Thursday, December 04, 2008

Cooler Than Bond! Quicker Than Fly! Deadlier Than Shaft!

SUPERMANCHU is an extremely badass novel based on a Golden Harvest kung fu flick produced by Raymond Chow. The film played all over the United States in 1974, 1975 and 1976. It was a double feature with DUEL OF THE IRON FIST in Troy, New York; with SEVEN BLOWS OF THE DRAGON in San Antonio; with HARRY IN YOUR POCKET in Syracuse; with ENTER THE DRAGON in Logansport, Indiana; with THE OMEN in Long Beach, California in 1976; with DRAGON DIES HARD ("Bruce Lee's Final Performance!") and QUEEN BOXER in Lima, Ohio; with KUNG FU: THE INVISIBLE FIST, SEVEN BLOWS OF THE DRAGON and BLOOD ON THE SUN on an awesome "4 Kung Fu Hits" "All Color Program" in Albuquerque; with LUANA in San Leandro, California. If the film is anything like the novelization, I need to see it.

There is, of course, no character named "Supermanchu," and whether the leading man is actually "cooler than Bond, quicker than (Super)Fly, deadlier than Shaft," I'll leave that to you to decide. Screenwriter Hsiang Yang's plot is the same as just about every Hong Kong chopsocky flick: some bad dudes waste somebody's family, and said somebody spends the rest of the movie killing everyone involved.

Han Ching arrives home after years of study with his kung fu master, just in time to see his mother, father, and sister expire after an attack by town boss Lee Ta-yeh and his goons, including a flunky named Snakehead. The young and brash Han Ching eventually teams up with the cooler Chen Chun, who has his own reasons for wanting Lee Ta-yeh destroyed and even briefly goes undercover at the villain's casino/brothel to keep an eye on him.

Much fighting and shit-talking ensues with the biggest battles coming late, after Lee Ta-yeh hires a pair of Japanese badasses to protect him. This is after Chen Chun, who uses American silver dollars as weapons, and Han Ching have killed off most of his men.

Although SUPERMANCHU (Ballantine, 1974) was probably knocked off quickly, it doesn't read that way. Descriptions and characters are given some depth—certainly more than the plot, which is standard revenge melodrama. I was surprised to learn that author Sean Mei Sullivan is actually renowned fantasy and science fiction author Jerry Sohl, whose 2002 obituary gives you a brief overview of his career. Sohl was also a screenwriter of some acclaim with credits on TWILIGHT ZONE ("Living Doll") and STAR TREK (the great suspenser "The Corbomite Maneuver").

As a bonus, the SUPERMANCHU novelization kicks off with an introduction by Master Bong Soo Han (KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE), who also provides diagrams of various kung fu moves used in the book, such as Tiger Claw, Dragon Stance and Hammer Blow. The cover uses the same art as the U.S. film release by Capital Productions, Inc. and is quite effective.

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