THE SWORD AND THE LUTE - Third film in a Shaw Bros. trilogy
THE SWORD AND THE LUTE (1966) is the third film in the trilogy that began with TEMPLE OF THE RED LOTUS and continued with TWIN SWORDS, both 1965 and both also reviewed on this site. The story, about the adventures of a young married swordfighting couple, Lianzhu and Gui Wu, and the swordfighting members of their different clans, veers off in this entry into a running battle with the Flying Tiger Clan, a band of outlaws who steal the lethal Phoenix Lute from the two leads and who then try to steal the Gan Clan's Invincible Sword from its owner, Xiaoling, an adolescent girl. They also attempt to get hold of the Seven Stars Stone from the Qin Clan, which can heal the wounds caused by the Phoenix Lute's deadly needle missiles. The film basically consists of various parties fending off various attempts to steal one or more of the three objects or trying to get back one or more of the objects after they've been stolen. It all culminates in a big raid at the end on the Flying Tiger Fortress, where the robbers have gathered other martial arts experts to try and form an outlaw federation.
This is a beautiful-looking production from Hong Kong's Shaw Bros. studio, filled with great sets, costumes and music and ample location work. The cast is headed by four beautiful Shaw Bros. actresses decked out in a stunning array of attractive and colorful costumes. Chin Ping plays Lianzhu, the young swordfighting bride; Ivy Ling Po is the mysterious red-clad heroine, Scarlet Maid; Lily Ho is the daughter of the Flying Tiger bandit chief; and the adorable child star, Bobo Fung, all of 12 at the time, plays the adolescent Xiaoling or "Little Ling." The male leads are Jimmy Wang Yu, as Gui Wu, a year before his breakout success as THE ONE-ARMED SWORDSMAN (1967); Shaw Bros. star Yueh Hua (COME DRINK WITH ME); and Lo Lieh (KING BOXER, aka FIVE FINGERS OF DEATH) as the brother of the character he'd played in the first two films in the trilogy. Comic actor Pang Pang (Pigsy in the Shaw Bros. Monkey King films) plays Xiaoling's fighting servant. In addition, there are the usual Shaw Bros. supporting actors, some of whom (Ku Feng, Wu Ma, Ching Miao, Lee Yun Chung) appeared in the first two films, but in different parts.
This one doesn't have the intense drama that TEMPLE and TWIN SWORDS had, i.e. Jimmy doesn't get to cry here. It's mainly a series of chases and fights, chases and fights, with occasional stopovers at various inns. As in the other two films, the Scarlet Maid pops up when she's needed to set things right or turn the tide and, as played by Ivy Ling Po, she's quite an impressive heroine. Interestingly, young Bobo Fung (aka Petrina Fung Bobo) has the biggest part among the leading players. She's in most of the major scenes and participates as fully in the action as anyone else. There are long stretches where the two main characters, played by Jimmy Wang Yu and Chin Ping, disappear. So while it may not be the most intricate Shaw Bros. story we've seen, it's picturesque and moves well and offers a lineup of main characters, played by a veritable all-star mid-1960s Shaw Bros. cast, that are all so endearing and attractiveeven villainess Lily Ho--that you can't help but get wrapped up in it.
Now all three films in the trilogy are available from Celestial Pictures on Region 3 DVD in restored/remastered editions, so they can finally be seen in their proper order. If I had to single out one as the best, I'd still go with the second, TWIN SWORDS, the one I saw first.
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