Martial Arts

Seven Steps of Kung Fu

Distributed by Unknown

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            In my quest to find the martial arts films of my youth, I picked up Flying Fists of Kung Fu, a twelve movie set featuring movies from the 1970s and early 1980s.  I couldn't wait to watch them all.  First up, Seven Steps of Kung Fu.

            The movie begins rather mysteriously.  One of the things I remember from watching all of those films on Black Belt Theatre back in the day was that there was always a bad guy with long white hair and a white mustache and beard.  That's the way this movie starts out - the white haired man gets some information and sends for the Five Hands Gang to help him accomplish some nefarious goal.

            Meanwhile, we meet Little Tiger (Ricky Cheng Tien Chi), an acrobatic beggar with a good heart.  Little Tiger protects people in his town from bullies and often acts the buffoon to mask his martial arts prowess, with moves taught to him by Mr. Li (Chai Kai).  (Another thing we usually see in these films is the master/student scenario.) When Little Tiger comes to his practice session with a medallion he found at a Buddhist temple, Mr. Li is very interested. 

            As it turns out, Mr. Li is more than just a martial arts instructor - Li San Pei has been hunting the Five Hands Gang for some time now, taking a job as an instructor for Mr. Kong's (Lung Fei) son in an effort to learn their whereabouts.  He decides to use his student's familiarity with the people of the town to ferret out the members of the Five Hands Gang.  But when Little Tiger discovers that they are staying at Mr. Kong's home, Li San Pei knows he must finish teaching him the Seven Steps style of Kung Fu before he can hope to take the traitors down.

            Okay, let's just say that the plot line is weak.  We never really know just what it is that the grey haired general (Chen Shan) is planning and why he needs the Five Hands Gang.  We know they are traitors to their country somehow, but in what way is never revealed.  And sure, someone forgot to dub about five minutes of the film, but the few lines spoken aren't detrimental to the film and we can deal with it. 

            Weak storyline, not so great video quality and a lapse in dubbing aside, the martial arts scenes in Seven Steps of Kung Fu are so incredible, that we hardly care about the storyline.  As long as we know who the good guys and the bad guys are, who cares?  These scenes are beautifully choreographed with some of the most acrobatic work I've ever seen in a martial arts film.  And it's not just hand to hand combat here, long poles, scrolls and spears are used.  But the coolest parts are the hand to hand stuff.  I loved the way Li teaches Tiger the forms (I winced every time Tiger's knee hit one of those stones until I remembered they are props) and the way they use them together to defeat their enemies.  The battles aren't short, especially the final battles in which the combatants use all of their skill to overcome one another.

            The action in this film is great and, even when Little Tiger is just fooling around, the skill of the martial arts and acrobatics is amazing - just watch those splits by Chen Shan!  I loved Seven Steps of Kung Fu!  What a great start!  I can't wait to see the other films in this set!


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