Saturday, January 30, 2016



DRAGON SWAMP (1969) is Runme Shaw's production of a fascinating fantasy / wuxia tale from the fertile mind of director and script writer Lo Wei. Using the captivating canvass of the Shaw Brothers beauty Cheng Pei Pei, Lo Wei and make-up artist Fong Yuen add a wonderful dimension to what otherwise had been another "they stole my magic sword" wuxia tale. Let's take a look. 

The JADE DRAGON SWORD is a coveted treasured sword from the Shangzhou Dynasty. Unfortunately, after being used to murder an enlightened personage that was a reincarnation of the holy Buddha it became cursed. Whoever attempts to own the sword is possessed with a madness and their family is fated to be broken. The sword came to be trusted to the Taoist Lingshan Chunyang Monastery. 

Under the current abbot, Master Fan Chung Yun, the Jade Dragon Sword was stolen by Tang Dachuan the White-Faced General. Tang Dachuan seduced Master Fan's student Fan Ying, a 17-year-old impressionable young girl who betrayed everyone and everything she knew for the "love and kindness" of the sweet-talking devil. Three years and two children later (not to mention a certain Jade Dragon Sword) the two lovers hiding place is discovered by Master Fan. Tang Dachuan escapes with the older child and leaves behind Fan Ying and the younger child. Master Fan recovers the Jade Dragon Sword and punishes Fan Ying to a twenty year banishment in the Dragon Swamp but he takes the youngest child with him to raise in his monastery.  

20 years later, a grown up Qing Erh practices the 8 diagram steps at the Jingang Pagoda unaware that she is being observed but when it is discovered that the Jade Dragon Sword has once again been stolen Qing Erh suspects that she is the one responsible for the thief's ability to walk the correct steps to get the sword. She sneaks out of the monastery determined to reclaim the sword for her teacher and ask for his forgiveness. It is not the sword, however, but her face that sets up the incidents that become a fascinating adventure for the young girl and for us. 

DRAGON SWAMP (1969) has an all-star cast but Cheng Pei Pei owns this movie with a duel performance as Fan Ying and her daughter Qing Erh. I have no idea why this movie is not every bit the classic as Come Drink With Me (1966). She nails both roles very convincingly. Director and scriptwriter Lo Wei plays the big good Master Fan Chung Yu and Huang Chung-Hsin plays the big bad Tang Dachuan the white-faced general. Yueh Hua is Roaming Knight Xi Zheng Yuan and Lo Lieh is Head of Security Yu Chiang.
HONORABLE MENTION: Sammo Hung Kam-Bo rises from extra to bit part as "gambler at Chiang's party". 

FIGHT TIME: Sorry, but I found no one credited with the action direction for this film. Although both Lee Siu-Pang and Han Ying-Chieh, (both capable action directors at the time), are in this film neither one is credited anywhere as action directors for this movie. That said, I counted are six (6) full fight scenes and I have learned that that's plenty of action for this time period. The scenes are also pretty well done but I have notice the debut of the concentric circles clock-counter-clock stuntman-go-round that the extras do while waiting for their turn to die in fight scenes and I can't help but smile.

HONORABLE MENTION: As I mentioned before, Sammo Hung Kam-Bo rises from stuntman extra to bit part as "gambler at Chiang's party".  

As I said before,  I have no idea why this movie is not more well known. As famous as Cheng Pei Pei is, DRAGON SWAMP (1969) is a tour de force of Cheng Pei Pei's acting skills as we see her in her 20's 40's and looking like she is in her 60's.   Fong Yuen absolutely deserves another mention as the make-up artist and Lo Wei has indeed whipped up another fascinating story but it is Cheng Pei Pei's acting skills that sell her characters in all their different stages. Bravo to Cheng Pei Pei for giving the Shaw Brothers another classic film that is also epic. Yes, by all means, see it, buy it, borrow it but sorry, no stealing. 

When people summarily dismiss martial art movies from the 1960's, I understand. The level of personal skills that Bruce Lee brought to the movie world raised the bar for every single movie industry in existence. Yet, if you discard our history like that, what of movies like this? We are not better off for not having seen this movie. I am glad however to witness a movement to not only own these classics but to watch them as well. I am also humbled to be able to do my part by blogging these reviews. Good or bad, like or not, let's keep watching. See you next time. 

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Saturday, January 23, 2016



Our next movie for 1969 is an adaptation of the novel TWELVE DEADLY COINS written by Chang Meng-Huan. I have no access to this novel at all so there will be no comparison data. Runme Shaw is the producer, Hsu Tseng-Hung is the script writer and director. The action team of Tong Gai and Liu Chia-Liang are back after a spell to action direct this wuxia tale of brotherhood and chivalry also titled TWELVE DEADLY COINS (1969). Let's get busy! 

Yuan Cheng Lieh has practiced and planned for twenty years for his revenge. His "iron thorn technique" is finally ready to challenge the mighty Yu Jian Ping and his famous "Twelve Deadly Coins". The hurt and pain of rejection and the physical injury to his left eye will finally be avenged. But first, Yu Jian Ping must be made to suffer a humiliation that will have him begging for death. Yuan Cheng Lieh has sworn however, that he will not let Yu Jian Ping die so easily.

Qiao Mao was born poor and raised by his father until Master Yu Jian Ping of the highly respected Yu Security and Escort Bureau took him in and taught him martial arts and treated him almost like a son. In fact, Master Yu taught Qiao Mao so unselfishly that Qiao Mao's martial skills were second only to Master Yu's himself. Never the less, not only did Qiao Mao never forget his humble beginnings he also never dared think of himself as the equal of any of Master Yu's many pupils and certainly not the master's own son Yu Hua. He has allowed his humble birth to burden him like a stone he is obligated to carry on his shoulders until his death. 

Yu Jian Ping's Security Escort Bureau has been hired to escort the Jiang Ning County Soldier's Fund of 200,000 taels. Master Yu has assigned this to his son Yu Hua thinking this would be an excellent opportunity for his son to get some experience. Qiao Mao, however disagrees citing the exceedly large amount of funds involved. Both Master Yu and Yu Hua think that the bureau's reputation should be deterrent enough to make even this amount of money a milk run. But Qiao Mao does not agree and after failing to convince Master Yu to send him along he trails the escort wagons on his own and notices them being shadowed by some men dressed in black on horseback. 

Qiao Mao rides up to Yu Hua and warns him of the apparent dangers but Yu Hua is having none of it. Yu Hua agrues with Qiao Mao and refuses to alter his planned route. As you can imagine, things do not go well for the convoy and that is just the beginning... 

TWELVE DEADLY COINS (1969) stars Lo Lieh and Ching Li in one of those wuxia tales where the young hero is so embedded in honor and integrity that he is almost totally "bitchafied" and the young heroine is so stepped and surrounded by an evil and vile environment that she falls in love with this bit-- ah, I mean, hero at first sight. Lo Lieh plays Qiao Mao the perfect student of Master Yu Jian Ping played masterfully by the great Tien Feng. Ching Li meanwhile plays the ungrateful and treacherous student to the dastardly Master Yuan Cheng Lieh who is the villain of our piece also masterfully played by the great Fang Mian [These fine gentlemen would also play opposing masters in the cult classic FIVE FINGERS OF DEATH (1972)].

HONORABLE MENTION: Ho Ming-Chung plays Master Yu's son Yu Hua and acted in one more movie in 1970 and was never heard from again according to HKMDB (HONG KONG MOVIE DATABASE). Liu Chia-Liang plays Meng Gang, Chiu Hung plays Shen Ming Yi, Tong Gai plays Long Arm Bear, and the late Wu Ma plays Red Hair Bear.

FIGHT TIME: The action-directing team of Liu Chia-Liang and Tong Gai are back for TWELVE DEADLY COINS (1969) but there is not a lot to direct here. There are only two (2) full out fight scenes in the movie, the robbery of the convoy and the multi-fight finale. In spite of this they give their usual high standard of action although I couldn't help noticing that there was a lot of light skill on display in this movie. I must say I wish there was more fighting but that is my only complaint about the fighting. 

It took me three times around watching TWELVE DEADLY COINS (1969) before I recognized the themes from William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet embedded in the plot. This is always going to work in a love story if done properly so when I do my pros and cons columns, I get pros: Liu Chia-Liang action, wuxia storyline, end of movie twists, Ching Li, Ching Li and Ching Li. The cons: I wish there was more fighting, and the hero is too soft for my personal taste. So over-all I will give TWELVE DEADLY COINS (1969) a positive recommendation and encourage you all to watch it if you can but to buy it only if you collect. See you next time!

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Saturday, January 16, 2016



RETURN OF THE ONE-ARMED SWORDSMAN (1969) is a true sequel to ONE-ARMED SWORDSMAN (1967) in the sense that it is not at all concerned with the source material of the adaptation (Jin Yong's wuxia novel Return of the Condor Heroes) and does not attempt to continue the story of the source material but treats the ONE-ARMED SWORDSMAN as a independently produced film. 

In RETURN OF THE ONE-ARMED SWORDSMAN (1969) a mixed clan called the EIGHT SWORD KINGS over the course of nearly three years have set up a fortress and has now sent out invitations to all the clans of the Jiang Hu that use swords to a tournament to declare themselves (the Eight Sword Kings) worthy of the title "The King of Swords". Refusal of the invitation is not treated kindly and, as it turns out, accepting the invitation is no picnic either. As for the true motive of the Eight Sword Kings --as one of their own (Hua Nianzi "1000 Hands King") says "Why? There is no why. We are doing this for fun!" One of the elder sword clan leaders remembers how a single member of the Golden Sword Clan rid the Jiang Hu of the threat of The Long Armed Devil and believes very strongly thatonly that man can help them once again in their hour of need. 

Jimmy Wang Yu is back as Fang Kang - the One-armed Swordsman and this is the part he was born to play. His portrayal is impeccable and is thrilling to watch.Lisa Chiao Chiao also returns as the woman behind the man but with not much to do this time around. Tien Feng is also back but playing the lead villain this time around. Essie Lin Chia is truly noteworthy playing an "innoccent seductress" quite delightfully called "The Thousand Hand King". Liu Chia-Liang and Tong Gaaitake bigger acting bites again as major villains in this sequel of their earlier superb work. It's just that with so many more villains added, their parts are still understandable smaller than the last time out. 
Future Star Gazing: once again there is an all-star cast of extras and stuntmen as well as Ti Lung's very first appearance and cameos by David Chaing, and Wang Chung.

Chang Cheh directed and wrote the script solo on this fascinating look into the psyche of the Jiang Hu. On the one hand you have the very textbook of chivalry in terms of behavior from the sword clan members (with one exception) even in the face of a fascist dictatorship from the Eight Sword Kings. On the other hand you have the psychotic methodical mass murder of the subjects the Eight Sword Kings claim to want to rule but yet murder them outright whether they are in compliance or not. Much heralded as a director I really feel Mr. Cheh is equally a very talented writer as work such as this prove without a doubt.

It will come as no surprise to any one that I wholeheartedly recommend this movie to every fan and movie historian and kung fu collector even slightly interested in wuxia and the Jiang Hu. See you next time! 



Saturday, January 9, 2016



Our second movie for 1969 is KILLERS FIVE (1969) an ensemble cast "mission impossible movie" directed by Cheng Kang and co-scripted by Cheng Kang and Sung Hoi-Leng. Han Ying-Chieh is credited with being the action director and Runme Shaw is the producer that brings it all together. Let's get busy!

Cao Qinsheng, the daughter of Duke of Ping XiCao Guowei, who is just recently engaged to the Prince of Jin, makes a miscalculation and goes to town without her escorts to visit her nanny. This misstep gives the villainous Jin Tianlong the opportunity to kidnap Qinsheng and hold her for one hundred thousand taels of gold in his fortress on Mount Jinlong. The Duke is given a ten day deadline to pay the ransom --or else! 

The Duke of Ping Xi, Cao Guowei decides against using troops to storm Jin Tianlong's fortress in Mount Jinlong to rescue his daughter. He sends a letter to summon Yue Zhenbei, the son of an old friend to rendezvous at a discreet location and arrange a surgical strike to free his daughter hoping to avoid a possible war with the nation of Jin should the Prince of Jin find out his future wife has been so poorly protected as to have been kidnapped. 

Yue Zhangbei has accepted Duke Cao Guowei's request to rescue his daughter. Zhangbei's plan is to recruit the Water Rat: Li Xiaoqi, the Climbing Tiger: Niu and the Master Archer: Ma to go in, secret the lady out and get her back to the duke even if he has to sacrifice himself in the process. Along the way they meet the King of Burglary Liang Shangfei who is willing to help --for a price! Killers Five (1969) has some small twists and turns on its perilous journey making it a film well worth your time. 

Li Ching, Li Ching, Li Ching, Li Ching, I adore me some Li Ching. Ever since I saw her performance in RAPE OF THE SWORD (1967) whenever I see her do her super to-hip-for-the-room characterization I am so entertained! Her performance here in KILLER FIVE (1969) does not disappoint. Li Ching plays the Master Archer Ma Jin Ling [I got so excited I almost forgot to write this (lol)]. Tang Ching plays the "crew chief" Yue Zhengbei and does a movie standard performance. Ku Feng as The Water Rat and Cheng Miu as Climbing Tiger have a playful chemistry as "bro-friends" that is cool to watch. Wang Kuang-Yu is the villainous Liang Shengfei and Yeung Chi-Hing plays Duke Cao Guowei and his daughter is played by Carrie Ku Mei.

HONORABLE MENTION: Wang Kuang-Yu is the "Five" of the KILLERS FIVE, King of Burglary Liang Shangfei.

FIGHT TIME: The Hong Kong movie website Hong Kong Cinemagic credits Han Ying Chieh as the Action Director for KILLERS FIVE (1969). I counted three (3) full, expertly done fight scenes and enough action in this movie to keep you focused. The big finale is certainly very well done and is bloody enough for a typical Shaw Brothers wuxia movie. 

One of my pet peeves is the overuse of the word "classic". With or without a hashtag the word "classic" is often used as a comment with it being the only word present. While the word does not suit my personal taste because of its overuse, Killers Five (1969) being one of the earlier mission movies (if not the precursor for them) is certainly a classic and is a perfect lesson on how to do it well. I, 100% without reservation, recommend KILLERS FIVE (1969) for all viewers and collectors to enjoy --with or without popcorn! See you next time.

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Saturday, January 2, 2016



Runme Shaw produces a good straight forward wuxia yarn with TWIN BLADES OF DOOM (1969), our first film of 1969. There are no problems whatsoever with director Doe Ching's  work and as a matter of fact his direction is very much above par. However, there is a flaw in the script from writer Chiu Kang-Chien. Lets take a look.

Our story begins with Chang Qi Liang also known as the TWIN SWORDS OF DOOM and Hero Lu Chun Yee also known as the Jade Unicorn on a field amongst a mountain range for a duel. The are both reading letters presumably written by each of them for the other and afterwards gentlemanly and honorably begin the duel. Chang Qi Liang defeats Hero Lu with his unique weapon but is immediately overcome with grief over his win and retires from the Jiang Hu and refuses to kill for three years. 

SPOILER ALERT: Now, if you have read my previous 30 reviews you know I like to write spoiler-free reviews, if I can do such a thing for such old movies but in this case there are two things that are NEVER revealed in this movie and I would rather mention them, than not, so it does not diminish one's enjoyment of this movie. One is: what was in the letter the heroes wrote to each other and the other is why Chang Qi Liang is devastated over his killing of Hero Lu. The additional factor of not speaking Mandarin Chinese means that something more could have been revealed that was not translated in the subtitles but there's nothing we can do about that as the movie is rare enough as it is, only available in VCD, if you can find it at all. So with a movie released in 1969 we just have to live with the fault in the movie and carry on. It happens sometimes. Aside from these two things the movie is very straight forward and I liked it very much as you will see. 

It is three years later and Chang Qi Liang is struggling and living with his parents taking on odd jobs to help make ends meet. It just so happens that the house where he and his parents live is part of the territory of The Ghost Gang. The Ghost Gang is a huge underworld criminal organization engaged in all kinds of criminal activity. The leader is called the Ghost King, and his lieutenants are known as The Five Great Killers, namely: Red Killer, Yellow Killer, Green Killer, White Killer and Black Killer. The Ghost Gang employs scores of down and out citizens across China in their operations and supply weapons and masks to their henchmen.

Qi Liang's latest odd job is as a paladin carrier. Unfortunately for Qi Liang, the passenger happens to be  the provincial governor of Han Dan whom the Ghost Gang has decided to rob and assassinate this rainy night. Unfortunately for the Ghost Gang, when they decide to kill all possible witnesses Qi Liang goes on automatic kill mode and wipes out the entire kill crew. Unfortunately for Qi Liang (okay, last one, I promise) the Yellow Killer is the cleaner for this job and sees his kill crew accomplish the job but get wiped out and so he tracks Qi Liang to his parent's house and kills both of his parents. 

The Yellow Killer's next move is an elaborate ambush on Qi Liang while Qi Liang is looking for his parent's killers and the Ghost King. The battle between them leaves Qi Liang wounded as well as poisoned. His weakened body is found by a troupe of martial arts performers and the girl who finds his body, Lu Yin-er, takes an immediate interest in him. Yin-er and her father treat Qi Liang for the poisoned wound and when he recovers they give him a ride to Qi Dou Town (He is still looking for the leader of the Ghost Gang) while they go on to Lu He Village to perform. 

Qi Liang runs into three Ghost Gang henchmen at a Qi Dou Town Inn he stops to rest and learns (after "smacking them around") that the Ghost King is headed to Lu He Village! Qi Liang races to Lu He Village but is too late to catch the Ghost King ram sacking the whole village. Lu Yin-er and the sole survivors of the martial troupe (her sister and father) tell Qi Liang of the plan they learn of the Ghost Gang's robbery intentions at Qi Dou Town (!) They decide to go together to Qi Dou Town and put an end to the Ghost Gang terror for once and for all. (Woooo ! What a story!!)

TWIN BLADES OF DOOM (1969) stars Ling Yun as the troubled and vengeful son Chang Qi Liang, he is a handsome actor and goes on to do many a great wuxia movies for Shaw Brothers. Ching Li plays Lu Yin-er, with her cute self and is so girly and adorable you can barely resist her. Her real life father, Cheng Miu, plays her father in this movie, if you noticed the resemblance and she becomes a major beauty in the Shaw Brothers stable of beautiful women. Chen Hung-Lieh plays Ma Lok and Yau Ching plays the mayor of Qi Dou Town's wife and their parts are probably better appreciated if you can speak Mandarin.
HONORABLE MENTION: Lam Kau as the Ghost King, Chieh Yuen as Yellow Killer, Cheng Lui as White Killer and Lau Gong as Black Killer

FIGHT TIME: TWIN BLADES OF DOOM (1969) has no action director in spite having seven (7) full fight scenes by my count for an action packed movie with some pleasant subplots that might even cause you a laugh or two. Everyone performed well so we have no "HONORABLE MENTION" for this review. 

I would not at all be surprised if TWIN BLADES OF DOOM (1969) was somehow an adaptation of some form of Chinese literature. The story seems very involved and cut short in some places giving an overall feeling of being scaled down. In spite of this, the movie as a whole still thoroughly entertains, even without a fight choreographer and I absolutely recommend it for all viewers and collectors alike! See you next time. 

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