The Mystery of Chess Boxing/Review
From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
As peasants go around their daily routine, they're interrupted by a medallion/plate thrown at their feet (complete with it's own sting music) the camera then quickly zooms into the face of the instigator, none other than The Ghost Face Killer! (Played by Mark Long) After demonstrating his deadly "Five Elements" fighting style, Ghost Face Killer attacks his victim, who had once tried to kill him the past. Ghost Face emerges victorious and ends the fight with a textbook laugh. It turns out the guy who Ghost Face just killed is in a long line of a desired hit list.
While this is going on, a young free spirit (Li Yi Min) hopes to be accepted by the local kung fu school to learn fighting. He gets his wish, but is treated rather badly by having to endure doing nothing but washing, serving, and cleaning up after the rest of the students. The school's cook (Simon Yuen) gives him a sign of hope by improving his washing skills (in a trademark Simon Yuen training-sequence). But things turn bad once the school's teacher finds out that the student is carrying one of Ghost Face's plates. Without the opportunity of making a case for why he owns this plate (as a reminder for revenge since Ghost Face killed his dad), the young student is expelled. No need to worry though because he soon gets taken in by the "Chess boxing" teacher (Jack Long). At first, the student wonders what chess has to do with kung-fu fighting, but he finds the meaning of it once the art of chess boxing is combined with the "five elements". Bring on the showdown.
Though Director Joseph Kuo's martial arts films are often plagued with budgetary problems, there's really no denying that he knows how to make magic out of what he's given. And considering that the movie is loaded with constant one-on-one fights between The Ghost Face Killer and his hit list, the action (surprisingly) just never becomes monotonous. Even many of the comedic scenes (when kung-fu-comedy was all the rage at this time) haven't lost much spark. Though the actors and material aren't as sharp or distinguished as they're other comrades in Hong Kong Cinema, this film proves that it could hang with the elite of the great martial arts films. It's history on New York's 42nd Street proved this. It's said to have played on that circuit for over 2 years.
Note: The print I saw appeared to have a "missing reel" or two. Simon Yuen's character is killed offscreen (though this could be in part to Yuen's real passing around this time) and there's an odd scene where Min's character appears to have just got in a big fight. With who and why, no one knows.
Reviewed by Laydback