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林世榮 (1979)
The Magnificent Butcher


Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 10/26/2013

Lam Sai-Kwong arrives in town with his new wife, looking for his older brother Butcher Wing - but has has the misfortune to run into the villainous thug Ko Tai-Hoi instead. Ko takes a liking to Lam's wife, and kidnaps her - then exploits the hot-headed Wing's naivety and martial arts skills to use him against his own younger brother. A wily drunk vagrant is passing through town at the same time and soon recognises who is virtuous and who is vicious, and decides to help the student of his old friend Wong Fei-Hung.

THE MAGNIFICENT BUTCHER was a major project for the Golden Harvest studio, bringing together some of the greatest talent on their books at the time - most notably Sammo Hung and Yuen Wo-Ping, both of whom had recently transitioned from action directors to the big chair, and were largely responsible for creating the new style of comedy martial arts films that helped Golden Harvest topple the Shaw Brothers from their position as Hong Kong's premiere film makers. It was one of very few times that the two collaborated.

Golden Harvest invested plenty of time and money into the film, assured that with the talent involved they would be left with a big hit, and whilst THE MAGNIFICENT BUTCHER isn't quite as widely known or highly regarded as some other films of the era there is no doubt that it is a classic martial arts film, with a great number of superbly choreographed and executed fight scenes.

The film follows a similar template to DRUNKEN MASTER, with a decent story but - not surprisingly for the genre - some gigantic plot holes. I suspect that the basic structure of the story was all that was worked out in advance, basically enough to determine who would get to fight who, and the rest of the detail was probably improvised in the lulls between shooting the fights. There are quite a few comedic skits along the way, which can be a bit hit or miss - Sammo liked to play the fool, despite clearly being an extremely shrewd man in real life, so the humour tends towards broad slapstick.

It's really the fights that define the film though, and they are consistently of the highest quality - starting with Kwan Tak-Hing's calligraphy battle with Lee Hoi-Sang, the film constantly innovates in both choreography and cinematography, creating faster, more fluid and more acrobatic fights with each scene. A particular highlight is the spectacular battle between Yuen Biao and Lam Ching-Ying, both young men at the time and at the peak of their remarkable abilities.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: Masterofoneinchpunch
Date: 07/01/2008

After the major success of Snake in Eagle's Shadow (1978) and Drunken Master (1978), both directed by Yuen Wo-Ping, the comedic template that fueled these films would be remade over-and-over again with the sifu/student relationship in the forefront (often starring Yu Jim Yuen students like Cliff Lok in Choi Lee Fat Kung Fu) and often employing an elderly beggar who is adept at drunken kung fu (the art of Zui Quan). Golden Harvest's Magnificent Butcher (1979: Chinese title is Lam Sai Wing) follows this pattern with Yuen Wo-Ping as the director and co-action director with leading man Sammo Hung as the student Lam Sai Wing, the venerable Kwan Tak-Hing in his most famous role as sifu Wong Fei Hung and Fan Mei-Sheng (Postman Strikes Back (1982)) in the Beggar So type role. In fact, the biggest negative attribute about this movie is it is a byproduct of not only the sifu/student/beggar films, but it incorporates many elements from Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan films of that era -- which I will detail later.

Sammo Hung is the perfect actor for Lam Sai "Butcher" Wing -- a real-life portly (not as rotund as Sammo though) butcher by trade and student of the legendary Wong Fei Hung -- because of his physical adroitness and personal affability. I might have problems with the plot, but not with Sammo Hung's performance. Butcher Wing, as portrayed in this film, is a student who gets in trouble and shames his master (analogous to Jackie Chan in Drunken Master). He happened to overly, excessively and somewhat unintentionally beat up an elderly man (Fung Ging-Man) who had just stole a Chinese chess piece in a rage for losing the game. The chess player goes to Master Kao (Lee Hoi-Sang, Warriors Two (1978), The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978)) to get even against Wing (though who could blame him) by making up lies about Wong Fei Hong and Butcher Wing.

Master Tao confronts Wong Fei Hung about his student's (erroneous) lack of respect for Tao and his school and engages in one of the highlights of the film -- a calligraphy duel. Without spoiling the scene by explaining it, it is quite exquisite in its use of a very flexible Kwan Tak-Hing (good to see him stay in shape in his later years) even though he is doubled for the more difficult actions. Needless to say who won, but later Wing gets the full wrath of Hung by being disciplined to do a tortuous horse stance (much like in Drunken Master).

Meanwhile, chubby Lam Sai Kwong (Chiang Kam, Drunken Master (1978), Choi Lee Fat Kung Fu (1979)) is looking for his "skinny" brother (using a real old picture of Sammo Hung), but gets tricked into losing his wife May to a lecherous Tai Hoi (Fung Hak-On in a role similar to his one in Iron Fisted Monk (1977) just not as nasty). Concurrently, a beggar (Fan Mei-Sheng is also doubled a lot; sometimes it looks like Sammo Hung) with great drunken boxing skills comes to town stealing inebriated chickens and barely prevents the attempted suicide of Sai Kwong. Sai Kwong gets the beggar on his side and he goes off to confront Tai Ho. Tai Ho being much more brilliant than the beggar and Lam Sai Kwong gets those two to fight each other -- in that fight you will see a Popeye gag that was used before in Half a Loaf of Kung Fu (1978).

Eventually the good get together against the bad (Tai Hoi and 5 Dragons School) though Master Kao is treated as bad, but he really is not, it is just his hubris and tragic belief in his son that leads him to the wrong path. However, the biggest positives of this film are certainly not the storyline. The action scenes directed by Sammo Hung and Yuen Wo-Ping are excellent. Lam Ching Ying starting with a fan and ending with elbow knives has an excellent battle with Yuen Biao. Also during this same scene, Yuen Miu with his mad monkey kung fu skills has an excellent fight with Wai Pak. Also there is a great finale with Lee Hoi-Sang versus Sammo Hung. Hung does an excellent flip move (not doubled during that move) during this melee that has to be seen. Sammo was in top physical form during this era and the amount of martial art must have movies from this period he is in is extraordinary. Plus the use of Kwan Tak-Hing is quite commendable and works perfect for this film. This was originally the first time I saw him perform and was later made aware of his awesome reputation in earlier Cantonese Hong Kong films (now when will we see these Wong Fei-Hung films come to DVD?).

For me there are enough negatives to keep this from being a classic martial art film. Too much of the film is derived from other martial art films (even more than I mentioned above in the previous paragraphs, including a Knockabout (1979) reference ala what happens to Sai Kwong) and the script has too much of the Wong Jing (co-writer with Edward Tang) touch with the uneasy mix of violence and slapstick comedy not melding well (though I did like certain gags like the pig trotters one). But for fans of Kung Fu action, much will be forgiven or ignored with the excellent martial art scenes taking precedence as the main impetus to watch and own this movie. I like this film, I just do not love it. However, there are many scenes I do not mind watching over and over again.

I have the R1 Fortune Star/Fox release which has a good transfer but mediocre extras including trailers, photo gallery, quick biographies, production notes and "amazing" Sammo Hung music video. The big minuses are the dubtitles and no original mono. Here is another example of a Hong Kong R1 release that does not match the Hong Kong Legends R2 release for extras including a Bey Logan commentary (unless you do not like him).

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: dandan
Date: 01/22/2007
Summary: no sausages in sight...

lam sai-wing, known as butcher wing (sammo hung), is a student of wong fei-hung (kwan tak-hing), who keeps finding himself in trouble, with his over zealous approach to lending a hand. after a couple of petty squables and minor rumbles with members of master ko's (lee hoi-sang) school, butcher wing finds himself accused of murder. now, with his master out of town, butcher wing must prove his innocence before master ko's men kill him. luckily, a talented beggar (fan mei-sheng) is able to lend him a hand...

sammo hung is great as butcher wing, the narrative moves quickly and is pretty funny, even if a little of the humour does fall a little flat. still, the film is literally packed with martial arts sequences, a combination of choreography from sammo and, director, yuen woo-ping; all of which are slick and fun as you'd expect.

good stuff.


Reviewed by: cal42
Date: 06/07/2006
Summary: I found it derivative...

MAGNIFICENT BUTCHER is another in the series that resurrects the original Wong Fei-Hung, Kwan Tik-Hing, from his old black and white movies. Although now elderly and heavily doubled, he still commands screen presence. However, building a film around him would obviously prove difficult if not impossible. So they got around the problem in these pseudo-sequels by focusing on other characters – here, the real-life student of Wong Fei-Hung, Lam Sai-Wing (of whom Lau Kar-Leung is a real-life martial arts descendant), comes under the spotlight.

After DRUNKEN MASTER, it seems that every movie must follow the template and include the beggar/master Beggar So, and this is no exception. However, Fan Mei-Sheng is no Yuen Siu-Tien, and the film suffers because of it despite being directed by Yuen Woo-Ping.

Elsewhere, things seem a little “off” to me as well. The trademark Sammo Hung humour is in place, but for some reason, tends to grate rather than amuse.

The final fight between Sammo and Lee Hoi-Shan is pretty good and acrobatic, but this feels more like treading water than a truly landmark entry in the genre.

Reviewer Score: 5

Reviewed by: Frank Lakatos
Date: 11/25/2005
Summary: Sammo slow's in this one, but a classic

Everybody said the right things about this movie, so there's not much to say! But, Sammo appears to be slower than usual and his trademark high impact kung fu choreography of that time is missing, mainly due to Yuen Woo Ping having the most creative control in this production, using his then operesque choreography. The final fight between Sammo and Li Hoi San is all Sammo choreography, which makes up for the mediocre fights through the movie. The fun old English dub is the best way to see this movie. Besides the HKL disc, the old dub is currently unavailble, but the dub is just as decent as the English dub. *****/*****


Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 08/25/2005
Summary: As good as it gets.

Magnificent Butcher

The disc I watched was a successful digital remastering of this kung-fu classic, issued by Fortune City. Very well done widescreen transfer from what must have been a prime source. It has very sharp colors but not over-contrasty and deep blacks. Everything is distinct and even fights that take place in the shadows are easy to follow. This is important since a lot of the action takes place in relatively low light—candles, a single lamp and a watchman’s lantern. The 5.1 Dolby digital sound is crisp, immediate and very well separated between channels.

It was shot in basic, by-the-numbers 1970s kung fu cinematography with sudden zooms to a close-up of a character making an important decision and no real attempt to disguise much of the necessary doubling, especially of the actors playing Beggar So (Fan Mei Sheng) and the astounding Kwan Tak Hing who played Wong Fei Hung for one of the last times in his illustrious career. While Sammo Hung is the star and source of energy for this film, both Kwan and Fan steal the spotlight from him occasionally. “Magnificent Butcher” is a wonderful movie.

Sommo Hung seems to be at the top of his game, capable of any series of kung-fu that he or anyone else can devise. His footwork is phenomenal—very fast, accurate and continuous—as is his handwork, especially in his fight with the perfectly evil Ko Tai Hoi, played with villainous relish by Fung Hak On.

The conflict that pits Wong Fei Hung and his school against Master Ko (Lee Hoi Sang) is set up early. The immediate cause is the mistaken pursuit and assault of one of Ko’s people by Butcher Wing, although it is obvious that there is a fundamental clash between good and evil, light and darkness, peace and anarchy behind it. The fights themselves start small and escalate with perfect precision to extended, vicious and exhausting looking battles. The first is simply a war of words between Butcher Wing and a rival meat seller, which Wing wins through cunning and guile. The second is a “proxy” war between two old men—probably old friends--using a chess game. This one leads to Wing beating up one of the men who he had mistaken for a thief. Next is the first confrontation between the contending schools in which Wong Fei Hung defeats Master Ko a duel using calligraphy pens as swords—you have to see this one to believe it, and should. This fight is very well imagined and executed and necessary (and obvious) doubling for Kwan does not detract from it at all.

The conflict turns deadly. Master Ko and two of his acolytes show up at the Hung Gar school but are defeated by Foon (Yuen Biao) and Chat (Wai Pak). Foon goes against Lam Ching Ying who is armed with a fan, while Chat is confronted by Yuen Miu, the “Pole Man” who uses Monkey kung-fu. Yuen Biao is powerful, graceful and tireless—he makes it clear why he is admired by so many lovers of kung fu action.

The last three fights feature Butcher Wing. In the first, which takes place in a funeral home, he is attacked by Chung Fat who plays a warrior who has mastered a cat like type of kung-fu. Master Ko dispatches Wildcat with orders to bring back Wing—either dead or alive. As can be expected, Wildcat is all over the place, climbing pillars and jumping from the ceiling, clawing, hurting and tiring Wing. He is almost a match for Wing who is helped at the very end by his new teacher, Beggar So.

The next one isn’t much of a fight—it is short and brutal, essentially the execution of Ko Tai Hoi for killing Lam Sai Kwong, Butcher Wing’s brother. This is not kung-fu as such, but and enraged man using whatever is at hand to beat another to death. Ko tries everything—“reasoning” with Wing, pulling a knife (the same one he used to kill Lam Sai Kwong) and finally prostrating himself in front of Lam’s funerary shrine while begging for his life. It doesn’t work—Butcher Wing tells him that his brother wants company, then kills Ko.

The final fight is between Master Ko and Wing. As befits a match with an acknowledged kung-fu master it is highly stylized although deadly. Many different types of kung-fu are displayed—Crane Fist, Foaming Waves, Cosmic Palm—as are a few comic touches. It ends with Master Ko on the ground crippled, again after the intervention of Beggar So.

In many kung-fu classics the plot is no more than a device to get the characters from one fight to the next, which is not the case in “Magnificent Butcher”. Sammo Hung’s character is plausibly left to fend for himself. The murder of Lan Hsing makes perfect sense in the context of the movie, as does the venal watchman deciding to blackmail Ko Tai Hoi for the murder, an action which sets the stage for the heightening and resolution of the conflict. Neither comedy nor tragedy—and there is plenty of both—are “tacked on” or extraneous. Beggar So is a funny character, an almost universal type, a drunk who can still think and fight, either despite or because of his wine soaked brain. He comes across as a useless bum until his kung-fu skills are needed, then goes into effective action. Wing has a number of funny physical bits and is always in trouble with Wong Fei Hung. But the violent kung-fu world is also unforgiving, with two vicious murders and a kidnapping and (one assumes) rape. One short scene that really stood out for me was when Butcher Wing the body of his brother—the brother who he hasn’t seen for ten years and who he is just getting to know again. While his sister-in-law weeps, Wing’s face shows sadness, despair and anger, all in extreme close-up. Sammo can fight but he can also act.

Highly recommended, especially the Fortune City disc reviewed here.

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: SteelwireMantis
Date: 08/16/2003
Summary: Excellent movie with great kung fu!!!!!

Samo Hung and Yuen Woo Ping collaborate for the first time and lead an all-star cast in this comical portrayal of Lam Sai-Wing's life, the most popular student of Wong Fei-Hung.

Sai-Wing (known to people as 'Porky') is the hotheaded student of Wong Fei-Hung (played by an excellent Kwan Tak Hing). During the abscence of Wong Fei-Hung, Sai-Wing's younger brother Sai Kwong comes to town to visit him. Local thug Ko Tai-Hoi (Fung Hark On) cons Sai Kwong and kidnaps his wife Yuet Mui. Su Yat Chi (Fan Mei Seng) arrives in town and agrees to help Sai Kwong. After helping his brother and Su Yat Chi rescue Yuet Mui, Sai Wing is framed for the murder of Lan Hsing, the Godsister of Tai Hoi. Master Ko (Lee Hoi Sang) swears revenge for the murder of his Goddaughter and breaks the sign of Po Chi Lam. After Wing is injured during the battle at Po Chi Lam, Su Yat Chi teaches Wing the 12-arm style Kung Fu to help him get revenge and clear his name.

This movie is pure class! With perfectly shot kung fu that is choreographed with skill and lots of humour also involved in the serious plot. The highlight scene is between Yuen Biao and Lam Ching Ying, where great kung fu and acrobatic ability is performed by both stars. Wei Pai also displays some excellent examples of kung fu when he fights the man that uses the monkey's pole against him. In one scene, Samo Hung fights Chung Fa, who uses the cats claw in the film (very impressive and very funny at the same time). The finale is a showcase for Samo Hung's ability as a performer and a martial artist as he uses the 12 arm style against Lee Hoi Sang's Four Elements Kung Fu. Yuen Siu Tien (Drunken Master) was originally set to play Su Yat Chi, sadly he fell ill and passed away during filming. After re-scheduling he was replaced by Fan Mei Seng (who does a pretty good job of it too).

Overall, it is a flawless masterpeice from the late 70's. This movie has everything an old-school kung fu movie requires. Mindblowing, a MUST for HK cinema fans.

*****/*****

Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 08/15/2003
Summary: Very good

There is no doubt this movie is a classic. Though the pace starts to slow down in the middle and i didn't think the rape scene was needed, the rest of the movie is excellent!!

The action even by todays standards are very watching and entertaining. The comedy is just SO funny, the character that Sammo plays, the man with a good heart just bad luck is a work of genius!!

Enough said, you wont regret watching this movie

8/10


Reviewed by: balstino
Date: 06/03/2003
Summary: Very Very Good

Sammo tends to get on my nerves a bit in his younger roles, but this one suits him well and the supporting cast is second to none. Sammo's fights are pretty good, but the fights between the other characters are incredible. I would say even though this is a comedy, it has got a more violent edge to it. This is a notch below Drunken Master but I could see why some people would argue it is the best. Thoroughly recommended.


Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 04/01/2002

Another typical old school kung fu comedy. That means the plot is ultra thin, the action exceptional, the comedy silly but plenty, and 2 people MUST die. Yes, the story has Sammo VS the bad guy, who first kills her step sister and then Sammo's brother. Sammo, of course, takes revenge and kills the villain and ultimate defeats his father. Mindless fun, and very dated too.

[8/10]

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 01/12/2002
Summary: GREAT

Very good martial arts/comedy movie. More than anything, probably slightly ripping off Drunken Master at times, but still great. Sammo very good, Yuen Wo Ping directed it, and you can tell!

Rating: 4/5

(This rating is based on the year & genre, so don't think it's based as a comparison on new releases etc.)


Reviewed by: Inframan
Date: 11/11/2001

Classic old school with Sammo, directed by Yuen Woo Ping, sure its good. Some of the fights are not as fast and fluid as later kung fu flicks, but of course with Sammo the fights are always well coreographed and inventive.

This movie does a great job of developing its characters. The bad guy is one of the nastiest I can remember. Also characters like Wild Cat, a guy who fights with cat style, make this one really enjoyable.


Reviewed by: SUPERCOP
Date: 12/25/1999
Summary: Old School Masterpiece....

Sammo Hung Kam-bo headlines this incredible martial arts adventure, based on the exploits of Wong Fei-hung student Butcher Wing. Here, Hung stars as the good hearted Butcher, who can never seem to avoid trouble, either with the law, with rival kung fu masters, or with his own legendary sifu. Featuring light doses of comedy, an all star cast (including Lee Hoi-san, Yuen Biao, Lam Ching-ying, and the late, great Kwan Tak-hing), and some of the best martial arts battles you'll ever see, this is another old school masterpiece that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend. Directed by the legendary Yuen Woo-ping.

Rating: 9.75/10

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

I would say Magnificent Butcher is Samo Hung's best film. All ofthe fight sequences are top notch and the story is great. Yuen Woo Ping rules!

[Reviewed by Anonymous]