Kick-ass Korean “Kung Fu Theater”-style action from “He Who Returned With One Leg”

By on October 3, 2017

Back in the early to mid-1980s, the USA cable network aired a show on Saturday afternoons called “Kung Fu Theater” and we thought there might be some crossover between fans of that show and “Night Flight” — which aired on the USA Network on Friday and Saturday nights — so we hand-picked a bunch of martial arts flicks which you’ll find streaming over on Night Flight Plus!

We’ve told you about our Wu Tang Collection a few times previously, but thought today we’d draw your attention to one movie in particular, Korean director Lee Doo-yong’s action-packed He Who Returned with One Leg.

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This film — released on July 20, 1974 — is, like most of these kung fu and karate flicks, also known by a bunch of alternate release titles, including its original U.S. theatrical release title,The Korean Connection, in addition to Deadly Fist, One Way Bridge, Return of the Single-Legged Man and, of course, its original Korean title Dolaon Oedari, or 돌아온 외다리.

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Read more about He Who Returned with One Leg below.

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The storyline — we’re streaming the version with English subtitles on Night Flight Plus — is pretty much your standard South Korean gangster revenge saga, but this one is set in the 1930s (which suspiciously looks a lot like the early Seventies to us).

Our hero is a Korean gangster named Tiger — played by actor and Taekwondo expert Han Yong-cheol, who became better known later as Charles Han but he’s curiously billed here as Billy Chan — who has earned quite the reputation for his fighting skills, and how he uses his legs in particular.

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He falls in love with the lovely Hyang-Suk, and decides to give up his criminal inclinations and go straight, but he’s pressured to agree to do one last job for his boss, Wang Hae-Rim, which amounts to robbing a carriage full of gold.

Tiger realizes, too late of course, that the carriage belongs to Hyang Souk`s brother, who ends up being killed during the robbery.

The guilt over the brother’s death leads to him leaving Hyang-Suk, and he ends up breaking both of his legs, which pretty much puts a dent in all that ass kickin’ (but, we’re told, once his legs healed, they became much stronger than normal legs).

This action-packed feature inevitably winds its way to a climatic fight to the finish with his former employer, not to mention there’s also a kidnapping and lots of twists and turns along the way too.

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Six-foot tall Korean actor Han Yong-cheol worked almost exclusively on movies filmed in Korea.

From what we’ve read about him, he really didn’t even attempt to have a movie career in Hong Kong, which is a shame, because he has a lot of on-screen charisma and, in this movie, he also sports a pretty sweet 70s-era mustache.

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Director Lee Doo-yong (b. December 24, 1942) broke into the film business as an assistant director to Lee Man-hee, Korea’s foremost filmmaker during the 1960s. He also worked for noted Korean directors Jeon Hongjik, Kim Sudong, and Jung So-young.

Lee Doo-ong began directing his own movies beginning in 1969, debuting the following year with 1970’s The Lost Wedding Veil (Ilheonbeorin myeongsapo).

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During the rest of the 70s he helped introduce Korean-style action films which drew attention away from the more mainstream Hong Kong films.

Manchurian Tiger (Yonghodaeryeon), The Korean Connection and Left Foot of Wrath — all of them released in 1974 — are among his better films of that storied decade, showcasing his talent for kick-ass Taekwondo action, shamanism, indigenous themes, and societal issues.

Many of his films have been altered and reedited, censored by the South Korean government, but the deleted scenes — and his reputation — were later restored.

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He would end up becoming one of the most prolific filmmakers in Korea in the 1980s, lensing more than sixty films in a wide variety of genres, including popular historical features which delved into the oppressed lives of women in the Chosun Dynasty (these films are also noted for their subtle eroticism).

Lee Doo-yong is also one of the first Korean filmmakers to gain international recognition, winning the Special Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival for his 1980 film The Hut, winning a special Integrated Social Development Assistance Program (ISDAP) Award

Doo-yong’s 1980 film The Last Witness was later adapted and remade with the same title by director Bae Chang-ho in 2001.

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His 1983 film Spinning the Tales of Cruelty Towards Women (Yeoin janhoksa mulleya mulleya) was screened to rave reviews at many prestigious film festivals, and invited as Un Certain Regard in the Cannes Film Festival (it was the first Korean film to be invited to screen at Cannes).

By the 1990s, Doo-yong’s films — often depicting the poverty-struck lives of Korean people on the fringes of the society — were noted for their success in a variety of broad genres, including romance, horror, mystery and comedy.

Watch Lee Doo-yong’s action-packed He Who Returned with One Leg. — and other films in our Wu Tang Collection — streaming over on Night Flight Plus!

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, assistant editor for the When You Awake blog, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.