In 1973 two directors that went by the names of James Sebastian and Tony Yeow decided to cash in on the kung fu and martial arts movie craze. This led them to write and co-direct Singapore’s first and only Kung Fu action film. Promptly after it's release, the film was banned in Singapore mainly because, at the time, Singapore was trying hard to clean up its public image and “Ring Of Fury” definitely didn’t help.
In the 70’s Singapore struggled with problems such as a high crime rate and the rise of gang related violence, and the release of a film about a man fighting a very dangerous and evil gang that attacked shop owners and burnt down houses would only help reinforce this negative image of the country. So Singapore swiftly had the film banned even after the director edited out many scenes just to please the censors. Due to the fact that the film was never released the directors gave the film reels as payment to the lead actor of the film who was also a local martial arts teacher named Peter Chong. The film reel sat in Mr.Chong’s fridge for over thirty years before the it was allowed to be shown to the general public. Soon after the Asian Film Archive contacted Mr.Chong and acquired the reel so they could restore it 4K. The film reel was unrestorable until it was sent to a special lab in Portugal for restoration.
The most recent showing of the film was at a small independent cinema named “The Projector”. The cinema was touting the film as a cheesy action b-movie from Singapore that is so bad that it is actually amazing and that is exactly what it is. As a film “Ring Of Fury” is terrible but as something that you can sit back and laugh at the pure absurdity that is being displayed on screen, the film is great. Everything about the film was outdated and over the top, from the training montage to the villain, but to be honest I had a blast watching it.
Even though the film is, in many ways, shocking I must give credit where credit is due. Throughout the movie, the cast gets thrown around in quarries and punched in the face and it turns out all of it was real. Actors would get thrown onto rocks and actually get punched hard in the face. Everyone did their own stunts. In addition to this the film shows the viewer a completely different side of singapore. It’s almost as if the film is a time capsule into Singapore’s past. After watching the film one question still remained. Why was the film only being shown to us now? Luckily for me, Mr.Chong was in attendance at the film and happily answered my question. He told me that in the last 30 years, Singapore has changed so drastically and the promotion of gangsterism and vigilantism no longer counts as grounds to ban the film, because to modern Singapore this is no longer a problem and hasn’t been for quite a while. For the cinema going public, this turn of events is a real boon as it gives us all an opportunity to watch classic films like this.
If you get a chance, you should really get along to The Projector to check it out.