Mantis Combat
Hong Kong 1978
Directed by Shang Lang.

I feel like I've seen hundreds of nondescript, low budget kung fu movies like this one. Usually, I don't review them -- I have nothing to say, really. I am not a practicioner of martial arts, so commenting on the various styles is typically beyond my abilities. And the acting is usually unremarkable, the plot thin as water. But I am revisiting my VHS collection of late, and I don't know, I guess I'm looking for some kind of closure with these films, so that I never again look at them sitting on the shelf and feel obligated to watch or review them. Probably, it will be time to retire the old VCR before long, and so I should say a few words over the coffin-like tape case before it is consigned to a dusty box in the basement. Alas, MANTIS COMBAT. Though, it must be said, it has lived a long life.

The plot of MANTIS COMBAT is simple: two old crooks split a treasure map, one gets 18 years in jail, the other gets married, has kids, and tries to settle down. But once the prisoner, played by kung fu maniac Chan Sing, gets out, he demands the map and starts killing everyone he sees. The sons (headed up by Barry Chan), try to figure out what the hell is going on, which means finding the map, and the treasure, and getting harassed every step of the way by the bandit Chan Sing and his gang of toughs. On their way, they run into a pile of dead bodies, and one surviving young girl; they bury the bodies, then spend far to much of the picture getting the girl to trust them, and of course fall in love. Finally, the brothers fight the crazy bastard at the end, employing the "mantis" style of kung fu, while he whips out some "lion" on them -- I could figure that out because he kept making real lion noises when he attacked, which I thought was a pretty cool trick. I didn't hear Barry lay down some mantis noises -- to bad. Maybe he could have rubbed his back legs together to make a buzzing sound or something.

Apparently other people can identify kung-fu styles better than I can. Otherwise, why name the film "Mantis Combat?" I kept waiting for some mention of Mantises, or maybe for someone to mate with someone else, then rip their head off and eat him, but in vain. As far as I can recall, it is never mentioned once, leaving us kung-fu style recognition impaired completely in the dark. I do know a little sign language, though.

The plot isn't terrible, what little there is, and Chan Sing is a crazy, bug-eyed MF of a villain who is enjoyable as heck to watch. But, the pacing of the film is way off, the heroes not particularly interesting, and the movie as a whole, just boring.

And now, it is done. I've watched it, I've written about it, and I've retired it. MANTIS COMBAT is not a film I will be returning to anytime soon.

Rating: Not Recommended (Not Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on November 28, 2007.

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