THE MING PATRIOTS - Bruce Li in action-packed kung fu tale
REVENGE OF THE PATRIOTS (aka THE MING PATRIOTS, 1976) is a standard-issue historical kung fu tale of Ming patriots fighting off pursuing Qing troops in the period right after the collapse of the Ming Dynasty. While the storyline is basically one long chase, the film is distinguished by location filming in Taiwan, a strong cast led by Bruce Li and Judy Lee, and above-average fight choreography by the Lau Brothers.
A group of patriots takes on the job of guarding the Princess (Ching Chien), daughter of the late Emperor, who is carrying the Emperor's Last Will and a case of the royal jewels. The lead escort, Li Ti Lung (Bruce Li), and his partner are joined by Li's kung fu-fighting sister, played by Chia Ling (aka Judy Lee). The three try to take the Princess to safety, despite pursuing troops, an advance party of hired killers, and a devious married couple who are trying to get the jewels for themselves. At one point, the heroes come up with an ingenious plan to hide the jewels and the will. They buy a pig, kill it, open its carcass, stuff in the cargo, sew up the carcass and send it floating down the river, with the aim of intercepting it at their destination. (WARNING: the actors actually slaughter a live pig, open its carcass and then sew it up. This is not faked.) After many skirmishes along the river between the escorts and their pursuers, the Qing troops and their kung fu fighting general (Chang Yi) take on the heroes in a sprawling confrontation in which the Ming patriots are joined by some unexpected allies.
There is one clever and diverting character--a loud-mouthed, chubby, unkempt drunk (Chan Wai Lau) on a donkey, who intervenes at key points with a form of `stumbling' kung fu. He acts scared and clumsy yet his moves disrupt and hold off the pursuing Qings, in a manner not unlike the drunken kung fu perfected in such later movies as DRUNKEN MASTER (1978) and DANCE OF THE DRUNK MANTIS (1978).
Star Bruce Li had a brief spell of stardom in the 1970s thanks to his resemblance to the late Bruce Lee and his own considerable kung fu skills. Kung fu diva Judy Lee/Chia Ling, as Li's fighting sister, is as ferocious a fighter here as in any of her best films (QUEEN BOXER, EIGHT MASTERS). The formidable villains include longtime kung fu stalwarts Chang Yi (EAGLE'S CLAW) as the Qing general and Lung Fei (RETURN OF THE CHINESE BOXER) as the lead Qing killer. Effective fighting cameos are provided by Carter Wong, who appears at the beginning as a fighter who prevents the princess's capture, and Roy Chiao, who pops up as the Ming commander at one key point.
The film was directed by Au Yeung Chuen and the fight choreography is credited to the Lau Brothers, presumably Lau Kar Leung and his brother Lau Kar Wing, both prominent Hong Kong kung fu directors in their own right. The music score includes generous portions lifted from Ennio Morricone's score for the Italian western THE BIG GUNDOWN (1967). The print of this film available on tape and disc in the U.S. is extremely poor in quality, with distinct fluctuations in picture sharpness and sound and color levels. It appears to have been compiled from two different source prints with different aspect ratios.
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