Gotta love the old skool Classics! The cheesy acting, ridiculous fights and wavey punches… Well, not so much this movie!
It is a classic and it is awesome – but Sting of the Dragon Masters doesn’t have ridiculous fights and wavey punches but incredibly high quality martial arts performances by some truly repsected martial artists. Much like the movie Hapkido, this film has similar actors and a similar theme – standing up against racial oppression.
The movie kicks off with a Korean man running from some Japanese men (who at this stage in history, occupy Korea). He makes his way into a Catholic Church, and these Japanese men start bullying and pushing people around forcing them to give up Korean man who is hiding.
Amongst it all, a local hero (who was in hiding) named Lee Chung Tung (played by Jhoon Rhee) steps out and kicks some ass, saving this chased man. Eventually though, the Japanese return and kidnap the priest of the Catholic Church and also Lee Chung Tung, who seems to be the leader of a local rebel group.
This is when a group of his loyal followers step up to rescue him. Wan Ling Ching played by Angela Mao, Jin Zheng Zhi played by Carter Wong and Mary (a British lady trained in Taekwondo) all go on the mission to free Lee Chung Tung and defeat the head baddie played by Hwang In-Shik.
This whole scenario is very similar to Hapkido and has the same racial themes. The Japanese Occupy Korea, so this film appears to me to be a lot about pride and standing up for who you are – while also being an excuse for a bunch of Martial Arts fights of course.
One thing I liked was that the Priest and the Rebel leader Lee Chung Tung all had a philosophy behind their character and their actions, refusing to cave in under torture. It’s a ‘spirit overcomes oppression’ kind of theme and adds that little bit of substance to those characters.
But overall the plot is pretty straight forward, racial oppression, kidnapping and of course an action packed rescue. We see our heroes storm in and make their move on Hwang In-Shik’s character pulling out each of their respective styles.
Angela Mao’s characters utilizes Hapkido as she (the actor) herself is a Hapkido practitioner, so she shows off a good deal authentic martial arts movement. The other 2 fighters utilize Taekwondo – hence the name ‘When Taekwondo Strikes’.
With Taekwondo being Korean it makes perfect sense to set the film in Korea (initially at least) as the perfect origin for these characters’ training – plus I think they were going for another ‘style movie’ in which the films action is based around a particular martial art. Don’t forget, Jhoon Rhee is a Taekwondo master!
This film also has a young Sammo Hung playing a Japanese villain.
The action displayed is very high quality and has the label of authenticity since most of the actors are extremely proficient (some world class) martial artists. This shows in the pace, speed, performance and ultimately the style of choreography in the fights. They’re all exciting and interesting to watch – especially if you’re a martial artist!
Overall it’s a high quality film. Although the copy I watched was in pretty bad shape, I’m glad I watched it. If you get the chance and you’re a fan of high quality action in 70’s classic martial arts films – then this is for you.
On DVD –
Region Free (All Countries)
When Taekwondo Strikes AKA Sting of the Dragon Master