or horror elements in this film. These include the little boys having maps tattooed onto their skin, and Ma Linger’s transformation (and horrific appearance) as the Poison Juice Monster. A comedic vein that is well mined in the mid-section of the movie is Granny pretending to be a ghost and ‘haunting’ a couple of the characters. Her supposed corpse comes in for some rough treatment from the mischievous children in a grotesque but funny scene. Finally, the wax doll factory, presided over by a sinister and eccentric ex-monk, is deliciously creepy. Wong Jing piles one grotesquerie on top of another in his efforts to make his film straddle comedy and spectacle.
Random Thought Number 7: Strong supporting cast.
It’s good to recognise a few old faces among the supporting cast. Chan Chung Yung as the vulgarian nouveau riche father is just as amusing as he was in his turn as the vulgarian nouveau riche father in law in Fong Sai Yuk 2. Ma Linger is played by Chun Hua Ji who also played the main baddie in Fong Sai Yuk 2. I haven’t seen Deanie Yip in any other films, but she does a really good job with her bombastic role.