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Issue #153 HOME E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com BACK ISSUES March 31st, 2003

Butterfly & Sword (Two versions)
(1993; Chang Hong Channel Film & Video Co.)

A Masterpiece
Highly Recommended
Very Good
Marginal Recommendation
Not Recommended
Definitely Not Recommended

Cantonese: San lau sing woo dip gim
Mandarin: Xin liu xing hu die jian
English: New Comet, Butterfly Sword

Alternate English Title: Comet, Butterfly & Sword

Out of all the entries in the period fantasy craze, this Taiwanese production from director Michael Mak Dong-kit (SEX AND ZEN) features the most amazing action scenes. It's a striking ballet of beautifully choreographed bloodshed (courtesy of the great Tony Ching Siu-tung) which belies its middling production values and familiar storyline. Adapted from a Ku Long novel of the same name (first filmed in 1976 by director Chor Yuen for Shaw Brothers as KILLER CLANS), this an intricate yarn about a group of childhood friends caught up, years later, in a tangle of betrayal and court machinations. Sister Ko (Michelle Yeoh Chu-kheng) and her followers in the Happy Forest clan do the bidding of the terminally ill Eunuch Tsao. His final mission for Ko is that she steal a valuable scroll and kill Master Suen (Elvis Tsui Kam-kong; image), the head of Elite Villa. After an initial attack, led by Yip Cheung (Donnie Yen Chi-tan; image), fails, Ko enlists the services of Sing (Tony Leung Chiu-wai; image). A proficient killer, Sing is also the object of her affections. However, he only has eyes for his wife-to-be, Butterfly (Joey Wang Tsu-hsien; image), who is unaware of his activities in the martial world. Sing manages to gain Suen's confidence and infiltrates Elite Villa, encountering his old friend Ho Ching (Yeh Chuan-chen), whom Ko also has working undercover, unbeknownst to Sing. Ching's cover is soon blown, leading to an angry confrontation between Sing and Ko, a final showdown with Elite Villa, and the unmasking of a traitor in the ranks.

Even by the standards of Chinese fantasy, the combat is incredibly fluid and wonderfully outrageous: opponents ricochet off walls, floors, and trees, swordsmen fly through the air using knives as make-shift helicopter blades, and bamboo stalks become weapons as deadly as swords. The wildest martial arts stance on display is undoubtedly "The Flying Arrow," which features Yeoh using her sash to propel the sword-wielding Leung right through his enemies! The principals are all fine but it is Yeoh who walks away with the film, handling both the action and the more earthbound components of the part with her customary skill and finesse. The inclusion of pop singer Jimmy Lin Chi-ying is an unfortunate commercial concession to the teen crowd but, thankfully, he only appears briefly. Chu Yen-ping (who is erroneously credited with directing BUTTERFLY & SWORD on the Mei Ah cover) later recycled footage, costumes and sets from this film in his period softcore bore SLAVE OF THE SWORD (also 1993). Tou Chung-hwa co-stars as Lui, who is Suen's lieutenant and a master swordsman in his own right. Trivia note: Michelle Yeoh is looped by other actresses in the Cantonese and Mandarin versions of the film but that is her singing the theme song heard under the end credits of each.

Cover art courtesy Mei Ah.

Cover art courtesy Ritek/Thunder Media.

Michelle Yeoh. Image courtesy Ritek/Thunder Media.

Butterfly & Sword

Mei Ah #DVD-334 (Hong Kong label)

Dolby Digital 5.1 & 2.1

Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks (both post-synced)

Optional Subtitles in English and Chinese (Traditional or Simplified)

9 Chapters Illustrated in the Menu With (Tiny) Stills

Letterboxed (1.70:1)

Coded for ALL Regions

NTSC Format

86:44 Minutes

Contains brutal violence

DVD menu courtesy Mei Ah.

Comet, Butterfly & Sword
Ritek/Thunder Media #DVD-012 (Taiwan label)

Dolby Digital 2.0

Dubbed Mandarin Language Track

Permanent English & Traditional Chinese Subtitles

9 Chapters Illustrated On the Menu Page With (Tiny) Stills

Letterboxed (approximately 1.45:1)

Coded for ALL Regions

NTSC Format

87:25 Minutes

Contains brutal violence

DVD menu courtesy Ritek/Thunder Media.

Great Britain: 18 [Passed With Cuts totalling 7 seconds]
Hong Kong: II
Singapore: PG


The HK distributor decided that the ending was too downbeat and awkwardly spliced this section (running about 40 seconds) out of all the prints shown there. This same truncated version later turned up on the Cinema City LD, Tai Seng's VHS & LD releases, and the English dubbed tape issued in America by Youngtze Video, among others. Only Taiwanese 35mm and video editions retain this bit which, for spoiler sake, will not be elaborated on here. While not very well staged, it does change the fates of two main characters, and the movie ends in a smoother and more satisfying fashion with the footage included. The Mei Ah transfer is soft, dark, and a bit smeary; the original mono track is preferable to the 5.1 re-mix. The Taiwanese DVD (apparently now out-of-print and identified as COMET, BUTTERFLY & SWORD only on the case) is derived from an old transfer created for the original tape and LD release. The image is much brighter (too much so at times) and sharper than the HK version, and has somewhat better digital compression. However, no video matte has been utilized, causing the aspect ratio to change on numerous occasions. Most of the movie plays out at a virtually fullscreen 1.45:1, causing the theatrical subtitles to be slightly cropped on occasion. Neither version has extras; the Ritek/Thunder Media disc also lacks a main menu page and the Mei Ah DVD has no time coding. Overall, the Taiwanese disc is the preferable option but a definitive version of this title has yet to surface.

(Mei Ah version) is available at Poker Industries.

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