our starlite cinema series returns with a special kung fu edition in march!
in case you are unfamiliar with the starlite cinema series, here's the deal: i love the drive-in movie theater. i think it's a real shame that generations of kids aren't going to know the joys of spending a summer evening that way. in a nod to these slowly, sadly disappearing outposts of all the fun you can have for five dollars a carload, once a month we turn someone's backyard into a movie theater and revel in the pleasures of watching something great with your friends, outside under the stars. this month, our kung fu is stronger than yours!
the evening will begin with yu wang's master of the flying guillotine (1977). in this sequel to one armed boxer (1971), the blind assassin fung sheng wu chi is the last remaining member of a group of killers whose aim was to eradicate any ming-allied rebels. his main tool for the job? a weapon that is part saw blade, part beekeeper's helmet and all decapitation. the aforementioned one armed boxer is responsible for dispatching the rest of fung's crew of assassins, so fung, disguised as a monk, sets out to track him down and exact his revenge. he's not exactly discriminating, so woe unto you if happen to be missing an arm. the boxer he seeks is actually in charge of a martial arts academy and accepts an invitation to a tournament. perfect! we'll get to see a variety of styles in combat. i wonder if a certain blind, angry "monk" with a head-chopper-offer is going to show up? holy cats! right on time! this movie is a blast and is chock full of the things that made the shaw brothers' seventies era the gold standard of kung fu cinema.
next up, yuen woo ping's superlative iron monkey (1993).
this is one of a handful of truly great contemporary kung fu films. it does everything kung fu is supposed to do. yuen woo ping is probably the most legendary fight choreographer alive and his collaborator on the film, tsui hark, was instrumental in pushing the boundaries of hong kong cinema during its salad days in the eighties and nineties. on top of that, you have donnie yen. if you know me, you know i am a big fan of the man. often, with such stellar parts, the sum fails to live up to expectations but that is definitely not the case here. the story is engaging and the action set pieces build and build until the jaw-dropping finale. it is clever, inventive and the execution is top notch.
i am also pleased to tell you that we will be viewing the hong kong edition of the film, with its original, intact fight sequences, undercranked spots and original score. when the weinsteins and miramax decided to finally distribute the film in the u.s., eight years after its initial release, they made a bunch of significant changes. in trying to capitalize on the success of crouching tiger, hidden dragon (2000), they set about to "americanize" the film. they removed some of the more overt political references and dumbed down the subtitles to downplay that content in other places. what they did is akin to trying to make the adventures of robin hood (1938) without any references to the throne of england. preposterous. they also removed the original score featuring the wong fei-hung theme in favor of a classical score similar to crouching tiger. wong fei-hung is a chinese folk hero and is central to the story. his theme is as recognizable to hong kong audiences as "yankee doodle dandy" is to you or me. over 100 films have been made about him, but harvey scissorhands didn't think he was that important. a lot of the comic relief in the film - again, a staple of the genre - was cut because they thought it wouldn't have played well for american audiences. well, bollocks to all that. we're watching it the way master yuen intended it to be seen.
in addition to our two features, i am also putting together assorted kung fu related treats for before, after and between the films. it promises to be an action packed evening. the facebook event page is here if you would like to rsvp or contribute to the conversation. if you are not facebook enabled and would like to come, just send me a message. i will make sure you get the pertinent details. hope to see you guys there.