Buddhist Fist and Tiger Claws 1981 Review: An entertaining snapshot of early 80’s movie

A woman has half of a map that will lead her to a treasure trove of gold ingots that she and and her brother want to deliver to the Korean Independence Army. However, several other factions are searching for the gold and all are experts at deadly forms of martial arts.

Buddhist Fist and Tiger Claws (Ngan Ho Ung Trao Cong) is about as perfect an example of Godfrey Ho tampering that you’re likely to come across. A 1981 Korean production titled Yong-ho’s Cousins, directed by Lee Hyeok-su. It became one of the many Korean kung fu flicks that were picked up by Ho and Tomas Tang for overseas distribution through their Asso Asia company. At best, under Ho and Tang these movies would be given an English title. An English dub, and a new set of opening credits citing Ho. At worse, they’d be given all of the above, and then also be re-edited into completely different plots than the original movie, or even have newly shot ninja footage inserted into the runtime to be passed off as a completely new movie.

In this case, Ho’s meddling has it sat somewhere in the middle. While there’s no new ninja footage randomly inserted, the original version Yong-ho’s Cousin’s has been completely chopped up and dubbed to resemble a very different beast than it started out as. The original involved a pair of Korean independence fighters that steal a horde of Japanese gold. When the pair meet an untimely end, half of a map which shows where the gold is buried ends up in the hands of one of the fighter’s sisters, while the other ends up in the possession of Hwang Jang Lee.

Step in Han Yong-cheol, who also plays an independence fighter looking for his fallen comrade’s sister. And who ultimately gets embroiled in the search for the gold. Then you have Ho’s version, which strips the plot down to make Hwang a mischievous card sharp who’s after the gold, and ends up partnered with Yong-cheol to find it. That’s pretty much it.

It isn’t the first time one of Hyeok-su’s movies has been bastardized by Ho’s confusion inducing editing. With another production featuring Hwang Jang Lee from the same year. Chunyong-ran, being given the same treatment and released under the title of Hard Bastard. What’s most interesting about Buddhist Fist and Tiger Claws (phim Hong Kong Vo Thuat xua) though. At least in terms of its western marketing is its heavy leaning on the presence of Hwang.

In fact, the Silver Fox himself is not the main star of the piece. But rather he plays a supporting role to Han Yeong-cheol (who takes center stage on the original poster). Yong-cheol was the leading action star when it came to Korean kung fu flicks in the 70’s. And even over 40 years since he first appeared onscreen in 1974’s Manchurian Tiger. It’s easy to see why. Six foot tall, handsome, and with a confident swagger. Even dubbed into English his screen presence and charisma still shines through.

Author: Duong VR

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