Saturday, March 26, 2016



Our first film of seventies is THE TWELVE GOLD MEDALLIONS (1970), released January 7th, and produced by Sir Run Run Shaw. It is a historical-drama, pursuit / wuxia film based on a story by I Kuang and Chen Tien-I. This all-star cast film is also Chin Ping's farewell film being the last film she was featured in. Scripted and directed by Cheng Kang, the action directing credits are Simon Chui Yee-Ang ( as Hsu Erh Niu) and Sammo Hung Kam-Bo (as Chu Yuan Ling). Let's get busy!

At the root of this film's plot is the history of General Yue Fei : In short, during the Song Dynasty in 1126 A.D., North China was over run by the nomadic Juchen (Jin) and the Song Capital at Kaifeng was taken. General Yue Fei assumed command of the Song forces and after first retreating south he took the offensive and although being greatly outnumbered he forced the Jin to retreat thereby recovering some of the Song's lost territory.  

Unfortunately, one Minister Qin Hui formed a peace coalition and influenced the Song Emperor to negotiate peace with the Jin and call General Yue Fei back from his military campaign, halting his progress. Not knowing the precise location of General Yue Fei, Minister Qin Hui sent out the twelve gold medallions with the emperor's seal on it ordering the general to return. Defying the imperial edit was a capital offense. Knowing the loyalty of General Yue Fei some martial patriots attempted to keep the general from receiving the order in the first place. This was also a capital offense but as true patriots they risked their lives to do it.   

Master Miao Lung was one such patriot. A former apprentice of Grand Master Jin Yan Tang, Chief of the Hua Shan Clan. Master Miao had learned the Wavering Sword technique from Grand Master Jin. Master Miao gained the attention of Minister Qin Hui by defeating Grand Master Ma Shan Ting's top disciple: Lei Ting,  known as the Golden Whip and preventing Lei Ting from delivering his medallion to General Yue Fei. Grand Master Ma Shan Ting (who himself was known as the Golden Fan), summoned Grand Master Jin to his headquarters at Juxian Hall to answer for Master Miao Lung's actions. 

Grand Master Jin Yan Tang arrives at Juxian Hall and ridicules Grand Master Ma Shan Ting for not being worthy of the Emperor's gold plaque and the gold medallion assignment. Grand Master Ma challenges Grand Master Jin and is defeated and killed. However Minister Qin Hui was watching the entire proceedings and is impressed by Grand Master Jin's skill and confidence. Minister Qin immediately promotes Grand Master Jin to the new Chief of Juxian Hall and puts him in charge of delivering the gold medallions to General Yue Fei. 

But Master Miao Lung has also been watching, albeit as a spy on the rooftop. He is discovered by Grand Master Jin but not captured. Master Miao waits for his former teacher by the road that leads to Grand Master Jin's home to confront him. In addition, Grand Master Jin has two daughters whom he must inform of his newly assigned tasks but has little concern how they will react to it. And so begins this heart-wrenching tale of trust, loyalty and  filial piety.

THE TWELVE GOLD MEDALLIONS (1970) certainly has an all-star cast: 
the good: Yueh Hua as Master Miao Lung, the hero of the story, Chin Ping as Jin Suo, youngest daughter of Grand Master Jin Yan Tang in her last major performance and as can be expected she is at her very best!   We also have Lisa Chiao Chiao as Jin Huan, elder daughter of Grand Master Jin Yan Tang, and Ku Wen-Chung as Grand Master Green Bamboo Cane Meng Dabei,

the bad: Cheng Miu as Grand Master Jin Yan Tang is the movie's big bad guy, Huang Chung-Hsin as Master Golden Whip Lei Ting, Wang Hsieh as Grand Master Golden Fan Ma Shan Ting, and 
Ku Feng as Ah gui 

HONORABLE MENTION: Fan Mei-Sheng, Lee Kwan, Wang Chung, and James Tien all have small roles as villains.

FIGHT TIME: THE TWELVE GOLD MEDALLIONS (1970) has two fight choreographers and 13 fights (including 3 fights in the grand finale). Simon Chui Yee-Ang and the great Sammo Hung Kam-Bo are the fight choreographers of record ...but still... -- the way I am going to put it is this: either the film editor and or the director obscures the technical aspects of the battles until they are non existent. In this way; it is a disappointment. Put another way: there is plenty of action, plenty of swordplay but no martial arts in this movie. So the question becomes: is it fair of me to expect more in terms of martial arts display in a movie made in 1970? Unfortunately, the answer is yes.  

THE TWELVE GOLD MEDALLIONS (1970) is a very important film especially for those that would be students of this genre or of Hong Kong movies in general. History and pop culture have always played heavily in the plots of many of these movies and sometimes without the basic knowledge of the source material it can burden one's enjoyment of the project. I hope I can add some information and encourage others to view and ultimately enjoy these movies as much as I do. So, if you are serious about watching Shaw Brothers or Hong Kong films or if you are a Chin Ping fan then this is a must have; if not you can pass on it. See you next time!

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Saturday, March 19, 2016



HAVE SWORD, WILL TRAVEL (1969) is an eastern-western / wuxia extravaganza with an all-star cast of the next generation of knight errant stars in the Shaw Brothers stable of extraordinary talent. Produced by the elder brother Runme Shaw, script written by the prolific novelist I Kuang, the action directed by Tang Chia and Yuen Cheung-Yan and directed by the master himself Chang Cheh. Let's get busy!

Swordmaster In Ko-Fong and his security company escorts the government's newly minted silver from Yaman to the capitol every year about 200.000 taels. This year will be particularly dangerous as the government has heard rumors that the Flying Tigers Stockade have plans to rob the next shipment and has stressed Master In accordingly. What the government does not know is Master In has been quite ill and unable to use his kung fu for months. What Master In does know is no matter how ill he is, he has no choice but to escort the silver or be charged with treason. 

Knowing he is in dire straits, Master In has sent for Master Yun Chi-Nian, a swordswoman known throughout the Jiang Hu as a master of the sword and flying darts. The problem is his message to her arrived too late as she had already left for the Miao Territories and would be gone for months, much too late for the time the government allotted Master In to begin the transport.

Enter Yin Siang Master Yun's prize disciple and her niece Yun Piau Piau. They received Master In's message but only learn of his dilemma upon arriving at Invincible Village. Once there, Yin Siang decides that they must help Master In and should be able to escort the silver safely.  
Top  billed stars Li Ching and Ti Lung
Lo Yi is a wandering knight errant. A stranger we only know two things about. One thing is, he is down on his luck and out of work. The other thing is he is very skilled in the martial arts. He is hoping to be picked up by one of the many security escort companies in Loyang however, he carries no letter of recommendation from a former employer nor does he claim to be a disciple of a famous master. Yeah, he is going to have a problem.

From this scenario, master storyteller I Kuang lays out a memorable wuxia tale of heroic bloodshed.  

The good: Cheng Miu as Swordmaster In Ko-Fong (he absolutely nails the feeble, weakness of his dilemma when facing the Flying Tigers), Ti Lung as Yin Siang (comes off justifiably snobbish and entitled and he and David Chiang have great chemistry as rivals), Li Ching as Yun Piau Piau (she plays it reserved and kind and not at all haughty), David Chiang as Lo Yi (a young swordsman that seems angry at himself for being down on his luck). 
The bad: Ku Feng as Jiau Hong, Chief of the Flying Tigers (superbly powerful and menacing), Chen Sing as Pestilence, and introducing: Wang Chung as "Mute Buddy"

HONORABLE MENTION: plenty of eye candy here with many extras that will become famous in movies to come such as:  Cliff Lok, Wong Kwong Yue, and Cheng Hong Yip. 

FIGHT TIME: HAVE SWORD, WILL TRAVEL (1969) boasts Tang Chia and Yuen Cheung-Yan as action directors. When Chang Cheh directs it is usually the team of Tang Chia and Liu Chia-Liang but this time Yuen Cheung-Yan (brother of Yuen Woo-Ping) steps in and, I cannot front, does a bang up job on this movie. I wish I had some inside info on why this happened, but I don't so this is all I can write on this detail. I counted four (4) fights scenes but it is an over twenty minute action filled finale so I was fine with it.

HONORABLE MENTION: while no one individually stands out in this movie it can be considered the one where the action choreography steps out above everything that has gone on before it ushering in a higher quality of fights in the Shaw Brothers wuxia genre. At least it is so in my humble opinion. 

Like THE FASTEST SWORD (1968) one year earlier, HAVE SWORD, WILL TRAVEL (1969) shows the Shaw Brothers' love and willingness to adapt the United States western cinematic themes to their own unique wuxia themed movies to great benefit and I am very excited to see a whole new generation of American people discovering what we loved about these movies growing up thanks to Celestial Pictures through Netflix and Itunes and the like. I wholeheartedly recommend this movie to collectors and movie-goers of all ages! See you next time!

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Saturday, March 12, 2016



Our next movie in 1969 is also produced by Sir Run Run Shaw. Lo Wei directs and writes the script for the film adaptation of the I Kuang novel THE GOLDEN SWORD. This time Mr. Wei uses action directors Sammo Hung Kam-Bo and Simon Chui Yee-Ang. Let's get busy!  

To director Lo Wei's left is BRUCE TONG YIM CHAAN in his first appearance!

The Chief of Golden Sword Lodge, Eight Arm Dragon Bai Chun-Tun voluntarily rides away from his fortress with two masked horsemen in the middle of the night and goes missing, leaving his man at arms, Uncle Pang at the doorway apparently wondering what is going on. Bai Chun-Tun is also the chief over 36 clans in an Jiang Hu association and it searches for him for seven years before electing a new chief to replace him.  

However Bai Yu-Lung, the missing chief's son requests permission to look for his missing father for another three years because he has "a feeling" his father is still alive. His request is granted.

While out in the frontier looking for his father, Bai Yu-Lung meets Ngai Jin-Feng of the Beggar Clan. They form an instant liking of each other which becomes a bond. She becomes his companion as he searches for his father and after the three years are up they get married. 

The next morning after their wedding a mysterious box is discovered among the wedding gifts that turns out to contain The Dragon Hall Golden Sword last seen with the missing chief ten years ago. Then, two masked riders that look similar to the two riders that rode off with the missing chief show up again and using kung fu far superior than everyone present take by force Bai Yu-Lung.  

Suddenly, Uncle Pang tells everyone he knows what is going on and he directs them inside the fortress to explain to the existence of Dragon Hall Palace and the events of the past ten years. From here everything just gets, well, weird...


THE GOLDEN SWORD (1969) does not break down in the typical good guy bad guy manner. The only logical way to classify the cast without spoiling it for those whom have yet to see it is to divide the cast into the "first half" of the movie and the "second half" of the movie. 
So, in the first half, we have Lo Wei as Eight Arm Dragon Bai Chun-Tun but he spends the first half of the movie missing. Next we have Kao Yuen as Bai Yu-Lung who spends the first half of the movie looking for his father. Cheng Pei-Pei is Ngai Jin-Feng, Yu-Lung's better half and the movie's "red herring". Yeung Chi-Hing as Golden Dragon Hall's keeper Uncle Pang. 

In the first half of the movie we meet The Beggar Clan that raised Jin-Feng and The Three Cripples, of which two are Ku Feng and James Tien. Also Sammo Hung Kam-Bo does a cameo as well as Chin Yuet Sang's cameo as a martial elder that an interesting run after a horse.

Next, in the second half, we have Wang Lai as Lung Xing Zi, Kao Pao-Shu as Seventh Lady, Huang Chung-Hsin as Saintly Swordsman and Alice Au Yin-Ching as Chen Yu-Lan.

HONORABLE MENTION SECOND HALF: a great, big, huge, stone tablet. 

SAMMO HUNG far right cameo / stunt fighter
FIGHT TIME: THE GOLDEN SWORD (1969) had two action directors, namely Simon Chui Yee-Ang and Sammo Hung Kam-Bo. I counted eight (8) fight scenes in the entire movie and while some of them were quite short they were all quite good, especially the unarmed combat. These unarmed fights were above anything I have seen in all of the movies I have reviewed in the 1960's so far. I was very impressed!

HONORABLE MENTION: The unarmed fights in the second half of the movie far outshone the armed fights of the first half. 

As stated when we started the review, THE GOLDEN SWORD (1969) is an adaptation of a novel written by Ni Kuang (I Kuang's pen name) and as such inherits the difficulty of such adaptations. That said, this is hardly a straight forward tale and not being familiar with the original work has us at a disadvantage. The easy part is recommending this as a collectible work, unquestionably one should have this movie as part of any early Shaw Brothers collection. On the other hand I am compelled to recommend this movie for viewers because it is not a bad movie in and of itself but rather, I dare say, perhaps it is just told poorly under all of the above named circumstances. See you next time!

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Saturday, March 5, 2016



THE SWORDMATES (1969) is a short uncomplicated film that was probably intended as the second film of a double feature. Runme Shaw produced this movie that has two directors (Cheung Ying and Poon Fan) and two Script writers (Poon Fan and Chin Ko) but no action directors. Let's get busy.

There's not much work for me here as the producers have provided a plot summary for the audience on screen but, for the sake of convenience, I will reproduce it here.

"In the dawn of the 15th century during the reign of the Ming Emperor Zheng De, the ambitious King An Hua of Ning Xia province conspired with the neighboring Ai Xin Jue Luo Tribe to overthrow the reign of the Ming. The details of their scheme were hidden in a jade statue of the goddess of mercy: Guan Yin for information transmission. 

Governor Lin intercepted the statue en route and commissioned a dexterous swordmate named Yan-Niang to deliver it to the capitol. Panic stricken, the plotters use all their resources in a desperate attempt to recover the statue. It is against this background that our story is set. " 

The good : Chin Ping as Li Yan-Niang, for sure, the star of the show, with only one other cast member seeming to be having as much fun as she was. Chung Wah as Chao Ying-Chieh, Huang Chung-Hsin as Li Fei-Lung,
The bad : Wang Hsieh as Wang Tian-Piao, Yeung Chi-Hing as Iron Claws Wang Ying, eating up the screen, having a lot of fun this time around as, once again, the great big bad guy! Chiu Hung as Second Brother, Wang Kuang-Yu as Third Brother, Law Hon as Fat Jin-Gang

HONORABLE MENTION: James Tien Chuen and Sammo Hung Kam-Bo as stuntmen / extras

FIGHT TIME: THE SWORDMATES (1969) has no action director credited but is action-packed with eight (8) fight scenes by my count. The fights are surprisingly smooth and easy to follow so one of the directors may have martial arts experience. The quality of the fights are state of the art for 1969 which leaves no reason for them to not be enjoyed.

HONORABLE MENTION: Both Chin Ping and Yeung Chi-Hing performed their techniques with the appropriate enthusiasm for maximum enjoyment. Yeah.   

For what it is, THE SWORDMATES (1969) is fine entertainment for casual viewers of Shaw Brothers and wuxia movies and may be of interest for people collecting the complete works of Sammo Hung Kam-Bo as he is used at least two different times as two different extras in this film. See you next time!

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