With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Thursday, January 07, 2010

ACf 446: Happy Birthday, Sammo Hung!

Sammo squares off against Bruce Lee at the beginning
of Enter the Dragon (1973)

Sammo Hung (a.k.a. Samo Hung, Sammo Hung Kam-Bo, etc.) was born in Hong Kong on January 7, 1952. Remarkably fast and flexible despite his ample girth, he has made his mark as an actor (149 movies at IMDb.com and counting), director (37 films), producer (26), and as a stunt and/or action director or coordinator.

Sammo and his sifu enjoy a rare light moment
in Close Encounters of the Spooky Kind (1980)

Some of my fondest memories are of his work as the title character of the Martial Law TV series (44 episodes, 1998-2000), which also featured Kelly Hu. The first episodes were fantastic, featuring sub-titles (on prime time American network television!) and outtakes during the end credits.

My recollection is that, not satisfied with a surprise success, the suits at the network (CBS) and/or the producers decided to make it a smash hit by tinkering with the cast. Apparently thinking that what worked for Jackie Chan in Rush Hour would do the same for Sammo, they introduced a black man to be the star's sidekick. Unfortunately they picked Arsenio Hall (!?) and the show promptly started to go into the toilet.

The second season (1999-2000) found only Sammo, Kelly and Arsenio returning and the thrill was gone. If Sammo was as bitter as I recall reading that he was, he certainly had a right to be. Something wonderful was ruined 'cause some fools couldn't leave well enough alone.

Sammo and Donnie Yen square off in S.P.L., a.k.a. Kill Zone (2005)
(They'll be going at it again in Ip Man 2, due out later this year.)

Still we have lots of Sammo on DVD to be thankful for and hopefully many more years of being amazed, entertained, and blown-away by him. Happy Birthday, big guy!!!!!

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