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Lady Whirlwind / Hapkido – Martial Arts Double Feature (DVD Review)

Lady Whirlwind - HapkidoAngela Mao is a martial arts icon and the star of many grindhouse kung fu movies in the 70s and through to the 80s.  She got her big break in Bruce Lee’s legendary film Enter The Dragon.  While she never had quite the stamp that Bruce did, she did make quite the mark and paved the way for future female martial arts stars to follow her lead.  Shout! Factory has put together a double feature that displays her in two films that came prior to her appearance in Enter The Dragon.  The films featured on this DVD are Lady Whirlwind (aka Deep Thrust) and Hapkido (aka Lady Kung Fu).  Viewing both films was a total throwback to classic, but highly influential era in the genre of martial arts action film.

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Lady Whirlwind 

Hapkido 

Lady Whirlwind is the story of Miss Tien, a woman out for vengeance on a man named Ling who is out for vengeance on another individual who had him beaten to his supposed demise.  Thought to be dead, Ling was taken by a woman and nursed him back to health.  Miss Tien’s sister who was romantically involved with Ling took her own life thinking he was gone forever.  At the behest of Ling’s new lover, Miss Tien grants Ling the right to take his vengeance before she takes hers.

Hapkido is the tale of three individuals whose martial arts school is destroyed and they are forced to leave town and return to China.  Upon arrival they open a new Hapkido school.  But, to their dismay, Japanese schools have become and dominant force in the area and begin to threaten their livelihood and make life miserable for their school.  Now they must protect themselves against their aggressors to keep their students safe and their practice alive.  Yes, its very similar to the Bruce Lee film Fist of Fury.

One thing that felt a little odd while watching this double feature, is that I expected these to be heavy on Angela Mao and that’s not exactly what I got.  Yes, she’s in the films and she has fights and screentime.  But, she plays more of a secondary character in both of the movies.  Lady Whirlwind seems to be her cooler and more meaty role, but Hapkido she has sort of a yawner of a role.  I’m not bashing these movies because of what they are, I’m just commenting that a double feature disc that’s meant to showcase Angela Mao doesn’t necessarily have two films that puts her front and center.

These two films back-to-back can be quite the monotonous experience.  Both feature super thin plots that are basically a means to get from fight to fight.  And that’s what 70s kung fu films make their bread and butter on.  These two films, however, feature a lot of similar looking settings, character outfits and fight set ups.  Quizzing someone by showing them a segment and asking them to tell you which film it’s from could prove to be the ultimate challenge.  There’s some fun kung fu action, complete with exaggerated sound effects, super fake blood and cool acrobatics.  So if you’re a kung fu buff, you’ve probably seen these, but they are right in your wheelhouse.

I think both films were pretty amusing (I’ve seen much better from this genre) and its cool to have an early look at Angela Mao (and a cameo from a young Jackie Chan in Hapkido).  These are best watched with some distance apart as they get kind of repetitive.  They are very martial arts heavy on their themes and storytelling motifs.  But, be sure to get a good laugh at how Lady Whirlwind ends.  I’m actually smirking about how funny it was as a write this.

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Video

Lady Whirlwind 

Encoding: MPEG-2

Resolution: 480i

Aspect Ratio: 2:35.1

Clarity/Detail:  This is an ugly picture.  This print has been through the wringer.  If you’re not a fan of that “grindhouse” look, you are going to be appalled at this.  Detail is extremely light.  Basically, this picture winds up to be “here’s the movie” and not much else. But with the state this print is in, and this being an extremely niche product, the money to restore it isn’t likely an viable option.

Depth:  Aside from one cool panning shot at a dinner table, this picture is pretty flat.

Black Levels: There’s no real solid black here, it’s all sort of faded.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are pretty dingy, pale and faded.  Nothing pops or sticks out.

Flesh Tones:  Flesh tones can change from shot to shot.  There’s not a lot of flickering, but skin tones are really smooth with the minimal amount of detail.

Noise/Artifacts: There are numerous instances of print damage, dirt, streaks, scratches and stretches throughout the film.  The film does contain its share of blocking issues as well.

Hapkido 

Encoding: MPEG-2

Resolution: 480i

Aspect Ratio: 2:35.1

Clarity/Detail:  This one fares much better than the other film.  There is some solid detail for a DVD-but nothing incredibly impressive.

Depth:  This is another rather flat picture.

Black Levels:  Black levels are average.  Not a whole lot of crushing.

Color Reproduction:  Blues pop pretty good here, and its better than Lady Whirlwind, but for the most part this mute and unflattering.

Flesh Tones:  Flesh tones are for the most part consistent, with minimal detail and smooth faces.

Noise/Artifacts: There are some instances of dirt, streaks and scratches in the print.

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Audio

Lady Whirlwind 

Audio Format(s): Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0, English Dolby Digital 2.0

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: These tracks are pretty low quality with many analog defects audible. The English track actually is a bit louder and cleaner than the Mandarian but neither is impressive.

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is lower in the mix and features a bit of hiss to go with it.

Hapkido 

Audio Format(s): Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0*, English Dolby Digital 2.0*

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: Opposite of the last film, the Mandarin is the stronger (and should be) of the two tracks.  But once again, its very analog sounding and a track that has sort of been around and is kind of worn.  I must note though, that’s kind of to be expected with these kind of films.

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Similar to the other movie, a hiss is audible and the dialogue is a little lower in the mix.

A funny side note, I found it hilarious how much the English subtitles do no match the English dubbed audio track very much.  Two different ways of telling the same story.  Give it a shot for a couple minutes, its outstanding.

*The box advertises these as 5.1 Dolby Digital, but those tracks are not present on the disc.

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Extras 

Each film features different bonus features.  In addition, there is some additional photos displayed inside the cover art.

Lady Whirlwind

Lady Whirlwind Trailers (HD, 4:29)

English Opening Titles (HD, 1:32) – An alternate version of the title sequence for the film.

Also From Shout Factory – Trailers for The Big Boss, Fist Of Fury, Way Of The Dragon, Game Of Death, Police Story, Police Story 2, Crime Story, The Protector

Hapkido

Hapkido TV Spot And Trailers (HD, 7:47)

Interview With Angela Mao (HD, 16:57) – The legendary cult actress discusses, her career, shooting her movies, working with Bruce Lee and her life now.

Interview With Carter Wong (HD, 17:00) – The actor answers a lot of the same questions Angela Mao does, but in addition talks about working with Sly Stallone.

Interview With Sammo Hung And Yuen Biao (HD, 9:20) – A brief Q&A covering their work here and with Angela Mao.

English Opening Titles (HD, 1:44) – And alternate title sequence, featuring the US title.

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Summary 

Shout! Factory brings two early kung fu films from legendary cult actress Angela Mao to DVD with some rather rough prints.  There’s some good interview provided in terms of bonus and that should be enough.  Angela Mao, while not an incredible focus of these films, does show a lot of charisma, screen presence and star quality with her roles here.  Ultimately, this is a niche item, so for hardcore vintage kung fu lovers only.

Lady Whirlwind - Hapkido DVD

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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