Director: Dong Gam-woo
Starring: Hwang Jang Lee, John Liu, Roy Horan
As a mysterious visit by a Russian envoy brings about questions about the reason for their arrival, a secret court appointed detective (John Liu) enlists his brother (Yip Fei Yang) in the investigation. As the brothers get closer to the truth, they encounter Russian soldiers, assassins, and the surprising truth behind a mysterious jade snuff box.
With a surprising and competently told story, the film deals with themes like foreigner abuse, political corruption, and betrayal. While the main strength of the film certainly lies in its action, it is nice to see a film that isn’t so chop socky succeed in its storytelling as well.
One of the more well known of the 70s era kung fu films, Snuff Bottle Connection features expert martial arts choreography by the great Yuen Woo Ping. With great acrobatic performances by Liu and Yip, the film is filled to the brim with great and inventive fights. From weapon clashes to hand to hand, there are a number of tightly choreographed and intricate exchanges. Eagle-eyed viewers will catch quick little appearances by Yuen Biao and Corey Yuen early in their careers.
Not without faults, the film is somewhat generic, though it never becomes overbearing. There is a funny bit at the beginning of the film where Hwang Jang Lee’s face is hidden by props in a typical ‘let’s keep the baddie a secret’ HK way, but it is foregone a mere 30 minutes later with a demonstrative scene that showcases his character’s martial arts ability. As if everyone didn’t know that Lee was the villain, his blazing white eyebrows give it away very fast. The final fight also has a few near misses where his poorly attached wig almost goes flying off his head, but it miraculously stays on despite his amazing kicking skills and badass end fight. Lee is as formidable as you’ve come to expect.
Snuff Bottle Connection is definitely one of the better kung fu films of the late 70s. With a decently told story ajd some jaw-dropping action, you’d be hard pressed to find such a great group of fighters onscreen with such a number of great fights. While the story and acting is nothing to write home about, it is a competently done plot that helps build towards the action and that is what sets it apart from many other similar movies.
You may enjoy this film if you liked: Secret Rivals, Warriors Two, and Hell’s Windstaff