Hong Kong Digital
is a recurring series of movie reviews by John Charles -- associate
editor / film reviewer for Video Watchdog magazine and the author
of The Hong Kong Filmography.
Seeking to restore the Ching Dynasty to power, General Na Lan Tien Hsiung (Chen Sing) conspires with the prosperous Lord Lo to ferment revolution. Commissioner Yao Shan-tien (Carter Wong Kar-ta) is dispatched to worn Lo not to follow through with his plans, under pain of death, prompting the Lord to flee. En route to his destination, Lo is kidnapped by Na Lan's men. In actuality, the General has no interest in helping the Chings and simply wants Lo's emblem of authority, which will allow him to start his own regime. Yao and associate Fu Fung (Casanova Wong / Ca Sa-fa) are attacked by assassins but manage to escape unscathed, and the former is able to convince Lo's daughter, Princess Wan Ying (Lung Chun-erh, billed here as Doris Chen), that Na Lan is not to be trusted. Although the enemy troops are easily overcome, Yao and the princess must master a specialized form of attack in order to defeat Na Lan's invincible Golden Bell technique.
Lung Chun-ehr. Image courtesy Crash Cinema.
Considering that it was produced by Joseph Lai and Tomas Tang, Asia's unrivalled kings of schlock, this Taiwanese period effort is not bad at all, offering solid production values, some enjoyably exotic stances, and pleasing training sequences that concentrate on pressure point attack methods. There is some obvious editorial cheating early on and a sequence where Fu is attacked by Wan's guards (disguised as peasant women carrying vegetables) is lifted right out of the Japanese LONE WOLF AND CUB series. However, director Chen Shao-peng presents the action with panache, particularly an exciting battle in the hold of a ship (wherein Wong battles Lung and the aforementioned escorts), and the location for the final confrontation is a bit more visually interesting than the "fight in an open field in the middle of nowhere" finale found in far too many old school films. The stock score includes a cue that will be instantly familiar to fans of THE HILARIOUS HOUSE OF FRIGHTENSTEIN.