The Himalayan (HK 1976)

Rating: **
Review Date: 10/7/08
Cast: Angela Mao, Chan Sing, Tan Tao Liang, cameos by Samo Hung and Jackie Chan (?)

Kao Chu (Chan Sing) is an sneaky evil bastard. He plans to marry his brother into a wealthy family so that he can take advantage of their wealth and power. Then he'll kill everyone off and seize all of their assets. The unfortunate bride in this affair is Angela Mao, who no one wants to marry because her kung fu is so good. She has a secret admirer in the form of a hot-headed stable boy (Tan Tao Liang), and he doesn't like the arranged marriage at all. Naturally, that gets him into trouble and he is forced to flee from the village. Angela Mao is also forced to leave the village, by being strapped to a board and thrown in the river. Lucky for her, Liang drags her out of the water and the two of them plan their revenge. This involves learning an obscure form of Shaolin kung fu that can counter Kao Chu's deadly tiger claw style. It mostly involves fancy leg work, which Tan Tao Liang excels at. Angela Mao gets some good kicks in as well, and it's always a pleasure to see her in action. Once again she gets to beat the crap out of her long-time sparring buddy, Samo Hung. There are also at least two scenes where I'm almost certain that Jackie Chan plays a background character. He doesn't get to fight, and all he does is stand at attention. It's rather amusing.

An average kung fu revenge flick in all respects, but it's most noteworthy for its beautiful location shooting. The film was shot in Nepal and Tibet, which gives it a rich texture and unique look. This is not your standard Shaw Brothers backlot production. The fighting is mostly good, although it often looks like Chan Sing is pulling his punches too much. Speaking of Chan, he gobbles up his villainous role with fiendish glee and really comes off as a nasty guy instead of just a caricature of one. One oddity in the film is that it features some fairly explicit sex and nudity, which is extremely unusual for the kung fu genre. The most amusing aspect of the sexual content is that the audio track is in Mandarin, whereas the rest of the film is dubbed into English by the same five people that have dubbed nearly every kung fu movie ever made. Even more perverse is that the copy I saw was subtitled in Chinese... The film features the requisite training sequences, which tend to last WAY too long. The majority of this time is spent watching Angela and Liang carry rocks up and down a hill to build their strength, endurance, and breathing capabilities. It's not at all pleasant to watch. Like most kung fu films, the real reason to watch comes in the last twenty minutes when all hell breaks loose and the feet and fists start flying. It eventually delivers, but it takes a while to get there.