The Magnificent Butcher [Lin Shi Rong] (1979) Review

The Magnificent Butcher is not as you may have guessed a slasher movie about a brilliant Sweeny Todd-esque killer who is particularly capable with a cleaver. It is in fact a classic Kung Fu movie starring the magnificent Sammo Hung and as you may have noticed or not this site has often bent its rules on reviews for odd Kung Fu flick mainly because we love them!

Most importante to note is The Magnificent Butcher is one of the trio of terrific flicks on the newly released box set by Eureka Entertainment sitting alongside The Iron-Fisted Monk and Eastern Condors with all three receiving brand new fully uncut 2K restorations in their original widescreen aspect ratios for the first time in the UK.

Sammo Hung is undeservedly perhaps not as well known outside martial arts and action cinema circles as Jackie Chan or Jet Li although he has been in the movie making business almost 60 years as a stuntman, actor, choreographer, producer and director staring in 75 films and working on over 230.

The trio of movies on the boxset display some of the highlights of Sammo Hung aka Hung Kam-bo or more affectionately, “Da Goh Da” [Big, Big Brother] career not just as an actor in the excellent action war movie Eastern Condors but also as a director by featuring his debut behind the camera The Iron-Fisted Monk.

Best of all though The Magnificent Butcher is a movie made to be the spiritual successor to one of the best Kung Fu films ever made Drunken Master. Also directed by Woo-Ping Yuen, who made the 1993 classic Iron Monkey and did stunts for Kung Fu Hustle and Kill Bill, in fact the character of Beggar So who trained Jackie Chan in the first film and helps Sammo Hung here was set to be played by the original actor Yuen Siu Tien but he sadly passed away before production.

Instead we have the wonderful Mei Sheng Fan as the alcohol fuelled master while Kwan Tak-hing stars as legendary folk hero Wong Fei-hung a role he embodies in over 70 films. Sammo is “Butcher” Lam Sai-wing also known as Pork Wing, a skilled but hot headed fighter who gets himself into endless trouble.

When he crosses a rival clan led by Master Ko (Hoi Sang Lee from Last Hurrah for Chivalry) and his sleazy son Ko Tai-Hoi (Hark-On Fung from Police Story) the fun ends and he finds himself framed for a murder he didn’t commit. Determined to catch the killer and improve his Kung Fu he finds Beggar So and begins to strengthen his style in readiness for the fight of his life.

Complete with terrific training montages, slapstick silliness, fantastical fighting styles and epic unarmed duels The Magnificent Butcher is a great example of old school Kung Fu and Sammo Hung shines throughout both for his martial arts and likability.

Giving an immensely physical performance Sammo is as comfortable kicking ass as he is falling on it and much like Jackie Chan during this period his comedic persona masks his prowess, lowering your expectations of his skills in the fight scenes which are equally awesome.

Although packed with pranks and puerile jokes there is definitely a dark side to The Magnificent Butcher not only in the treatment of the female characters who are kidnaped and molested but also in Ko Tai-Hoi who becomes more and more blood thirsty covering up one murder with many more. This gravity is demonstrated perfectly by the devastated look on Sammo’s face when finds one of Ko Tai-Hoi’s victims who means more to him than anything and the pain and anguish are as palpable as his tear streaked face.

Although light on plot the pace is great and furious fight scenes fly fast keeping the audience engaged. The choreography is superb all round but stand out moments include the fateful final battle between Sammo and Master Ko and an early inventive fight between Master Ko and Wong Fei-hung involving creative calligraphy and proving the brush is definitely mightier than the sword in the right hands.

The Magnificent Butcher is a classic and as part of a blinding box set filled to the brim with amazing extras across all three films this is a must buy for Kung Fu fans although any uninitiated to the skills and talent of Sammo Hung should head out an snap up a copy as well.

Movie Rating: ★

★ ★ ☆ ☆ 

THREE FILMS WITH SAMMO HUNG New & Exclusive HD Trailer:

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Alex Humphrey

Alex studied film at the University of Kent and went on to work for Universal Pictures in their Post Room gaining an inside look at the movie industry from the very bottom. Constantly writing reviews in everything from local magazines to Hip Hop sites Alex honed his critical skills even spending a brief period as a restaurant critic. Read more

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