Updated: Oct 28
Turn on the "way back" machine for this collection of trailers from 1970s martial arts movies! Excerpts from the epic Ultimate Guide to Martial Arts Movies of the 1970s provide commentary and context as to their must-see status!
With the summer blockbuster season just around the corner and everyone's bandwidth being eaten alive by trailers, previews, excerpts, clips and parodies thereof for a long list of science-fiction and superhero action-adventure movies, we at BlackBeltMag.com thought it might be fun to take a look in the "waaaaay back" machine when studios — especially smaller ones — put out a trailer that was shown before feature presentations at the local drive-in. And, of course, we specialize in — you guessed it! — martial arts here at BlackBeltMag.com.
So we were stoked to stumble on a collection of awesome trailers for four martial arts movies assembled by a fellow martial arts fan and YouTube user.
* The films in his trailers collection include the following: Master of the Flying Guillotine The Street Fighter (featuring the legendary Sonny Chiba) King Boxer (also known as Five Fingers of Death) Fist of Fury (also known as The Chinese Connection)
*Please note this is a third-party collection of movie trailers and, as such, it may disappear at any time.
MARTIAL ARTS MOVIES OF THE 1970sMaster of the Flying Guillotine | The Street Fighter | King Boxer | Fist of Fury
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How Chuck Norris Films Seem to Bend the Course of History To contextualize the importance of the four film trailers presented, we fortunately have access to one of the world's foremost authorities on the subject of martial arts movies: Dr. Craig D. Reid, author of the epic 288-page full-color reference book, The Ultimate Guide to Martial Arts Movies of the 1970s: 500+ Films Loaded With Action, Weapons and Warriors — which features in-depth write-ups for each of the martial arts movies featured in the above trailer collection... and more than 496 more martial arts movies, ranging from the world-famous to the amazingly obscure.
The following are adapted (and often condensed) excerpts from Dr. Craig D. Reid's Ultimate Guide to Martial Arts Movies of the 1970s write-ups for the aforementioned films — Master of the Flying Guillotine, The Street Fighter, King Boxer and Fist of Fury — featured in the trailer collection.
MARTIAL ARTS MOVIES OF THE 1970sMaster of the Flying Guillotine (1976) Master of the Flying Guillotine, directed by Jimmy Wong Yu, notably has a large cast of martial arts superstars.
Wong Yu was a martial director’s martial artist. In several of his directed films, there is a large cast of kung fu actors prominently featured, and they all do different kinds of martial arts.
Wong Yu gave the actors in Master of the Flying Guillotine the opportunity to flaunt their skills and show audiences the diversity and novelty of their martial ways.
Take the beginning of Master of the Flying Guillotine, for example: It jumps off with 12 fights that run for 12 minutes and features 18 different styles of martial arts.
I also want to point out that none of the fights feature Wong Yu, which clearly demonstrates that a Wong Yu movie is not all about him. In this film, when the blind anti-Ming assassin Fung Sheng Wu Chi (Jin Gang) hears that a one-armed fighter killed his two disciples, he leaves his mountain retreat and vows to avenge his students.
Shaving his head and disguising himself as a lama Buddhist monk, Fung arms himself with the deadly and scary flying guillotine. He vows to kill every one-armed fighter he meets. This movie has the best cinematic musical shtick for a villain, one that’s foreboding and dangerous-sounding.
It’s a short piece called Super 16 by the band Neu. It should rank right up there with Darth Vader’s theme from Star Wars. MARTIAL ARTS MOVIES OF THE 1970sThe Street Fighter (1974) The neat thing about watching Japanese karate films after watching a ton of Chinese kung fu films is that for once the Japanese are the good guys.
So instead of trying to kill the Chinese or destroy their martial arts schools, they are destroying the evil Yakuza. Enter Sonny Chiba, who gave Japanese karate films a different kind of fist of fury. Sonny Chiba brought Japanese karate center stage by sacrificing flair and artistry for more violence and brutality in the form of anti-hero Tsurugi Takuma the street fighter, aka Terry Tsurugi in the English dub. In this first installment of the Street Fighter trilogy, the movie opens with Tsurugi breaking karate killer Tateki Shikenbaru, aka Junjoe (Masashi Ishibashi), out of prison.
However, because Tateki's brother and sister can’t completely pay for his services, Tsurugi launches one of the siblings out a four-story window. He sells the other sib as a sex slave to the inscrutable Enter the Dragon "Han" look-alike Rakuda Zhang.
From the get-go, it was evident Sonny Chiba’s character was not like Bruce Lee, such as when Tsurugi breaks Tateki out of prison or when Tsurugi hissingly grunts using heavy sanchin-style breathing (to strengthen ki) to subdue Tateki. So even though Sonny Chiba’s performance was filled with over-the-top, perhaps Bruce Lee-inspired facial grimaces, Sonny Chiba was much more demonstrative than Bruce Lee.
Certainly his sanchin and shorinji kenpo-inspired ultra-contorted finger and fist postures kept things from even remotely resembling a Bruce Lee film. But what really cemented this film’s cult status was its X rating, for extreme violence — which included a castration, a violent layrnx removal and a head collapsing under a hammerfist.
MARTIAL ARTS MOVIES OF THE 1970sKing Boxer (also known as Five Fingers of Death) In King Boxer , Chao Chi-hao (Lo Lieh) is sent to learn kung fu from Shen Chin-pei (Fang Mian) by his injured master, Sung Wu-yang (Gu Wen-zong).
Sung hopes that Shen can enter an upcoming martial arts tournament and defeat the local martial arts school run by the malicious Ming Dung-shen (Tien Fung), who also hires martial artist thugs like Japanese samurai mercenaries and the horrific head-butter Chen Lung (Kim Kee-joo) to do his evil deeds whenever he needs one done.
Upon Chao's arrival at Shen’s school, Shen’s star pupil shows his superiority by beating up Chao, which just makes Chao train harder. When Chen begins to butt heads with Shen and his students, Chao sticks his head into the mix and defends the honor of the school.
Moved by Chao’s bravery, master Sung chooses Chao to learn his most prized secret kung fu skill, the Iron Palm. This makes Han Lung jealous, causing him to conspire with the rival school headed by Ming, to break Chao’s hands and spirit.
As Chao goes into seclusion, heals and then learns the Iron Palm in preparation for the martial arts tournament, Shen is killed by Ming’s minions. Watching King Boxer back in the early ’70s, I remember often hearing “brother” and “sister” and then seeing those two characters fall in love and hug in slow motion, not knowing these are terms used to identify kung fu school relationships rather than personal ones.
Then there was the moral lesson that kung fu should be used for righteous purposes and not for hurting, which is the sort of message imparted in David Carradine’s TV show Kung Fu. Most of us also never realized how much animosity and distrust there was between the Chinese and Japanese, but that message was underlined when Bruce Lee’s Fist of Fury came to town. (Note: There were a lot of Chinese films that carried an anti-Japanese message, but King Boxer and Fist of Fury were the first two to bring the message stateside via film).