Friday, January 26, 2018

FEATURE FRIDAY: A HARD WAY TO DIE (1979)

      Sometimes there are those days when we're all reminded that the world isn't necessarily a nice place. For example, another mass-shooting in Kentucky grabbed some headlines at the beginning of the week; and we concluded the week with another attack in The Netherlands. As long as there is good and evil on the Earth; men will need to defend their rights against ruthless thugs determined to take them. 

       This weekend's recommendation is a little-known but excellent martial-arts film A Hard Way to Die. The story-line is a good one---involving intense and well-executed scenes by Martial Arts legends Billy Chong, Carl Scott, Leung Sui Sung, and Louis Neglia.  

       A working-class port town on a Coastal Pacific island is taken over by a mercenary, Big Jim (played by Louis Neglia). Big Jim has organized the local scum into a private army who preys at will on the local populace. A group of Chinese immigrants send for Li (played by Billy Chong) to rid the island of Jim and his gang of thugs. 

      Meanwhile, Big Jim and his henchmen murder a small family of black sharecroppers. Their son Tommy (played by Carl Scott) survives and vows revenge. He visits the Chinese settlement and studies Kung-Fu under a Master (played by Leung Sui Sung). He and Li team up and go on the warpath against the mutual enemy. 

       A Hard Way to Die was produced in Hong Kong (though filmed in Arizona) and originally released in Mandarin; hence there is some English dubbing. It's really one of the most under-rated Martial Arts films ever made. When it reached American theaters in 1980, it got little attention from the self-styled 'film experts'; but martial-arts fans generally loved it. Recall that this was the same year that the boorish Kramer vs. Kramer won the Academy Award; and that should put in perspective what the opinion of experts is worth. 

       The reality is that this film is a really a gem. How could it be otherwise with this much martial-arts talent? But beyond the fight scenes alone lies a deeper message: the moral of this story is that no one man does it alone. It takes teamwork; good men combined beat evil combined. Tommy was impotent until the Master taught him. Li couldn't take on Big Jim---who trained by smashing ice blocks with his bare hands---without Tommy's help. 

       There is a parallel here in the life of every man of action. Male bonding comes from proving oneself during the time of trial. We learn from one another, we help one another, and we grow together. That's how men have built nations and businesses; conquered diseases and poverty, etc. by combining their strengths for a common purpose.

       If you like martial arts, this one is a must-see. The action scenes gave theater-goers in 1980 their money's worth to say the least. There was probably at least one new battle every 10 minutes.  The film is on DVD and sometimes listed under the titles Sun Dragon and Black Jim. As an interesting side note, Carl Scott went on to build a noted and successful security company in California. 

⚝⚝⚝ 1/2 stars for A Hard Way to Die 


      

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