This film was made 32 years ago, but it looks stunning. This is certainly no cheap chop-sockey. Wang Yu was red-hot at this time, and had a full power of Shaw Brothers behind him for this A-grade production. I was stunned by the quality of the cinematography. The quality of the colours, the gorgeous scenery, and the outstanding editing are a joy to behold. The look of the film, combined with Wang Yu's excellent direction, would put him up there with King Hu at his best.
Reviewer Score: 8
The feel of the film certainly owes much to both King Hu and Akira Kurosawa. Hu for the look and, to a lesser extent, the action, and Kurosawa for the swordfighting, shot in proper samurai style.
There is also a brief scene where a pretty young woman appears topless while the villain rapes her. I get the impression that even topless scenes were pretty rare in 1970.
It would be hard to believe this film was made over 30 years ago, except that the actors all look so youthful. Lo Lieh looking fresh-faced. Chan Sing with side-car ears. Hao Li-Jen always looks old, but here he at least doesn't look ancient. And Jason Pai Piao, in a brief appearance, looks like a teenager.
According to several sources, this is the film which started the kung fu pictures boom, and it's easy to see why. Wang Yu leans heavily on the respect and honour and revenge formula which was made popular in Hong Kong (and other parts of Asia) by the Japanese samurai movies in the 1960s.
The characterizations of the Chinese and Japanese characters in the film deserves comment. The Chinese students are mostly a pretty stoic lot, not resorting to extreme emotion even when their fellows are being harassed or killed. The Japanese karate experts behave like screaming wild beasts, rather like the screeches which Bruce Lee was to make part of his style. I find it difficult to believe that any group of Japanese would behave in such an outrageous manner.
This leads to what I found the most unexpected let-down. The quality of the fight scenes is pretty ordinary. To be kind, if this was the film that started it all, they may not have worked out the formula properly yet. But even the climactic fight, which usually can be relied on for a at least a few thrills, is average at best.
However, don't let it stop you watching Chinese Boxer. See just how good a fu film can look.