With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

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

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


Shout! Factory
The Angela Mao Ying Collection
Six Hong Kong action films on three DVDs
SRP: $34.93

There are really only two words I need to say about this outstanding collection:

BUY IT!!!!!

OK, having said that, let me elaborate for those interested in the particulars.

Angela Mao (as she's usually credited in the Western releases of her films) was the first lady of Hong Kong action films in the 1970s. Born on September 20, 1950 in Taiwan, she was fast with her fists and her feet. (I'm particularly partial to her spinning back kick.) She was a more than adequate actress for what her roles tended to call for, and she was lovely looking to boot.

These six films, all from Golden Harvest and produced by Raymond Chow, were released  from 1973 to 1977 and marvelously showcase her immense talent.

Each of the films offers optional English subtitles and a choice between Mandarin and English-dubbed soundtracks. (I watched all six in Mandarin with English subs.) The only extras are trailers for four of the six films.

The Angela Mao Ying Collection is a great example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. By this I mean that, although not all of the films are outstanding, the collection as a whole merits an AsianCineFest Rating of 4 out of 4 stars; most highly recommended. Or as I said before, "BUY IT!!!!!"

The following are brief descriptions of each of the films in the order in which they appear on the three DVDs (as opposed to chronological order):

Broken Oath (1977)
Directed by Chung (a.k.a. Jeong) Chang-wha
Action Directors: Yuen Wo-Ping and Hsu Hsia 

Angela plays Jie Lian (meaning Pure Lotus) who was born in prison. Her father had been murdered by four underlings and her mother was imprisoned for stabbing one of them. It's a revenge tale and if the plot seems familiar, it's because Broken Oath is obviously a version (or ripoff, if you prefer) of the Japanese film Lady Snowblood, which came out in 1973.

When Taekwondo Strikes (1974)
Directed by Huang Feng
Fight Instructor: Sammo Hung

Set in Korea in the 1930s, when that nation was colonized by the Japanese, it's a tale a revolt. Angela plays Huang Lizhen, a Chinese who grew up in Seoul, works in her mother's noodle shop, and is a non-stop hapkido whirlwind. Jhoon Rhee, the "Father of Taekwondo, U.S.A.," plays Uncle Li a prominent figure in the Korean opposition movement. This is one of four films in the collection directed by Huang Feng and featuring Sammo's contributions to the action.

Stoner (1974)
Directed by Huang Feng
Action Director: Sammo Hung

George Lazenby stars as the titular character, an American (or perhaps Australian, it's a bit confusing) law enforcement agent who comes to Hong Kong to track down the makers and distributors of a powerful drug. Angela Mao plays a law enforcement agent from Taiwan who's investigating the same operation, but from a different perspective. The film offers some decent action scenes and lots of nudity, as the drug is a powerful aphrodisiac. In a way, the it prefigures the pairing of Pierce Brosnan and Michelle Yeoh in Tomorrow Never Dies. (Lazenby, of course, was the "one-time-only" James Bond in 1969’s On Her Majesty's Secret Service.)

A Queen's Ransom (a.k.a. International Assassin)
Directed by Shan-hsi Ting (a.k.a. Ting Shan-si)
Action Director: Tsun Lu

I have no idea what E tan qun ying hui, the film's Chinese title means, but the English title is misleading, as there's no ransom involved at all. George Lazenby leads a group that's planning to assassinate Queen Elizabeth while she's visiting Hong Kong in May, 1975. Angela has a minor role in it, as a Cambodian princess who's fled to Hong Kong.

Bolo on the extreme left, Lazenby center, and Jimmy Wang Yu extreme right

The action sequences are rather uninspired. For me A Queen's Ransom is  the only clunker in the collection, which is really a shame since the cast also includes Bolo and Jimmy Wang Yu (who'll receive the lifetime achievement award at the upcoming NY Asian Film Festival).

The Himalayan (1976)
Directed by Huang Feng
Action Director: Sammo Hung

Angela Mao plays the only child of a wealthy Tibetan. She and her father are targets of a nefarious plot by Gao Zhen, who covets their riches.

The Tournament ((1974)
Directed by Huang Feng
Action Director Sammo Hung

Angela is Lin Xiaofeng, the daughter of a martial arts instructor. She and her brother, played by Carter Wong, seek to restore the honor of their father, his school and of Chinese kung fu against professional Thai kickboxers. While the climactic fight scene at the end of the movie is great, I was even more impressed by a somewhat earlier sequence in which Angela takes on a Japanese karate sensei, then Sammo as a member of the Hong Kong Martial Arts Association, then two more members of MAA at the same time, before finally facing off against another MAA member on uneven vertical wooden posts!