Sunday, July 20, 2008

Chase Step By Step (1974)


A drought has hit a poor county in China and the people are suffering. Two circus performers, Tsao Wu & Ling Wing (Feng Hsu), are asked to escort a delivery of gold to the area. On the way they are attacked by everyone. Honestly. Every single person they run into tries to steal the gold, or kill them and *then* steal the gold. Eventually they reach the county and are (surprise) attacked once again. Luckily our two heroes use their significant kung-fu skills (and a few circus tricks) to smack around anyone who tries to attack them.


Chase Step By Step is saddled with a bad title, but it actually has the ingredients to be a rather interesting kung-fu film. The idea of mixing circus performing (demonstrated in the opening credits) with kung-fu action would seem to be a natural mix, and the acrobatics of performers in the late 70s (and the comedy that was injected into kung-fu films of that era) might have proven this to be a precursor of that style. Unfortunately, while there are a few moments of unique action, the vast majority is slow, blandly choreographed kung-fu with some blatant undercranking meant to make the fights appear faster.

This style of kung-fu, where the opponents often don't appear to be even attempting to hit our heroes, was quite common in the mid-70s and could be looked past if the plot provided anything interesting. However, what exists of the plot is barely a skeletal structure on which to hang fight scene after fight scene. The relationship between the two leads quickly becomes irritating, with Ling Wing becoming intolerable as the film moves along. Her shrillness certainly doesn't do the film any favors.

To the film's benefit, the multitude of fight scenes at least keeps the pace moving and when the pair does use their circus-honed skills it makes for some interesting visuals. Tsao Wu uses stilts to briefly fight off some attackers, and the two walk across a tight-rope with the gold to escape some attackers. More integration of these sorts of skills might have made the material something special, but instead only serves to remind the viewer of the lost potential here.

The video quality of the film is rather abysmal at first (particularly in the opening credits, where the image is stretched horribly), but evens out to just being bad throughout a majority of the film. Occasionally the fight scenes find characters wandering in and out of frame, though this is a limitation of a 235:1 being cropped so significantly. The dubbed audio is often ludicrous, but is intelligible enough throughout most of the film.

Action packed, but tiresome kung-fu entry handicapped by some lackluster fighting that betrays the era it was made. Purely mediocre with a few memorable moments.


Ash said...

...and only now to I realize that the embedded video is not a preview, but the entire film.

Doug Tilley said...

*laughs* Actually, since the films in this collection are (for one reason or another) in the public domain, you can find full versions of most online.

I will say that the film i'm currently watching (Chang Cheh's The Deadly Duo) is a whole heck of a lot better than the other martial arts films in this collection.