Tarantino’s Favorite Movies: Lieh Lo The Forgotten Martial Arts Hero

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Due to the success of the “Kurt Cobain’s Favorite Albums” series of articles, the good people at Alternative Nation.Net have decided to take a look at the influences behind one of the other major voices of Generation X; Quentin Tarantino. For this first entry we will be looking at his favorite martial arts film Five Fingers of Death as well as a film that was a big influence on Kill Bill, Fist of the White Lotus.

The 1970’s are known as one of the more diverse periods in film history. Many of the worlds most famous filmmakers made their mark during this decade including, John Carpenter, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Brian De Palma, Francis Ford Coppola, Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, David Lynch, Dario Argento, and many more. The decade also saw a plethora of   classic films released in many genres including science fiction, horror, exploitation, and even pornography. One of the genre’s the decade was most notable for though were the martial arts films.

Produced in Asian countries and sometimes Hollywood, these types of pictures were everywhere.  Known for their over the top stunts, violent action and deep messages, these films flooded both the mainstream theaters and drive-ins everywhere. When people think of martial arts films from this era they normally think of the films starring Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, or Chuck Norris,  and some of the more seasoned fans might bring up the roles of Sonny Chiba or the Zatoichi film series.  A name that rarely gets brought up is Lo Leih.

Before Bruce Lee found internationally success, Lo Leih was a major player in the Asian martial arts film scene. In 1972, Leih starred in Five Fingers of Death, Tarantino’s favorite martial arts film and his sixth favorite film of all time.

In the film, Lo Leih plays Chi-Hao, a martial artist who is sent to train under a new master in order to win a martial arts tournament to stop local thugs from bothering the local villagers. While a very simple story, it is full of  action, lots of gore with a style all of it’s own. Martial arts films were not yet huge in the states and this film helped introduce a lot of Americans to horror movie levels of gore and amazing, martial arts choreography. This film title might also be where the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart from Kill Bill got it’s name.

The film was produced by the Shaw Brothers who were known for putting out many classics in the genre such as Five Deadly Venoms, 36th Chamber of the Shoalin and The One Armed Swordsman. They also made another film that Tarantino enjoyed known as Fist of the White Lotus. This 1980 classic also stars Leih Lo as the films main villain, Priest White Lotus as well as the movie’s director.

The monk Hung Wen-Ting must fight against a dark Priest who is capable of incredible feats such as being able to suck his testicles back into his body (not making this up). Like Five Fingers of Death, the story isn’t the main focus, rather emphasis is placed on the fights and stunt work. Both main characters from White Lotus, were given supporting roles in Kill Bill, played by the same actors.

All in all these are both must sees for fans of the genre and are both interesting watches to see what influenced, arguably, the most iconic director of the 90s.