Issue #234a         HOME          E-mail:        BACK ISSUES           October 18th, 2004

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Dragon Swamp
(1969; Shaw Brothers)

Cantonese: Duk lung tam
Mandarin: Du long tan
English: Poisonous Dragon Swamp


RATING: 8/10


This pleasing wuxia pien features Cheng Pei-pei in a dual role as swordswoman Fan Ying (who is exiled to the titular domain for 20 years as punishment for stealing the invincible Jade Dagger Sword) and her daughter, Qing-erh. Raised to adulthood by Taoist priest Fan (Lo Wei, who also wrote and directed), the young and mischievous Qing-erh is sent out into the world for the first time after a masked thief breaks into Lingshan Chungyang Temple and absconds with the precious weapon. Qing-erh determines that the culprit is the feared fighter Yu Jiang (Lo Lieh), who has many men under his command. When she tries to best him in a duel, Yu reaches for the powerful sword and quickly gains the upper hand. Injured, Qing-ehr escapes with the help of wandering swordsman Xi Zhengyuan (Yueh Hua) and the pair decide travel to Dragon Swamp, in the hopes that the Swamp Master (Kang Hua) will assist the girl with her quest. The Master grants his approval, but possesses a great secret that is divulged only to Qing-erh. Their subsequent confrontation with Yu has unexpected consequences, necessitating that The Master travel to see Yu's chief, Song Yue (Huang Chung-hsin). Qing-ehr also faces an impediment during her journey, but a fortuitous encounter with Xi (who did not accompany them, instead continuing his search for a lost love) leads to the discovery of a plot that will change the balance of power in the jiang hu.

Cheng Pei-pei Lo Wei Kang Hua

A wonderful vehicle for Cheng Pei-pei, DRAGON SWAMP gives its radiant star numerous occasions to display her dramatic talents, as well as her martial abilities. A common issue with performers undertaking dual roles is that they do not always fully delineate the two (or more) characters effectively. That is not the case here, as Cheng's immature and carefree young girl and lovely, but weary and burdened mother are two very distinct and disparate entities. The story incorporates familiar elements like betrayal and deception, and the actress handles the requisite high emotional bits with aplomb. She also displays fine comic timing at several points, and Lo Wei and cinematographer Wu Cho-hua take care to celebrate her beauty in many set-ups. While the choreography may seem a bit slow and the wirework quite awkward compared to what would be commonly featured in later Shaw Brothers productions, the action is often staged with admirable wit. Lo was wise enough to incorporate a sequence where Qing-erh staves off some brigands (including Han Ying-chieh, Simon Yuen Siu-tin, and Fan Mui-sang) in a marvelously humorous confrontation that mirrors Cheng's unforgettable Inn duel from COME DRINK WITH ME. The special FX are rather uneven, particularly early on. The magical sword (which glows green and is presumably the same weapon featured in CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, where it was referred to as The Green Destiny) is augmented with nothing more than a filtered light, the Swamp's "giant" dragons obviously came courtesy of the local pet shop, and the rear screen shots are embarrassingly bad. By contrast, the split screen twin sequences and a climactic dissolve effect are extremely well-done, and every bit on par with Hollywood pictures from this time. A fright-wigged Ku Feng has a supporting role as a powerful master in the final third of the story.

Lo Lieh Yueh Hua Cheng Pei-pei x 2


No complaints about this transfer: the image is consistently sharp, colorful, and highly attractive, doing full justice to the stylized settings and visuals. The re-mix adds the expected foley FX but is acceptable. The regular Celestial extras are on hand.

This DVD is available at:

Images in this review courtesy of Intercontinental Video Ltd. To read captions, hover mouse over image.

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Copyright © John Charles 2000 - 2004. All Rights Reserved.

DVD Specifications

  • Hong Kong Release
  • NTSC - Region 3 Only
  • Intercontinental Video Ltd. #102899
  • Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Post-synced Mandarin Language
  • Subtitles (Optional): English, Traditional Chinese
  • 12 Chapters
  • 16:9 Enhanced (2.35:1)
  • 105 Minutes (at 25 frames-per-second)

Ratings & Consumer Information

  • Australia: PG
  • Great Britain: A
  • Ontario: PG
  • Contains mild violence and horror


  • 10 A Masterpiece
  • 9 Excellent
  • 8 Highly Recommended
  • 7 Very Good
  • 6 Recommended
  • 5 Marginal Recommendation
  • 4 Not Recommended
  • 3 Poor
  • 2 Definitely Not Recommended
  • 1 Dreadful