Thursday, July 6, 2017



Released on April 24th, 1967, THE SWORD AND THE LUTE is part three of a trilogy that began with [TEMPLE OF THE RED LOTUS (1965) part one] and [TWIN SWORDS (1965) part two]. It continues the adaptation of Jiang Hu Qi Xia Chuan (Shang Xia), a wuxia novel written by Ping Jiang Bu Xiao Sheng. Produced by Sir Run Run Shaw, once again directed by Hsu Tseng-Hung and also once again screenplay and assisted directed by Shen Chiang. Song lyrics by Chang Cheh. There are no fight choreographers credited but Shaw Brothers spared no expense with this all-star cast extravaganza. Let’s get busy!

The Yin Yang Swordsmen

Chin Ping as "Gan Lianzhu"

Jimmy Wang Yu as "Gui Wu"

THE SWORD AND THE LUTE (1967) features three treasured weapons. Treasured weapons in wuxia tales are weapons made of the finest materials and include a mystical quality that can be viewed as sort of a super power. In this movie the treasured weapons are: The Invincible Sword (aka the fish intestine sword) which cuts all kinds of iron, The Phoenix Lute, a weapon of mass destruction that hurls scores of hair thin poisonous needles. The Phoenix Lute can only be destroyed by The Invincible Sword. Finally, there is The Seven Stars Stone, the Shen family heirloom that is the only way to heal someone injured by The Phoenix Lute. 


THE SWORD AND THE LUTE (1967) takes place some time after the conclusion of THE TWIN SWORDS (1965), which featured the Gan family’s raid on The Temple of the Red Lotus to rescue their third generation’s daughter, Gan Lianzhu from the clutches of the Red Lotus Clan. The movie begins with the Yin Yang Swordsmen (Gui Wu and his wife, Gan Lianzhu) leaving the Scarlet Maiden’s residence with two instructions: number 1. do not use the Phoenix Lute and number 2. destroy the Phoenix Lute with the Invincible Sword.


On their way to the Gan Residence to use the Invincible Sword to destroy the Phoenix Lute, Gui Wu suggests they cut through the woods, doing so they run right into an ambush by the Flying Tiger Clan intent on robbing whomever would pass that area of the woods. The Yin Yang Swordsmen are highly skilled but the Flying Tiger Clan is present in great numbers. Seeing the men surround his wife, in spite the Scarlet Maiden's warning not to;  Gui Wu grabs the Phoenix Lute and fires into their attackers injuring many of them and causing them to retreat. 

Gan Lianzhu scolds Gui Wu

Master Wen spying on the Yin Yang Swordsmen
One of the Flying Tiger Clan’s members is unhurt but intrigued by such an astonishing weapon and he sneakily follows the Yin Yang Swordsmen as they leave the scene of the ambush and rest near a small waterfall. He overhears some valuable information and then realizes they have left a valuable prize unguarded! Let the games begin!

Yueh Hua as Shem Shuwen

"Where is the Seven Stars Stone?"

the good: Chin Ping as Gan Lingzhu, Ivy Ling Po as the Scarlet Maid, Petrina Fung Bo Bo as Miss Sun / Gan Xiaoling, Jimmy Wang Yu as Gui Wu, Yueh Hua as Shen Shuwen, Lo Lieh as Du Ying, Pang Pang as Daxin.

the bad: Lily Ho Li Li as Wei Mei Er, Cheng Miu as Flying Tiger Chief Master Wei Fei Hu, Lee Wan Chung as Master Wen.

HONORABLE MENTION: Wu Ma, Lee Ho, Chang Pei-Shan, Tang Chia,  Liu Chia Liang, Liu Chia Yung as members of the Flying Tiger Clan.

SPOTTED: Cheng Kang-Yeh as a Shen family servant

Cheng Kang-Yeh is spotted!
FIGHT TIME: Despite Liu Chia Liang and Tang Chia both being present in this production, THE SWORD AND THE LUTE (1967) does not have any fight choreographers credited. Never the less I counted seven (7) fight scenes in the movie’s eighty-seven minutes making for a fun filled, action packed, wuxia extravaganza! For its time, the fight scenes are top notch and natural, making them easy to enjoy. I would certainly not expect any less with the many, highly experienced martial art actors on this project.

HONORABLE MENTION: The grand melee fight at the Master Shen's Aunt's Mansion is a tremendous scene of organized chaos, delightful! Also, Lily Ho Li-Li was a fantastic addition to the cast and her fighting ability lives up to the expectations for her character, bravo!

RECOMMENDATION: THE SWORD AND THE LUTE (1967) is an all-star cast, continuation of a great adaptation of a well-love Chinese novel. Not only is it presented here in great form but it is worthy, not only of a remake but adding additional chapters as well. Anyone of the major characters could also be spun-off into their own adventures. I highly recommend this movie for all viewers and collectors of wuxia movies at all costs. See you next time.


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Tuesday, May 16, 2017



Released March 4, 1967, THE TRAIL OF THE BROKEN BLADE was produced by Sir Run Run Shaw. The prolific Chang Cheh directed, scripted and wrote the lyrics to the songs. Based on the title, I would say this production was influenced by the popular westerns of the day in the movies and on television. As far as I can tell, this is the first "eastern / western".  The skilled team of Liu Chia-Liang and Tang Chia did the fight choreography. Let’s get busy. 

Kiu Chong as Fung Jun Zhao

Planning the caper

The prize!

Fang Jun Zhao is one of the top, up and coming students of Wu Dang Mountain. While on his way back to Wu Dang, he stops at a very small in  Guandong Province for a rest. From the room next door he overhears a planned robbery of the household of retired Commander-in-Chief, Liu Xian. The bandits planning the robbery are persuading the younger son of the Flying Fish Island Clan Chief named Tu Hu, to help them because of the superior martial arts of the Liu family. The head bandit entices Tu Hu, not only with the promise of plenty of money but with a description of Liu Xian’s daughter, Liu Zhen’Er as the village beauty and how he could enjoy her thoroughly as she is “a perfect match for someone as bright as you.”

Later that same night, the bandits attempt the robbery but Fang Junzhao assists Liu Xian and his daughter the end result being all of the bandits dead and Tu Hu severely wounded by Fang’s dart and escaping back to Flying Fish Island. 

After the crisis, Liu Xian asks Fang Junzhao to stay a few days and instruct his daughter in the way of the sword. What Zhen’Er’s father really hopes is that Junzhao and Zhen’Er form a bond and then fall in love so that his daughter can forget her childhood love: Li Yue

Li Yue is the son of the former Commander-In-chief of Zhejiang, the great hero, Li Tian Cong. Tragically; this great hero was falsely convicted and imprisoned all for the benefit of a crooked Imperial Minister. After his father died in prison, Li Yue murdered the Imperial Minister and has been on the run ever since.

When Fang Jun Zhao hears this heartbreaking story from Zhen’ Er's lips his chivalry takes over and he swears a platonic friendship with her and vows to find Li Yue and unite the two lovers to prove his honor and their friendship. 

"I must find Li Yue of Jiangnan"

Meanwhile, Tu Hu has made it back to Flying Fish Island but his injury has taken the ultimate toll as he offers up the fatal dart to answer his family’s question of “who has done this to you?” His father orders his eldest son to take his four henchmen with him to find this Fang Jun Zhao.
So we have the two sets of travelers headed to their destinations fated to meet each other and provide us with this early tale of the Jiang Hu and the chivalry of heroic bloodshed.

Jimmy Wang Yu as Li Yue of  Jiangnan

the good: Jimmy Wang Yu as Li Yue / Jiang Qi. Kiu Chong as Fung Jun Zhao. Chin Ping as Liu Chen Erh. Lisa Chiao Chiao as Shi Xiao Mei. Wei Pin-Ao as Shi Gan. Fan Mei-Sheng as Hu Zi.

the bad: Tien Feng as Chief Tu Qian Qiu. Chen Hung-Lieh as Tu Long. Wang Kuang-Yu as Tu Hu, Leopard Skin.

SPOTTED: Liu Chia Liang, Tang Chia, Liu Chia Yung, Wu Ma, Cheng Lui,  Cliff Lok and Pang Pang.

HONORABLE MENTION: According to HKMDB and the release date of THE TRAIL OF THE BROKEN BLADE (1967) this is Yuen Shun Yi’s (of the Yuen Clan) first movie appearance.

Liu Chia-Liang

FIGHT TIME: THE TRAIL OF THE BROKEN BLADE (1967) features the fight choreography of Liu Chia Liang and Tang Chia. I counted 6 (six) fight scenes including its very long finale in the one hour and forty-four minute movie, which to be honest, is not quite as much as in past movies. With the genre being only 7 projects old in the span of two years, I am mindful to not be too harsh in my analysis of the techniques. Using a system of “pass” or “fail” this movie’s fights are definitely a “pass”.

HONORABLE MENTION: Jimmy Wang Yu looks excellent in his fight scenes and director Chang Cheh wisely gives him the majority of the screen time and stunts. 

RECOMMENDATION: THE TRAIL OF THE BROKEN BLADE (1967) has enough characterization, plot and action to entertain you and hold your interest. As the first “eastern / western”, and an early Shaw Brothers classic it is also certainly collectible. Therefore it should come as no surprise that I call for you to take out your cards or cash and pick this one up as a “must have”!  On a personal note I would love to discuss as a film group just what is it that motivates a writer / director to resolve a story in the controversial way that Chang Cheh does in this movie. That’s it for now, see you next time.

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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Review #6: THAT MAN IN CHANG-AN (1967): the first kung fu comedy!

THAT MAN IN CHANG-AN (1967): the first kung fu comedy!

Shaw Brothers’ first movie of 1967, THAT MAN IN CHANG-AN (1967) very quietly set history as the first wuxia / comedy ever made. Released February 18th, 1967 it was produced by Sir Run Run Shaw and directed by veteran director Yan Jun. Ting Shan-Hsi wrote the script, only his second film, but the film he wrote before this one was the great COME DRINK WITH ME (1966) in an effort with King Hu. THAT MAN IN CHANG-AN (1967) is not as popular as other Shaw Brothers films of this period and while I have read other reviews of this movie there is not a lot of information on the making of the film and the audience’s reception of it. So we will just dig in and experience it for ourselves, in other words – let’s get busy!

KEYSTONE COPS chase scene
Empress Lu wants to replace the king of Zhongdu with her nephew. She sends an Imperial Edit to her nephew, General Lu Kun to assassinate the king of Zhongdu, King Dai Liu Heng and take his place as king in that province. So, General Lu Kun puts a scheme in place to frame King Dai Liu Heng for treachery so he may take the king’s head but when it comes time to take the king’s head does he do it? Noooooo, he decides to hold the king’s mother hostage and the place the king under house arrest so that he can marry the king’s sister and… what in the world is he doing?!? 

It says we are a comedy... what's a "comedy"?

It does not make any sense but spoofs rarely do. This delightful send up of the plot devices used in the spy movies that were coming to be popular in the sixties was a great idea but to set it in ancient China is probably where it threw everybody off. The movie itself is very funny in certain places but defies logic in just as many places and so while one should only have fun with it, the movie is set in a genre where everything is taken very, very seriously. What a challenge!

And what am I --blind?

Kim Jin-Kyu aka the Masked Man aka That Man in Chang-An aka Zhuang Bai the alchemist

the good: Kim Jin-Kyu as Zhuang Bai aka, The Masked Man aka, That Man in Chang-An. Fang Ying as Princess Wen Yang. Alison Chang Yen as Hong-er. Tien Feng as King Dai Liu Heng. Yan Jun as Cao Wu.

the bad: Park Nou-Sik as General Lu Kun. Cheung Kwong-Chiu as General Zhang. Chiu Ming as General Tian Ying.

HONORABLE MENTION: Kim Jin-Kyu as That Man in Chang-An. Mr. Kim totally sells his character as comedic when he has to and serious when he needs to, perfect casting!

SPOTTED: Fan Mei-Sheng as Cao Wu’s waiter. 

Fan Mei-Sheng 

What do you mean "you have to go??!"

FIGHT TIME: THAT MAN IN CHANG-AN (1967) has no fight choreographer credited. I counted eight (8) fight scenes scattered throughout the movie. For the most part they are short scenes with the exception of the four-minute finale. These fight scenes are basically by the numbers “one, two, three – kill” sword fights, rarely (there are exceptions, mostly during the finale.) more that two attackers at a time no matter how many soldiers enter the scene. There is also some last minute under cranking during the finally that just adds to the humor of the entire film, believe me, you do not watch this film for the fights.

HONORABLE MENTION: Alison Chang Yen’s (as Hong-er) double daggers versus soldiers with swords and spears fight scenes with its very direct maneuvering and quick-kill counters, were the best fights in the entire movie hands down. No nonsense, practical self defense techniques, bravo!

RECOMMENDATION: THAT MAN IN CHANG-AN (1967) is an automatic recommendation as a purchase because it is collectible as the first wuxia / comedy ever made. I was very animated while watching this movie with its the humorous moments and with the sheer ridiculousness of some of the scenarios presented, so I am definitely recommending it for the average viewer for pure popcorn entertainment! This movie is funny, period. That’s me for now, see you next time.

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Saturday, March 11, 2017



Released October 08th, 1966, THE MAGNIFICENT TRIO (1966) reunites the cast and crew of TIGER BOY (1964). TIGER BOY was “an experiment” Sir Run Run Shaw permitted Chang Cheh to engage in to produce a new genre in films provided Mr. Cheh kept expenses low. To that end Mr. Cheh used all new actors in the starring roles, used no martial arts action directors and filmed the movie in black and white. Chang Cheh also wrote and directed the film that was not released until Sir Run Run Shaw was convinced that the new genre was indeed a success. TIGER BOY was given a limited release February 16th, 1966 according to HKMDB (Hong Kong Movie Database).  Elder brother, Runme Shaw produced THE MAGNIFICENT TRIO with the script written once again by the director, Chang Cheh adapted from the Japanese movie: THREE OUTLAW SAMURAI (1964). Tang Chia and Liu Chia Liang were the action directors. Let’s get busy!

"CLICK" to enlarge and read more about TIGER BOY (1964)

THE MAGNIFICENT TRIO (1966) takes place during the twilight of the Ming Dynasty in China as the Han people fight off the Manchu invaders of the north. After a fierce battle the Manchu forces have some Han forces surrounded. Commander Lu Fang, the grandson of the Ming General has escaped the Han troop's encirclement and is on his way to see the Imperial Minister Yuan to request reinforcements when he comes across three villagers kidnapping a young noble woman. 

scene from THE MAGNIFICENT TRIO (1966)

same scene from THREE OUTLAW SAMURAI (1964)
The young noble woman is Wei Wen Zhen, the daughter of the County Magistrate Wei Huaire. The three kidnappers are the Head of Mati Village: Gao Bao-Shi, his son: Gao Ji-Xian and another village dweller: Li Chu-Yen. Commander Lu Fang learns that Mati Village has suffered from several years of drought and the Imperial Court has exempt the village’s provisions from taxation. However, County Magistrate Wei Huaire has continue to tax the village of Mati and otherwise oppress the villagers until, in desperation, they came up with this plan to kidnap his daughter which is to essentially sacrifice their own lives to save their village. 

Back at the Magistrate’s residence, the enraged Magistrate Wei Huaire has become desperate to resolve his daughter’s kidnapping before The Imperial Minister comes for his periodic inspection and reports any irregularities to the Emperor. Prisoners and thugs of all sorts are promised rewards in return for his daughter’s safety but is there ever any honor among thieves?

The star, Jimmy Wang Yu  (right)

the good: Jimmy Wang Yu as Commander Lu Fang. Lo Lieh as Yan Ziqing. Cheng Lui as Huang Liang. Margaret Tu Chuan as Li Ju Shan’s wife. Chin Ping as Wei Wen Zhen. Fanny Fan Lai as Xiao Qing. 
the bad: Lui Ming as Magistrate Wei Huaire. Lee Wan-Chung as the Magistrate’s advisor. Tang Ti as Master Xin / Qian. Fung Ngai as Master Han Rui. Ng Ho as Constable Liang Tong.

HONORABLE MENTION: Tien Feng, Ku Feng, Cliff Lok, Chen Hung-Lieh, Chang Pei-Shan, Wu Ma, and Violet Pan Ying-Zi.

SPOTTED: Little Unicorn Chan, Tang Chia and Liu Chia-Liang.

Bruce Lee's childhood friend Little Unicorn, center left.

Liu Chia-Yung (right) as a stuntman

extreme left: Tang Chia, extreme right: Liu Chia-Liang
FIGHT TIME: This is the first credited team-up of what is to become the legendary choreography team of Liu Chia-Liang and Tang Chia.  That fact makes this a collector's item! I counted eight (8) fight scenes and some minor skirmishes for an action-packed one hundred and three minutes. The most common mistake made when watching old movies is to judge them using the current standards instead of the standards of the time in which they were made. That said, everybody’s techniques including the killing techniques were clean, functional and precise for the most part. The exception being, some of the multiple killing techniques that sometimes missed their marks but not so much as to ruin the movie. These gentlemen did a great job and we know there is more to come!

RECOMMENDATION: Unfortunately the first movie ever directed by Chang Cheh: Tiger Boy (1964) is out of print and unavailable so I may never see, let alone review this movie in my lifetime. This review of the second movie ever directed by Chang Cheh, THE MAGNIFICENT TRIO (1966) demonstrates the how skilled Mr. Cheh was at characterization. Since it is an adaptation and not an original script I am not comfortable giving an opinion on his writing skills based on this movie but history speaks volumes about Mr. Cheh’s writing talent so there is no need for me to add my silly two cents on the matter.  I can say that I was thoroughly entertained by all aspects of the film and so I can recommend it wholeheartedly to collectors and casual viewers alike. See you next time!

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