11:18 - 2nd July 2015, by Calum Waddell

The King of Fists and Dollars

Often forgotten about in discussions of the golden age of Hong Kong cinema is the fact that the boom in Cantonese language wuxia pictures, during the 1970s, packed out cinemas in more than just the then-British colony. Indeed, nearby Taiwan also could not resist a bout of chopsocky action, and the country’s indigenous celluloid suffered as a consequence – audiences were flocking to all number of Bruce Lee-inspired martial arts movies rather than watching home-grown productions. So it was, then, that enterprising Taipei producers opted to create a small cottage industry in their own action flicks – typified by such well known titles as Master of the Flying Guillotine (1977) and The King of Fists and Dollars (1979).

Finally brought back to UK shelves, albeit in a rough-looking print, this mandarin-language favourite has aged remarkably well and is plenty of fun. Featuring some recognisable faces from the Cantonese movies of the day, such as actor Danny Lee, the story here is nothing to get excited about – it is the same old, same old about a ruthless king pitting his wits against a local kung-fu school. However, where The King of Fists and Dollars stands out is via a terrific turn from its legendary leading lady Pearl Cheung. A veteran action star, Cheung has one of her most iconic roles here and performs her various head-cracking set pieces with an alluring mix of confidence and charisma. It all makes for a damn good time – and NEO would love to, one day, see someone pen a tome about the sadly short-lived boom in Taiwanese tussles!

Despite a rough transfer, this is probably as good as this kung-fu classic is ever going to get.
SCORE: 4/5
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