The Himalayan

What a very nice surprise this 1976 kung-fu film turned out to be. Even though there is really not a huge amount of action – and Angela Mao is only in one lengthy fight – the production values are terrific and the story is complex enough to be involving. The film was directed by Huang Feng  - the man who discovered Angela and directed a few of her films - and the action choreography was from Sammo Hung – who also appears in a small role. And for historical purposes, let’s mention that one of the extras and stuntmen was Jackie Chan.

The prologue states that Golden Harvest had to travel to Nepal and Tibet to find the students from the Mi School who still had the knowledge of a certain style of fighting to perform in the film. Hmmm? I am not sure what that meant as nearly all the fighting is performed by well known actors from either HK or Taiwan, but certainly much of the film appears to have been shot in Nepal and there are some lovely scenes of the mountains and temples. In fact one fight takes place on the steps of an ancient temple which strikes me as a bit tacky – though admittedly visually interesting. It reminded me of another HK film I saw recently – Hero Dream – in which this huge fight occurs - with explosives mind you - in the ancient city of Ayutthaya in Thailand. What were people thinking?

Regrettably after the prologue, the sub titles vanish never to be seen again, but with the assistance of a plot summary from Bruce Long’s site -  and a review from the Bootmaster’s site it was reasonably easy to follow along. The son and daughter of the two wealthiest men in town are marrying one another. Angela is the happy bride in red – but her childhood friend and co-trainee in the martial arts, Tan Tao Liang, watches from a distance with sad eyes. It is clear that he is not of the right class to marry Angela.

Angela and Sammo
A splendid wedding festival takes place in which the two fathers watch their children with pride. The fathers are played by kung fu film regular Han Ying Chieh and Kwan Shan – the father of Rosamund Kwan. A melodious Indian/Nepalese song is performed, a horse-racing contest takes place in which Sammo participates - looking more like a pirate on the Seven Seas than anything, and there is a little martial arts contest between groom and bride! That is an intriguing custom – sort of getting them prepared for married life!
Han Ying Chieh and Kwan Shan (and a familiar face next to Chieh!)
The villain of the story – there always has to be one doesn’t there – is Chen Sing and he has other ideas for this happy day. He comes up with this complex plan to seize power and steal the wealth from the two fathers. He kills the groom and replaces him with a double and then after the marriage murders him and frames Angela for it. Her father Kwan Shan is forced to sentence her to death – the method - being tied to a raft sent down the rapids!
Chen Sing, Tan Tao and Angela
Needless to say she is rescued by Tan Tao and the two of them plot their revenge. First though they realize that neither has the kung-fu skills to defeat Chen and so they beg a Shaolin priest to teach them his skills that seem to comprise primarily of  . . . breath control. Yes that deadly weapon – breath control! So the two of them spend hours trudging up and down a hill carrying a load of rocks  - and blowing against a piece of paper. Finally Angela is able to blow a hole through the paper and blow out a row of candles  - and they feel that they are ready to take on Chen! It’s great for party tricks but I don’t really see how this prepared them for a fight to the death. Strangely enough though this blowing ability does come in handy in a very odd way during the final fight.
This last fight is terrific and extended and Sammo gets involved as a minion of Chen. Both Angela and Tan Tao show some stunning moves – Tan Tao is a terrific kicker (in which the Bootmaster goes into some detail in a profile of Tan Tao) and Angela performs a few flying kicks (one to poor Sammo) that are amazing.
Overall this is an excellent film though a lot more fighting from Angela would have been welcome. There were a number of other fights that I didn’t mention because Angela was not involved. And the final freeze frame of the film is a bit of a slap – almost a social indictment of the class structure.

My rating for this film: 7.5