Saturday, August 22, 2015



The cast (and crew) of TIGER BOY (1964) are reunited in THE MAGNIFICENT TRIO (1966). Tiger Boy was "an experiment" in a new genre of movies Run Run Shaw allowed Chang Cheh to engage in so long as he kept the expenses low. Chang Cheh wrote the screenplay for Tiger Boy and directed the movie with a new male lead actor and no action director and shot the film in black and white. Although produced in 1964 it only saw a limited release after the overwhelming success of Come Drink With Me in 1966. I would love to see this film if it ever turns up on the movie market. Only time will tell.

For THE MAGNIFICENT TRIO (1966) Chang Cheh had the full studio budget behind him as he scripted and directed a tale of a corrupt county magistrate and a desperate village driven to the edge of their hope as they are surrounded by the eminent end of their existence. As skillful as Chang Cheh was as a director he clearly had a supreme talent for characterization as you can't help but care what happens to nearly each character you encounter except for the villains whom you personally want to add your foot to each and every villain's ass.

THE MAGNIFICENT TRIO takes place during the twilight of the Ming Dynasty as the Han people begin to lose their self rule to being dominated by the Manchu. A fierce battle is lost by the Ming troops and the Manchu have them surrounded by the border. Lu Fang, the grandson of the Ming general has broken the encirclement intending to apprise the Imperial Minister Yuan (who is also his uncle) of the situation and get reinforcements. On his way to Peking he hears a young woman's cry for help and he investigates and sees 3 men kidnapping the woman but clearly trying not to hurt her. Intervening he learns of the plight of the Mati Village and sympathizes with the villagers against the corrupt county Magistrate Wei Huaire, who is the father of the kidnapped young woman.

Back at the Magistrate's residence the enraged father becomes desperate and determined to use any means necessary to retrieve his daughter and wreck his brand of justice upon her kidnappers. His newly hired protector,Yan Ziqing (a former prisoner) is reluctant to involve himself fully aware of all the circumstances surrounding the kidnapping. The magistrate is advised to use other prisoners who have less of a conscious than Yan Ziqing and this is where we meet the final magnificent: Huang Liang.  Huang Liang is a senior officer and fellow soldier of Lu Fang who also managed to escape the Manchu encirclement but placed himself in prison asking only for food in exchange. He agrees to go along to rescue the young woman knowing only she has been kidnapped. Magistrate Wei Huaire instructs Yang Ziqing to accompany the rest of the former prisoners to keep them from rebelling or escaping. The magnificent trio are on their way to their fated destinations and it is a worthy tale for all movie goers.

The star of THE MAGNIFICENT TRIO is no doubt Jimmy Wang Yu as Lu Fang. Lo Lieh from Temple Of The Red Lotus is back as second banana and Cheng Lui's unforgettable face and physique makes three. Chin Pingis also here from Temple Of The Red Lotus but Margaret Tu Chuan and Fanny Fan Lai as famous as they must have been at Shaw Brothers Studios are unknown to me. For the baddies Lui Ming as Magistrate Wei Huaire and Lee Wan Chung as Magistrate advisor do most of the heavy lifting as the villains but the boys are back in town as with any Chang Cheh directed movie there is plenty of people that need killing and everybody who was somebody seems to have at least a cameo as a body in this movie. Future star gazing sawChen Hung Lieh,Tien FengUnicorn ChanChiu HungFeng Yi, Gam GwanHsu HsiaKok Lee Yan, Lau Kar LeungKu FengLo WaiCliff LokTong GaiWong MeiWu MaYen Shi KwanYuen Woo Ping, and Yuen Cheung Yan and yes, I know I missed some.

Fight time, yeah baby!! Listen up though, the hardest thing about judging these movies is having seen what greatness would come of these fight performances in their future. Liu Chia-Liang (Lau Kar Leung) and Tong Gaai are the martial arts choreographers for THE MAGNIFICENT TRIO and I am woe to criticize their early efforts too harshly because these pioneers crafted fight scenes back then based on the prevalent Peking Operatic fight formulas and with the safety of the participants a major insurance concern. That said, everybody's techniques including the killing techniques were clean, functional and precise for the most part with the exception being some of the multiple killing techniques which sometimes missed their marks but not so much as to ruin the movie. I counted eight (yes, 8!) fight scenes and some minor skirmishes so you definitely got you money's worth in this movie! Pass the popcorn!
If you couldn't already tell I am going to strong recommend THE MAGNIFICENT TRIO (1966) with flying colors. With a great script and strong and plentiful fight scenes I don't even need to tell you that historically this movie marks Cheng Cheh's departure from the Shaw Studios intention of making the women the stars of the martial arts genre. (But I just did.) Cheng Cheh crafted a man's world of heroic bloodshed and brotherhood and loyalty for his wuxia movies and the studio giving the women in his movies top billing could do little to hide his intentions. Long live Chang Chen and so long lived Shaw Brothers Studios!

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