ON DVD & BLU-RAY
Wheels on Meals (1984) dir: Sammo Hung Blu Ray (Eureka!)
Missing women in Barcelona
This Hong Kong-produced action-comedy focuses on three Chinese immigrants working in the city of Barcelona, Spain. Jackie Chan and Yuen Biao play two cousins named Thomas and David who run a street food van. Sammo Hung plays Moby, an assistant to a private investigator who is assigned to fill in for him while the latter goes into hiding to avoid his creditors. His first assignment is handed to him by a mysterious man (played by Miguel Palenzuela) who wants him to track down a woman named Gloria (Susana Sentís) and her daughter, both of whom have gone missing for many years.
Thomas and David inadvertently get wrapped up in the action when they find out that the latter’s father (played by Paul Chang Chung) has started dating Gloria after they met at the local mental hospital where they are both receiving treatment. Moreover, when they clap eyes on her beautiful daughter Sylvia (Lola Forner), they both fall in love with her and compete to win her heart. However, things become increasingly dangerous for all of them when a criminal gang enters the proceedings.
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The iconic Hong Kong martial arts trio scored another hit
After the major success of Project A (1983), the so-called “Three Brothers” (Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung) reunited for another kung fu action-comedy in the form of Wheels on Meals. Once again, it was a big box office success in Eastern Asia, even spawning a rather tenuous video game tie-in entitled Spartan X (the film’s Japanese title) which was, in turn, released in the UK as Kung Fu Master.
It’s generally good fun but not quite on the same level as the trio’s previous outing. This time, more of an emphasis has been placed on the comedy side of things, especially during the first half. Unfortunately, this change is slightly to its detriment. Okay, so the early sequence featuring Jackie as a skateboarding waiter is a sublime, marvelously-choreographed piece of slapstick. However, too much of the humour leans on corny old routines such as the various “comedy lunatics” in the mental hospital scenes, a sub-plot involving a cheating husband being threatened by his gun-toting wife, and Thomas and David’s unfailingly awkward attempts to seduce Sylvia. I would have been quite happy if 10-15 minutes of this stuff was left on the cutting room floor.
Fortunately, the film corrects its course later on. For one thing, there’s a fabulous car chase around the halfway mark. it features a classic stunt where our heroes’ food van leaps right over a road bridge, only to land on a truck carrying a large consignment of oranges. For another, there’s an equally great swashbuckler-inspired climax set in a medieval castle which is capped off in grand style via a fight between Jackie and the veritable brick shithouse that is Benny Urquidez. This latter sequence is widely regarded (and deservedly so) as being one of the best one-on-one martial arts fights ever committed to film.
The Barcelona setting also adds a lot of flavour to the production. Around the time when this was made, the city was nowhere near as big a tourist draw as it is nowadays. It’s interesting to see the more local (and, at times, somewhat gritty) style of the old town streets and squares as they were back then. There’s also one scene which makes great use of Gaudi’s hulking, iconic La Sagrada Familia church.
All in all, while Wheels on Meals isn’t necessarily the finest hour for any of the three leads, it’s still a decent entry and a very worthwhile addition to any fan’s collection.
Runtime: 109 mins
Dir: Sammo Hung
Script: Edward Tang, Gwing-Gai Lee
Starring: Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao, Sammo Hung, Lola Forner, Susana Sentís, Benny Urquidez, Keith Vitali, José Sancho, Herb Edelman, Miguel Palenzuela, Paul Chang Chung
Blu Ray Audio-Visual
The picture is wonderfully colourful and the audio very crisp. Good stuff.
On Giant’s Shoulders: An Interview with Sammo Hung
A shortish interview with the actor/director who discusses the Barcelona location as well as his decisions to cast western martial artist Benny “The Jet” Urquidez and comedian Herb Edelman in supporting roles.
Archival Interview with Sammo Hung
Sammo briefly discusses his career, his experiences of working with Jackie Chan and Yuen Biao (whom he knew from his Peking Opera School days) and the differences in filming in Hong Kong, Spain and Hollywood.
Born to Fight: An Interview with Yuen Biao
Yuen takes a look at the early history of the “Three Brothers” - in particular, his time working with Sammo - and then discusses the film Wheels on Meals. They came up with the idea of the skateboarding waiter because they felt that it would make the scene more interesting than simply having him walking around handing out food orders. The most challenging stunt in the film was the one where Yuen jumps out of a window, missing a canopy and landing on his ass - something which is difficult to make convincing-looking without killing yourself! The car chase stunts were handled by a French team who also worked on some of the James Bond films.
Jet Fighter: An Interview with Benny “The Jet” Urquidez
A lengthy (28-minute) interview with Benny, who played one of the villainous henchmen in the film. He’s certainly an interesting character, even if he comes across as being somewhat big-headed about his own (considerable) achievements. He discusses his family roots (his father was a professional boxer, his mother a professional wrestler) as well as his extensive career as a professional fighter and, more recently, as a teacher of both acting and martial arts. He also reminisces about his time working with Jackie, Yuen and Sammo on the films Wheels on Meals and Dragons Forever. He ends by expressing his sadness that he never got to work with them a third time since they went their separate ways after the latter film.
King of the Ring: An Interview with Keith Vitali
Another lengthy (33-minute) interview. We pay a visit to another of the film’s main henchvillains, Keith Vitali, at his dojo in Atlanta. He talks about his experiences working on the film with the “Three Brothers”. He reveals that they worked to a hierarchy depending on age, with Sammo on top, then Jackie, then Yuen. He discusses Jackie’s method of choreography which uses specific rhythms and necessitates thinking 4-5 moves ahead. He also provides some indication of how common injuries are in these films: during one moment when he accidentally kicked Jackie in the windpipe, he was shouted at not for hurting him, but because his shocked reaction broke character before the director yelled “cut”.
The Inside Track: An Interview with Stanley Tong
This one is a somewhat tangental choice of interview since Stanley Tong didn’t specifically work on the film Wheels on Meals. He did, however, direct Jackie in Police Story 3: Super Cop and 4: First Strike, as well as Rumble in the Bronx, The Myth and Kung Fu Yoga. He also produced the American TV series Martial Law which starred Sammo Hung. He discusses his experiences of working with both stars.
Spartan X - Alternate Japanese Release Credits
This version of the end credits sequence features numerous outtakes of stunt and fight choreography flubs.
As the name suggests, this four-minute featurette is comprised of outtakes, some of which were also seen in the Japanese credits but others not. Here, however, they are presented in slow-motion for added wince-inducing effect.
The list of extras here is completed by some trailers and a collector’s booklet.
It’s another solid Jackie Chan release courtesy of Eureka Entertainment. I certainly hope there’s yet more in the pipeline.