Written by: Michael Den Boer on March 7th, 2006
Theatrical Release Date: Hong Kong, 1973 (Chinese Hercules), 1977 (Mantis Fists and Tiger Claws of Shaolin)
Directors: Choy Tak (Chinese Hercules), Sum Cheung (Mantis Fists and Tiger Claws of Shaolin)
Cast: Bolo Yeung, Chiang Fan, Fang Yeh (Chinese Hercules), John Cheung, Dean Shek (Mantis Fists and Tiger Claws of Shaolin)
DVD Released: March 21st, 2006
Approximate Running Time: 95 minutes (Chinese Hercules), 100 minutes (Mantis Fists and Tiger Claws of Shaolin)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen (Chinese Hercules), 4:3 Full Frame (Mantis Fists and Tiger Claws of Shaolin)
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo English
DVD Release: BCI Eclipse
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $14.98
Chinese Hercules: Lee Hsi leaves town after he accidentally kills his girlfriends’ brother. Now he works at dock unloading rice. He lives in virtual obscurity until one day when two thieves are being beaten to death and he offers to pay for the rice they stole. This gets him into hot water with his Boss Mr. Chan who orders his thugs to beat Lee Hsi senselessly. Boss Chan enters into a nefarious deal with the Chinese mafia which leads to all the dock workers losing their jobs and being replaced by mafia henchmen. The workers refuse to take things lying down and when they revolt Boss Chan calls in Chiang Tai (Chinese Hercules) to put an end to the stubborn dock workers who refuse to give up their jobs. The dock workers are no match for Chiang Tai who has killed at least half of them with his hands of steel and with no other options left they decide to leave town. Can Lee Hsi finally overcome his demons and finally unleash his superior fighting skills to take out the mafia and Chiang Tai (Chinese Hercules) once and for all.
Chinese Hercules like many martial arts film is about redemption. The main story revolves around two characters Lee Hsi who vows never to fight again after he kills another man and Chiang Tai (Chinese Hercules) who is heel bent on killing as many people as possible. Both men’s destinies are intertwined.
Chinese Hercules more then any other role Bolo Yeung ever played showcases the devastation his mammoth forearms and triceps can do. One can only but love the scene at the mafia bosses house were Bolo is in his training like mode as he is being hit by two by four that shatter at they hit him. Watching this scene one has to wonder if anything can even faze him or slow him down in a fight. Like all freaks of nature even Chinese Hercules proves that he is not invincible and that he has a weakness.
Fang Yeh is incredible as Lee Hsi as he is a man of very few words who lets his fighting skills do all the talking. The acting and plot is pretty standard for a martial arts film. The films action sequences are all exceptional as they keep the things interesting through out. The main reason to check out Chinese Hercules is of course Bolo Yeung who is essentially the star of the film even though his role is barley more then a cameo.
Mantis Fists and Tiger Claws of Shaolin: Boss Hung’s youngest son becomes infatuated with a barmaid named Shung Shung. Pi is a stranger who has just arrived in town looking for his long lost sister and he gets into a fight with Hung’s youngest son over the girl Shung Shung. One day Hung’s youngest son and a few of his friends trap and rape Shung Shung in the woods. They are murder shortly after by a mysterious creature with exceptional marital arts skills who hides in trees. When Boss Hung hears the news about his son’s death the blame quickly is shifted upon Pi who had an altercation earlier that day. Several girls have disappeared in recent months and they have been sold into prostitution by Boss Hung. The girls are taken to a place called the orchid house and Pi soon learns that his sister is one of the girls being held captive there.
Mantis Fists and Tiger Claws of Shaolin is one strange film that centers around an idea that there is a half mantis/half human killing machine on the loose. The action in this film is no holds bar as anything and everything goes. The initial fighting scenes with the half mantis/half human killing machine are done from the victims’ point of view and just like old monster movies the monster is hidden for all long as possible. We finally get to see the half mantis/half human killing machine in the films final showdown. The beast looks like a Muppet on acid and is not intimidating in the least. How this beast came about is one of the most ingenious plot devices ever used in any film.
One day while Shung Shung’s mother lay under a tree resting a preying mantis crawls up her dress and into her ovaries thus fertilizing her womb which leads to the birth of a mantis/human hybrid.
End of Spoiler:
A lot the fights are brutal and bloody as bamboo and other deadly objects pierce flesh. Dean Shek of who frequently has stared opposite Jackie Chan is delirious as Boss Hung aka Big Master. Keeping in tow with deformities in Kung Fu movies one of the sons is a hunchback who has spikes on his back. One part of the story that is not only disturbing but also feels highly improbable is how each of Boss Hung’s three sons’ on different occasions rape Shung Shung. Even though the continued rapping of Shung Shung is integral to the overall plot it becomes repetitive quickly. Overall Mantis Fists and Tiger Claws of Shaolin is a movie that is never dull as it moves along at a brisk pace.
Chinese Hercules is presented in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves its original aspect ratio. The colors are strong and flesh tones look healthy through out. Details look sharp in the background and foreground. There are no problems with compression, artifacts or edge enhancement. There is noticeable print damage through out the film in the form of nicks and scratches, still these imperfections never become distracting.
BCI Eclipse’s Chinese Hercules release marks the first time this film has ever been released in its original aspect ratio on home video. Through the years Chinese Hercules has been released by various budget DVD labels in versions that were so cropped or overtly pan and scanned that there were many instances in which the action going on was nearly impossible to follow. Overall BCI Eclipse’s transfer looks breath taking when compared to all previous DVD editions of Chinese Hercules.
Mantis Fists and Tiger Claws of Shaolin is presented in a full frame aspect ratio and even though I was unable to determine the films actual aspect ratio it is obvious in few shots during the film that the image has been cropped. The severity of the crops is not that much since during the fight scenes the majority of the action remains in frame. Despite muted colors the rest of the transfer fares slightly better as detail look sharp through out. There is print damage through out this film in the form of nicks and scratches. This print damage while noticeable is fairly mild overall. The original sources materials for Mantis Fists and Tiger Claws of Shaolin are rumored to no longer exist and the elements used for this transfer is most the best this film will ever look.
Chinese Hercules comes with one audio option an English dubbed audio track that is presented in a Dolby Digital mono. Outside of a few instances in which the audio sounds distorted the overall mix is fairly clean and always easy to follow.
Mantis Fists and Tiger Claws of Shaolin comes with one audio option an English dubbed audio track that is presented in a Dolby Digital mono. The audio sounds thin through out and there is noticeable hiss and distortion that pops up from time to time. Overall while the audio mix is not in as good of shape as the video transfer for Mantis Fists and Tiger Claws of Shaolin is it more then serviceable and gets the job done.
Each film comes on their own single layer DVD and they are in a keep case that comes with an outer sleeve that slips over the main box. The box art for this outer sleeve is exactly the Same art used for the main box. Both films come with a trailer for Pride Fighting Championship. The main extra for this release is a Bolo Yeung (Yang Sze) liner notes tribute.
BCI Eclipse’s latest edition to their kung fu double feature collection is their best release to date. Besides being two oddities about martial arts freaks of nature Chinese Hercules and Mantis Fists and Tiger Claws of Shaolin are two highly entertaining Kung Fu classics that are filled to the brim with bone and skull crushing action, highly recommended.