‘Monk’s Fight’…over what you ask? Well, without subtitles I’m not quite sure but I do know that in the never ending and sometimes exhausting quest to enhance our film collections, when something as amazing as this comes along, you remember just why you’re dedicating all your time and efforts to this genre...
Chu Tiet Wu (seen in many Shaw Brothers classics) gets a team of black-clad assailants to steal an important artefact from a Buddhist Temple. Lee Wing is the student chosen by the temple to retrieve the treasure from the ruthless thieves and he sets off on a long journey over vast deserts and corpse strewn mountainous regions.
Meanwhile, a woman accidentally overhears the villains celebrating the success of their plan but she clumsily alerts the attention of the guards who then pursue her relentlessly throughout the village. The bad guys storm Tien Feng’s martial arts school where the lady is resting up and slaughter everyone there except for the daughter (Pearl Cheung).
After much bloodshed, a fearsome white haired fox arrives on the scene (Casanova Wong – who I’m assuming is Chu Tiet Wu’s brother in the film?) and Lee Wing, now having paired up with Pearl Cheung, sets out to put a stop to the powerful villain and get back what belongs to the temple.
Despite the lack of an English language option, ‘Monk’s Fight’ is fairly easy to follow as it is short on dialogue but heavy on atmosphere with frequent, almost non stop action sequences.
I was surprised at how remarkably well made this film was. The cinematography was very crisp and the whole thing felt like it was made years after it’s actual production date of 1979. The overall sombre and downbeat mood was enriched by a perfectly fitting original music score. It was nice to hear a quality composition compliment the film and not the usual borrowed soundtrack snippets.
I’m not very familiar with Lee Wing but he was capable enough in the lead role and always looked confident and powerful during the fights. Slightly disappointingly, Pearl Cheung is merely on hand to assist Wing and doesn’t actually engage in any of the action herself. It was still good to have her on screen though and at least she served as a nice balance to Wing’s monosyllabic character.
The film boasts a strong cast of bad guys too. Tsai Hung is the head lackey with a long spike as a weapon which he uses to impale his victims through the ear. He appears in a genuinely tense and sinister scene at a funeral a little later on in the film.
Other lackeys are Chan Wai Lau and an effeminate character who wields a flexible handsaw as a weapon. However, it’s an unstoppable hulking character that provides the heroes with one of their toughest challenges in a nicely handled tea house fight. It seems like sheer force is not going to be enough here, so Pearl and Lee have to resort to slightly more unorthodox measures to dispose their foe with!.
This builds up to a showdown between Casanova Wong and Lee Wing against a scenic backdrop on top of a seaside cliff, where the two clash with serrated sword and baton as their weapons of choice.
This is an outstanding film in my opinion. I purchased this on the strength of Casanova playing a white haired fox but this only turned out to be one of many great things about the film. Action, pacing and atmosphere are all you could ask for – I just cannot wait for a subbed version (Is the Rarescope still happening?). A must have.
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