1978 • Hong Kong • Directed by Chia-Liang Liu
Decades after World War II, the Japanese were almost always portrayed as villains in Hong Kong cinema, but one of the first films to buck the trend was Lau Kar-leung’s Heroes of the East, which pits Japanese and Chinese martial arts against one another and ultimately celebrates both. Lau’s trademark mix of high-kicking kung fu choreography and knee-slapping physical comedy is on full display in one of the director’s most acclaimed films.
In 1930s Shanghai, Ho Tao (Gordon Liu) is betrothed to Japanese girl Yumiko (Yuka Mizuno), a marriage arranged by their fathers to cement their business relationship. The honeymoon phase doesn’t last long as the two newlyweds come to blows over their respective martial arts styles in a literal culture clash. After Yumiko returns to Japan, a misunderstanding causes a collection of the finest representatives of the Japanese fighting arts (karate, judo, kendo, etc) to arrive in Shanghai to confront Ho, led by a former admirer of Yumiko’s (Yasuaki Kurata, Return of Sister Street Fighter). Can Ho win each of the dangerous challenges as well as his wife back?