Colorful martial arts saga - if you get the original HK version
Colorful martial arts saga; director Lo Wei's last film for Shaw Bros. It begins as a standard revenge story complicated by elements of regret and forgiveness, and turns into a quest fantasy as a crippled kung-fu mistress out to get her parents murderers, only to be offered to have her injured legs cured by one of them in a healing fountain in a distant snow field. Various political disputes between the factions involved in the original murder which have to do with a rare jade sword owned by her family, and now used by the crippled girl complicate the quest. I wasn't impressed by the acting and much of the dialog seemed very unrealistic; as the film opens it features a standard plot element in early martial arts films, about a heroine disguised as a man simply by wearing men's clothing and nobody can seem to recognize that it's a girl despite obvious facial features and other feminine attributes, which always tends to destroy a story's internal logic for me. Much of the characters' behavior in the first half of the film also tended to stretch believability, but the film came around once the quest got going and the final confrontation is a wonderful, epic showdown atop the snowy mountain. As with most Shaw Bros films, the sets are gorgeous, large fight scenes beautifully staged (often from a static long shot, displaying excellent choreography as multiple fighters interact, although at the same time the long shots keep the viewer mostly at a distance), and the use of color is amazing. Released by Celestial in a beautifully restored uncut print in subtitled Mandarin (which spares us the horrible dubbing of the 1971 US release; and by the way, none of the elements complained of by the previous reviewer about a snaggle-toothed woman teaching a girl kung-fu so she can get vengeance on her father are extent in this version, and likely were enhancements made to the dubbed American print), this is a very enjoyable martial arts film that, despite some initial drawbacks, develops into an effective multi-layered story with a moving resolution.
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