Ninja Checkmate a.k.a. Mystery of Chessboxing (1979)
This is the film were the song “Da Mystery of Chessboxin’” got its name from and where Dennis Coles took his now famous name of Ghostface Killah from. The legendary Ninja Checkmate otherwise known as Mystery of Chessboxing.
Directed by Joseph Kuo and starring Mark Long, Jack Long, Lee Yi Min, Simon Yuen and Jeanie Chang.
Set somewhere in the past, a young man is focused on avenging the murder of his father at the hands of the Ghost Face Killer. He searches out any school that can teach him how to defend himself. School after school turns him down because, he isn’t that good. He happens upon a school that actually takes him in, even if it’s only to serve as a punching bag for the students.
Meanwhile, the Ghost Face Killer is pursuing his own vengeance against the men who conspired to have him killed. He goes about this by strategically hunting down and killing each person and using his bare hands to break down and kill them all.
Paths converge at the doorstep of what appears to be a peasant chess player in grand fashion. Knuckles against shins and elbow break vertebrae in hyper fast murderous rhythms.
Cut to the chase: This film is a must see. Kung Fu and the hilarious faces of men who know they are knocking on deaths door.
Rating: Four Red Ghost Face plates
They don’t make marital arts films like this anymore. Then again, they don’t make too many good movies, to begin, with anymore. If it’s superheroes or ironic comedies starring celebrity comedians then there’s no bother paying the full ticket charge. Here however is the short but bittersweet gem from your favorite video store, bootleg dealer and the VHS relic from your childhood VHS rack and presented to fit your screen with no visual complaints from me. The fight scenes serve their purpose and don’t bleed into any of the drama unfolding with the plot. It’s Kung Faux without or with grape drink; depends on who’s up.
The wardrobe serves it purpose and fits the era. The music – let’s be honest. The music? The music is the same music you hear in every other marital arts movie from across the ocean. As well, this generation is lacking (in my opinion) confidence, moxie and at least one single confrontational tooth left in its mouth. We need those days back. When every now again, a movie would premier and incite immediate juvenile fights all over Manhattan complexes, lobbies and back alleys. Yeah. I’m feeling the vibe. Keep your eyes open and dare to be the best. And please, please, keep your finger on that damn Rewind Button.
P.S. this review was written under sedation.