Goddamn You! Your kung fu is lacking...

Monday, 2 April 2012

Only Son For Four Generations (1977)

Background:  This is a film originating from South Korea.  Details on it are sparse.  It stars Bobby Kim alongside Ahn Ku-Soeb, Ahn Kil-Won and Heo Eun-Sil.  The print is in a watchable (though bashed up) condition, and seems to be sourced from an old VHS.  It is English dubbed, with Greek (I think) embedded subtitles.

Story: Bobby Kim lands on a dock and makes for town.  He holes in at a local watering hole, witnessing a young lad get a shoeing from assorted toughs.  After they attempt to humiliate him, he kicks them in good and proper.  The young lad thanks him and flees.  

Later, the kid meets up with his old grandpa.  The boss of the toughs has sent men out to find out what happened (presumably), and the kid hides while Grandpa gets arrested.  He receives a slapping, but refuses to cooperate.  The kid informs Kim that his Grandpa has been taken away, and explains that the area is under the boot of local scumbag bosses.   

Grandpa is strung up on the beach, and the villagers protest.  Kim appears and dishes out some violence.  One of the bosses recognises Kim as a man he wronged twenty years ago.  The story then enters flashback mode, with Kim and said boss driving a truck full of cash.  They are stopped by a rozzer and asked if they can help transport an injured man to town.  They agree, though it is made known to the viewer that the man isn't injured at all.  After a while, the rozzers and the 'injured' man are transferred to a car, and the guys continue on.  Kim goes to see his wife, who is pregnant.  As they leave the hospital after an assessment, Kim is arrested and charged.  The money has gone missing, and his partner (one of the future bosses) has pointed the finger at him.  He is sentenced to twenty years.  To compound his misery, his wife dies during childbirth.

So then, following his release, Kim is clearly on a revenge mission.  There's a sequence on a train where he smashes up one boss, and the other two become increasingly concerned.  The young lad seems to brood on the happenings, and in one bizarre scene tries to rape his lass, before coming to his senses.  Kim accepts an invitation to meet another boss alone, but is doubled crossed, and faces death until the young lad saves him.  That boss is speared by a sword.  

The final boss has a nightmare about Kim, and decides to get someone else to do the dirty work.  He approaches Grandpa, and promises to relax his grip on the town if he challenges and kills Kim.  For the good of everyone, Grandpa accepts.

Kim ends up victorious and the young lad, unaware of the deal, wholly blames Kim.  He challenges him to a fight.  Kim effectively surrenders, and reveals to the young lad that he is his father.  The young lad is furious, and takes out his wrath on the henchmen of the final boss.  He just about stops himself from killing him.  In hospital, Kim and his son reconcile, and they walk off into the sunset with the lad's fiancé.

Comments: OK, first off, the film itself.  It's decent enough, but nothing remotely special.  It's steady away for the most part, with a reasonably-delivered but stilted dub (where sentences are stopped ... to fit ... in with the movements of ... the actor's lips).  The story suffers somewhat due to the film's paltry running time - at just over 70 minutes surely this version is cut?  Nevertheless, it's easy to understand and Kim's performance anchors it well enough.  Scenes where he reflects on his situation and what might have been are wordless, yet his 'nothing-to-lose' attitude is conveyed competently.  

The budget on this film must have been rock bottom.  Bar a few pleasant outdoor settings, everywhere is quite 'everyday' and forgettable.  Perhaps the most interesting scene of the entire film is the flashback scene involving the truck.  The hammering rain makes it more atmospheric than most of the other sequences, but that's just my personal preference.  The train scene is dark, and more confusing than anything.

The martial arts are a mixed bag.  Frankly, it's all mid-level stuff at best.  There's some decent kicking going on, but the camera work is too erratic, and the cuts too fast, to really showcase the skills.  It all looks at bit early-to-mid 70s.   Kim and the young lad open up once or twice and put together some impressive moves, but the film suffers from a lack of confidence on the part of the choreographer.  Even the wire-assisted kicks look funny rather than impressive.  There's not even that much fighting - the film is more like a drama with martial arts sequences.

As for the print - what a mess.  The early parts of the film are cut up badly, with lots of dialogue cut mid-sentence, and the bar fight in particular missing sequences and moves.  I don't know if the print has just degraded, or if someone has removed video rolls, but there needs to be a better copy of this found.  Hell, there isn't even a title card.  Although, Bobby Kim's name is clear enough, albeit in a stange alias:

As mentioned before, the film is very short, and some scenes are so random and obviously chopped that the film is weakened by this.  It's a shame, because as a low-level melodrama it works quite well.  Kim gives a neat performance and I was never bored.  I just wish there was more fighting at the hands of a better choreographer!


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