THE JADE BOW (1966) is an early Hong Kong swordplay drama produced by Great Wall Productions at a time when rival studio Shaw Bros. was specializing in this type of film. This one has a different look and feel, not quite as overwrought or stylized as the Shaw Bros. films (TWIN SWORDS, MAGNIFICENT TRIO, etc.), but with a stronger hand guiding the drama. The swordplay here is closer in style to Hollywood swashbucklers (CAPTAIN BLOOD et al) than to the martial arts swordplay of Jimmy Wang Yu at Shaw Bros., although this film does have some examples of high leaping and `wu xia'-style flying.
The plot of JADE BOW is pretty intricate. Rival martial arts families clash over a pair of rare manuals, one for healing and one for Buddha Palm Power. Two baby girls survive the opening battle and each is raised by a rival martial artist to oppose the other. One of the two girls, Li Shen-An, is raised by the rival of her father Meng. As grown women, both girls fall for a martial arts student named King (Fu Qi), who winds up marrying Li Shen-An. A final battle between the two aged patriarchs leads to a tragic ending for some but true happiness for others.
The beautiful lead actress is Chan Si Si, who plays Li Shen-An. She's petulant, headstrong, and impulsive, foreshadowing the character of Jen in CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON (played by Zhang Ziyi, who is the same petite physical type as Chan Si Si). The film was co-directed by Zhang Xinyan and the lead actor, Fu Qi, and is shot in high style with gorgeous sets and costumes, rich color and outdoors location work. It's got an original music score that's not as lyrical as most Chinese music scores of the period. Instead, it's more bombastic like that of a western. This was one of the `wu xia' (stylized swordplay) films, which, along with TWIN SWORDS, COME DRINK WITH ME and many others, constitute the genre of films that influenced Ang Lee, director of CROUCHING TIGER.
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