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The Mar's Villa
cast: John Liu, Phillip Kao, and Tung Wei

director: Chung Ting

90 minutes (15) 1978
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Prism Leisure 55th Chamber DVD Region 0 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Jim Starkey
Having just watched the superb Tony Jaa in Ong-Bak and Warrior King, I was looking forward to watching this 1970s' kung fu classic. I was not to be disappointed. There are a number of technical flaws to the movie but this film is wonderfully fun to watch. I got the impression that this movie was originally part of a loosely connected series of films - many of which contain the same cast.

John Liu plays Mar Tien Liang, the head of a temple and kung fu school. Liang and his followers lead a peaceful existence amongst the local community before a rival gang of fighters challenge him for fighting dominance.

The villain of the piece is Kao Fei, played by Phillip Ko, who sports an interesting grey wig and is probably the most entertaining and amusing character. Without wishing to reveal the plot, Ko plays two roles in the film and does an excellent job with both of them.

Before watching The Mar's Villa (aka: Shen tui) I was worried that the action would not be up to par with other kung fu stalwarts such as Bruce Lee and Tony Jaa, however the action is simply choreographed to perfection. Every character, from Liang all the way down to the lowliest minnow, delivers their moves with sublime accuracy and professionalism.

The end fight sequence to the movie is both exhilarating and exhausting. It is credit to the script and the director that the characters are engaging enough for this to matter. I feel that if the characters had been dealt with in a more superficial manner then the viewer would be less inclined to care as to their eventual fate.

Overall I would certainly recommend this movie to lovers of bone-crunching action. It does look a little dated in parts and the dubbing is predictably shaky, but there is easily enough here to keep lovers of the genre interested.

DVD extras include an original trailer, previews of other movies from the same distribution company and some web links.
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