Heaven and Hell (1978)

Genres - Action  |   Sub-Genres - Martial Arts  |   Run Time - 88 min.  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Director Chang Cheh's films could get a little "out there" when given the opportunity to experiment, but he really took this impulse to the limit with Heaven And Hell. Its incredibly complex plot mixes kung-fu battles, musical numbers, religious musings, and horror movie shocks into a one-of-a-kind psychedelic smorgasbord. In fact, there's so much going on in Heaven And Hell that it takes about half of the running time for the plot to come into focus and take a definite direction. The disjointed nature of the first half might bother some viewers, but fans of Cheh's work will find it worth the wait for a few reasons. The first is that Heaven And Hell is never dull -- every few minutes, it throws something new and bizarre at the viewer. Also, martial arts film fans will be wowed by the cast, which works in all of the famous "Five Venoms" team as well as favorites like Alexander Fu Sheng and David Chiang. Finally, Heaven And Hell settles down into a fascinating adventure/revenge story during its second half, and that second half is packed with kung-fu battles, outlandish sets and costumes, and a vast array of supernatural surrealism. Cheh's direction is colorful and inventive throughout and, as usual, his knack for punchy fight scenes pays off in a big way. In short, Heaven And Hell may be a bit rough around the edges, but it's also a wild ride that offers two or three movies' worth of thrills and bizarre sights. As a result, it's a must for fans of Chinese fare that have a taste for the unusual.