Joseph Kuo was a highly successful Taiwanese filmmaker who, although perhaps not so well known to martial arts fans as some of his other contemporaries, was responsible for some of the most successful yet independently produced action spectacles – often taking on the role of writer, producer and director! To celebrate this multi-tasking filmmaker, the good people at Eureka have just released the glorious CINEMATIC VENGEANCE Set, containing a whopping eight movies – all presented in HD and on Blu-ray for the very first time!

Disc 1 kicks off in spectacular fashion with THE 7 GRANDMASTERS (1978) - a martial arts action film incorporating some comedy elements. It concerns old Kung Fu master Sang Kuan Chun who is looking forward to his retirement; however, his plans are scuppered when he receives a note alleging that he is not the greatest master. What?! With is ego bruised (and soon more will be bruised than just his ego!) Sang, together with three students, embarks on an epic journey for one last challenge with the 7 Grandmasters. In a side plot, clumsy young chap Siu Ying (who provides the comic relief) is willing to give up everything if only Sang will agree to teach him his expert Kung Fu. The sting in the tale is that many years ago, Sang’s own teacher had left him the secret book of the ‘Pai Mei Twelve Strikes’ but a masked intruder had managed to steal several pages… meaning that Sang must now challenge and confront his 7 opponents knowing only nine deadly strikes….
In THE 36 DEADLY STYLES (1979) we have a similar set-up and feature some familiar faces from the previous film. Here, a young man called Wah-jee and his uncle find themselves under threat by a gang of ruthless fighters led by Mien Tsu-mun while walking in the woods. Although Wah-jee and Uncle manage to flee to a Buddhist temple the old man dies when Mien and his gang follow them and Wah-jee only escapes with his life after fighter turned monk Huang manages to polish off most of the intruders. Owing the temple and Huang his life, Wah-jee is given the position of dogsbody although he enjoys walking to the nearby settlement to fetch milk and exchange mock-martial arts blows with attractive soy milk seller Tsui-jee. However, his days as the temples’ dogsbody are numbered when baddie Mien Tsu-mun and his helpers return to the area… leading up to an all-out action extravaganza involving numerous characters. It’s interesting to note that both movies use kicks and karate blows with (to our ears) peculiar names such as Flying Horse, Play Bamboo Flute underneath the Blue Sky, Seal-handed Buddha, Yin Yang-Phoenix Eyes and Two Smokes depart from the Grave. The mind boggles!

Disc 2 starts in equally spectacular fashion with the action comedy THE WORLD OF DRUNKEN MASTER (1979) which attempted to capitalise on the better-known The Drunken Master action-comedy released the previous year starring Jackie Chan. In Joseph Kuo’s version, the focus lies on old Beggar Su although the actor portraying him is not the main character – only appearing at the beginning when he demonstrates his drunken boxing skills (hilarious!) and then later towards the end. The actual plot is told in flashback with Beggar Su and his bickering friend Fan Ta-pei as young men, telling of their mischievous escapades when they used to steal grapes from a vineyard and fought for the attention of a certain young lady named Yu-Lu (who re-appears towards the end as an elderly lady). In between we learn how the two friends were taught the art of ‘drunken boxing’ by Chang Chi (the owner of the vineyard the two friends used to steal grapes from) after they managed to fend off the extremely nasty Tiger Yeh and his henchmen and how they then had a fall-out of sorts… only to be reunited thirty years later (we’re back where the film started) after receiving a mysterious invite. This is terrific fun and the past/present narrative keeps the interest factor high.
Unfortunately the same can’t be said for THE OLD MASTER (1979) – this is a contemporary affair (meaning 1979 of course) transferred to Los Angeles’ Chinatown district. ‘Old Grandmaster Wan’ (Jim-Yuen Yu, who btw was Jackie Chan’s real life karate teacher) is invited to LA to participate in a Kung Fu contest. Naturally he beats all competitors and by doing so annoys a local Chinese mobster who lost huge sums of money thanks to illegal betting. Now he and his cronies are in on a scheme to have Grandmaster over and by doing so are able to recoup financial losses. But they haven’t counted on the wit and skill of Bill – a young wannabe martial arts student eventually taken under the wing of Grandmaster. It should be noted that Jim-Yuen Yu doesn’t perform his own stunts (obviously he was too old) and the question arises as to why he was cast in the role of Grandmaster in the first place. His face is visible in close-up but all the kicks and high jumps are so very obviously carried out by a younger stuntmen. In a totally silly side plot, Bill’s grossly overweight American landlady has the hots for Grandmaster and even drags him onto the dance floor in an embarrassing Saturday Night Fever pastiche while all the other white American actors are dubbed by Asian actors speaking with English accents! What was Joseph Kuo thinking?

Disc 3 features two films considerably more serious and violent in tone, with the first being SHAOLIN KUNG FU (1974) concerning two rival rickshaw companies. The Dong Yong company is run by corrupt elder Master Chu and his equally nasty son, young Master Chu. The Dong Yongers make life a misery for young rickshaw driver Ah Feng who works for the other rickshaw company in town but thanks to Chu doesn’t get many customers. Things change for the worse when, after continued bullying, Ah Feng – a Shaolin Kung Fu expert - decides that enough is enough and beats the c**p out of Chu and his men, prompting the old bugger to embark on a trail of bloody revenge which will see the demise of Ah Feng’s helpless blind wife. Boiling with rage, Ah Feng then kills Chu Jr. which in turn prompts Chu Sr. to go on a merciless rampage although Ah Feng initially receives support from a local courtesan and a little boy. This is high-octane stuff and the violence (against both sexes I may add) is relentless. In terms of plot this is one of the most fleshed-out films on offer.
Mind you, director Joseph Kuo made up for violence against women with his 1975 follow-up THE SHAOLIN KIDS. Here we finally have a female heroine in Polly Ling-Feng, playing Miss Liu, the adopted daughter of Mr. Liu – a highly respected individual poisoned by Hu Wei Yung, a truly nasty piece of work and the Prime Minister. Hu Wei Yung will stop at nothing to overthrow the Emperor (as he would like to attain that position himself) – even going as far as penning a self-incriminating letter that opens up a Pandora’s box when it falls into the wrong hands. It’s now down to the feisty Miss Liu and her helpers to avoid the overthrow of the Emperor but that’s easier said than done considering that the Prime Minister has managed to kidnap Miss Liu’s father… This film had certainly a budget and no mistake, what with elaborate period sets, costumes and what have you! The relentless fight sequences are nicely choreographed as well.

Which brings us to Disc 4 and 18 BRONZEMEN (1976). This is really is the jewel in the crown so to speak and not only boasts an elaborate plot but truly jaw-dropping martial arts techniques! Set during the time of the early Qing dynasty, the local Qing government is at loggerheads with the opposing Ming dynasty and thus vows to attack and eradicate anyone who is a Ming-supporter including the patriarch of the Guan family though his wife and baby son Shao Lung escape with the help of an ally. During their time hiding out the baby boy, now several years old, is taught the basics of Kung Fu by Ta-Chi, a close friend if Shao Lung’s dead father though when members of the Qing lord turn up again it is decided to send Shao Lung to a Shaolin temple for safety reasons. After several years of hardship and discipline he is nearing the end of his training (which by Western standards can only be described as sadistic) but before he is a fully qualified Shaolin he must master the incredibly challenging tests of the 36 Chambers followed by the challenge of the 18 Bronzemen (this needs to be seen to be believed!). His martial arts friend Wan also takes on the challenge and succeeds and is now free to leave the monastery but before both bid farewell the young disciples are required to lift a huge, heated bronze pot and by doing so have the Shaolin crest of dragon & tiger burnt into their skin. Shao Lung and Wan are finally free to return to the outside world but Shao has but one agenda, which is to find those who killed his father. In a restaurant he makes the acquaintance of the provocative Miss Lu (Polly Ling-Feng again) who is disguised as a man. After a rocky start Shao comes to realise that she is a woman (blatantly obvious to the viewer) and his future wife thanks to his finding a broken royal seal she carries with her. Meanwhile, Brother Wan also has a surprise revelation in store… THE RETURN OF THE 18 BRONZEMEN briefly features actor Tien Peng (who played Shao Lung in the previous film) but the real star here is actor Carter Wong (Brother Wan in the previous film) who this time returns to take on the role of a totally different character, namely the cruel 4th Prince Yong Zhen whose hopes of becoming the next Qing Emperor are dashed when it is announced that his comatose father has the 14th Prince in mind as his successor. Yong Zhen won’t have any of this nonsense and not only has his father’s will altered but the writer of the will is promptly bumped off. With blood on his hands just like Macbeth, Yong Zhen is the now new ruler but his joy doesn’t last long as he’s informed that local Shaolin monks and other rebels are planning his downfall… and the film then becomes somewhat unique as a flashback sequence which in fact takes up almost the entire film shows how Yong Zhen, under a different disguise, trained himself at the very Shaolin monastery we already know from the previous film – enduring the same hardship as all the other disciples and of course taking on the 18 Bronzemen. Suffice to say he too mastered all challenges thrown at him which is why – back in the present and at the end of the film – he is informed by his advisor that he need not fear his enemies because a new device called the ‘Flying Guillotine’ will eradicate all the Emperor’s opponents. You don’t mess with those Chinese!

This Limited Edition set contains the following SPECIAL FEATURES:
Limited Edition Hardbound Case / Limited Edition 60 page booklet / Limited Edition set of 8 facsimile lobby cards / Original Mandarin soundtracks and audio tracks / Optional English dubbed audio tracks / Alternate Cantonese audio tracks for The 7 Grandmasters, The World of Drunken Master, and The Old Master / Newly translated English subtitles / Brand new audio commentaries / The 18 Bronzemen: The Hong Kong Version – a reconstruction of the film’s original theatrical release version.