Eureka Films continues its Hong Kong hot streak with the release of this double-feature set featuring Angela Mao — who was, and still is, a huge star worthy of named billing in her own Eureka collection alongside Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan. While Hapkido and Lady Whirlwind are two of Mao’s most iconic titles, it’s a mixed bag as to quality.
Hapkido earns its classic status as a great story about standing up to colonial bullies, and it also just whips ass. Mao leads alongside Hung and Carter Wong as teachers of Hapkido (a Korean martial art) who start a school in China and must then fight off local Japanese occupiers who attempt to destroy and take over their school. Like Fist of Fury, which it so clearly recalls, Hapkido marries spectacular and frequent fights (Hung choreographing and going off the chain) with powerful emotions about moral stands against imperialism. Cathartic and invigorating, Hapkido is a new favourite I was very glad to discover in this set.
Lady Whirlwind features Mao as a stoic badass hunting the man who killed her sister. The twist? He’s a gangster whom other gangsters want dead. Thus, Mao must protect him if she is to destroy him. The movie doesn’t quite deliver on this great premise, but it offers many great instances of Mao looking sick of everyone’s shit before whooping their asses. The plot doesn’t have much meat, but the fights are great, including Hung in an early-career villain role; he and Mao are as great a pair of adversaries here as they are allies in Hapkido. These balance out the weak story of Lady Whirlwind.
The films look great, at 1080p from a new 2K resolution. It’s easy to forget how much effort goes into bringing classics up to contemporary visual standards, but the films maintain their signature 1970s look and flavour all whilst being sharper and clearer than ever). Original Mandarin and English dubs are included, as well as extra dubs; note that the audio is generally in mono, although one English dub comes in at DTS-HD MA 5.1 on Hapkido.
Unsurprisingly, Eureka has once again pulled out all the stops on extras. Perhaps most impressive is a new 2022 interview with Mao — a fantastic add, as many stars in these Western-released sets have either passed on or are generally inaccessible to interviewers for a host of reasons. There are also archival interviews with Mao, Hung and Wong, as well as a nice booklet with writing from James Oliver. Both films feature excellent, newly translated English subtitles, and Hapkido offers two commentaries while Lady Whirlwind offers three. (And you know Frank Djeng is present on at least one per film). The films come in a single slipcase with some really cool artwork and, in a pleasing development, the two films’ menus each form one half of a composite image.
In all, Eureka has offered a great starting point for the works of Angela Mao and a great tribute to her as well.