TEMPLE OF THE RED LOTUS (1965)
The first movie I will review is actually part of a trilogy based on a wuxia story written by Ping Jiang Bu Xiao Sheng: TEMPLE OF THE RED LOTUS (1965). It is important to note that TEMPLE OF THE RED LOTUS (1965) and TWIN SWORDS (1965) are both but one story while THE SWORD AND THE LUTE is a very close follow up story. This is why I will review the three of them as my first three reviews. This makes the most sense to me rather than pretending they are 3 separate stories and reviewing them in the order of their actual release.
There are a lot of familiar faces in Temple of The Red Lotus but make no mistake about it Wang Yu is the star as evidenced by the amount of screen time and the comparative finesse of his techniques. However he is joined by some heavy hitters including Lo Lieh (what a thrill to see him and Wang Yu together in one film!), Tien Feng and Fung Ngai (who become major players in Bruce Lee's Chinese Connection,), Wu Ma and Ku Feng. The women are well represented by Ivy Ling Po as the "Red Lady" Chin Ping as the fiance, Gan Lianzhu, and Fung Bo Bo as the youngest family member Gan Xiaoling. A great many of the ladies featured are acting as martial artists proving once again the East is well ahead of the West in portraying women in roles equal that of men. I am looking forward to seeing these women actors again and how they progress as I go through the years with Shaw Brothers.
Now, let's talk about the kung fu, because, let's face it, it is why we watch these movies and got hooked on Shaw Brothers in the first place. I remember in the 1980's when wushu in America fist became a big thing and there was a lot of discussion on what was the difference between "kung fu" and "wushu" fighting. Well as I am currently watch "The Journey of Flower" on Chinese television the answer would be to watch any pair of fights one from "Journey..." and one from "Temple..." and it would be obvious as to what the difference was, although to express it in words still might prove challenging. The words that came to mind as I watch the fights in TOTRL were "raw" and "realistic". The techniques displayed in TOTRL were "to the point" and very practical. I really appreciated that even though I also like the fancy stuff. There is very little flailing and waving arms and weapons about pointlessly. The martial arts here are definitely worth looking at and every so once in a while someone throws in a nice stance. As far as the amount of action I count five battles total including the epic finale. In my book I am going to say that it is a fair amount of action and will use five battles as the standard by which to judge in future movies.
My biggest fear when I decided to watch all of the Shaw Brothers martial arts movies from the beginning was that I would find the vast majority of them very dated and boring. Admittedly it is still very early in the process but I very much enjoyed watching TEMPLE OF THE RED LOTUS (1965). It brought back a lot of fun memories of going to the movies with my brothers and sisters on Sumner Avenue in Brooklyn back in the day. Even though it was a movie it had the feel of the old serial black and white television shows with their dramatic acting and cliffhanger endings.
TEMPLE OF THE RED LOTUS (1965) is the first wuxia movie in color and ushers in both the kung fu age of Hong Kong Movies and (for me at least) the Golden Age of Shaw Brothers. Therefore there are a lot of historical reasons to see this movie. Yet, as far as I am concerned the only reason to ever see a kung fu movie (or any movie for that matter) is because it is a good movie. TEMPLE OF THE RED LOTUS absolutely qualifies as a good movie. I strongly recommend you see it when you have the opportunity.
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NEXT UP: THE TWIN SWORDS (1965)