An action-packed double feature starring the ‘Queen of Kung-fu’, ANGELA MAO. On Blu-ray for the first time ever in the UK as a part of the Eureka Classics range, presented from brand new 2K restorations.
This Angela Mao double bill of “Hapkido” and “Lady Whirlwind” is available today, 3rd October 2022, from Eureka Video and Amazon!
Taiwanese actress Angela Mao Ying stars as “Miss Tien Li-Chun” in Lady Whirlwind, and as “Yu Ying” in Hapkido. Originally trained in traditional Chinese opera, Mao studied Hapkido, Wushu, Taekwondo and other forms of martial arts to prepare for her various movie roles.
She shot to fame in 1972 with her film “Deadly China Doll”. Her popularity grew with featured roles in titles such as “Hapkido”, “Lady Whirlwind”, “The Fate of Lee Khan”, “When Taekwondo Strikes” and “The Broken Oath”.
Mao is probably most recognised internationally for her role as the sister of Bruce Lee’s character in the film “Enter the Dragon”. She retired from acting in 1992 to devote herself to her family, moving to New York City in 1993, where she and her family run three restaurants.
Taking a leading role in both productions as an actor and choreographer, a true legend of Hong Kong martial arts cinema, Sammo Hung plays the thuggish brother of Tiao Ta Niang in Lady Whirlwind, and the more heroic “Fan Wei” in Hapkido.
In a career spanning six decades, he has worked with some of the best in the business, from Bruce Lee to Jackie Chan. His work as a performer, choreographer and director helped to reshape and evolve modern screen fighting action as we know it. From his earliest works such as “Iron Fisted Monk”, “Warriors Two”, “Knockabout”, “The Prodigal Son”, to his comedies and collaborations with his fellow “Fortunes” opera brothers, including “Encounters of the Spooky Kind”, “My Lucky Stars”, “Eastern Condors”, “Wheels on Meals”, to modern-day hits such as “SPL/ Kill Zone”, “Call of Heroes”, “Ip Man”, “Paradox” and “The Bodyguard”, there are very few others who have delivered such a variety of action to consistently high quality levels over such a long career.
Sharing the lead in Lady Whirlwind is Chang Yi as “Ling Shi-Hao”. A fellow opera student of Angela Mao’s, Chang Yi started out at Shaw Brothers. He has appeared in titles such as “The Thundering Sword”, “Zatoichi and the One-Armed Swordsman”, “Dragon Gate”, “The One-Armed Swordsmen”, “The 18 Bronzemen“, “The Victim”, “Magnificent Warriors“, “The Moon Warriors“, and many, many more.
Hapkido features a couple of well known faces at the start of their film careers. Playing third lead is Carter Wong as “Kao Chung”. A renowned martial arts instructor, Wong kickstarted his long acting career with this role. He went onto feature in dozens of classics, particularly director Joseph Kuo’s more popular hits. He achieved worldwide fame as “Thunder” in John Carpenter’s cult classic “Big Trouble in Little China”.
Also making his film debut is Korean actor and renowned Hapkido master, Hwang In-Shik as “Senior Student”. He would go on to face off against Bruce Lee in “Way of the Dragon”, and was also the villain in Jackie Chan’s movies “Dragon Lord” and “The Young Master“.
One of the highest ranking Hapkido instructors in the world and founder of Sin Moo Hapkido, Ji Han Jae guest stars as “Teacher Shih Kung-chan”. He went on to play the Hapkido Master in the final Pagoda Fight for Bruce Lee‘s “Game of Death“.
Hapkido (1972) Original English Trailer
In 1930’s Japanese-occupied Korea, Yu Ying, Kao Chung and Fan Wei are sitting and talking in a park when a group of Japanese thugs make unwelcome advances. Initially ignoring them, a fight inevitably ensues.
The three friends, having just graduated in the art of Hapkido, return to China to start their own school and further the style. The Japanese consider it an inferior martial art, with the Black Bear Gang of martial artists wanting to run the Hapkido specialists out of town.
Yu Ying, Kao Chung and Fan Wei don’t want any trouble as it goes against the wishes of their master and his teachings. However, Fan Wei is forced to use his fighting skills against the Japanese becoming a wanted man as a result.
With tensions rising between the rival factions, the stakes take a deadly turn…
Hapkido (aka Lady Kung Fu) Original US Trailer
Lady Whirlwind (1972) Original Trailer
A young man, Ling Shi-hao, is severely beaten by Japanese mobsters and left for dead. Nursed back to health by a pretty young girl, Shi-hao vows to take revenge on the criminals.
Meanwhile, Miss Tien Li-Chun comes to town with a score to settle with Ling. Ling begs Tien to spare him until after he gets his revenge, to which she reluctantly agrees, only to save his life after he gets mercilessly beaten by his enemies.
Whilst recovering Ling runs into an old man who teaches him the art of Tai Chi. Will his newfound skills be enough to defeat the gang and protect him from Miss Tien’s wrath?
Funkiest Opening Credits…
Hapkido has possibly the funkiest opening credits of any kung fu flick! As the individual title cards for each star zoom in and out of the corners of the screen, the background features the students of the Hapkido school practising their martial arts skills.
Impressive High Kicks and Flips
Innovative at the time, slow motion filming is used to accentuate some of the more impressive high kicks and flips.
HAPKIDO (aka. LADY KUNG FU) Clip
Unable to stand by and watch two drunken bullies, Sammo steps in and unwittingly ignites a feud with a rival martial arts school.
Sammo Hung Features with His Trademark, Hard-Hitting Choreography
Sammo features prominently in many of the fights. Even though this film was very early on in his career, you can see his choreography is always hard-hitting, which would become something of a trademark in his glory years.
Reflecting his leaner frame, Carter Wong fights swiftly and with agility.
Angela Mao Easily Equals the Men
Angela Mao is easily the equal of her male counterparts. Rather than being graceful and balletic like her peer of the time Cheng Pei Pei, she fights more like a hybrid of Hung’s and Wong’s traits; hard-hitting yet agile. With her intense screen charisma and high-kicking style, it’s obvious why she was cast as Bruce Lee’s sister in Enter the Dragon.
Look out for Jackie Chan, Lam Ching Ying, Yuen Wah, Yuen Biao and Corey Yuen!
Throughout the many fight scenes, the long fringed hairstyles cannot disguise such familiar faces as Jackie Chan, Lam Ching Ying, Yuen Wah, Yuen Biao and Corey Yuen working as stunt players.
This film is an early example of Sammo making sure he looked out for several of his “opera brothers”. They would all go on to work on dozens of films with him throughout their long careers.
The film opens very dramatically with a gang of “Japanese” thugs chasing and attacking Ling Shi-Hao. Look closely and you will see one of the gang is played by a very youthful looking Sammo Hung!
Angela Mao Mows Down Foes Like a Whirlwind
Sammo is featured more prominently when, much like a hero in a Sergio Leone western, Angela Mao outwits the gang in a gambling den, and gives them a choice; meet her demands, or face the consequences.
Inevitability, the arrogant male gang members believe this female will be no match for them. Living up to the name of Lady Whirlwind, Mao fights her way through all of them, humiliating Sammo’s character in particular.
The Choreography is Surprisingly Swift and Sophisticated
The choreography is surprisingly swift and sophisticated. Not surprising because of a female lead, I hasten to add, but when compared to other martial arts films released in the pre-Bruce Lee era.
The Fights Err on the Side of Kung Fu Brawls
Although the fight scenes feature plenty of kung fu kicks and karate punches, they err much more on the side of brawls rather than incorporating the postures, and stances of traditional martial arts forms.
Much of the action has the classic trope of stuntmen leaping about in the background until it’s their turn to get beaten up. Even so, most of the fights work their way through the opponents, locations and scenery in a logical fashion.
LADY WHIRLWIND: The Deadliest Woman in the world takes on a dozen skilled fighters bare-handed
In what would become a staple of kung fu movies, our hero Ling Shi-hao stumbles across a mysterious stranger. In return for helping him, the stranger teaches Shi-hao tai chi and qiqong to improve his fighting skills.
Angela Mao Dominates Every Scene She Appears in
Although Angela Mao is billed as the star, and she certainly dominates every scene she’s in, the main character is Ling Shi-hao, played by Chang Yi.
This film’s music score often features elements from the James Bond movie Diamonds Are Forever. Somehow it fits!
I haven’t seen either of these titles since the early days of VHS rentals and actually remembered very little about them. Thankfully, I was pleasantly entertained by both!
They are classic examples of the simple “rival schools” plotline, often featuring Chinese martial artists versus Japanese martial artists. The fight scenes in both movies are well put-together and surprisingly swift and fluid in their execution, considering the age of the films.
Angela Mao definitely commands with a strong screen presence that holds the viewer’s attention in every scene she is in.
Even in the 21st century when there are still some complaints about the lack of strong female action leads, Mao demonstrates why she is often considered one of the “Queens of Kung Fu” in cinematic history. It’s also great spotting many young action performers who would go on to have glittering careers of their own throughout the 1970’s and 80’s.
The restoration job delivers fine quality images, belying the fact that these films are half a century old! Lady Whirlwind suffers from a few strange choices in the camera focus, which I assume was part of the original filming process back in 1972.
Aside from the usual features of some great Frank Djeng commentaries and various audio options, there are a pair of fantastic new interviews with Angela Mao filmed earlier this year.
She discusses how she made the transition from Chinese Opera performer to film actress, coming across as a very warm and humble person. Mao also describes working with Bruce Lee on Enter the Dragon.
There are some nice bits of information on how she trained in Hapkido, becoming a black belt, and that she still stretches every day, and is still in touch with her opera classmates no matter where they are in the world. There is also an interesting interview with her son, who as a youngster didn’t realise his mum was famous, even in America!
There are also archival interviews with Angela Mao, Carter Wong, Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, as well as a vintage featurette about Ji Jan Jae teaching Hapkido to the film’s actors. There are some particularly impressive board breaks from the main stars!
Fans of classics in the ilk of “Fist of Fury” and “King Boxer” will absolutely love this double bill.
- The film Lady Whirlwind was also known as “Deep Thrust” in some regions
- In September 1973, Hapkido aka Lady Kung Fu topped the North American box office, briefly overtaking the Bruce Lee blockbuster Enter the Dragon, which eventually regained the top spot several weeks later.
- Real-life Hapkido master Ji Jan Jae, taught the art to the main stars for months to prepare them for their roles. They all went on to achieve their black belts!