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Historical dramatization of an important day in the life a South China sea pirate.
Another historical kung fu drama from Chang Cheh, however this time he is "Jointly Directors" with the incredibly prolific Wu Ma (still directing with over 180 movies) and the more obscure Hsueh Li Pao. Based on the actual 18th century pirate, Chang Pao Tsai, this movie purports to illustrate what must have been a highly eventful day in his life.
The movie opens with a successful raid on an English vessel where Chang (Ti Lung) sacrifices one pirate ship in order to surprise the English who are watching the Chinese ship burn (after a cannon fight) by having his entire crew swim under the warship and grapple onto the boat from the opposite side thereby surprising the English. After his real pirate ship comes up, Cheng brings the booty to the hold where his crewmen discover a massive leak! Forced to bring the ship into an isolated cove, Chang goes to a local town to find repair materials. There he discovers that the town is rules by a criminal boss who is in cahoots with the local magistrate. The boss is terribly abusing the local poor which angers Chang and he vows to help the people with some of his accumulated loot. Disguising himself as the representative of an important prince, Chang ingratiates himself with the boss. Meanwhile the magistrates have captured Hua, a dangerous ruffian who was once the leader of Chang's pirate ship. The boss' sister wants to sell Hua to the Dutch East India company so she bribes to magistrates to give her Hua. He escapes, finds Chang's ship and intimidates the crew into sailing away despite the fact the ship isn't seaworthy. In the middle of this, General Hu (David Chiang) arrives looking to capture Chang and therefore get promoted back at the capitol. Stranded by the theft of his ship Chang vows to fulfill his promise to the poor by stealing the crime boss' loot even though he knows the odds are now against him. And so it goes.
While entertaining some of the film is hokey. The opens starts up well with some nice ships but it falls apart when the cannon battle starts. The ships are very close to each yet can't hit each other. The English sailors are clearly Chinese guys trying to hide their faces. And when Chang and his men abandon the burning pirate ship, they somehow swim directly under the English vessel, in clear water, without any English seaman noticing. Once that is over and we get to the plot the movie shapes up. Zoom intensive at times it's hard to see where one director starts and the other leaves off. The frequent fight scenes (from Tang Chia and Liu Chia Liang) are 1/3 Bruce Lee inspired, 1/3 clumsy/stagy and 1/3 traditional but very real kung fu techniques. The boss sister is one of the meanest of the bunch and the actress playing her is very good but the way she dies is just ridiculous. The climactic fight between Ti Lung and David Chiang is filled with real kung fu grappling techniques (probably courtesy of fight choreographer Liu Chia Liang) if that interests you.
While not a classic, it move along at a good pace and is entertaining despite the flaws.
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