Furious Slaughter (1972)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2007-05-01
“Furious Slaughter” shows the plight of a decent man in a corrupt society. “Furious Slaughter” may seem like a nihilistic bloodbath or a cynical attempt to show the inevitable triumph of evil, on a more profound level it poses the question that has burdened mankind for millennia—what does a moral man do when surrounded by a corrupt and depraved society. The answer, at least if he is Jimmy Wang Yu, is that he confronts and tries to defeat wickedness and continues to fight until his last breath. There is no reason for Wang Yu’s character to do this—or at least none in the sense of a motivation supplied by the screenplay. For Ma the need for justice for two strangers—women he encounters briefly on the road—is imperative. He defines himself by who he becomes in response to the challenges of simple existence—in this case existence in an immoral world. He is an existentialist hero, one who, given the choice of action or despair in the face of evil, always chooses action. He is only what he becomes in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges the come with living in any world. Wang Yu sums this up simply when he says “I thrive on trouble”. He is planning to be trouble for the proprietor of the Pleasure Palace, where a friend lost all his money and was then burned out of his business when he couldn’t pay.

In addition to the usual high pain threshold and short recovery time from serious injury that are typical of action heroes, plus the ability of leap a few hundred feet when necessary, Ma also can “hear” dice. He is able to tell the combination of numbers of the three dice from the sound of them rattling in the cup—which means he always wins. He stands at the table of the Pleasure Palace winning every throw of the dice. Soon the onlookers and petty gamblers are betting with him. The cinematography during this scene is exciting if basic as the camera pans past punters crowding table occasionally slowing to pick out a face of someone elated or angered.

This sets the scene for the first confrontation between Wang Yu and the powers that control the town. He is attacked while still at the table by four thugs sent by gambling house owner to break up the game barely shrugging while knocking each of them to the floor. He quits while ahead taking his winnings as a check and is set upon by thugs armed with clubs employed by casino when he returns to roadside food stall. This is the first big fight with Wang Yu. It has good choreography, excellent action—he dispatches them using punches, kicks, and a few improvised weapons like wine bottles and hot coals from a brazier. He then gathers their clubs, puts them on a box and chops all the clubs in half with one blow from his mighty arm, all while not disturbing the jaunty angle of his fedora.

Teddy Bear, a nice enough local who has won a couple of bucks betting with Wang Yu but is afraid to risk more, faces an ethical dilemma when Wang Yu asks him to help find two girls who were looking for work but forced into a brothel. Teddy Bear senses that Wang Yu is morally far superior to the people in the town but has been happy enough simply going along with things, enjoying what he can and turning a blind eye to the worst of it. To his credit he throws in with Wang Yu. Teddy Bear becomes part of the moral center of the movie—he redeems himself by making the very difficult choice to help the good guy. Since the town is ruled by completely corrupt men this decision has to be unconditional, final and not contingent on anything—to do anything other than placidly go along with the owners of the Pleasure Palace is the same as opposing them and they have shown they will crush any opposition.

Teddy Bear is a well known customer at the brothel. He talks to the owner and tells him that he and Wang Yu, a traveler with a lot of money, want two girls to service them and he wants two new girls. The newest women there are women that Wang Yu has seen kidnapped earlier and who he wants to free from the brothel. This leads to the first large scale fight, with Wang Yu fighting his way down two flights of stairs while being attacked by scores of goons with clubs. These goons are joined by the toughs who he beat up earlier—this time they are armed with knives instead of clubs but they are no more successful. Unarmed as always Wang Yu uses his opponents’ weapons—knives, hatchets, clubs—against them in a very exciting fight that has several minutes of non-stop action going from balcony to balcony and finally to ground floor.

Teddy Bear tries to get the women out of town but is captured after a valiant but unskillful defense, essentially a hopeless rear-guard action in which he sacrifices himself so that his charges can escape. He is taken to a factory—looks like a dye works—and is being tortured to force him to tell where the women have gone when Wang Yu bursts in. The bad guys have a few hand tools—picks and shovels—plus flaming pieces of wood from the fires under the dye kettles as weapons. Once again Wang Yu beats them up quickly and efficiently, using their weapons against them when necessary but generally simply punching or kicking.

The boss decides things have gone far enough and challenges Wang Yu himself. He knows the Iron Palm technique but Wang Yu, as we (and the boss) have learned before also has a deadly palm strike. For the first time Wang Yu is truly tested by an opponent but this fight ends with the criminal boss dumped into a vat of boiling dye.

Joined by other bad guys including those he beat up earlier, this time armed with knives. Unmindful of their last encounter they attack again and are dealt with much more severely. While unarmed, Wang Yu is happy to use his opponents’ weapons—knives, hatchets, clubs—against them. A very exciting fight, several minutes of non-stop action going from balcony to balcony finally to ground floor with plenty of jumps

Wang Yu goes to save Teddy Bear who is being tortured to reveal the location of the girls. Since Teddy Bear is being held in the dye works the bad guys have a few hand tools—picks and shovels—plus flaming pieces of wood as weapons. Once again Wang Yu beats them up quickly and efficiently, using their weapons against them when necessary but generally simply punching or kicking.

The boss decides things have gone far enough and challenges Wang Yu himself. He knows the Iron Palm technique but Wang Yu, as we (and the boss) have learned before has a deadly palm strike. The action gets a bit hard to follow, probably due to editing in order to fit a TV time slot but this battle ends with the criminal boss dumped into a pot of boiling dye.

By now, not surprisingly, Wang Yu simply wants to get out of town—if nothing else he must be tired from beating up at least 100 thugs—it would be interesting to do an actual count. He is ushered into the presence of the big criminal boss (in the dub his name sounded like Chow Ching Pa) who meets him with yet another band of toughs, some of them sporting bandages from earlier fights. The secret weapon is two Judo experts—one the teacher of the other—from Japan who are invincible, or at least have been until now. They find one problem with Judo throws—throwing Wang Yu simply helps launch him into a leap so that instead of lying broken on the ground he winds up on the roof of a nearby building, arms crossed and sneer firmly in place.

The last fight is between Wang Yu and the two Judo masters and is brutal, suspenseful and well executed. The very end of the movie seems tacked on but I think that is due to the editing of this particular release, probably to fit a two hour commercial television time slot, although it does involve throwing powdered lime, the corruption of the very young and the ultimate redemption of Teddy Bear.

“Furious Slaughter” might also be read as an allegory—it certainly is structured like one and seems to have enough opposite but parallel types to fill all the slots of a symbolic narrative but I have no background in how the expression of Chinese mythology has evolved so I am unable to make the necessary comparisons between the emblematic and the material form.

Recommended for the fights and for fans of Jimmy Wang Yu, although I would avoid this dubbed release from Red Sun which has been badly cropped and choppily edited. There is no question of the source for this particular release—the first few title cards are from a VHS tape from 1978.
Reviewer Score: 4