Oh boy, I’m pretty excited for this one.
Back in June, I attended PopCon here in Indianapolis, and this guy had a table full of posters of various sizes. He had this stack of lobby posters that he was selling for five bucks each. It’s in this stack that I found a Goldengirl poster to gift to Brad Jones, the Cinema Snob, himself, and I also found one for this movie… Chinese Hercules.
This marks the return of Bolo Yeung, billed in this movie as Yang Sze, who appeared in The Clones of Bruce Lee that I covered back in August. Bolo wasn’t just a martial artist and actor, but he was also a bodybuilder. That probably is why 1) he’s often portrayed as a giant beast and 2) is Chinese Hercules.
Yeung, though, had been long associated with Hong Kong films before his big break in western films as the main antagonist in the Jean-Claude Van Damme cult classic Bloodsport. Yeung would end up appearing in Double Impact with JCVD as well. Basically, after almost two full decades of making kung fu action movies, it wasn’t until Bloodsport that ultimately led to him making a couple more decades of kung fu movies, but this time for western filmmakers.
But fuck all that. Let’s talk about this motherfucking poster! I mean, look at it. We need to dissect this shit because it’s bonkers. First up…
Just right out of the gate, we’re gonna hammer home the Hercules angle by calling Bolo Yeung a “MUSCLE-MAD MONSTER”. Classy. But wait! I have a version of the poster that has this stuff on it instead:
I’m not sure what the grammatical term is for what we’re seeing here, but “Bone Cracking! Head Crushing! Back Snapping! Body Breaking!” is so damn satisfying as a series of exclamations. Not only that, though, I have this as well on my poster:
So fuck that “MUSCLE-MAD MONSTER” shit! This guy is “THE Super-Human Beast of the East!” Goddamn things are only getting better here.
Let’s start checking out the actual visuals on the poster, starting with:
Motherfuckers falling off the roof of a pagoda. Were these guys pushed off? Did they get fought off? Are they seeing Chinese Hercules down below and all of a sudden they were like, “Aw, naw… Fuck that! I’m jumpin’! Game over, man!” Well, I wouldn’t blame them so much because…
Chinese Hercules has a couple mofos in a headlock while just staring straight ahead with a look of “I’m gonna find you, kill you, then eat you for doing whatever it is that you did to me to make me this angry that I had to strangle these dorks with my elbows!”
Moreover, his grip is so fucking hard, that these assholes, in their struggle to be able to breathe one more day, are busting up the columns of the pagoda the guys up top are committing suicide off of to avoid Chinese Hercules. But wait! There’s even more random shit going on…
Inside the pagoda looks like Hell. Literal Hell. Maybe Chinese Hercules just torched that motherfucker to make these sons of bitches pay for whatever they did that pissed off Chinese Hercules.
Nunchucks? Fuck off with those nunchucks! I’m motherfucking Chinese Hercules! I will use my BARE FUCKING ARMS TO KILL THESE FUCKERS!
But… Nothing is more what the fuck than the final pièce de résistance that brings this masterpiece of a puzzle together for the poster…
This babe with a sexy dress biting Chinese Hercules’ leg. Why? I dunno. Is she his lover? Is she a bad guy? Is she mad that he torched those motherfuckers inside the pagoda? I couldn’t tell you, but she’s got a goddamn death grip on that leg of his and going to town like its made out of sweet, sweet KFC Original Recipe.
Put it all together and you have a goddamn masterpiece of a movie poster. Don’t worry about scrolling up to look at all of it again, here it is:
Goddamn. He’s got a crush on us… But I legit LOVE this movie poster. Shiiiit. I’d marry this poster if that was legal in the state of Indiana. Goddamned close-minded red state! Let people like me, who can only draw a personal connection to things inked on paper and poster board have love too, goddammit!
This movie starts immediately with a guy practicing karate. A girl comes in to ask him why he’s up so late punching and kicking things. She assumes it has to do with his desire to defeat her brother. He says that it’s true and he cannot stand her brother. He’s sweet on the girl and they are having a sweet little walk when they run afoul of her brother, this massive dickwad who wants to fight this dude. The guy tells the bully and his gang that he won’t fight him no matter how much the bully pushes him, but he finally has had enough of this fucker’s shit and starts beating his ass. This turns into an epic brawl full of loud punching sounds and slow mo stomping until he kills the bully with his bare hands.
So this is Shen Wei. He’s completely broken by the accidental death of his sweetheart’s brother. He swears he will never fight again and even tries to smash his hands with rocks. He eventually takes a job as a dock worker. He’s dedicated to a life of total pacifism. He’s not even willing to fight back after his cruel boss and owner of the dock has goons beat the fuck out of a woman for stealing rice.
After he attempts to help the teenage girl and boy taking the beating for stealing, the boss decides he should be the one who should take the beating. The goons wail on Shen Wei until some of his co-workers come to his aid. Eventually, the dock owner regains control by telling his men to find the thieves and beat them to death. He then tells the workers that if they don’t like the fact that he runs the town, they can just get the fuck out. The good ol’ “love it or leave it” method.
The co-workers tend to Shen Wei’s injuries and try to coach him in the way things are. He just gets up and leaves. They contemplate his morality and decency while also figuring he must be a fighter. Some of the better karate guys on the docks thought he’d learn from them, but, as the wise older worker points out to his nephew, it will be them who learns from Shen Wei.
Meanwhile, the dock owner takes a meeting with a nefarious crime boss. Crime man says he wants exclusive rights to the dock for “special” goods. However, he not only wants special use for these special goods, but he wants the workers gone. Immediately. The owner, Chan, says there really is no way to do this. These are locals who have no other job to go to. Crime man pulls an ace out of his sleeve by bringing a basket full of gold. So Chan talks to the foreman of the docks and tells him what’s what. The foreman warns that he can’t push the workers too hard or they may push back. Guess what happens…
Well… Sorta. A couple guys get kicked and chopped. The workers revolt. Shen Wei just kind of watches as his coworkers start fucking shit up and doesn’t do much of anything. He just watches and keeps to himself. Eventually, it’s decided that Chan is a little too powerful and he’s got too many well-trained goons. So maybe they should just go home and figures some shit out.
Shen Wei tells a dad who decides to take out his frustration about work by beating his child for eating too much that he doesn’t have anywhere to go just like everyone else. The workers decide that they have to fight back or they will surely starve to death. So they send a single guy to go fuck up Chan. He fails rather spectacularly but not before getting a few good licks in. Still… I gotta give him credit for being big dick hero guy and trying.
Anyway… More moping happens. I’m not sure exactly if they are moping because they figured their impetuous friend is probably a bloody pulp on some guy’s expensive rug. Maybe they are moping because they are hungry. Or maybe because they don’t have jobs anymore.
Or… Wait. I know what it is.
They are moping around because this movie is called fuckin’ Chinese Hercules and stars Bolo Yeung and we’ve only fucking seen him for like 10 seconds thus far and we’re halfway through this fucking movie! I realized earlier that Chinese Hercules is actually a bad guy. He’s a straight up goon working for the main crime man. That’s fine. I mean Bolo was often the heavy. Shit, the poster even dubbed him a “muscle-mad monster” so I guess that wouldn’t necessarily always be a good thing to be.
Being the title character and all, I would have thought that he’d be in, y’know… More than 10 seconds of the movie as of the halfway point. Call me crazy, but I can belabor this point further. You know that 1989 movie Batman? You know why it was called that? Because it wouldn’t have made any fucking sense to call it Bob The Goon!!!
THIS MAKES ME SO ANGRY I WANNA USE MY ELBOWS TO FUCK UP SOME GUYS!!!
YES! EXACTLY LIKE THAT!!!
Alright… Let’s get back to the movie so I can get to the part in which Chinese Hercules actually shows up. Chan brings the body of that guy back to the docks to show off to the workers what will happen if they don’t vacate. Shen Wei almost becomes a real hero and fights back, but he gets his balls handed to him. The foreman of the docks steps up and says that once upon a time he used his hands in a fight and it killed a man. He swore he’d never fight again, but now he’s forced to.
Now, you’d think this would snap Shen Wei out of his pussiness. Especially when Chan pulls a knife on the foreman like his girlfriend’s brother did to him, but that would be too much like a real hero story arc, and apparently that’s not what they were going for. The foreman ultimately fucks up Chan something bad. The crime guy says this is why he brings Chiang Tai (motherfuckin’ Bolo Yeung) with him. Chinese Hercules turns to the camera as if to say, “You ask for me, Geoff, you get me…”
I goddamn just creamed my jeans.
I honestly cannot say exactly what Yeung was looking at there other than to tell me it’s finally fucking time for Chinese Hercules to do something. When they pull back to a wide, high angle shot:
Yeung (highlighted with the red arrow) is sitting on the far left of the U-shaped collection of goons. His boss, crime man, is to his left. Chan, who is embarrassingly beaten up and bandaged, is in front and slightly left. No one but the audience was to Chinese Hercules’ right. So he had to be looking at us to say, “Fuck yeah, I’m finally fucking here to crush men’s heads like fucking cantaloupes, motherfuckers!”
And… Well. I typed that before I watched him crush a man’s head like a fucking cantaloupe:
I guess Chan no longer owns the dock. Crime man and Chinese Hercules talks to the foreman who beat the shit out of Chan, and Chinese Hercules is unleashed and the foreman holds his own for a little bit, but ultimately loses after crime man flicks his cigarette in his eye when he had the upper hand against Chinese Hercules. They let him live so he can get the word out about not messing with this crime guy’s syndicate.
Meanwhile, a boat finally ports, but they are only there to let a woman off the boat. She is Shen Wei’s ex-fiance. She’s looking for him, but like a giant fucking wuss, he runs away. She finally sees him and he runs away again saying he doesn’t know who she is and she is clearly mistaken.
If you haven’t realized yet our hero is a fucking loser.
He witnesses the foreman die and tell his nephew that he must pick up the fight against the syndicate. After they bury the distinguished man they all adored, Shen Wei’s girlfriend actually gives a bad ass speech about trying to help the people of this port village and if she dies, to send her family a letter telling them how she fought and died. Why is this person coming in a full hour into the movie turning out to be the very best hero of them all? At this point, I half expect her to defeat Chinese Hercules with her bare hands.
Oh, and thanks to a couple kids in the town, we learn that Shen Wei’s girlfriend called him a fucking loser (or, more accurately, a coward) and he won’t help them even if they think he’s the best fighter they’ve ever imagined.. That last part I’m only sort of exaggerating. I mean they never have seen Shen Wei fight so… How do they know he can help them at all?
Oh who cares. Chinese Hercules comes to town to bust heads and fuck women. Well… I assumed that second thing. The dock workers form up in the ever so classic tactical one fighter at a time formation and he beats the shit out of all of them – killing several. Like MANY PEOPLE DIED IN THIS TOWN THAT DAY. I shit you not, Bolo Yeung is just messing people up left and right.
And where’s our hero, Shen Wei? He’s hiding in a fucking shed like a fucking wimp. Even when people come to tell him that Bolo Yeung is wastin’ fools and killing them all, he does NOTHING. When he could fight, Shen Wei allows people to get killed, children be orphaned, his own lover get the shit kicked out of her, and for the townspeople to finally relent and leave town. This guy is a fucking asshole. I get that you don’t want to be a killer, but this movie doesn’t seem to understand a moral message of standing your ground and not letting bad guys kill innocents and beat up your girlfriend.
This guy’s compass is fucked. Remember the whole thing with those kids who were stealing rice from the boats and they were to be beaten and killed by the evil dock owner? He went to those kids and asked them why they stole rice. They said they were hungry, their family was poor and starving. He says, “That’s no excuse! Your thieving will only lead to someone getting killed for your crime.” What the holy goddamn Jesus humpin’ bullshit is that? Most would say that, maybe, allow me to help you not be poor and hungry. Let me help you not have to steal. But no. “Don’t take rice because you will get people killed for your indiscretions.”
What kind of purity of perspective is that horseshit?
Anyway, the fiance tells Shen Wei that he has the power to help so many by killing a killer and imminent threat to the entire town. Basically, go off and fight this man, and if you die, you die as a man, not a fucking pussy on legs. She also tells a guy in the town that he did not actually kill her brother. He was only knocked out.
That’s a dumb third act revelation.
Shen Wei and Chinese Hercules battle and finally, we get something I’ve waiting all goddamn movie for. Shen Wei is hardly Bruce Lee, but this is a good fight. Chinese Hercules picks the dude up and throws him. There’s some good, dramatic slow mo. Chinese Hercules gets angry at his boss again for flicking his cigarette at Shen Wei when he was about to bash Chinese Hercules with a cinder block. At one point, Shen Wei knocks Chinese Hercules off a building and comes flying down at him to kick him some more. Even eventually finishes Chinese Hercules by stepping on his throat and breaking his neck. He then fights and defeats the crime man.
The town takes back their pier and things are good again with Shen Wei and his lady love building a life together at the port town, and everyone happy.
I hesitate to say this movie is good or bad. Most would probably say it isn’t any good whatsoever. I can’t really dispute that because Shen Wei is a TERRIBLE hero. He doesn’t do anything but bitch and mope about what HE thinks is right and how HE should live his life, everyone else be damned. On the other hand, like many kung fu movies, I can’t dispute anyone’s nostalgia for watching these super simple action flicks on Saturday mornings on local TV. Quite frankly, the movie wasn’t particularly good or stands out beyond the title, but I goddamn love my Chinese Hercules poster.
My love and sexual attraction to this beast of paper goodness is still as strong as ever. I WILL lobby for the legality of me being able to marry it. I WILL lay with it. I WILL die an old man in its arms. I love that goddamn poster.
While I work to get all 50 states and the federal government of the United States of America to allow me to do that, what do you say to coming back next week for another round of B-Movie Enema? What will I be watching? How’s about another dip into the Kevin Tenney filmography? For next week, I take a look at 1989’s Witchtrap!
2 thoughts on “Chinese Hercules (1973)”
Your breakdown of the poster art left out one awesome detail: in panel 4 we see yellow pajama dude’s lower leg and foot. The foot is flesh tone while the lower shin is red. This tells us that Chinese Herk has squeezed dude’s head untill he shat blood, which is now running down his legs and dripping on his flip flops. Needless to say this just increases the Awesome exponentially!
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Good job, Detective Kirby! I didn’t even notice! I was maybe too focused on the burning pit of hell in the Pagoda!