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  Mar's Villa, The Going Slightly MadBuy this film here.
Year: 1978
Director: Chung Ting
Stars: John Liu, Wei Tung, Phillip Ko, Chan Chia Kai, Sun Yueh, Tong Bo Wan
Genre: Martial Arts, Historical
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: It's not a good day for martial arts master Mar Tien Lang (John Liu) when his men are attacked by a mysterious rival and he is forced to seek revenge. But things are only going to get worse for him as he finds out that the culprit behind the attacks is Fang Kang (Phillip Ko) who for reasons best known to himself is out to destroy all of Mar's businesses. This leads to a confrontation at Fang's premises where Mar is so riled that he manages to kill Fang with his legendary "Magic Kick" and his new wife, (Tong Bo Wan) is not happy at all, leading Mar to renounce violence to please her. However, he couldn't have picked a worse time to turn pacifist and Fang's forces are not entirely defeated - not by a long shot...

The Mar's Villa, or Shen Tui to give the film its original title, is your basic, production line kung fu movie but dresses up its revenge plotline in a "drive the main character mad" twist usually reserved for rich heiresses and their evil guardians. Here it's the already rich Mar who is the centre of all this attention, a man who has it all and loses it all with terrible speed, while seizing the chance to show off his high-kicking skills in the process, of course. After the bank and his warehouse are robbed, relieving our hero of his precious things, a stranger called Fan (Wei Tung) turns up asking to fight Mar to see if he's really as good as they say. But the oath to his wife has to be taken into account, and the implication is that he is, uh, henpecked (to put it nicely) contributes to his downfall.

And a downfall it is, when the man behind the schemes is revealed to be Fang's suspiciously similar-looking brother (long grey hair, big grey moustache, the works) and after his brother in law meets a nasty end (they're big on torture, these Fang people) Mar is pushed into a confrontation that sees his famed kicking skills disabled when the baddies break his leg. The fight scenes are not too badly handled for such an obviously low budget film, with the screen often filled with flying fists and feet, and when it comes to pass that the captured Mar is driven to madness by his rivals, it looks as though he's delivered his last boot to the head. His wife now has to marry Fan, who is exposed as the son of the dead Fang, and Mar is left to languish on the streets. Will he bounce back? Well, what do you think? The film may run out of steam by the time of Mar's mental health difficulties, but finds a second wind by the action packed finale. You can play spot the borrowed soundtrack with this, too.

[55th Chamber's Region 2 DVD of this title is letterboxed but scratchy and in the wrong ratio, so you'll have to play around with the settings on your widescreen TV to get it to look right. Extras are an original trailer, complete with unintentionally amusing captions, and a plug for other releases.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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