Hapkido (HK 1972)

Rating: ***
Alternate Title: Lady Kung Fu
Cast: Angela Mao, Carter Wong, Samo Hung, walk-ons by Lam Ching Ying and Jackie Chan

A fascinating and exhausting display of kung fu carnage, but there's absolutely nothing going on in here plot-wise. Angela Mao, Carter Wong, and Samo Hung are students of Hapkido who go back to a Japanese occupied China to open a new martial arts school. The Japanese are a rude and violent bunch of people, and the conflict between them and the humble Hapkido experts escalates until Angela Mao is the last woman standing. The fighting dominates the entire film, and it is vicious, frantic, and hard hitting. Carter Wong is comfortable and confident in his role, Samo Hung is stoic and angry in his first starring role, and pretty Angela Mao gleams with intensity and angst. Also noteworthy is the Hapkido instructor who shows up at the end to fight the Japanese boss - he is extremely quick, agile, and graceful. Simply amazing to watch. Naturally, the film is a pan-and-scan nightmare, with much of the action lost offscreen, and the dubbing is poor. Even more funny than the awful dubbing is the fact that the original Chinese dialog for the word "hapkido" is substituted into the audio track whenever it's used, causing riotous continuity flaws. It's also bizarre that the film is subtitled in German! Definitely entertaining for kung fu freaks, but a better copy would help tremendously.

Notes On The Shout! Factory DVD: Angela Mao fans can rejoice in the fact that "Hapkido" is finally available in the US, both widescreen and subtitled! Dragon Dynasty was originally going to release it several years ago, but the deal fell through for some reason. The Shout! Factory version is identical to the Chinese Fortune Star version, which looks great and is nearly impossible to find. The only downside (if you can even call it that) is that it shares a disc with "Lady Whirlwind" (1972), which results in slightly higher compression and more artifacts. Still, it's a great copy and the best version that you can find.