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AKA: Five Fingers of Death, The Five Fingers of Death, 5 Fingers of Death, Iron Palm, Hand of Death, Invincible Boxer

Year of release: 1972

Genre: martial arts

Director: Jeng Cheong Woh

Action directors: Lau Kar-Wing, Chan Chuen

Producer: Run Run Shaw

Writer: Patrick Kong

Cinematography: Wong Wing-Lung

Editors: Chiang Hsing-Lung, Fan Kung-Ming

Music: Frankie Chan Fan-Kei, Ng Dai-Kong

Stars: Lo Lieh, Wong Ping, Chiu Hung, Tien Feng, Bolo Yeung, Fang Mian, Gam Kei-Chu, Tung Lam, James Nam, Goo Man-Chung, Chan Shen

Not rated; contains IIB-level violence

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King Boxer

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King Boxer (aka Five Fingers of Death) has a permanent place in Hong Kong history, since it was the first film produced in the region to receive a wide theatrical distribution in the United States. It would come to be highly influential in creating a template for many of the other kung fu pictures that followed it, most recently and obviously with the Kill Bill films, which re-used King Boxer's theme music (which, oddly enough, was itself taken from the "Ironside" TV series).

Thankfully, unlike some other historically important films, King Boxer has held up very well. The story, which features Lo Lieh learning the "iron palm" technique to get revenge for his school, is standard stuff. But the director, Jeng Cheong Woh, knows exactly how to give the audience enough information to propel the story along, but not so much as to bog the movie down, as was the case with far too many kung fu pictures of this time. And even though the acting is frankly nothing special, the actors do a good enough job and manage to create some likeable characters, which helps tremendously in making the viewer care about what's going on with the story.

But what really makes King Boxer stand the test of time are the fighting sequences. They're probably most notable for their violence, from arterial sprays to gouged eyeballs, but its' Woh's style which really sets them apart. Unlike many of the Shaw Brothers kung fu pictures which followed it that featured fairly static camera movement, King Boxer's fight scenes showcase dynamic camera angles and staccato editing. This could have produced a disorienting effect with other directors, but Woh makes these techniques into cohesive and exciting scenes which should please any martial arts fan.

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DVD Information

Manufacturer: Steeplechase

Picture format: widescreen

Sound format: mono

Languages: English

Subtitles: none

Extras: none

Notes: Typical of many of the "gray market" versions of this movie that were floating around until Celestial snapped down the international rights, this DVD offers a decent sound mix... and that's about it. The picture shows very obvious signs of wear and tear, the only soundtrack option is a poor English dub, and there's no extras at all. This is one of those DVDs that you're surprised even has a title menu.

Manufacturer: Dragon Dynasty

Picture format: anamorphic widescreen

Sound format: Dolby 5.1

Languages: Cantonese, English

Subtitles: English, Spanish

Extras: trailers, interviews, photo gallery, commentary with David Chute, Elvis Mitchell, and Quentin Tarantino

Notes: This is far and away the definitive version of the movie. The picture looks amazing for a 35 year old film, and the remastered soundtrack sounds tremendous -- even if it had to be changed around a bit, since the "original" soundtrack was mostly comprised of music cribbed from other movies. The interviews, especially the one with Lau Kar-Wing, are quite informative and worth watching. As for the commentary, you probably know what to expect from Quentin Tarantino; it's fast-paced and sometimes rambling, but still manages to be entertaining.