Wednesday, September 07, 2011

WELCOME TO BLACK BELT THEATRE AND TODAY'S MOVIE IS "BORN INVINCIBLE". Original title: "Tai Ji Yuan Gong (1978). BORN INVINCIBLE is a slam-bang kung fu flick which stars Carter Wong (known to most Westerners for his turn as "Thunder" in 1986's BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA) as the nastiest Tai Chi practitioner to ever come down the pike. He is aided and abetted by the great Lo Lieh (star of the film which first broke kung fu movies in the West: FIVE FINGERS OF DEATH aka KING BOXER!) as his co-villain in this one. A narrator explains at the start of the film that Tai Chi is one of the deadliest forms of kung fu. A practitioner has to learn it young; they start usually at three years of age. When fully adept, the Tai Chi master's body is literally impregnable to any weapon or attack; except in one secret vulnerable spot which the master can move around at will. This "iron armour" technique is also seen in several other kung fu films including "INVINCIBLE ARMOUR" (1977). Carter Wong plays the nefarious Tai Chi master Chief Chin of the Chin Yin Chi clan.
Events in the movie start when students of the Lei Ping kung fu school witness two members of the Chin Yin Chi clan beating up an old man and his daughter. Head student Ming Tu (Jack Long) confronts the hoodlums and tells them to stop. He and some of the other students fight with the ruffians and one of the Lei Ping trainees is killed. The Chin Yin Chi fighters are chased away and the old man and his daughter are given shelter inside the Lei Ping school. Two Chin Yin Chi leaders Chief Chin (Carter Wong) and Chin Pa (Lo Lieh) show up at the school and demand they hand over the old man with whom they have a past grudge. The master of the Lei Ping school refuses, orders his students to go back inside and Ming Tu to carry on as his successor if he should not survive the coming fight. The master engages in a battle with the two Chin Yin Chi leaders and is killed. The old man, who vowed 20 years before to never pick up a sword again, exits the school and fights the villains. Even though the old man is formidable, he too is viciously killed in the fight. Ming Tu, now leader of the school, vows to take revenge against the two villains and the film concerns their repeated attempts to defeat Chin Pa and Chief Chin.
Carter Wong as Chief Chin is seen in the traditional white-haired aspect of the Tai Chi master and demonstrates some of the best fighting ability in this film. Fight choreographer Yuen Woo-Ping is a master at these movies; witness his more recent work in DRUNKEN MASTER, IRON MONKEY, CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON or KILL BILL. The fight scenes are very impressively realized. Lo Lieh is of course no slouch either and both men are very impressive villains. Chief Chin, of course, is the most formidable of all and is quite scary as an opponent. Not only does he seem impervious to every attack but he also displays creepy characteristics such as his mocking laughter in the face of every dying opponent as well as his mystical ability to carve an "I Ching-type" symbol in the dirt while simultaneously making mincemeat out of his foe. Director Joseph Kuo has made several impressive kung fu films including the classic "MYSTERY OF CHESS BOXING" aka "NINJA CHECKMATE" and here he keeps the pace moving at lighting speed with practically no lull periods commonly afflicting lesser films. BORN INVINCIBLE is a little hard to come by but can be found for a reasonable amount in a dubbed/pan & scan version that's quite affordable. All you've gotta do is do a little questing . . . and BORN INVINCIBLE is certainly worth the time.

No comments: