Aah the 1980’s, it was a gloriously golden time for action and horror movies, in fact that decidedly delectable decade was most definitely THE trend setter for these two particularly popular filmic categories. Iconic is undeniably an over used term, but it’s a phrase that encapsulates 80’s genre films perfectly. Movie stars such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, and Jean Claude Van-Damme (and countless, countless more) are paramount as archetypes of their day, exemplars that have been copied and trended throughout the decades since their first paradigmatic entries onto the silver screen and into fervent fandom.
That said, and as much as I am a fan of these burly, brawly action paladins, I have, from as far back as I can remember always, always preferred kick-arse female fighters, not just in movies but also in my other cherished media of comic-books and video-games. As a young lad growing up in the eighties I was inducted into the formidable fold of fantastic fearsome fighting female furies (phew!) by the meritorious, marvellous and magnificent Moon Lee, though I had encountered other female martial arts stars in various films previous to my encounter with Moon, they were usually cast as second tier characters in film, back up to the male lead… Moon Lee for me was a revelation, a gifted actress with phenomenal martial skill, and, the most predominantly prominent point… the lead in virtually every movie she ever starred in!
Moon Lee Choi-Fung was born in Hong Kong in 1965, though from an early age she spent many years living in Taiwan with her father who ran a business out of the southern port city of Kaohsiung. During her six year stay in Taiwan, Moon attended Youchang grammar school, where she discovered an inherent aptitude for piano and dance proficiency. After moving back to her homeland of Hong Kong to attend middle school, Moon was approached by television director Hsiao Hsianhui after he saw her in a school dance performance.
Hsianhui was so mesmerised by Moon’s remarkable athleticism and dancing talent that he cast her in a small role in his television series Fatherland. From this humble introduction into acting, and thanks to her incredible physical abilities, Moon went on to become Hong Kong’s action movie queen. At a mere eighteen years old, Moon signed contracts with Asia television, and most importantly martial arts movie production giant – Golden Harvest. It was whilst filming a commercial for Mitsubishi that she adopted the first name of Moon, when the directors of the advert asked her to pick a western sounding name for foreign audiences.
After cutting her acting teeth in television with an appearance in an astonishing four hundred episodes over many different series, Moon went on to become the most sought after female action movie star in Hong Kong history thanks to her first major role in the classic period Kung Fu movie Zu Warriors From The Magic Mountain, where she starred alongside such martial legends as Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, and Corey Yuen.
Moon throughout the eighties and early nineties starred in close to an incredible fifty action movies, with co-stars that included the aforementioned Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao and the great Jackie Chan. But it was in Japanese martial arts actress Yukari Oshima (also known as Cynthia Luster – soon to be another inductee into this ongoing series) that Moon finally found her forever co-star with whom she starred in many, many movies over the years as both antagonists and protagonists. The dynamic duelling duo had an onscreen cohesion and physical synergy that was unsurpassed in the field, and held female fighting film fans worldwide spellbound, in fact Moon and Yukari were almost single-handedly responsible for the burgeoning Girls with Guns sub genre, which became an action movie staple throughout almost their entire acting careers.
In the latter part of the nineties Moon gradually left the movie business and moved back to her first love of dance and the arts, and eventually opened a school dedicated to nurturing talented dancers, with many of her students winning excellence awards for their abilities in the field.
Moon Lee Movie Recommendations: Kickboxer’s Tears, Fighting Madam 1 and 2, Angel Enforcers, Angel Force and Zu Warriors.