Like nothing you’ve seen before! Fists fly! Weapons clash! Tigers roar! A unique experience! For the first time in HD! Uh… Sorry. I think I might have been watching a few too many… KUNG FU TRAILERS OF FURY! [cue: thwack! sound effect as your screen explodes!]
Ahem. Hyperbole aside, this two-hour martial arts trailer compilation does actually have a unique story behind it. The trailers are, for the most part, rare and haven’t been properly seen since their original runs in the 1970s. The 35mm reels they’re taken from were unearthed a few years ago from beneath the stage at the Cube Cinema in Bristol, a hidden treasure trove that no one working there had expected to find. There’s a nice little featurette where a couple of guys from the Cube talk through the discovery and subsequent archiving of the trailers. It’s quite exciting to see all the dusty canisters that went on to not only fill this disc but also to be the focal point of a series of popular party nights at the Cube that – arguably – helped save the cinema.
Now, thanks to Severin Films, you can watch all the trailers from the Cube’s collection in glorious HD in the privacy of your own home. I’ll admit it’s a big ask to concentrate on two solid hours of kung fu trailers – most of which focus on fight highlights and furious proclamations over any kind of plot indicators – but I do think, to some extent, the disc is what you make out of it.
If you’re a kung fu nerd like me, there’s much gold to be mined. Seeing footage from fairly obscure films like The Ways Of Kung Fu or Shaolin Iron Claws as it was meant to be seen – in original language and aspect ratio – is a treat compared with the dubbed, panned and scanned versions previously available. There are also glimpses into a few real oddities in here, like a trailer for a 1973 film called Death Blow that’s obscure by anyone’s standards and looks really quite dreadful. The trailer is probably the best way to watch it.
The deep dive pièce de résistance is probably the full length commentary track in which Ric Meyers, Michael Worth, Greg Schiller and Rick Stelow breathlessly reel off trivia for every single one of the films. Considering most of these have only ever found their way into fans’ eyes via Vengeance Video releases back in the day (essential but bare bones), this is almost like getting mini commentaries for every film. Admittedly, there’s a looseness to the chat, bordering on chaos at times, and this leads to a couple of clanging fake facts dropped in with the real ones but, given how difficult it is to find information on this stuff, I have some sympathy and enjoyed the track a lot for the most part.
For more casual viewers, however, the fun is just from absorbing all this psychotronic glory and let it wash over you. If you watch the Brief History Of Kung Fu Cinema featurette first (a half hour crash course on how and why these films even exist) then you can’t fail to get a kick out of the madness of the trailers. There are lunatic stunts, groovy disco/soul tracks, outrageous costumes, rippling muscles, many crazy kung fu styles and more violence than you can shake a Shaolin Fighting Stick at.
These trailers span the period from the ground-breaking Bruce Lee classics (Way Of The Dragon), through the Bruceploitation boom (Bruce’s Deadly Fingers, Bruce Le’s Greatest Revenge), through that golden era when the world couldn’t get enough of kung fu flicks with exotic names like One Arm Chivalry Fights Against One Arm Chivalry, My Kung Fu 12 Kicks or Secret Of The Shaolin Poles, all the way up to the emergence of Jackie Chan (Snake In Eagle’s Shadow), heralding the new wave of East Asian action cinema. These movies have been a lifelong obsession for me and this disc, if nothing else, is a lovely time capsule that shows – with the least nonsense possible – exactly what makes them so appealing. The movies themselves are a mix of the dodgy (Kung Fu Vs Yoga, complete with blackface) and the classic (Enter The Fat Dragon) but the trailers (especially some of the clever ones like Story Of Drunken Master) are just the best bits and all good fun.
While two hours of non-stop highlights might be an overdose in one gulp, I reckon any good doctor could prescribe watching one Trailer Of Fury first thing every morning for a month. You’ll feel a damn sight harder, faster, stronger, better than before and ready to face the day with fists.