masterly master lee

a home for forgotten and famous korean pulp, its heroes, its heroines, and its pulpeteers

The Jaws Of The Dragon aka The Fierce One (1976) review

Master Lee likes movies with James Nam because he’s such a good bad guy. So, what to think of a movie which he not only directed, but also stars in as the main good guy? Well, fortunately, the good guy here is a criminal, so James Nam can be as bad ass as he wants to be while staying in character. Supposedly, The Jaws Of The Dragon (or The Fierce One) is originally titled 악명 (Notorious), but that seems to be a wholly different movie, although the director and part of the cast are the same. Too confusing for the Master who will focus on what he knows best: the infinite number of ways of kicking ass. And in that respect The Jaws Of The Dragon is not very confusing at all. Two gangs (Blackbeard vs White Tiger, I shit you not), one James Nam (called “Junior”…). Guess who wins and who gets the girl.

While everybody plays along nicely in the inevitable unfolding of destiny in the shape of James Nam kicking butt, the musical director of this flick apparently also worked on The Man With The Golden Gun, Shaft and a host of other 70s movies, given the recycling the themes of these movies experience in the soundtrack of The Jaws Of The Dragon. Whenever the action gets too hot, there is the Theme From Shaft to cool things down! You’d think that the musical Meister in charge would have had the decency to at least hire his own musicians to play the plagiarized pieces of music, but it seems to have been a simple cut and paste job (although in the pre-computer era this can’t have been too easy. But the Master digresses…).

The movie starts nice enough with the opening track from The Man With The Golden Gun, inimitable 70s dresses, some nice fighting and one backstabbing femme fatale (or is that a tautology, the Master wonders). It then quickly develops in a schlocky drugs thriller in which James Nam gets the drugs (or money) and the girl, meanwhile leaving behind him a trail of warm bodies. Somewhere in the movie his brother also has a role (at least according to the credits), but the picture quality of the movie isn’t what you would call fabulous, so several times the Master wasn’t too sure whether it was James Nam or his brother Kenny he was looking at (not that it matters to the Master of course: faces have a reassuring way of all looking the same flattened under a fist). The action scenes are pretty good, the violence is gritty, even if the tortures scenes with the blowtorch and the slab of ice could have been left out (although the Master was surprised to see that the Chinese dripping water torture technique actually works on Korean tough guys, while hitting, kicking and blowtorching them only makes them laugh in your face). The action is more convincing than most other fight scenes in similar movies (although the big fight in the middle of the movie features some moves that are some lame and badly executed, even David Carradine wouldn’t have used them) and James Nam seems to derive a particular pleasure from hurting people. And he looks bad ass while doing it, such as when he ties a would-be assassin to the roof of his Volkswagen Beetle (you have to be truly bad ass to get away with driving a white Beetle and still be respected on the street) and drives off only to take the bad guy up an apartment building and dangle him from the roof in a pre-Commando interrogation technique Arnie would have approved of (not to mention Jack Bauer). And when he is really angry (they should have left his girl alone), he comes out with some nifty moves that would not be look bad in the WWF. There is to the detriment of the action also a love story going on in which James successfully convinces a way too naïve girl that, no, he never wanted to be a criminal and that he only busts up people if they are not reasonable. Or in the way. Not surprisingly, their Love Story-like romantic outings in Seoul (where the movie was shot), consists of the two love birds taking the tours, walking along boulevards, eating out and watching violent and bloody dogfights…

The finale takes place in an abandoned industrial park (sound familiar?) where Whitey, the boss of the gang that is unsuccessfully trying to kill James Nam, has stationed a bunch of foreign mercenaries, who “play it cool” as one of them says. Nonetheless, they get burned by Junior, of course.

In all a very enjoyable movie with some great action and great (if copied) music, that does not deserve its obscurity. It is a Korean 70s movies, so be prepared for a gritty and dark story. There are more 70s movies like this from Korea and the Master will check them out and let you know. The Master was satisfied. (BTW, like the hairdo, James.)

Excellent points of interest that drew the Master’s attention:

-shameless thieving of at least 10 70s soundtracks
-70s Seoul as the background of the story
-claw hammer alert (Old Boy reached back to a venerable South Korean tradition of smashing skulls and bones with claw hammers)
-ankle-high red leather boots and matching leather gloves worn by one of the baddies, who is dressed in black (except for the boots and gloves of course)
-everybody throwing sticks of dynamite at each other
-James Nam cleaning his wounds with soju (that’s Korean liquor, 25-30% proof, for those unfortunate enough not to have tasted it)
-foreign actors who do not suck at fighting

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1 Comment»

  kpeninsula wrote @

One of those bogus movies.


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