Leather-clad missionaries in Pyongyang

laibachEngaging North Korea is a difficult but necessary business. Engagement initiatives need to be honest. Honest about what they can achieve. Honest about the nature of the North Korean regime and the human rights situation in North Korea. And finally, honest about the fact that North Korean responses to initiatives of non-state actors (Track Two diplomacy) are carefully calibrated by specifically positioned state actors to obtain maximum results from such encounters.  

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The Last Fist Of Fury (1977)

 

dragon-lee

No, this is not Bruce Lee. It just isn’t. Really.

lastfistHere is a treat. An authentic Dragon Lee movie! Starring Dragon Lee 巨龍 거룡, whose Bruce Lee impersonation is so perfect it borders on the surreal. Bruceploitation at its best, it is hard to tell that this was originally a Korean movie. The original version is lost,

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Shadowless Sword (2005)

2This must be my favorite pulp movie or at least one of my favorites. Shadowless Sword 무영검/無影劍 is extremely well-made fun, loaded with historical and contemporary references and with those rare actors who under the right direction gracefully bear the load of impressive action scenes and tongue-in-cheek acting.

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Hapkido (1972)

hapkido2Here comes the unbreakable china doll to give you the kicking of your life! That is a fair description of this early Hong Kong/South Korean co-production made by Golden Harvest. Three Chinese students (Angela Mao as Yu Ying, Carter Wong as Kao Chang and Sammo Hung as Fan Wei)have practised Hapkido in colonial Korea for five years, but have to flee the country under increasing Japanese pressure.

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Kill The Shogun (1975)

1killtheshogunzu0“In 1592, the Japanese shogun Hideyoshi failed in his attempt to invade Korea (and later, China through Korea). This Hong Kong kung-fu thriller is loosely based on that historical incident. Since the real Hideyoshi is not an issue, and kung-fu is the star of the movie anyway, historical narration does not overpower the action. Basically, the movie shows the Koreans fighting the Japanese against all odds– but as everyone knows, that one Korean officer with the fast kicking feet, is going to whomp the heck out of anything that moves and single-handedly send Hideyoshi packing.”

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Manchurian Tiger (1974)

manchurian-tiger (1)A title like this sure gets me going. Manchurian Tiger… with Han Yongcheol 한용철 aka Charlie Han, the guy who packs a punch and a kick or two. And directed by the dean of Korean action Lee Doo Yong 이두용.  The movie starts out great with Han extorting money from a dubious-looking character. We know we’re in Manchuria because the dubious-looking character is dressed in Chinese-style clothes (let me rephrase: cinema Chinese-style clothes).

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Film reviews

ImageOver the years I indulged in writing reviews of truly marginal Korean (and co-produced Korean) 70s movies with lotsa fighting, Bruce Lee-clones, evil Japanese villains, no discernible plot and often set against a (partially) Manchurian background. I didn’t exactly stop at 70s movies but included everything that connected to Manchuria or

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