The ten movies here are cult masterpieces. None is exactly high brow, but all have a certain rock’n’roll kitsch creativity. There are scenes which’ll bring tears to the eyes and make stomachs move. All feature a hard rock attitude and philosophy, that’s what we’re saying. So, settle back and enjoy the martial equivalent to… well, it’s really the Martial Monsters Of Rock.
**The climax to Masked Avengers ** This 1981 Shaw Brothers movie is often regarded as one of director Chang Cheh’s lesser works. But the final all-out battle in the masked villains’ lair is spectacular. Each of the three bad guys, wearing a gold mask and carrying a trident, descends from on high on the sort of riser of which even Kiss would be envious. Why? Because they’re armed with all sorts of insidious, deadly devices. Forget about flame throwers and other such childish pranks, the torrents of fatal acid and armadas of grievous arrows are majestically arena rock.
**The Three Masters Of Death in Shogun Assassin **This 1980 Japanese movie has a lot of brutal scenes, but the appearance towards the end of the brilliantly named Three Masters Of Death is defying. In appearance and demeanour it is an oriental Motörhead, only a couple of centuries earlier. And when the last of these masters meets his fate, the dying monologue has to be heard to be believed, and even then you won’t believe just how ludicrous it is. Yes should set it to music.
The house in House Of Traps A 1982 Chang Cheh film, which stars a house. Yes, a house. But one unlike any other. It’s full of deadly, loaded with traps, all there to protect the treasures of a corrupt prince. Spikes, snares and swordsmen are in every recess and pore of the building. And watching how the unwary are dispatched is enough to make anyone shudder. There’s a great rock video to be made based on this.
**The towering bloodbath in Lady Hermit **A 1971 star vehicle for Cheng Pei Pei, the female swordplay star who was Wendy O. Williams nearly a decade before The Plasmatics exploded onto the scene. This is one of her finest performances, as a famed swordswoman who retires and disappears, before being forced to return to the blade to reek vengeance on the Black Demon. The way she fights her way up his towering fortress is inspired. And there’s a darkly chortlesome scene when she takes on three henchmen clearly out of their depth, names those parts of each of their bodies she’ll remove, before doing so in a blur.
The disembowelling in _The New One-Armed Swordsman _The third in the One-Armed Swordsman series of films, this 1971 tale saw David Chiang replace the iconic Wang Yu in the title role. Rather like Randy Rhoads taking over from Eddie Van Halen. Yes, we are talking martial arts superstars here. But the best scene doesn’t have the eponymous hero. Instead, it sees Ti Lung (Gary Moore in guitar terms) being disembowelled deep within the bowels of his nemesis’ lair. And it all happens while he’s roped in mid air. Gut wrenching. Literally.
**The coffin entrance in Invincible Pole Fighters **From 1983, this is a very dark movie. The downbeat tale starts with the fact that the supposed star, Alexander Fu Sheng, was killed in a car crash during the early days of filming. He’s in the final cut, but in an understandably reduced role. The storyline offers little respite to the onrushing woe. A noble family are betrayed , the male members butchered in an ambush. One of the two surviving sons (Fu Sheng) makes it home, but with his mind broken beyond repair, while the other living son tries to overcome his anger and grief by seeking shelter in a monastery. Of course, the climax sees the latter, now a Buddhist monk, in a showdown with those behind the earlier ambush, as he attempts to rescue his sister. He arrives hiding in a coffin, from which he erupts in a torrent of mayhem. That’s the way to make a stage entrance! The film, though, doesn’t have a happy ending. The last scene has the hero walking into the sunset, but not in a blaze of glory.
The hidden ninja menace in 5 Element Ninjas Ninja magic, as they take on a Chinese martial arts school in this 1982 extravaganza, using the earth, fire, water, gold and wood as the basis for their havoc. Of course, the goodly Chinese students eventually win, but the real fun is early on, when these hapless types face up to the wiles and deviant viciousness of the imaginative ninjas. It’s a visual representation of pure metal ire. Blades are used here the way Skynyrd wielded guitars on the climax to Freebird.
The bedsheet in _Deaf Mute Heroine _Deaf. Mute. What sort of chance does this swordplayer have? Well, in this 1971 movie she’s lethal, but makes the mistake of falling in love while trying to avoid a gang out to get back their ill gotten booty from her. This rather laboured peasant lover meets his demise at the hands of a mysterious swordsman who appears at the climax for a showdown. It’s sword versus… sheet! Seriously, the deaf and mute one takes on the blade buccaneer with a a huge bedsheet rolled tight into makeshift staff. It’s quite brilliant, and breathtakingly cheeky. Reminds you that you can use anything as a makeshift guitar.
The guillotine in _Master Of The Flying Guillotine _In this 1976 pot boiler, a one-armed Wang Yu (who was once a bigger star than Bruce Lee in Hong Kong) is chased by an assassin out for revenge, because the he killed the latter’s two prime students (seen in the 1971 film One-Armed Boxer, to which this is a sequel). And the assassin’s weapon of choice? What looks like a hat, which, when thrown, completely covers the victim’s head. Then, a yank on an attached chain and the head is severed by blades hidden deep within the supposed hat. Cunning and quick. There is no escape… well, there is, but that would spoil the rest of this movie. The two protagonists are both bonkers and utterly ruthless. No wonder Tarantino loves it!
The quartering scene in _Heroic Ones _This 1970 movie stars David Chiang and was directed by Chang Cheh – a potent team. It’s about a Tartar chieftain and his 13 sons, who are as skilled in drinking literally gallons of wine as they are in slaying the emperor’s enemies. But one high ranking official loathes this family, because they refuse to be impressed by his authority, and so plots his own bloody cull of these ne’er do wells. Chiang is offed in memorable style. His arms and legs are tied to four wild stallions, each pulling in a different direction. You can imagine the visceral mess this leaves behind. Pure rock’n’roll.