Promotional Lobby card of the US release
|Mandarin||Tiān xià dì yī quán|
|Cantonese||Tin1 haa6 dai6 jat1 kyun4|
|Directed by||Chang-hwa Chung, Korea|
|Produced by||Run Run Shaw|
|Written by||Chiang Yang|
|Music by||Yung-Yu Chen|
|Distributed by||Shaw Brothers
Warner Bros. (US)
|28 March 1972
21 March 1973
|Box office||$4,000,000 (US/ Canada rentals)|
King Boxer aka Five Fingers of Death (Chinese: Tiān xià dì yī quán, lit. "Number One Fist in the World"), is a 1972 martial arts film directed by Chang-hwa Chung (鄭昌和 정창화) and starring Lo Lieh. Made in Hong Kong, it is one of many kung fu-themed movies with Lo Lieh in the lead. He appeared in many similar efforts from the 1960s, pre-dating the more internationally successful Bruce Lee.
Released in the USA by Warner Bros. in March 1973, the film was responsible for beginning the North American kung fu film craze of the 1970s, though it is overshadowed by Enter the Dragon released later that same year. The film has a cult following in the U.S., and was referenced in Quentin Tarantino's film Kill Bill, which sampled the theme from the television series Ironside played during several of its fight scenes. When asked in 2002 by Sight & Sound Magazine to name his twelve favourite movies of all time, Tarantino placed "Five Fingers of Death" at number 11.
A promising young martial arts student named Chi-Hao has spent most of his life studying under a master and has fallen in love with the master's daughter Yin-Yin. After the master fails to properly fight off a group of thugs, he sends Chi-Hao to study under a superior master, Shen Chin-Pei. He instructs Chi-Hao to learn from Chin-Pei and defeat the local martial arts tyrant, Ming Dung-Shun, in an upcoming tournament in order to earn Yin-Yin's hand.
Chi-Hao meets a young female singer, Yen Chu Hung, on the road to the city and rescues her from Dung-Shun's thugs. She falls in love with him, but he resists her advances with difficulty. He reaches town and begins studying under Shen Chin-Pei. After an initial beating by Chin-Pei's star pupil, Han Lung, Chi-Hao improves rapidly. One day, another thug of Dung-Shun's, Chen Lang, breaks into the school and beats all of Chin-Pei's students. Chin-Pei finally arrives and fights him, but is struck by a dishonorable blow and severely wounded. Chi-Hao tracks Chen Lang down and defeats him. When Chin-Pei hears of this, he selects Chi-Hao to receive his most deadly secret, the Iron Fist.
Han Lung discovers that Chi-Hao has been chosen as Chin-Pei's successor and becomes intensely jealous. He conspires with Dung-Shun to have Chi-Hao crippled. He lures Chi-Hao into the forest, where Dung-Shun's three new Japanese thugs ambush him. They overpower him and break his hands. Later, they visit his old master's school and kill him as well. Yen helps Chi-Hao recuperate and again tries to woo him, but he resists her. Finally, Chi-Hao's fellow students locate him and encourage him to regain his fighting spirit. He begins training and soon overcomes his wounds. Yin-Yin arrives, but withholds the news of her father's death. A rejuvenated Chi-Hao successfully defeats all the other students to become Chin-Pei's representative for the upcoming tournament. Han Lung returns to Dung-Shun with the news, but Dung-Shun's son blinds him and casts him out.
On the day of the tournament, a conscience-stricken Chen Lang warns Chi-Hao of the three Japanese thugs lying in ambush on the road to the arena. Chi-Hao fights the thugs until Chen Lang arrives and holds them off so that Chi-Hao can get to the tournament on time. He arrives just in time and defeats Dung-Shun's son to win the tournament. Dung-Shun stabs Chin-Pei amongst the celebrations and departs. As Dung-Shun arrives back home, he discovers that all his lights are out. Han Lung appears in the darkened room and, guided by Yen's direction, fights Dung-Shun and his son. Han Lung blinds the son, who is then stabbed by his father in the confusion. Dung-Shun bursts out of the dark room and summons his minions, who kill Han Lung and Yen Chu Hung.
Chi-Hao arrives at Dung Shun's house, but Dung-Shun flees and stabs himself before Chi-Hao can fight him. As he leaves, the chief Japanese thug arrives with Chen Lang's head. He and Chi-Lao face off. Chi-Hao uses his Iron Fist power, causing his hands to glow red, and delivers several powerful blows that send the thug smashing into a brick wall. The thug defeated, Chi-Hao collects Yin-Yin and departs.