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.
The Legend Of Wisely
Cinematographer: Peter Pau Tak-hei
From left to right: Sam Hui Koon-kit, Blackie Ko Shou-liang, Joey Wang Tsu-hsien. Image courtesy Universe.
While obviously influenced by the Indiana Jones films, this large-scale epic is rousing entertainment that deserves to be better known in this hemisphere. Working in Nepal, science fiction writer / adventurer Wisely (or Wai Si-lei, the hero of several novels written by the prolific Ngai Hong) is enlisted by enigmatic billionaire Howard Hope to locate the former's childhood friend, David Ko. The diminutive David steals an oversized golden "Dragon Pearl" from a group of Buddhist monks, who regard it as a religious artifact. Wisely ends up helping to pull the heist, despite having journeyed to the distant temple only in the hopes of finding David. The pair escape by plane but it inexplicably loses power and Wisely must bail out. Thinking that David perished in the subsequent crash, Wisely wanders away from the wreckage but, later, is met by the leader of the monks.
From left to right: Ti Lung, Joey Wang, Sam Hui. Image courtesy Universe.
Although he is just a five-year-old boy, the monk possesses strong extra sensory abilities and Wisely agrees to help get back the pearl for him. Jetting back to HK, he finds David with gangster Pak Kei-wei, who seeks to harness the artifact's power. With the help of Pak's sister, Wisely convinces David to return the pearl and the trio escape from the triad's heavily guarded mansion. However, Pak is not about to give up that easily and neither is Hope, who also desperately wants the prize, but for a wholly different reason.
Sam Hui (foreground) and Teddy Robin Kwan (background). Image courtesy Universe.
A grand adventure, The Legend of Wisely packs a lot into its fairly short running time. In addition to the expected martial arts and motor vehicle chases, our heroes are pursued by armed brigands on camels, stumble into quicksand, discover underground chambers, and land in several other classic cliffhanger situations. The narrative takes an unexpected but pleasing turn in the final reel, successfully introducing science fiction elements into the mix. Lavish production design and beautiful location photography in The Himalayas, Kathmandu, and Egypt (courtesy of the great Peter Pau, who would later shoot SAVIOUR OF THE SOUL and THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR) make this one of the most visually stunning productions of its era. The dubbed version, released in the UK, runs eight minutes shorter.
Ti Lung. Image courtesy Universe.
Joey Wang. Image courtesy Universe.