Sunday, July 31, 2022

Dreadful Plot

The martial arts mini series continued with director Yuen Woo-ping's 1981 "madman-on-the-loose" actioner DREADNAUGHT. For this title I used black as the thematic color. Well, not true black. I wanted the parchment paper textured to be visible, as it is with the other colors in this series. So it's actually a very dark gray, so the true black areas such as Biao's hair can stand out and pop against the background. 

The composition is straight forward. Yeun Shun-yi's serial killer looms ominously overhead. Yuen Biao's "laundry kung fu" (which was surprisingly parodied in BATMAN FOREVER) takes center stage, as it is a key element to the plot. Bryan "Beardy" Leung Kar-yan and Kwan Tak-hing flank him, while the Chinese lion/dragon dance/competition anchor the base.

The quasi-duotone booklet cover art focused on the bell necklace which drove White Tiger into a fit of angry rage throughout the film. Along with the blood splatter which ultimately resulted from his madness.

For the next title released in the series, THE SHAOLIN PLOT, I went with a hot magenta tone. A color pulled the costume worn by Chen Hsing's (aka Chan Sing). The narrowing perspective of the temple courtyard pulls the viewer's gaze into the image. With a single character partially turning to make eye contact with the viewer. As if to casually welcome you to witness the bloody conflict playing out in the heavens overhead, like angry Gods doing battle in a tremendous tempest. With villain Chen Hsing positioned as if manipulating deceitful strings of control over the proceedings.

(Although not a sequel, the bulk of the talented cast would carry over into Sammo Hung's directorial debut, THE IRON-FISTED MONK, made later that same year.)

My booklet art highlights Sammo Hung's weapon of choice in the film. A pair of deadly Golden Cymbals. His character even takes his nickname from this odd accoutrement. For the cover art I depicted the second, more deadly, version of the weapon (employed after the first pair get destroyed in battle) sporting teeth-like blades―for added carnage. 

Stay safe. And keeping riding the tide, until the next time we meet.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Odd Knocking

In keeping with the visual style on this mini series of old skool martial arts films remastered on Blu-ray, my cover design for the 1979 Lau Kar-wing/Sammo Hung weapons classic ODD COUPLE, was fairly straight forward.

This time I chose an olive green for the color theme and created a composition reflecting the dynamic interplay between the two leads. The plot features an interesting premise. Hung and Lau portray aging masters (via old age makeup) who have a long-standing competitive relationship. Who is the better master of their weapon of choice? Once a year they meet to duel it out. Hung as the "King of Sabres" and Lau as the "King of Spears". But every year it ends in a draw, with neither the clear winner. 

So, considering their advancing years, they decide it's time to each take on a younger apprentice with the hopes of them settling the score. Cleverly, Hung plays Lau's student, and vice versa. So, without the need for costly or technically difficult visual effects (remember this was 1979) the actors could appear throughout the film, in nearly every scene, playing one of their two characters. And they both get to showcase their impressive skills with both the sabre and the spear.      

So the cover art features the masters leering at each other from behind their weapons, as their younger students do the clashing between them. In the finale they are forced to team up to defeat a common foe in Bryan "Beardy" Leung Kar-yan. Before resuming their age old feud. Which ends with... well, you'll just have to see the film if you haven't.

The included booklet cover continued my minimalistic 3-color approach to the design. The ending of the film is represented, (spoilers) with weapons marking the graves of the masters.

For the 1979 action comedy KNOCKABOUT, the focus was on breakout star Yuen Biao. Director Sammo Hung and the producers at Golden Harvest were hoping for a star-making performance from Biao, something similar to what DRUNKEN MASTER had done a year prior for Jackie Chan. The resulting film, although perhaps not as ground breaking as Chan's film, still resonates with fans today and is widely considered a classic of the genre.   

Sammo, in the beggar-turned-kung-fu-master role (at least on the surface), instructs Biao in the illusive ways of monkey style (猴拳, "monkey fist") kung fu. So my art is designed to reflect that memorable aspect of the film. Biao does his training in the looming shadow of Hung. The co-stars are shown in boxes which was a common design trope of star-studded films from the 1970s (think Irwin Allen).  

The booklet cover art concentrated on the monkey and the thorned vine from the climactic battle.  

Next time... the plot turns dreadful.