Is there anything more glorious in the cinema
than a beautifully designed wushu film? One full of lavish costumes and
sets, women that are deliriously lovely, flying that is as much poetry
as filmmaking and moments so stunning that you hold your breath in awe.
This is how I felt for the first thirty minutes of this film.
The first part of this film was nearly perfect
for me; the sort of thing that I just relish. Sumptuous images, flying
through roofs and across the sky, killing with a droplet of water, deadly
scarves that shoot across the screen, glances of passion and hatred, ravishing
close-ups, heads torn off and discarded and a wonderful sense of legendary
Unfortunately, the film does not keep up this
style or pace for much of the next hour, but instead devolves at times
into very low brow comedy that felt so out of synch with what took place
before it. The film just can’t make up its mind what it wants to be – so
it plays both sides of the fence. Finally though in the last segment it
once again recaptures the magic of the beginning. Some of the humor is
actually funny in a coarse way, but after my expectations had been set
so high, it was a bit of a letdown. Still overall, I thought that this
was one of the better kung-fu fantasy films that came out during that fertile
period of the early 90s. Not up to the standards certainly of Bride with
White Hair or Swordsman II, it does have some moments that equal their
It begins in the Villain Valley – an area of land
that has been proclaimed to be a sanctuary for all and it is forbidden
for the forces of the law to enter. Cheung Man – a powerful kung-fu master
from Eva’s Palace trespasses in order to capture the 10 Untouchable Villains.
Her husband Brother Lin intervenes telling her that this is not allowed
– and though he loves her – he will not permit her to do this. He has brought
their son with him – and before they duel he casually tosses him into the
crook of a tree. In the ensuing fight he becomes a vegetable – but Cheung
Man not realizing this leaves but swears that her student will return in
18 years to finish the job.
Eighteen years passes – and the boy has been raised
up by the gang – dominated by Ng Man-Tat (Big Mouth Lee) and Deannie Yip
– to be a kung-fu master in the shape of Andy Lau. Far away outside of
the valley a kung-fu contest is going to take place to decide who will
replace Cheung Man as the Master of the Martial Art World and Lau decides
On the way he is kidnapped by the Bandit Queen
who wants him to service her – but while in her capture Cheung Man’s student
More enters the hideout on a cloud of scarves and dispatches the Bandit
Queen with a drop of water flung at the speed of a bullet. He then suddenly
takes on a girlish smile and begins trying on the Bandit Queen’s clothes.
No – More is not a secret transvestite, but is in fact a woman disguised
as a man – and who else could possibly play this but Brigitte Lin. It doesn’t
even matter that More is suppose to be 18 years old and Brigitte was approaching
forty – she displays so much charisma and heart stopping close-ups that
she is ageless. Lau though has witnessed all this and tries to play it
to his advantage later on.
Love beckons between the two even though at the
tournament they are suppose to fight to the death. A conspiracy is in place
to capture the contest and Francis Ng is wonderful as the wormy little
sneak who betrays his way to the top of the Martial Art World. It is up
to Andy and Brigitte to stop him – but only total love and the Couple Sword
stance can defeat Ng’s Ice Palm. It is to the death.
If you are a lover of these type of films, I would
have to strongly recommend this one. It has it’s weaknesses – and drags
a bit in the middle but it has some scenes that I had to play over a few
times I was so taken with the images. It is perhaps style over substance
– but sometimes that is not a bad thing. And needless to add – both Brigitte
and Cheung Man are magnificent – almost hot and cold reflections of each
other. Anita Yuen is on hand as one of the judges of the contest - but
her role is very minor in this her second film.
I was surprised to notice that this was directed
by Eric Tsang – showing again what a renaissance man he is.
My rating for this film: 8.0
Distributor - Mei Ah
What a disappointment this transfer was - not
that its terrible, but it looks to be the same one as was used for the
LD. In fact a copy that someone made for me from a LD actually looks a
little sharper than this DVD. The above pictures were in fact taken from
my taped copy of a LD.
The menu consists of an option for Cantonese
or Mandarin - thats it folks!
No Trailer, no previews, both English and Chinese
subs are burned on
Mei Ah once again proves what a cheap outfit