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唐人街小子 (1977)
Chinatown Kid

Reviewed by: Chungking_Cash
Date: 03/08/2007

Though considered in the West as the permanent mark left on martial arts cinema by the late Alexander Fu Sheng "Chinatown Kid" really amounts to nothing more than a middling entry in the subgenre.

Choppy editing and a patchwork narrative hamper most of the potential; the film's psychology and sociology lessons are from first hour; and the morality play presented in the final quarter comes off like an anti-drug TV spot.

While the gung fu sequences are above average "Chinatown Kid" largely feels incomplete with a sickly runtime of 86 minutes.

Consistent with the era, the print used for the film's stateside distribution ran nearly thirty minutes longer with more gung fu, necessary substance, and an alternate ending far more nihilistic than its Hong Kong counterpart.

Reviewer Score: 5

Reviewed by: cal42
Date: 05/29/2006
Summary: Just say no, kids! Drugs do not help you with your schoolwork!

Tang Lung (Fu Sheng) is a naïve country bumpkin who arrives in Hong Kong illegally from the mainland. Here, he runs into trouble with a local gang member (Johnny Wang) and his snazzy digital wristwatch – hey, this IS 1977! After one of the least convincing fit-up jobs ever seen on screen, Tang flees Hong Kong for the promised land of San Francisco (where he feels at home as everywhere looks so much like a Shaw Brothers film set). He befriends another ex-pat by the name of Wen (Sun Chien), who has come to America to study. The two share an attic hovel at the local restaurant where they work.

However, things go awry and one is unwittingly led into a life of crime while the other is lured (humorously easily) into the heady world of drugs.

Chinatown Kid fun enough at times, but the script is sometimes so unbelievably awful it seem like it was written by an alien with no real knowledge of how humans interact. A case in point is the planting of the drugs on Fu Sheng which leads to him fleeing Hong Kong: Fu Sheng walks up to Johnny Wang, ready to start a fight. Johnny Wang pleads with him to talk it over first, and plants the drugs. Fu Sheng then walks calmly away. Bizarre.

Also, the editing seems to have been done by an amateur. I’m interested to read that there seems to be different versions of this film, as the horrific dubbed fullscreen 50th generation copy of this film that I watched years ago didn’t seem to be as fragmented as this Celestial DVD. Even so, there’s still some sloppy editing going on elsewhere as well.

OK, so enough bitching, and on to the good stuff. The fights are really good, and you also have the “Venom” element to it as well. Also be on the look out for a young Dick Wei as a henchman.

It’s the humour that really charms in this though. Fu Sheng is so taken with Johnny Wang’s digital watch that he quite happily fights him for it. Later on, we see him with two identical watches on the same hand! It’s quite funny seeing this hokey piece of 70’s timewear being such a status symbol – you can probably pick one up from your local market for less than a quid! Also, Fu Sheng’s total naivety to his favourite food – “Dog sausages” – is quite a laugh.

I demand a remake!

Reviewer Score: 5

Reviewed by: Libretio
Date: 11/30/2005
Summary: Fine Chang Cheh/Fu Sheng showcase


Aspect ratio: 2.39:1 (Shawscope)
Sound format: Mono

Fleeing from vengeful gangsters in Hong Kong, a young fighter (Alexander Fu Sheng) relocates to San Francisco, where he falls prey to Triad duplicity.

Often regarded as the late Fu Sheng's signature role, this action-thriller from prolific director Chang Cheh uses the standard martial arts framework (ie. any excuse for a punch-up!) as backdrop to an entertaining - though lightweight - examination of the pitfalls often experienced by Chinese citizens abroad, and the circumstances which can divide even the staunchest heart. Chang's screenplay (co-written with Ni Kuang and James Wong) makes a virtue of these old-fashioned motifs, pairing loose-cannon Fu with mild-mannered Taiwanese student Sun Chien (playing the role behind geeky glasses, though his broad frame and handsome features generates an entirely different impression from the one intended!), who clings desperately to his ideals and suffers accordingly, while naive Fu takes the easy route to success (acting unwittingly as a gangster's stooge) and almost loses his soul in the process. However, the characters' emotional angst soon gives way to numerous episodes of unarmed combat, as Fu is forced to defend himself against all-comers, and the fluid choreography (by Lee Ka-ting and Robert Tai) is a joy to behold. The movie is also historically significant for its introductory teaming of five superb martial artists who would later comprise a formidable screen partnership known as the Venoms (Sun, Chiang Sheng, Lu Feng, Phillip Kwok and Lo Meng), though the group wouldn't be 'officially' recognized as such until the following year, in Chang's THE FIVE VENOMS.

On this evidence, at least, it's easy to see why Fu is still regarded as one of Shaws' most beloved stars: Charming and athletic, without being remotely conceited, he commands the screen through sheer force of personality, and his fighting prowess (so ably demonstrated in countless similar films) is second to none. Sun is equally attractive and dynamic, though he takes something of a back-seat until the climactic showdown between Good and Evil, at which point he cuts loose with an awesome display of combat skill. Shirley Yu and Jenny Tseng provide glamorous female counterpoint to Chang's fixation on magnificent kung fu heroes, and while the ladies play minor roles in the unfolding drama, fans will doubtless appreciate the diversion, however slight. Production values are sparse but solid, and cinematographer Kung Mu-to conspires with art director Johnson Tsao to charge the panoramic screen with gleaming colors and richly-textured images. Some critics have derided the film's unsuccessful attempts to recreate San Francisco locations on the Shaw Bros. backlot, though the project is strong enough to survive these minor blemishes.

Sadly, the narrative is compromised by edits imposed on domestic prints by Shaw executives, sacrificing entire scenes and a major subplot involving a gangster played by Choi Wang. As such, the film seems a little choppy and incomplete in places, partially resolved by video prints which have restored much of this absent material, to general acclaim. Given the movie's inherent quality, it would be nice to see all extant versions made available to the general public, to settle the long-running debate over which is the 'definitive' edition.

[Cantonese and Mandarin dialogue]

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: sharkeysbar
Date: 10/09/2005
Summary: Ho hum, just average

I don't know whether I have missed something, somewhere regarding this film, but it struck me as a very average kung fu film, from 1977.
The story, the fights, the acting, the dialogue, all were just average in my opinion. I know lots of people love this film and it is acclaimed as a superb film, so maybe it was all the hype, but I found it rather forgettable, sad to say.
The one interesting highlight (for car buffs in any case) were some of the old Australian cars used on the indoor set in HK, particulalry an old Valiant, that brought a smile to my face. I guess that since that interested me more than most of the rest of this film, sums it up for me. Barely 5/10 (and that includes an extra 1 for some of the films the cast went on to make after this one).

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 09/18/2004
Summary: I didn't like it as much as the others

I did see a dubbed english version of this but i assume they didn't cut any of the action out. The action itself was average at best. The story was average at best, so why do people like this more than me? i got no idea but for me it was watchable at best


Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 02/26/2004
Summary: 4/5

**** CHINATOWN KID: Those that have seen the longer version may want to skip the Celestial DVD, but if you're a chinatown virgin then this is a great piece of 70's modern day kung fu. Excellent story and cast, and nice fight scenes that are unfortunately heavily edited compared to other prints of the film. Fu Sheng manages to be not annoying (he definitely works much better in modern day films than period films), but he's still upstaged by the Venom Mob, making their first appearance together.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: sarah
Date: 12/15/2001
Summary: "When You Are Poor You Must Struggle"

A classic epic starring a slightly chubby Fu Sheng as an illegal immigrant from the mainland, who gets set up by the local HK Triad (Wang Lung Wei again..Fu Shengs eternal nemesis) and has to go on the run to San Fransisco. The plot is basically Boxer From Shantung in America. It has a superior funkadelic soundtrack and lots of groovy triad boys wearing tight seventies clothes. They have to have torso checks before Chang Cheh lets them on the set but I'm sure he's already passed The Five Deadly Venoms, some of whom fill the other major martial roles with considerable style : Kuo Chui and Chiang Sheng are very stylishly attired opposing Triad Bosses and Sun Chien is the young student Fu Sheng befriends who displays an amazing talent for kicking. These Taiwanese actors went on to be Chang Chehs next great yanggang and made quite a few classics that I am dying to see. They are all incredibly skillful. Fu Sheng wears a little denim waistcoat and a pair of gorgeous spray on denim flares (not very Communist trousers for a man who has swum from the mainland). Its incredible that he can even move let alone fight, but he does and he's in fine form. Somehow his kung fu in this film is more devastating than usual, with very little indication that he might be in any danger of losing a fight. Watch out for Fu Shengs real life wife Jenny Tsang playing the girl whose father owns the laundry.

Reviewed by: battlemonkey
Date: 12/21/1999

After getting in trouble with local gangs, a young man (Fu Sheng)flees to San Francisco, where the same gangs are still causing problems. He becomes a part of one gang, and eventually decides to play them against each other in order to clean up the town. One of my personal favorites. Alexander Fu Sheng is a great fighter, and I like the story a lot. All sorts of moral messages about greed, drugs, and violence, and well as lots of scenes of drugs, greed, and violence.

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

A young immigrant staying with his grandfather in Hong Kong gets into trouble with gangs and goes to San fransisco to find his fortune. Chang Cheh clearly expounds a favourite theme here as we see the effect of wealth and material possessions on the better qualitys of the human spirit. Fu Sheng is totally watchable as the irrepressible Tang and some of the "venoms" make up the supporting cast, most notably Sun Chien as a Taiwanese student who is explioted by just about everyone. In one scene, Fu sheng imitates a pimp he met by painting a suit onto his t-shirt and waving a stack of paper "money" asking ..."you want to buy oranges? them from me". A classic.

[Reviewed by Andrew Best]