Heroes Of The East (HK 1978)

Rating: ***
Alternate Title: Shaolin vs. Ninja
Review Date: 7/24/05
Director: Liu Chia Liang
Cast: Liu Chia Hui (Gordon Liu), Yuko Mizuno, Yasuaki Kurata, cameos by Tsui Siu Keung (Norman Chu), Wilson Tong, Liu Chia Liang

A pointless, but fascinating kung fu flick showcasing Chinese versus Japanese martial arts techniques. Ah To (Gordon Liu with awful hair) is a Chinese martial artist who is betrothed to Japanese martial artist, Kung Hsi (adorable Yuko Mizuno). They constantly bicker and fight over whose martial arts are better, and after being defeated by To, Kung leaves for Japan to further her training with ninjitsu master Yasuaki Kurata. In order to get his wife back, Ah To writes a challenge letter to her, which Kurata interprets as a challenge to all of Japan, so he assembles eight Japanese masters to go to China to fight Ah To. Amazingly, Ah To is up for the challenge and manages to defeat all eight masters. The climax is a heartfelt victory by Ah To as he finally understands humility and respect.

Again, Liu Chia Liang's fight choreography and cinematography is breathtaking. Gordon Liu gives an excellent performance, handling tai-chi sword, broadsword, three-section whip, tonfa, twin butterfly swords, spear, and numerous "secret weapons." Yuko Mizuno gives a superb physical performance, and her fight scenes are excellent. Sadly, this appears to be the only movie she starred in. The eight Japanese masters are wonderful and extremely skilled, although the sai master is a bit silly and some of Kurata's ninja tricks are a bit ridiculous. We do get to see an excellent display of ninja crab fu, though! As you would expect, the story is weak, there's a bias towards the Chinese, and the lame attempts at humor fall flat. Like many of Liang's films, the empty spaces between fights are tedious, but they do allow you to catch your breath and prepare for the next confrontation. A great film for kung fu fans, but probably intolerable otherwise.