Features / FYPNHO

Was This Real? Watching Magnificent Fist ‘Tie dan ying xiong’ (1978)

Films You’ve Probably Never Heard Of.

Have you ever watched a film so strange, so weirdly awful and bizarre that you start to redefine your entire existence? This happened to me when I watched Magnificent Fist. A Chinese martial arts film from 1978 starring Carter Wong.

If I had any dignity in myself I would have turned this film off after 2 minutes but I stuck it out until the end. There is very minimal information about this film online, IMDB states the director as Dan Fan (as Hua Wen) whereas Letterboxd has the director’s name as Kun Aug. Who is it?! I wondered half-way through if, in-fact, I had wondered into a surreal parallel reality. Maybe I am comatose and dreamt up this film? However I found this film, I am still not sure whether I am happy or sad I did.

I’ll tell you about it but you might have to watch it yourself (YouTube link imbedded below) to believe what I am saying.

Magnificent Fist stars Carter Wong as a renegade fighter known as ‘The Swallow’ (I can’t make this stuff up). The first shot we see of him is him running in slow motion through a forest as if he were in a probiotic yogurt advert. Not a tactic most films would take for introducing their main character as a skilled and fearful warrior. The Swallow brings his ill father a 500 year old (that’s important) ginseng root. This comes to the attention of an evil-gangster-type-bad-guy who wants the root for himself. He sends various henchmen to get it but The Shallow is too good at martial arts and fights them off. This is where the plot fails completely (because up to this point it made perfect sense). In the space of 20 minutes the plot simply forgets everything about this magical ginseng root that seemed so important and suddenly turns to a Chinese adaptation of Robin Hood. The Swallow goes around for the next segment of the film stealing from the rich gangsters and throwing wads of money through poor people’s windows. This film had no idea what it wanted to be.

In-fact I’ll correct myself. I believe they knew exactly what they wanted to be. A quickly made martial arts film made simply for the action in a time when mass production was everthing, coherance was nothing.

Apart from a fight in which The Swallow creatively uses a pair of chopsticks to his advantage, every fight is by the books. One person attacks another, one at a time, hit and block, hit and block, hit and block until The Swallow finishes them off with a head kick or breaks one of their arms. I can not tell you in words how annoying the sound effects are in this film. There is one effect for a hit and they use it over and over again. It is infuriating after 2 fights so after 16 fights it drove me insane.

I felt as though I was degrading the actual movie by watching it with the English dubbing but it was the only version I could find. Maybe in the original language I would have enjoyed the film more but I couldn’t find that, so I didn’t. The dubbing in this film is so beyond awful, so putrid, I had a hard time believing it was real.

Overall it is a very awkward watch; long action sequences with minimal sound effects, blank and bland performances, a confused plot mixed with mildly racist and strange overdubbing.

1.5 stars – I had a less enjoyable time than I thought I would after reading the synposis. It’s a ‘so bad it’s good’ film for the first half until it transcends its own self-mockery and just becomes bad.





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