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Issue #197 HOME E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com BACK ISSUES February 2nd, 2004

Holy Flame of the Martial World
(1983; Shaw Brothers)

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

Cantonese: Mou lam sing foh ling
Mandarin: Wu lin sheng huo ling
English: Holy Flame of the Martial World

Shaw Brothers' answer to Golden Harvest's big budget epic, ZU: WARRIORS OF THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN, HOLY FLAME OF THE MARTIAL WORLD is a wildly colorful, action-packed fantasy that belies its comparatively modest origins and delivers as much excitement and spectacle as its model. A group of power-crazed martial arts masters (including Chan Shen, Elvis Tsui Kam-kong, and Lam Wai) seek to learn the whereabouts of the magical yin and yang Holy Flame from a young husband and wife, whom they subsequently murder when the information is not forthcoming. Before they can also dispose of the couple's twin babies, the powerful Yama Elder (beloved "Venom" Phillip Kwok Tsui) appears and subdues the killers with his hurricane-strength "Ghost Laugh." He then takes the male infant, promising that the child, Wan Tien-sau, will return to seek vengeance in 18 years. Deciding that they need a worthy opponent to protect them, the villains' female leader takes the girl child, Wan Dan-fung, with the intention of passing on her fighting skills. The story picks up 18 years later, with Tien-sau (Max Mok Siu-chung) now a skilled fighter on a mission to retrieve his family's Yang Sword from inside the danger-filled Moon Cavern. After braving several trials, he succeeds in securing the weapon and, with fellow swordsman Duan Yuan-sau (Lau Siu-kwan) at his side, proceeds to rescue maiden Juan-er (Mary Jane Reimer/Yung Jing-jing) from a cult about to sacrifice her. Tien-sau and Juan-er later encounter Dan-fung (now played by Yeung Ching-ching) during their travels but no one realizes the familial link between the two warriors. However, Dan-fung's evil mistress (Liu Hsueh-hua) possesses the Yin version of the Holy Flame, which she has kept hidden for the day that the male child will return. Giving the weapon to Dan-fung, she tells the girl that it was the Elder who slaughtered her parents, leading to an inevitable encounter between the two unwitting siblings and the uniting of the Yin and Yang Swords.

Director Lu Chun-ku (SECRET SERVICE OF THE IMPERIAL COURT) invests the proceedings with incredible energy and a rainbow of colors, helping to make this one of the most winning period fantasies to be found in the genre. There are spots where budgetary constraints are in evidence (for example, some of the cult's minions are clearly wearing Don Post-style monster masks) but the film is so congenial and eager to please, such faults are entirely forgivable. The wildly acrobatic, lightning-paced kung fu and swordplay (a clear precursor to the sort of no-holds-barred wirework found in 90s productions like BUTTERFLY & SWORD, DEADFUL MELODY [sic], and FIRE DRAGON) are executed with admirable skill and the narrative manages to incorporate a few surprises, while also adhering to genre requirements. Highlights include an acid-filled lake inhabited by flying animated demons, a wonderful sequence where Tien-sau must literally battle the Chinese characters that make up a riddle he needs to solve, an English-speaking ghoul ("Diamond! I like it! I like it!"), and a benevolent snake boy (Candy Wen Xue-er), whose pet serpent/weapon endows Juan-er with magical powers. Rounding out the cast are Jason Pai Piao (as Yuan-sau's master) and Donald Kong To (as the leader of "The Blood Sucking Clan").

Cover art courtesy Intercontinental.

Max Mok (left), Phillip Kwok, Mary Jane Reimer. Image courtesy Intercontinental.

Yeung Ching-ching. Image courtesy Intercontinental.

Donald Kong To (background). Image courtesy Intercontinental.
Intercontinental #101786 (Hong Kong label)

Dolby Digital 2.0

Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks (both post-synced)

Optional Subtitles in English, Traditional Chinese, Malaysian, and Indonesian

12 Chapters Illustrated in the Menu With Clips

Enhanced for 16:9 Displays

Letterboxed (2.35:1)

Coded for Region 3 Only

NTSC Format

85 Minutes (at 25 frames-per-second)

Contains moderate violence and cruelty to animals

DVD menu courtesy Intercontinental.

Ontario: AA
Singapore: PG


A 110% improvement over the horribly cropped/squeezed Ocean Shores LD, this digitally cleansed edition offers an image that is far more symmetrical and pleasing. The picture is slightly soft, but never distractingly so, and the colors are highly attractive. The audio is fine, though the Mandarin version features different musical cues in spots. In contrast to the old version, names are presented in Cantonese here and more of the Chinese characters appearing onscreen are translated than before. The standard Celestial extras (video promos, bios/filmographies, and photo galleries) are included.

HOLY FLAME OF THE MARTIAL WORLD is available at Poker Industries.

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