APES ON FILM: The Baby Bear of Kung Fu Flicks—WARRIORS TWO

Posted on: Jul 18th, 2023 By:

Lucas Hardwick
Contributing Writer


Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.



4 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Sammo Hung, Ka-Yan Leung, Casanova Wong, Hark-On Fung
Director: Sammo Hung
Rated: Not Rated
Studio: Arrow Video
Region: A
BRD Release Date: June 6, 2023
Audio Formats: Cantonese: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono, Mandarin: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono, English: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono, English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Run Time: 95 minutes


When you think of kung fu movies, the first things that come to mind probably aren’t 1) a hand-based martial art invented by a nun or 2) Sammo Hung. Those two slots are likely devoted to the stylings of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. But Sammo Hung’s 1978 film WARRIORS TWO is one of the ass-kickingest kung fu flicks of the genre’s heyday, and it’s the movie that places the director as an equal alongside the legends of martial arts filmmakers.

WARRIORS TWO is the simple story of the usual gang of baddies looking to overthrow the town leaving it up to a few scrappy citizens with hearts of gold to uphold the pillars of justice and exact their brand of brutal diplomacy. In the film, a banker, Cashier Wah (Casanova Wong) overhears that gang boss Mo (Hark-On Fung) is planning to kill the town mayor and take over the village. Wah accidentally reveals to one of Mo’s goons that he knows about the boss’s plans for a coup and the gang murders Wah’s mother. Conveniently, the town doctor Mr. Tsan (Ka-Yan Leung) quietly resides as a master of Wing Chun kung fu. Tsan’s lead student Fat Chun (Sammo Hung) eventually persuades the master to teach the unique martial art stylings to Wah, and Wah and Chun team up to vanquish Mo and his designs of usurpation.

Kung fu films are a lot like Kaiju films—most of us are here for the monsters—and in the case of martial arts, the heightened premise of effervescent action. Thankfully the narrative in WARRIORS TWO is so simple and fundamentally relatable that there’s not much plot to get in the way of the kung fu. This can be a slippery slope leaving the human elements of films that star ass-kicking and giant lizards up to mediocrity (see also, any number of GAMERA films guilty of this crime), but director Hung cajoles meaningful performances from his cast who deliver characters we truly care about. Hung’s Fat Chun is comic relief but never corny or over-the-top, and Casanova Wong as Cashier Wah transforms from a timid banker to an assured Wing Chun expert. Ka-Yan Leung as Mr. Tsan is the perfect foil for his eager students, portraying the legendary master as cranky and reluctant, creating a definitive dynamic amongst the cast that cheers on the task at hand.

The problem with kung fu movies is that the action can often drown out the story, and we, as the demanding audience, like to have our cake and eat it too. Many films are also guilty of the opposite problem of leaning on too much pesky talking and plot mechanics and not enough of the flying fists we demanded in the first place. WARRIORS TWO scratches the action itch with long, thrilling, satisfying kung fu sequences, yet never gives up on its characters or story. In an appropriate Zen way, it strikes quite an enjoyable balance.

Director Hung required his actors to study Wing Chun for two months before even developing the story. Once his cast was ready, Hung and his crew began preparing a script to fit the action. Script in hand, WARRIORS TWO took over a year to make, and has grown to be one of Hung’s unequivocal works.

As Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan filled theaters all over the world and thrilled audiences with their martial arts stylings, Sammo Hung wanted to establish himself with his own unique approach to martial arts cinema. His use of the Wing Chun style stands out as a close-quartered hand-to-hand combat form that predicates itself upon the simple notion of the closest distance between two objects being a straight line. So, while the opponents in the film flail about with the typical kung fu fighting, Hung’s heroes are more precise in the face of their attackers. Frankly, not being a martial arts expert myself, I’m not sure I could tell you the difference, but Hung’s premise and unrelenting action sure makes for solid entertainment.

Arrow Video presents WARRIORS TWO in high-definition on Blu-ray disc, with 2K restorations of both the original Hong Kong and shorter international versions of the film. This release includes commentary on the Hong Kong version by martial arts expert Frank Djeng and actor Bobby Samuels. The international version features commentary by action cinema experts Mike Leeder and Arne Venema. The disc also includes the archival documentary “The Way of the Warrior: The Making of Warriors Two” and an interview with actor Ka-Yan “Bryan” Leung who plays Mr. Tsan in the film. Other features in this release include trailers, a poster with art by Joe Kim, reversible sleeve art, and an illustrated collectors booklet with new writing by Jonathan Clements.

In the midst of a fount of recent 60s and 70s Shaw Brothers releases from various home video companies, Arrow Video’s release of Golden Harvest’s and Sammo Hung’s WARRIORS TWO arrives as an efficient action flick with no pressure thrills, that is everything the casual and expert kung fu viewer could ask for. Highly recommended.



When he’s not working as a Sasquatch stand-in for sleazy European films, Lucas Hardwick spends time writing film essays and reviews for We Belong Dead and Screem magazines. Lucas also enjoys writing horror shorts and has earned Quarterfinalist status in the Killer Shorts and HorrOrigins screenwriting contests. You can find Lucas’ shorts on Coverfly. Look for Lucas on Twitter, Facebook, and Letterboxd, and for all of Lucas’s content, be sure to check out his Linktree.

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APES ON FILM: Hold that Tiger!

Posted on: Oct 4th, 2022 By:

By Chris Herzog
Contributing Writer

Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems, and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.


Apes on Film also appears on Nerd Alert News. Check them out HERE!


3 out of 5 Bananas
: Gordon Scott, Yoko Tani, Hélène Chanel
: Riccardo Freda
: No rating
Studio: Kino Lorber
: A
BRD Release Date: 8-16-2022
Audio Formats: English 2.0 mono DTS-HD Master Audio
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio:  Widescreen (2.35:1)
Run Time: 98/76 Min.
Click Here to Order


For decades, the Italian Sword-and-Sandal film (aka the “peplum”) has been an object of frequent ridicule, even among cult cinema afficionados. This is largely because these ‘60s epics have been primarily seen in edited, panned-and-scanned U.S. television cuts with washed out color, damaged prints, and of course, ridiculous dialogue dubbing choices. Such critical external faults can also make internal issues like phony-looking monsters all the more detrimental. Happily, the digital home video era has provided more opportunity to see such films as they were meant to be viewed, in nice looking prints with proper widescreen aspect ratios and sometimes even in the original Italian. While such upgrades don’t exactly cure all of the ills inherent in low-budget fantasy flicks cranked out by the dozen, they can reduce the giggle factor considerably.

This is the case with SAMSON AND THE 7 MIRACLES OF THE WORLD, a 1961 saga helmed by Riccardo Freda, one of Italy’s most highly regarded genre directors. Freda had already enjoyed a 20-year career as a writer/director when he made SAMSON, and would soon go on to direct such favorite gothic horrors as THE GHOST (1963) and THE HORRIBLE DR. HITCHCOCK (1962) with Barbara Steele. Just a few months prior, he had completed work on GIANTS OF THESSALY (1960), widely considered a top-tier peplum. SAMSON is also one of his better efforts, as Kino Lorber’s nice looking new Blu-Ray makes abundantly clear.

Our hero for this one (called “Maciste” in the original Italian version) is played by stoic-and-shredded Gordon Scott, star of arguably the best cycle of TARZAN films after the Johnny Weismuller MGM run. In fact, Scott looks as if he just walked over from the TARZAN set, loincloth-and-all, playing essentially the same character. The biggest differences, really, are that this picture is set in ancient China and that SAMSON has a degree of super strength, at least enough to do things like pushing trees over, tossing boulders around, and showing teams of horses who’s boss. In fact, Samson’s unnatural strength appears to be just about the only truly fantastic element in the picture, which may disappoint those viewers (like me) who prefer a high monster quotient in their pepla. The more papier-mâché dragons and ragged ape suits, the better, as far as I’m concerned. The closest we get here, however, is a wrestling match with a tiger, played by a stuffed tiger in close-ups and an alarmingly drugged tiger in the long shots. Nevertheless, SAMSON proves to be an entertaining experience on its own terms, as a colorful, action-packed historical epic with a smattering of super heroics.

The plot here is the very familiar mixture of court intrigue, evil despots, and enslaved populations that we find in most examples of the genre. Less familiar is the medieval Chinese setting, although it’s well-mounted and could occasionally pass for something the Shaw Brothers cooked up. Samson comes to town to help get rid of the evil Mongol warlord who has usurped the throne, hopefully restoring the rightful royal family to power in the process. Along the way, he fights the above-mentioned tiger, survives the perils of the warlord’s arena, engages in multiple battles and bar fights, and helps foment a revolution. You know the drill. There’s nothing particularly original or surprising here, but there is plenty of spectacle. This one at least looks like it has a higher budget than the average Hercules/Maciste picture, and that’s all that counts. Freda and his colleagues knew how to put every lira of the production budget on the screen, and this film is a great case in point.

Kino’s transfer looks great, with the often-opulent art direction really popping when it needs to and more realistic imagery like surfaces and skin tones registering naturally for the most part. The film is presented in two versions, the 98-minute original Italian cut and the 76-minute AIP cut which was the version commonly seen in the United States. Note that both cuts feature only English-language soundtracks. The chief extra is a commentary track from film historian Tim Lucas which accompanies the AIP cut. Lucas, of course, is a world-class authority on Italian genre cinema, and the track provides a wealth of production information and analysis. It’s difficult to imagine how this commentary could be any better. A sampling of trailers for other fantasy films available from Kino is also included.



When he’s not casually shuffling across dry creek beds, Chris Herzog is a writer, researcher, and teacher. His film criticism can also be found in Screem magazine and back issues of the late, lamented Video WatcH*Dog.


Ape caricature art by Richard Smith

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