Angela Mao had a surprisingly short career, but it was an also influential and groundbreaking in enough ways for her legacy to remain decades later. Even today there are very few female martial arts stars, and when Angela Mao appeared onscreen in the early 1970s she blazed trails with each powerful kick. She wasn’t the first female martial artist, but her ability to carry a film rather than just support it made her a star. This six-film collection includes a few films where Ying takes a smaller role in the narrative, but there are also some great examples of her leading lady abilities. The quality of the film transfers for some of these Golden Harvest releases are less than ideal, including a lot of static and scratches in the image and occasionally sub-par subtitling, but this Shout Factory release does provide quantity for a price that fans can afford.
The strangest thing about the collection is the order in which the films are collected. The first disc includes the oldest and the newest film in the collection, for no apparent reason, even though the back of the DVD package has the movies listed in chronological order. Disc one of three includes When Taekwondo Strikes (1973) and Broken Oath (1977). The films don’t have to be in any special order, but the randomness of the way they are put together in this collection is a bit odd. There are also no special features beyond the theatrical trailer, but the collection gets extra points for simply providing an original audio track along with dubbed versions.
The Japanese make a common enemy in Chinese martial arts films, and When Taekwondo Strikes adds Koreans as victims in need of kung-fu back-up. The international blend of martial arts obviously also includes Tae Kwon Do, as the title suggests, along with some karate and Hap Ki Do. There are even some American martial artists in this incredibly diverse action film taking place in Japan-occupied
Jhoon Rhee plays the leader of a Korean resistance movement who enlists the
help of an Caucasian Catholic priest and his daughter, along with a Chinese
fighter played by Angela Mao. When the Japanese discover the priest’s
involvement, he is kidnapped and the safety of all resistance fighters is
threatened. This is one of the strongest films in the collection due to the
collaboration between so many different talents, even including Sammo Hung in
the role of a Japanese villain. Korea
Broken Oath (1977) is the latest of the films in the collection, and it is also one of the best representations of Angela Mao’s abilities. Along with a classic martial arts revenge storyline, Broken Oath showcases the star’s abilities with many villains and a variety of great action sequences. There are fewer characters, though there are plenty of villains, which results in a lot more fighting reserved for our female protagonist. After her father and mother are killed by betrayal and sabotage, Lotus Liu (Angela Mao) is sent to a Buddhist temple to be raised. Even without knowledge of her parent’s malicious end, Lotus is filled with anger and eventually must leave the temple because of her violent ways. This only increases when she discovers the truth about her parents, using everything from trickery and deceit to marital arts and deadly scorpions as a way to enact revenge on the men responsible.
Disc two includes Stoner (1974) and A Queen’s Ransom (1976), which are two of the stranger films in the collection for different reasons. Stoner is odd mostly because the title could mean exactly what you think it does, being a storyline about a dangerous new drug, but is actually the name of the leading character played by George Lazenby (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service). An Australian cop named Joseph Stoner travels to
to hunt down the evil billionaire behind the drug trade after his sister falls
victim to the aphrodisiac/hallucinogen, discovering that a Taiwanese officer
played by Angela Mao is also on the case. Sammo Hung pops up again as a
Although Angela doesn’t have the title role in Stoner, she is a significant player in the film’s narrative, but the same cannot be said for the convoluted plot of A Queen’s Ransom. In a lot of ways, this film is the odd-man-out in this collection, if only because it barely resembles a martial arts movie. There is a massive international cast with a complex storyline full of twists and turns involving a mysterious plot involving the Queen of England. Utilizing actual footage from Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to
Hong Kong in
1975, the storyline involves a group of international terrorists threatening to
assassinate the royal visitor. Angela Mao plays an exiled South Asian princess
whose storyline feels disconnected from the rest of the film. This is easily
the least impressive inclusion to this collection, both for quality of
entertainment and the limited amount of screen-time devoted to Angela Mao.
The final disc has The Himalayan (1976) and The Tournament (1974), with more of a mix of traditional and experimental cinematic martial arts. The Himalayan does not have the most believable storyline, nor does the action carry the film. Not unlike A Queen’s Ransom, the film involves a complex plot carried out by a clever villain, and Angela Mao appears to just be set-dressing until the final fight scene that she participates in. The one unique aspect of the storyline is an impressive opening sequence shot in
Nepal and . Tibet
While The Himalayan was a bit unconventional, The Tournament is as traditional as a martial arts film can be. The storyline provides plenty of opportunities for our star to showcase her martial arts strengths, including Angela Mao’s classic disguise as a man, which merely requires a hat and men’s clothing in order to successfully fool everyone. Like many classic kung-fu films, the plot involves the honor of a
Hong Kong kung-fu school, but The Tournament adds the unique element
of Thai kickboxing. Angela Mao is the daughter of the school’s teacher, whose
brother is killed in a boxing tournament in . This could have been a typical
revenge film, but instead the storyline takes on a more respectful and
honorable approach by integrating the two styles of fighting with each other.
The teacher’s daughter travels with her brother (Carter Huang) to Thailand , where
the two of them learn the art of Thai boxing. This film includes one of the
best training sequences in a kung-fu film, not to mention some spectacular
fight sequences choreographed by Sammo Hung, who also has a small supporting
Entertainment Value: 7.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 6.5/10
Historical Significance: 8/10