Three North Shaolin teachers (Lu Feng, Chang Sheng, and Sun Chien) are called on by the Manchus to teach their soldiers and are urged to challenge the current South Shaolin teachers. They ... See full summary »
A couple unite - she is fluent in the crane style of kung fu, he in tiger style. They have a son, but the boy's father is killed by the evil eunuch Bai Mei. Disguised as a girl, his mom ... See full summary »
Golden Swallow (Pei-pei Cheng) is living peacefully with her "friend" ('Lo Lieh') by a waterfall. She has seemingly given up her death-dealing ways but soon she is accused of going on a ... See full summary »
Just as you need to understand Chang Cheh's bloodsoaked sensibilities to fully appreciate his films, or Lau Kar-leung's martial pacifism to understand his, Chor Yuen's films all sort of came from the same place, and it helps to try to absorb his style. Like the rest of his wuxias, The Magic Blade has this sort of dreamy, half-awake flow, and poetic musing is given as much weight as action or narrative. Plot is subservient to the moral, like in an old legend: "then the heroes went to the house of the jade-whatever, and it was revealed that... blah blah. Therefore, don't be greedy." It plays out like a proverb in motion, for better or worse. And it looks the part; whereas Shaws' reliance on fake stages was an obstacle for other directors, Yuen used them to reinforce the otherworldly, dreamlike atmosphere he always went for. Almost every frame is composed like a painting: a crescent moon hangs in the darkness illuminating the leaves. A tumbleweed blows under eerie red lanterns in a pitch-black ghost town. Hexagonal walkways gently adorn an indoor pond. It's really a beautiful film, bordering on tacky at times.
Don't think that the result is stifled by formality or slowness, because Yuen really went all-out with the craziness here--the body count is probably the highest I've seen in a Shaws film. People explode, get sliced in half, assassins fly out of walking trees (??), evil old cannibal lady called "Devil Grandma" cooks people alive, and the macguffin is a bunch of peacock feathers that explode into a cheap (but apparently fatal) light show when thrown. I'm probably forgetting a ton of stuff, but you get at least five kung-fu films' worth of weirdness if you're coming from more of a grindhouse perspective.
There is a certain drowsiness that hangs over the proceedings because the protagonists are portrayed as almost deity-like in their power, but at least a slight sense of danger is maintained by their adversaries' omniscience; they don't travel five feet without being followed by conspiratorial whispers or ominous signs of some kind. The early scene where they walk into a teahouse filled with perfectly still bodies is genuinely creepy. Anyway, I never really differentiated between boredom and pleasant drowsiness before I saw Yuen's movies, just like Burzum or Bruckner can make you sleepy without being "boring" music.
The best Shaw Bros film? Definitely in my top five, at gunpoint.
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