Saturday, November 28, 2015



THAT FIERY GIRL (1968) is a romantic / drama / wuxia tale of opposing clans. Not quite Romeo and Juliet but not far off. Yan Jun is the director and Liang Jen is the script writer and this is Mr. Liang's very first script. Runme Shaw is the producer this time around. We should remember Yan Jun as the director of THAT MAN IN CHANG-AN (1967) that I declared was a wuxia / comedy that kept me laughing, I hoped, intentionally. So, as you can imagine, I am really looking forward to watching this one. Let's check out the plot. 

Mei Feng-Chun and two of his friends of the Mei Clan return from training in kung fu to get revenge on the Hulu Clan for past atrocities committed by the Hulu Clan against the Mei Clan. As they approach their village they see members of the Hulu Clan galloping away from their village. They race back to their village to find their ancestral shrine burning and their Clan Chief mortally wounded. The Mei Clan Chief lives just long enough to tell Mei Feng-Chun what happened: The Hulu Clan raided the Mei Clan Ancestral Shrine hoping to get the treasure map of the Mei Clan. 

Unfortunately the map had been long ago stolen so the Hulu Clan raiders burned down the ancestral shrine.  Mei Feng-Chun and his two friends camp out to plan their next move but coincidentally it is the meeting place of the Mei Clan traitor, Mei Danui who stole the treasure map and his Hulu Clan co-conspirator. After hearing the arrangement Mei Danui made for assylum at the Hulu stronghold Mei Fengchun kills Mei Danui and steals his identity to infiltrate The Hulu Clan and recover the Mei clan treasure map and get revenge for the deaths caused by the Hulu clan. His first obstacle: the Hulu Clan's fierce warrior woman Pearl, also know as Red Chili.

Chan Leung debuts as Mei Feng-Chun / Mei Denui and has that "cop smell" all over him. Chan Leung just looks, acts, moves and radiates "good guy" and THAT FIERY GIRL (1968) totally benefits for it. On top of all of that, it doesn't hurt that this is his very first job and it carries over in his performance in the enemy's camp, unsure whether or not at any moment he could be unmasked as a traitor he never comes across as relaxed. On the other hand you have the veteran actress Cheng Pei-Pei as Pearl / Red Chili, who delivers the exact character required here: an immensely confident daddy's girl superbly trained in the martial arts vaguely aware of the evil around her but not consumed by it. 

Pearl is immediately draw to the aura of goodness in Mei Denui and becomes his protector. Their chemistry is one of big sister / little brother and evolves into a young woman's first crush as his character compared to the other Hulu men is one of personal pride versus the Hulu men's creepy selfishness. A very easy choice for her to make and THAT FIERY GIRL (1968) is very much more a romantic drama with a Romeo and Juliet twist than a wuxia revenge tale but it combines both elements and works well as very good entertainment.

HONORABLE MENTION: The great character actor Ku Feng as an unnamed character! Ku Feng plays Mei Feng-Chun's quick witted friend with a fiery temper of his own. 

FIGHT TIME: THAT FIERY GIRL (1968) is not much on fights. There is no one credited for fight choreography and I counted only 2 or 3 fights with some small skirmishes here and there. This film is saved by the Romeo and Juilet theme of the story and the actors so thankfully there is no reason to be disappointed too much.

I recommend THAT FIERY GIRL (1968) as a pleasant way to past the time for viewers and collectors and it certainly doesn't hurt to see Cheng Pei-Pei act as a different character than her performance in COME DRINIK WITH ME (1966). She is very convincing as a cute daddy's girl. See you next time!


Saturday, November 21, 2015



Greetings everyone and welcome back. Sir Run Run Shaw is back at us with a very interesting production and he has brought veteran director Yueh Feng with him. Along with his "shakey cam" Yueh Feng has visualized a wuxia film with a strong slasher/horror flavor to it, adding a tremendous amount of tension to the fight scenes. This unique blend of genres is given a subtle boost by rookie screen writer Chiu Kang-Chien first script that adds small details to some of the events in the movie that surprised at least me and gives the characters a lot more depth than the typical revenge movie. I just want to say right quick that a lot of movie hobbyist miss out on some interesting movies because they eliminate movies en mass because of what year they were released. That is a mistake. Right off the bat this movie has a lot going for it. Let's check out the plot.   

Three ruffians on horseback are on their way to a town called Jiangbei but they lose their way and ask a young man atop a tree for directions. He is kind enough to give them directions but one of the three ruffians goes back to thank him by hurling three arrows at him. Fortunately the arrows are off their mark and he is unharmed. As the ruffians continue on they stop at a river and while they are enjoying the water they spot a young woman who seems to have just finished washing clothes. They frighten her away but they plot to track her down and have their way with her. Sure enough they reach her home and slaughter her mother, father and baby brother. As fate would have it the young man atop of the tree that gave the ruffians their directions to Jiangbei was the young woman's younger brother as well. When the young man reaches home and discovers the slaughter he is overcome with two emotions: grief and the desire for revenge. 

Chang Wei-Fu packs a few belongings and then burns down all that remains of his life in Bei He Village. He takes his mother's bracelet, a wiry circle of silver bells, and strings it around his neck, a reminder of his mission of vengeance, his mother's bracelet become the bells of death. He begins his journey to Jiangbei to hunt down the three murderers of his family, to get revenge. As he journeys to Jiangbei he comes across an elder in a straw hat holding a cane sword surrounded by eight armed men. Observing from a distance he hears the armed men call themselves "The Eight Heroes Of Yanzhou" as they give the old man an ultimatum: "surrender or die"! 

Chang Wei-Fu watches in anticipation of the old man's certain death but instead the elder quickly and skillfully dispatches all eight assailants and calmly walks away totally unscathed. At first stunned by the unexpected events, Wei-Fu quickly recovers and trails the elder for a day and a night, nonstop without food or drink begging the elder to take him as his student. After seeing his determination and hearing his story the elder decides to accept Chang Wei-Fu as his disciple and they stay in the mountains and train for five (5) years. 

When we next see Chang Wei-Fu it is he who is wearing the elder's straw hat and carrying the elder's cane sword evidently not only becoming the elder's student be now being the elder's martial heir. Chang Wei-Fu heads straight into Jiangbei to find the three murderous ruffians and blaow! He is suddenly struck from behind and nearly knocked over. It is a damsel in distress running for her life and her freedom from debt collectors that use young girls to settle money matters. Oh yeah, it gets real interesting from here!

THE BELLS OF DEATH (1968) is perfectly cast for effect and that is what makes this a great film but NOT for its kung fu  but, hold on --there isn't anything wrong with that. Remember it is still only 1968 and the standards for kung fu have yet to be set let alone be established so we can be generous knowing in the future the kung fu standard will be established, but this is very much an excellent film. Chang Yi is Chang Wei-Fu and he acts in a strong and stalwart manner as a young man (not a teen) fulfilling his obligation of honor revenge for his family's murder and his elder sister's kidnapping. It is a solid performance and is perfect in juxtaposition to the maniacal psychotic antics of the three ruffians played by Ku Feng, Tien Shun and Lam Kau with Lam Kau' character being the most stable of the three but whenever any one of them is on screen that there is a sense that anything could happen, bravo. 

However the best supporting actor of this film must go to Chin Ping, yes, that Chin Ping in an non-action role as the totally believable damsel in distress and the character that allows us to invest emotionally in the outcome of the film while keeping the stalwart determination of the hero intact. Perfect casting indeed.
HONORABLE MENTION: I don't know why there is any doubt but Sammo Hung Kam-Bo is clearly in this movie, wearing a head covering but still clearly him so I included a screen shot for proof. 

FIGHT TIME: Hey, welcome to my fight analysis for THE BELLS OF DEATH (1968). There is no one credited with the fight choreography in this movie. I counted five (5) fight scenes and they all come after the first third of the movie is over. The techniques are well done but are done in by the shaky cam that director Yueh Feng seems to be quite fond of, not that he over does it this time. I must just admit that I am not a fan of this technique. Fortunately the horror film aspect of the movie is its greatest attraction and the kung fu is but a wonderfully added plus.

Eerie, creepy, spooky, and scary are just some of the adjectives that come to mind when I think of many of the scenes from THE BELLS OF DEATH (1968). The overall theme of the entire movie of how randomly scary the world can be, even if you are just minding your own business is often used in today's movies aimed at the teen audience. I would put this movie up against any slasher or Halloween themed movie produced at any time and so yes I enthusiastically recommend this movie for all audiences and collectors of Shaw Brothers classics except maybe, when watching it, you might just leave the lights on.  See you next time.


Saturday, November 14, 2015



Producer Sir Run Run Shaw continues with his direction of using his stable of beautiful actresses to headline his movies choosing the lovely and capable Chin Ping to star in KILLER DARTS (1968). Killer Darts is written by Tun Yun-Chih [who also wrote Golden Swallow (1968)] and is directed by veteran Ho Meng-Hua. Let's check it out.

Master Liu Wen-Lung and his student: Hu Chi-Feng galloped furiously back toward their burning village. There Master Liu finds his wife mortally wounded but thankfully his servant has saved his son Liu Lu-Long from any harm. The bandit chief Chau Chiu had wiped out the entire village hoping to kill Master Liu for interfering with his evil activities but Master Liu had been away. Now Master Liu was determined to hunt down Chau Chiu and exact justice. Master Liu Wen-Lung and Hu Chi-Feng set out and before too long catch up with Chau Chiu and his small group of bandits, Hu Chi-Feng takes care of the other bandits while Master Liu and the bandit chief Chau Chiu fight a duel. It is not looking good for Master Liu when he suddenly uses the killer darts striking Chau Chiu on his sword arm. Chau Chiu severs his own wounded arm and escapes on his horse vowing to see Master Liu again. Returning to what remains of their village Master Liu and Hu Chi-Feng gather up a few belongings along with Master Liu's servant Ah Fu and his son Liu Lu-Long vowing to search the ends of the earth for bandit chief Chau Chiu to take revenge for his murdered wife.

They search for three years with there being no sign of the bandit chief. One day they stop at a well to use the water. Hu Chi-Feng is very much taken by a woman at the well who is minding her own business just washing her family's clothes. He decides to return to the well and rape the woman, killing her husband in the attempt. Her cries for help are answered by Master Liu who wounds his own student and orders him to commit suicide. Instead he uses a killer dart to murder the woman and makes his escape severing ties with his teacher. 

Meanwhile the couples' young daughter, Jin Yu-Sien, comes across her mother's slowing dying body. Her mom manages to tell her to keep the dart safely as a means to identify her killer and one day get revenge. Ah Fu befriends Jin Yu-Sien and persuades her to take his master as her kung fu teacher so she may avenge her parents. Neither Ah Fu nor Master Liu tell Yu-Sien all the details of her parents murder. Eventually Master Liu and his new family settle down in a village with kindness meeting kindness. More than ten years pass by and Master Liu is quite pleased with the progress his students have made with the Ching Hung Sword's 36 styles. He is ready to pass on to them its deadly secret and then, bandits come to the village...

Fang Mian plays Master Liu Wen-Lung of the Ching Hung Sword. I have noticed on some number of films he is cast as the older, genteel kung fu master of the gifted student that becomes the hero of the story. In KILLER DARTS (1968) however, all of the students are his. Most interesting of his students is Chang Pei-Shan's character Hu Chi-Feng whose perception of his teacher's morals certainly deserves further scrutiny but I know of no literary source for this story so I guess we will never know. I have also noticed that Chang Pei-Shan is often cast as the disgruntled student but he plays them quite well and is so believable he is easy not to like. The lovely Chin Ping gets top billing and is cast as Jin Yu-Sien: the character learning kung fu for revenge. She is careful not to play this character with too much confidence or maturity like her character in the Temple of The Red Lotus Trilogy. So I buy into her character's actions, even when they are not exactly correct.

HONORABLE MENTION: Yueh Hua is the obligatory male hero Liu Yu-Long, son of Master Liu, Ma Ying is the big baddie, Chou Chao"the Evil One". Shen Yi plays a competing love interest to add a little drama to the kung fu revenge story and Peng Peng once again plays a faithful servant. 

FIGHT TIME: Here we go once again in my favorite part of the movie review. I counted six (6) full fights scenes spread throughout the one hour and twenty-four minute movie and with the many interesting subplots, they left no room for boredom. There was no one credited for fight choreography for KILLER DARTS (1968), however someone quite deliberately was very generous with the amount of under-cranking used and it was calibrated quite carefully giving the techniques a smoother look that I imagine in 1968 must have been very impressive. Chin Ping held her own but Yueh Hua was the best fighter in the movie. I must say though, The 36 Styles of the Ching Hung School could have been a bit more prominent in the plot considering the finale, but that it wasn't did not ruin the movie. Very good job!

KILLER DARTS (1968) is a fine production worthy of the SHAW BROTHERS name and I wholeheartedly recommend it for casual viewers and collectors alike. 


Saturday, November 7, 2015



Sir Run Run Shaw produces our next movie: THE MAGNIFICENT SWORDSMAN (1968) directed by both Griffin Yueh Feng and Cheng Kang, with the script written by Ko Jui-Fen. I have read of Sir Run Run Shaw great admiration of Japanese movies and this seems to be his homage to them. A derivative product does not in and of itself make a bad movie but can they pull it off? Let's see.  

Jiang Dan Feng is a wanderer known as The Magnificent Swordsman. As he is traveling he is set upon by a pair of bandits whom he dispatches in very quick fashion. However, one of the bandits gives Jiang Dan Feng a dying request to bring his sword to his sister in the nearby Sha Village. A small village that is under siege by the group of bandits these two would-be killers belonged to. Arriving at the village he is held responsible for killing one of the villagers own because, as it turns out, the owner of the sword was just a consort of the bandits but not yet a "full member", if you will. At odds with both the villagers and the bandits he feels obligated to the young sister who is now alone in the world without her brother and decides he will protect her even at the cost of his own life. 

The casting of Huang Chung-Hsin as the lead hero was interesting as hell and I was not at all thinking in favor of it before I experienced the whole movie than after I saw it all the way through. The ebb and flow of the villagers attitude towards the stranger (mostly ebb) was totally in sync with the character portrayal of Huang Chung-Hsin and it helped me accept the movie as it was. Also great casting was Shu Pei-Pei in juxtaposition to Mr. Huang's character with so little sexual tension (read as none what-so-ever) between them that when the impropriety of their company was mentioned, it came off as ridiculous as we were supposed to think it was, which in turn held us at arm's length from the villagers who were not as upright in their thinking as they thought they were. The casting and acting in THE MAGNIFICENT SWORDSMAN (1968) was not its sore point, on the contrary it was quite good. 
HONORABLE MENTION: Tien Feng, Wei Pin-Ao and Cheng Miu   

FIGHT TIME: Well, with such a title as THE MAGNIFICENT SWORDSMAN (1968) the stakes for there being "magnificent" sword fights were pretty high, unfortunately, it was just not to be. I counted five (5) fight scenes including the finale. This is the bare minimum fight count but I assure you THE MAGNIFICENT SWORDSMAN (1968) is not a boring story. The red herring at the very beginning kept us in suspense long enough for the real plot to be set up. Also while there was no one credited for the fight choreography, when I could actually see the techniques they were not bad at all. In fact, a couple or few of the fight scenes were actually quite slick -- especially in the finale, so let me get to what I feel were the two basic fails of the fight scenes that could have been. 

Number one, the shaky or hand held cam scenes were a total fail. Maybe I am bias but I don't get it. I know it is a motion picture but the picture does not have to move. I am just not into a blurry images. Number two: the film editing of the fight scenes was way off. The swordsman would go into a stroke  our eyes would follow the sword but the camera would swing in a random direction and just end up somewhere other than where logic would have you anticipate the technique going, leaving you wondering what you just missed. There was also one other basic fail but it had nothing to do with the fight scenes so I will not put it here with he fight analysis.

 I mentioned at the beginning of this review that "a derivative product is not necessarily an automatic fail" and now I am going to add the "but". But there must be that *uhh* (imagine James Brown uttering it) that makes you feel good after watching it. Something, usually something different about it, that makes you say to a friend, "hey, you have to go see this movie!" Unfortunately, THE MAGNIFICENT SWORDSMAN (1968) doesn't have that *uhh* to help it stand out from the Japanese movies it is obviously paying homage to. The fault could lie in that it is not a remake of any one Japanese samurai movie but a homage to all of them and (in my opinion) needed an extreme expression so that it could also stand on its own and be appreciated. 

The violence was not violent enough, the good guys were not good enough and yes, the bad guys were not bad enough. If even any one of the three were extreme then that would have done it. Instead the whole place and all of its people just seemed to be down on their luck temporarily, and we have all been there. Oh, well and then, we move on. Even further unfortunately if you miss this movie, then any other Japanese classic samurai movie will do at least as well if not much better and so why watch this one? So, I am not going to recommend this movie except for extreme "completist" (collectors that must have every single item). Sorry, but it just be that way sometimes. Every single Shaw Brothers movie will not end up being a classic. Sad, but true. Let me wish you all a HAPPY NEW YEAR 2016 (year of the monkey) and for now, see you next time!