KILLER DARTS Enjoyable swordplay adventure from Shaw Bros.
KILLER DARTS (1968) is a colorful, incident-packed martial arts film from Shaw Bros. with a second-tier cast of skilled players. It has the same director and stars as VENGEANCE IS A GOLDEN BLADE (1969) and is similar in a lot of ways, especially in its father-daughter dynamic and the casting of Chin Ping and Yueh Hua as the young leads slated for romance. (And it's about as good as the later film, which I've also reviewed on IMDb.) It mixes large studio sets with picturesque Taiwan locations to tell a story of murder, revenge, and deception among a group of martial arts students and their teacher in Old China.
The film starts off with a bang as a bandit chief leads an attack on a famous kung fu master's village, killing the master's wife and servants and burning the place to the ground. The next half-hour is devoted to building the plot and establishing the characters and their relationships before introducing the next big fight scene as father and son battle a new wave of bandits. From then on, the sword-fighting and dart-throwing are fast and furious until a wave of climactic confrontations in the last few minutes.
After the opening massacre, Liou Wen Lung (Fang Mien), the kung fu teacher, sets off on a journey with his son, Yu Long; his sole surviving servant, the rotund Ah Fu (Peng Peng); and chief student, Hu Chi Feng (Chang Pei Shan). When they stay at a farmhouse for a night, the chief student tries to rape the farmer's wife and winds up killing her and her husband. After expelling his student, Liou Wen Lung adopts Yu Sien, the now-orphaned daughter of the farm couple, and raises her as his own child, alongside his son. As they mature, Yu Sien (Chin Ping) and Yu Long (Yueh Hua) grow close, but complications arise when the daughter (Shen Yi) of Master Lin, an estate owner who is Liou Wen Lung's benefactor, sets her sights on Yu Long as a potential husband, much to the dismay of Yu Sien.
Yu Sien keeps the dart that killed her mother and, after years of training under Master Liou in the "36 sword styles" and inner power, she learns that the dart is, in fact, her teacher's special weapon. Chi Feng, the real culprit, who's now in league with the bandits who'd attacked Master Liou's village at the beginning of the film, meets Yu Sien, figures out who she is, and feeds her lies to convince her that her teacher was responsible for her mother's death. It all leads to an action-packed climax at the bandits' fortress, a massive structure outfitted with all kinds of improbable mechanical traps operated by giant gears and contraptions.
No action director is credited, but the fight scenes bear the wildly imaginative trademark flourishes of Simon Hsu, a notable fight choreographer on such Shaw swordplay films of the era as HEADS FOR SALE, BROTHERS FIVE, DUEL FOR GOLD, BLACK TAVERN, A TASTE OF COLD STEEL, and THE FLYING GUILLOTINE.
In addition to the cast members already mentioned, Ku Feng, Han Ying Chieh and Dean Shek show up as fighters recruited by the bandits, although Ku Feng and Han Ying Chieh have such small parts, they're virtual cameos.
This is really Chin Ping's movie and she certainly runs with it, looking beautiful throughout, adorned in the latest in swordswoman fashions, and fighting with as much vigor as she can muster, while being heavily doubled in the more acrobatic maneuvers. She was the female lead in the "Red Lotus" trilogy: TEMPLE OF THE RED LOTUS (1965), TWIN SWORDS (1965), and THE SWORD AND THE LUTE (1966), all also reviewed on this site, as well as TRAIL OF THE BROKEN BLADE (1967), VENGEANCE IS A GOLDEN BLADE (1969), and THE TWELVE GOLD MEDALLIONS (1970). She retired from the screen after THE PRICE OF LOVE (1970). IMDb's bio page for Chin Ping lists her year of birth as 1925. That's off by about 20 years. She's barely in her 20s in KILLER DARTS.
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