Five Fingers of Death (1972)

“The Martial Arts Masterpiece! Sights and Sounds Like Never Before.” Produced by the legendary Shaw Brothers of Hong Kong, Five Fingers of Death (AKA King Boxer) became an international sensation and helped launched the kung fu craze in the United States when the English dubbed version was released by Warner Brothers in 1973. Directed by Chang-hwa Jeong, this immensely entertaining film features a classic revenge plot and stars Lo Lieh as young martial arts student, “Chao Chi-Hao,” who is sent by his kung fu master to a distant martial arts school to learn the mysterious “Iron Fist” fighting technique. Chao must start at the bottom (carrying buckets of water around) and work his way up in the school in preparation for an upcoming tournament. Before you know it this guy is a total badass. Meanwhile, the evil leader of a rival martial arts school sends various mercenaries (including two fierce Japanese ronin warriors) to severely injure Chao and prevent him from entering the tournament (they’re apparently scared shitless of the “Iron Fist” technique!). In Guide for the Film Fanatic, Danny Peary remarked, “I find it great fun to watch an extremely bland hero … taking on a fabulous array of Chinese and Japanese villains, each more outrageous than his predecessor … Picture has flare, imagination—at very least, it has great camp value.” Warning: The film features some seriously over-the-top violence, including a notorious eye-gouging scene. Not for the squeamish! Quentin Tarantino named Five Fingers of Death as his eleventh favorite movie of all time in the 2002 Sight & Sound Poll (however, it disappeared from his 2012 poll).

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