Sunday, July 16, 2017

Podcast: Above the Law (Righting Wrongs) (1986)

Your Stupid Minds returns to one of its most-frequently used tags: martial arts! Join us, gentle listener, won't you (© Karina Longworth), as we travel to the world that was Hong Kong cinema in the 1980's, as brought to us by director Corey Yuen (DOA: Dead or Alive, this amazing JCVD Russian kickboxer fight, The Transporter), featuring our first but not last film featuring Cynthia Rothrock!

When attorney and martial arts expert Jason Chan's (Biao Yuen) legal mentor is gunned down by a cadre of elite assassins, he's annoyed. But when a state witness and his children are brutally exploded by an unnamed "Black Assassin" (kickboxer Peter Cunningham), enough is enough and it's time to start brutally murdering gangsters by kicking and/or choking them with your feet until they're dead! The murder of one crime boss brings Chan into the orbit of inspector Cindy Si (Rothrock), a no-nonsense cop who will kick everyone in Hong Kong to get to the truth.

But Chan's revenge scheme is interrupted when the gangster is killed by a bigger evil: a corrupt police commissioner who is secretly the top crime boss of the city (played with gusto by Melvin Wong). Can Chan prove the commissioner's guilt before he gets karate kicked by Cynthia Rothrock or kickboxed to death by an evil Ernie Hudson? Watch the movie to find out! If you couldn't tell from this plot description, this movie rules.

Notable Notes:
  • Rothrock was discovered as a 7th degree black-belt on Ernie Reyes Sr.'s (the father of the Surf Ninja and Red Sonja child) traveling karate team, when she was brought to Hong Kong to work as an action star despite speaking no Chinese. Her performance was dubbed into Chinese, then re-dubbed back into English for the Western cut. She starred in multiple Hong Kong films before crossing over into an American release with China O'Brien in 1988.
  • Karen Sheperd, the assassin who fights Rothrock in the clip above, was a real-life karate forms champion, defeating Rothrock in actual competition in 1981. Maybe that real-life victory caused her to complain about her character losing a fight to Rothrock in a fictional movie, forcing re-shoots to cut around her refusal to take a professional wrestling-style loss. Inexplicably, Vin Diesel still does this in the 2010s, despite never having won any karate championships.
  • Peter "Sugarfoot" Cunningham had an undefeated record in kickboxing: could he defeat self-proclaimed undefeated kickboxer Harold Diamond, co-star of Hard Ticket to Hawaii? We think he probably could.
  • Multiple cuts of the movie exist: Nick rented a VHS copy missing about 14 minutes of material, and the DVD copy I acquired is missing about 3-4 minutes. Presumably the missing footage is a re-shot ending, while the VHS is likely missing footage of brutal violence, including children being exploded and old men being strangled to death.
  • Melvin Wong trained for his role as the big bad by working out with Bruce Lee pal Bolo Yeung, the dude best known to western audiences for playing the enormous Bloodsport villain and looking generally amazing for a guy in his mid-40s.

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