Magnificent Bodyguards (1978)

Reviewed by: cal42
Date: 11/07/2008
Summary: Warning: may contain nuts.

A mysterious woman hires kung fu master Ting Chung (Jackie Chan) to escort her gravely ill brother through the notoriously dangerous, bandit-infested Stormy Mountains. The unseen brother is carried in a sedan chair by Ting Chung and fellow pugilists Tsang (a face-flaying, arm-severing James Tien) and Chang (a deaf super-kicking Bruce Leung). On the way, they encounter increasingly unusual foes and hazards, culminating in a meeting with the ruler of the Stormy Mountains himself, Chu. But is it really him?

MAGNIFICENT BODYGUARDS is another bonkers tale from Jackie’s early days with legendary director and horseracing fan Lo Wei. It was shot in 3-D, a fact that is impossible to ignore even if you try really hard, what with things coming out of the screen every few minutes. It’s a bit disappointing, then, that the film is still being released on home formats in the usual two dimensions.

The film itself has a nice premise, and is like a kung fu road movie of sorts. The characters are distinctly barmy except for Jackie’s character, oddly enough. He plays it straight, of course, and it has to be said that his character is probably the least memorable of pretty much everyone present. James Tien’s character threatens to skin everyone alive at the faintest provocation, and believe it or not, he’s one of the GOOD guys. I kept expecting him to turn traitor, even though I know he doesn’t, but I’m sure that one of these days when I watch it he will. Sometime Bruce Lee impersonator (even though he looks nothing like him) Bruce Leung plays a deaf leather repairman (?) and is actually a fine kicker and a great addition to the cast. I can’t say I’m that familiar with his work, but he’s great in this.

Jackie Chan co-choreographed the fights and it’s immediately clear which moves are his. There’s a scene where the gang end up in a chamber being attacked by a bunch of fake monks (don’t ask me why, almost nothing makes sense in this film) and the fight that follows is pretty damn exciting, and bares all the hallmarks of Jackie’s style. While all of the other sequences in the film are rather hit-or-miss (and the penultimate battle where Lord Chu fights his impostor is downright dull) the film is worth seeing for this one scene alone.

The production values are typical of Lo Wei – which is to say everything looks pretty cheap and fragile and the considerable wirework is letdown by constantly visible wires. However, the film does have its own rousing theme tune, which struck me as a classy touch. But while we’re on the subject of music, I couldn’t help but give an involuntary giggle when part of the Star Wars score suddenly blasts out. Maybe Lo Wei didn’t think this new-fangled space opera would catch on, but the inclusion of one of the most well-known film scores in a cheap kung fu flick is pretty funny.

Although it does taper off a little, MAGNIFICENT BODYGUARDS is still an interesting little nugget of wackiness, with its Chinese Native Americans, bizarre restaurateurs, sci-fi-stealing theme tunes and face-flaying heroes. I’m quite surprised it wasn’t more of a hit, as I believe this was one of the first kung fu films in 3-D and the novelty value alone should have put bums on seats. It genuinely tries to be suspenseful, and I’ve seen a lot worse from the period.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: mpongpun
Date: 12/25/2003

This flick was shown in 3D in the movie theatres.

Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 01/12/2002
Summary: Good Lo Wei movie

Lo Wei is a man who made so many movies, and is hard to judge one from another. However, this one was one of the better ones. Jackie Chan is in this too, as the main character, and is quite good. Better story for a kung fu movie for once, and action (although fake looking) is frequent.

Rating (out of 5): 3

(This rating is based on the year & genre, so don't think it's based as a comparison on new releases etc.)

Reviewed by: Ryoga
Date: 12/25/2001

I never even heard this film before until I saw it on ebay so I got it there. Very weird things happening and even the Star Wars theme in the background for a moment! Anyways, this is a Lo Wei film and it isn't too good but the plot is better than most of the films Jackie did for Lo Wei.

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 05/05/2001
Summary: I agree with the 2 reviewers below me!!

YEAH a old Jackie Chan movie where Lo WEI is once again helping Jackie's future go down the toilet!! But lucky Jackie doesn't stick with him for too long!!

A bit boring and the action is not so good compared to todays standards!!


Reviewed by: STSH
Date: 07/14/2000
Summary: Surreal take on Star Wars

.... right down to a few scenes which were outright stolen ! Where Chan is dropped into a pit with snakes - a steal from the scene where the three heroes are dumped into a garbage compactor. And the royal thanks ceremony too - but with a very different spin !
The plot is creaky, episodic and ... well, weird. A bunch of people go on a journey, for no really apparent reason, for which they are warned over and over again they could all pay for with their lives. The actual danger is a long time coming, but pretty full-on once it starts. Very silly stuff, nevertheless.
The print I saw of this film was just awful. Scratchy, random cuts, a couple of scenes played twice in a row, and almost nothing but STRONG primary colours. On the upside, the fights and coreography are great fun, and numerous.
Overall, I'd rank it around the middle rank of Chan's films. Far better than, say, the dreadfully lame First Strike or Rumble In The Bronx, but nowhere near as well made or as much fun as City Hunter or Drunken Master II.

Reviewer Score: 5

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

Jackie agrees to escort the dying brother of a woman through the Stormy Hills in order to save his life. He forms together a gang of fighters and sets off. On his travels he meets many characters and must eventually face the king. A slightly different kung fu adventure with a good twist and a magnificent final fight scene. Well worth seeing.


[Reviewed by Dave Warner]

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

Another mass-produced Chan adventure, with our hero hired to act as bodyguard to a woman who is taking her seriously ill brother to the only doctor who can cure him.


[Reviewed by Elliot's Guide to Films on Video]