Scorching Sun, Fierce Winds, Wild Fire

When you come to watch this one, bring a scorecard with you. I think there are more characters in this film than in Tolstoy’s War and Peace and it’s nearly as confusing keeping them straight. Of course the dialogue doesn’t quite measure up to Tolstoy.  At one point Angela Mao comes across one of her men on the road wounded with a knife sticking out of his shoulder. Her response “go and rest” and jumps on her horse and rides off with the poor fellow lying there with the knife still well inserted. Another time, she comes against a recalcitrant enemy and cursorily says “Enough talk. Kill him”. That’s getting right to the point. My favorite line though has to be after one guy has had his face melted off in agony by poison and someone says “that poison was rough”. I guess understatement was an art form back then !
Ow, that could be rough !
There is a lot going on is this film. Rebels, robbers, soldiers, warlords, convicts, tinkers, tailors all mix it up here in a don’t close your eyes or you’ll get completely lost film. There is also this mysterious Zorro like female called Violet who disguises herself with a hat and mask. But there is something familiar about those eyes. She leads a gang that robs from the warlord and gives to . . . –  actually I am not sure about that small point. There is also some map of a buried treasure that everyone is looking for.

Angela is the daughter of the warlord, but she never seems to be around when Violet is. Could it be ? There is a lot of action in this film and the occasional torture scene to liven things up. Angela though is only one in a cast of thousands and doesn’t really get into a good fight until the end. It’s not a bad fight, but it would have been nice to see her in a lot more of the action scenes.

So all in all a decent film though it certainly isn’t nearly as good as the title of the film. There just is not enough of Angela. And though we got the scorching sun, where were the fierce winds and wild fire ?

Reviewed by Yves Gendron

Warlord Tung (Chui Fook Sang) has his illegal operations disturbed by a bandit queen named Violet (?!), and her gang. Little does he know however that his nemesis is none other than his own beloved do-gooder ass-kicking daughter (Angela Mao). Another source of potential problems is a mysterious martial art ace (Tien Peng) who stays in the area and who has trashed Tung’s men in a brawl at the local inn.  Then there are also two escaped convicts  (Dorian Tan Tao-Liang, Lo Lieh) who also excel in kung fu and have come into town. Finally, last but not least is Wu, (Cheng Yi), Tung’s dangerous and ruthless deputy who is having an affair with Tung’s woman and is also looking for his boss’s hidden treasure map - and he’s not the only one searching for it. Thus is set a dangerous game where nearly everyone has a hidden agenda or a secret identity and seeks to double-cross the other. Ultimately though, there can be only one winner and dreadful consequences for the ones who lose.

While the “vengeance is mine” kind of plot is the more common of martial flicks plot, intrigue capers such as the one found in SCORCHING SUN…are also a recurring sight in martial art cinema fare, derived from a long established tradition found in martial art pulp fiction and Chinese Opera. This one is pretty entertaining as besides the being plenty of mystery, suspense, and plot twists, there is also terrific action and a stellar cast of martial art players such as feisty heroine Angela Mao, kicking ace Dorian Tan and ugly as sin regular baddie Lo Lieh all of whom not only get to kick plenty of asses but also play colourful and fun characters.

Plenty of fun can also be derived from the film’s silliness too. The film indeed boasts some comedic relief bits, such as with the Lo Lieh/Dorian Tan humorous pairing or with a couple of henchmen, but there’s also a fair amount of goofs such as the shameless use of the Star Wars music as the film score or the impromptu apparition of a 1972 Cadillac (the date is marked on the licence plate) in a tale supposedly set in early twenty century China.  Most of the goofs however are the result of too abrupt or silly to be believed plot twists. Like most movies of its kind, the SCORCHING SUN script was probably written as the movie was being made depending on the sets or the stars immediate availability. This usually gives way to a very messy movie. Fortunately here instead of undermining it, the goofs only add to the film’s quirkiness instead

Besides Angela, Dorian and Lo Lieh, SCORCHING SUN’s cast is also made-up of other lesser-known but still notorious martial art players. The head villain is play by Cheng Yi who started out as a stoic swordplay hero in the late sixties but switched to playing villains around the mid-seventies. He had been paired previously with Angela in their co-lead vehicle LADY WHIRLWIND back in 1972, which was meant to make kung fu stars out of those who had done only swordplays until then. Tien Peng’s path was the reverse of the one of Chang Yi as he started out playing a villain in the King Hu classic TOUCH OF ZEN but became a martial art heroic star later on in such films as the 18 BRONZEMAN.  It seemed he was a popular pop singer off-screen back in the seventies, the Andy Lau of his time perhaps. He never strayed outside of Taiwan to Hong Kong though, and appears to be quite forgotten nowadays - at least by martial art cinema. One of the two main members of Violet’s gang is played by the fierce looking Lung Fong who was a martial art regular who would later become the patented head villain of the late eighties/early nineties gambling movies starting out with the seminal GOD OF GAMBLERS (89).

The film English title SCORCHING SUN, FIERCE WIND, WILD FIRE is something of a bit of a mystery. It’s probably the actual translated Chinese title, the colourful designate serving as name attributes for each of the main characters; but which ones, and which attributes goes to who? Angela and Tien Peng are certainly two of them but who is the third. Is it villain Cheng Yi. Only someone familiar with the Chinese language and symbolism might know.

Summing it up, overall SCORCHING SUN is a quite entertaining quirky romp full of intrigue, goofs and kung fu which when done by Angela Mao is always a strong plus. If at a technical/script polish level the film rates at 6.5, it’s entertainment value is 7.