Saturday, October 27, 2012

El Professore Movie Reviews: Kung Fu From Beyond the Grave

Director: Chiu Lee
Starring: Billy Chong, Lo Lieh, Dai Sai Aan, Alan Chiu
* * * 1/2
Billy Chong (born Willy Dozan) was one of my favorite martial arts stars. So much so, that I wrote an (admittedly sketchy) article about him many moons ago for Asian Cult Cinema magazine. Of Indonesian descent, Billy first made some appearances in local action pictures like 'Invincible Monkey Fist' (where he played second lead to Hong Kong legend, Chen Kwan Tai). It wasn't long before Hong Kong came calling. Initially groomed as a Jackie Chan wannabe in 'crystal Fist', it soon became apparent that Chong was capable of more. He followed it up with 'Super Power' and the A-budget, 'Wind, Forrest, Fire, Mountain' (aka 'A Fistful of Talons) directed by Sun Chung. Follwong this, he made a couple of decidedly oddball pictures with black martial artist, Carl Scott, 'Kung Fu Executioner' and the riotous 'A Hard Way to Die' (aka Sun Dragon) which in an interview Billy picks as his favorite film because he got to go to Arizona! He then went from the somewhat strange to the completely freakish by starring in a pair of Hong Kong horror comedies, 'Kung Fu Zombie' and the one I chose to review here, 'Kung Fu From Beyond the Grave'.

Full review after the jump.

In the film film, Billy plays Chun Sing, a young fighter who one night is visited by his father's ghost. He asks for vengeance on the evil and powerful town leader, Kam Tai-fu (Lo Lieh). Ever the dutiful son, Chun marches off to Kam's mansion and orders Kam to commit suicide (a wonderful moment as the film was careful to show what a strong and feared presensce Kam was). Initially defeating, his minions, Chun is stopped dead in his tracks by a powerful martial artist/black magician (Dai Sai Aan) who has also made Kam's skin impervious to attack by coating it with boiled hearts taken from couples whilst in the act of getting their freaky on. Defeated, Chun manages to escape and with the help of a secret supernatural manual, summons a group of sympathetic undead zombie fighters to assist him. With his newly made friends, Chun returns to challenge the magician, only to be outdone (in what has to be the film's most surreal and ridiculous moment) when the wily sorcerer summons none other than Count Dracula. Defeated once again, Chun next aligns himself with a government agent (Alan Chiu). Together, they set atrap for the wizard that includes having him covered with used panties containing menstral blood of virgins (in order to cancel out his magical powers, of course). They then set off to finally defeat Kam.

Despite being hampered by a low budget and some occasionally sloppy direction from Chiu Lee, 'Kung Fu From Beyond the Grave' is a lot of fun. Never taking itself seriously, the film goes from one ridiculously over the top setpiece to another while rarely taking a pause in the action. For the most part, Billy Chong plays his character straight and that is an asset as it makes the proceedings seem even more oddball since it is all played so matter of factly. Lo Lieh (one of the great fighter/character actors in all of martial arts cinema) isn't given a whole to do here, but still makes for a memorable villian, equal parts silly and sleezy. Dai Sai Aan due to his supreme fighting skills and odd appearance (one of his eyes is half closed, it's eyebrow perpetually raised, his arms bend at a puculiar angle) was used as a dependable backround character throughout the '70s. He is given arguably his best role here as the jokey, yet menacingly powerful wizard.

'Kung Fu From Beyond the Grave' is probably my favorite Billy Chong film (though 'A Hard Way to Die' runs it awfully close). Strangely, it was also his last for Hong Kong. Why this is, I still to this day haven't figured out. He was one of the most personable and talented actor/fighters in the business and rivaled even Jackie Chan at this stage. Perhaps this was the problem. Maybe he was a little too talented for his own good. Whatever the reason, he returned to his home in Indonesia where he continued to do film and T.V. work, eventually becoming a big time T.V. producer which is what he's most known for now.


  1. Nice kung fu movie.I seen many time.Great movie.

  2. Whether you go to theatres for watching movies, or you watch them at home with the family, in both ways movies are great tool of relaxation. I will try and check back more later.