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The Magnificent Butcher
   |     review    |     notes     |     availability     |      
"Talk to the turtle!"

Sammo Hung shows off his turtle in The Magnificent Butcher.
Chinese: 林世榮  
Year: 1979
Director: Yuen Woo-Ping  
Producer: Raymond Chow Man-Wai
Writer: Wong Jing, Dang Geng-San
Action: Yuen Woo-Ping, Sammo Hung Kam-Bo
Cast: Sammo Hung Kam-Bo, Yuen Biao, Wai Pak, Fan Mei-Sheng, Jo Jo Chan Kei-Kei, Kwan Tak-Hing, Chung Fat, Lee Hoi-Sang, Fung Hak-On, Lam Ching-Ying, Chiang Kam, Yuen Miu, Tsang Choh-Lam, Fung Ging-Man, Saw Gwa-Pau, Ho Pak-Kwong, Tong Jing, Fung Lee, Billy Chan Wui-Ngai, See Fu-Chai
The Skinny: Wong Fei-Hung's portly disciple, "Butcher" Lam Sai-Wing, takes center stage in this action-packed kung fu comedy starring a young Sammo Hung. Sharp action choreography and a strong cast help make for a fine, if flawed martial arts spectacle.
 
Review by
Calvin
McMillin:

Hong Kong cinema heavyweights Sammo Hung and Yuen Woo-Ping team up in 1979's Magnificent Butcher, a fight-filled kung fu comedy that's considered by many to be a classic of the genre. I wouldn't go that far in my praise, but I'll happily admit that due to some definite star-power, numerous impressive martial arts sequences, and a winning performance by its lead actor, the film rises above its faults to provide a thoroughly entertaining action experience.

In a star-making turn, Sammo Hung portrays Lam Sai-Wing, a mischievous student of the famous Chinese folk hero, Wong Fei-Hung (played with amazing vigor by elder statesman Kwan Tak-Hing). Early in the film, Master Wong takes a business trip out of town, leaving Sai-Wing and the other disciples (Yuen Biao and Wei Pak) to fend for themselves. Bad move.

As with most films of this ilk, the unsupervised Sai-Wing gets embroiled in a series of misunderstandings, all of which inevitably lead to loads of improvised, acrobatic kung fu fights in the streets and houses of the local village. Along the way, our rotund protagonist runs afoul of two homegrown scoundrels, the villainous martial artist Kao (Lee Hoi-Sang) and his good-for-nothing son Tai-Hoi (Fung Hak-On). After a few run-ins with these villains, Sai-Wing seeks the tutelage of his master's old friend, Beggar So (Fan Mei-Sheng), who teaches our hero how to kick some serious ass. And kick ass Sai-Wing does, for most of the film's running time as he awaits his master's return.

If you're interested in seeing wall-to-wall kung fu action, you can't do much better than The Magnificent Butcher. There are enough well-choreographed fight sequences in this film to hypnotize even the worst sufferers of attention deficit disorder. Even better, those unfamiliar with the martial arts prowess of Sammo Hung will be astonished by the remarkable agility and grace he demonstrates in scene after scene.

Although Hung's training sequences with Fan Mei-Sheng and his final duel with Lee Hoi-Sang make for some pretty entertaining moments, one of the best martial arts sequences in the film has Hung dueling with the cat-like Chung Fat, whose peculiar form of feline kung fu proves to be both funny and menacing—a difficult combination to say the least. But Hung isn't the only actor who gets to display his skills. Appearing as fellow Wong Fei-Hung disciple Foon, Yuen Biao shines in his short, but memorable dust-up with a pale-faced, fan-wielding henchman played by Mr. Vampire's Lam Ching-Ying. If ever a film needed to be dubbed "kung fu extravaganza," Magnificent Butcher would definitely deserve some consideration.

Ironically, it's this very strength that also works against the film at times. If there's one quibble I have with the picture it's that there are just too many damn fight scenes for its own good. The martial arts sequences are piled up one after the other in quick succession, so much so that they unfortunately all begin to bleed together into one chaotic mass of fists and feet. Consequently, some of the most acrobatic moves and bone-cracking stunts seem almost humdrum if for no other reason than sheer action overload.

Luckily, there are enough winning performances by the main cast to keep people tuned into the proceedings emotionally. In a lesser actor's hands, the antics of a character like Sai-Wing could have been annoying or tedious, but thankfully Sammo Hung makes for a likable protagonist, whose so-called "naughty" hijinks come across as nothing short of charming. Not surprisingly, veteran actor Kwan Tak-Hing excels in yet another reprisal of his famous Wong Fei-Hung role, proving remarkably sprightly in his old age and quite compelling as an actor, considering his limited screen time. The rest of the casting is pitch perfect; Fan Mei-Sheng, Lee Hoi-Sang, Yuen Biao and the rest all do their part in helping the Magnificent Butcher stand out from the pack, ultimately separating the film from the lesser chopsocky flicks that studios kept cranking out during the seventies. Is the film really magnificent? No way. But good? You bet. (Calvin McMillin 2003)

 
Notes:

The Mega Star disc has a picture of Simon Yuen Siu-Tien on the cover, but he does not appear in the film. According to many sources, Yuen was originally set to play Beggar So, but sadly died of a heart attack before filming could be completed. A film still of Simon Yuen appears in the photo gallery on Fox's DVD along with pictures of his replacement, Fan Mei-Sheng.
Availability:

DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Joy Sales
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
Various Extras

*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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image courtesy of Fox Home Entertainment

   
 
 
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