BRAVE ARCHER 3 less action, long side story with Ti Lung
Continuing the Shaw Bros. epic filming of Louis Cha's "Legend of the Condor Heroes," BRAVE ARCHER 3 (1981) follows Kuo Tsing (Fu Sheng) and Huang Yung (Niu Niu), the happy-but-beleaguered couple from BRAVE ARCHER 1 & 2, as they continue their travels on behalf of the Beggars Clan whose chieftainship their teacher (Ku Feng) had bestowed on Huang Yung in the previous film. However, a blow by Iron Palm (Lo Meng) has seriously wounded Huang Yung, so Kuo Tsing seeks help from a reclusive white-haired beauty, "Auntie Ying" (Ching Li), who sends them to Emperor Yuan (Ti Lung) for a cure. But first they must get past the Emperor's followers, a fisherman (Chiang Sheng), a woodcutter (Lu Feng), a farmer (Wang Li), and a scholar (Sun Chien). Emperor Yuan has shaved his head and become a monk and the couple's visit leads to a lengthy side story with detailed flashbacks about the Emperor and Auntie Ying, once one of his concubines, whose affair with "Uncle Naughty"Chao Pai Tung, an eccentric kung fu master exiled to Peach Island whom we met in the two previous filmsyielded a son and a sequence of events with tragic results. (I should point out that the subtitles on the film on the remastered Celestial DVD say "Emperor," while the subtitles on the trailer, provided as an extra, refer to the character as "Duke Yuan," which seems more likely.)
As detailed as that isand I'm keeping it real simplethere's still not as much story as was packed into the first two films. And there's also not as much as action. The endearing young lovers played by Fu Sheng and Tien Niu have to take a back seat for much of the story to Ti Lung and Ching Li whose entire drama takes up a huge chunk of the narrative and recalls a Chor Yuen-directed film the two starred in three years earlier, SWORDSMAN AND ENCHANTRESS (also reviewed on this site). The other sets of characters include the Iron Palm crew led by Lo Meng and the four aides to Ti Lung played by Chiang Sheng, Lu Feng, Wang Li and Sun Chien. Kuo Chui (Philip Kwok) as "Naughty" is seen both in flashback and the present, and joins them all in the final battle which means that all five actors comprising the Five Venoms (from the 1978 Shaw Bros. film of that title), plus their frequent co-star Wang Li (the honorary "Sixth Venom"), appear together in this sequence, making this something of an honorary Five Venoms film. The final brawl comes at 82 minutes into the 92-minute film and represents the only extended kung fu fight in the film. It's a good one, but it was a long wait getting there.
While not quite as filled with excitement as the two earlier Brave Archer films, it's still a fun, eye-pleasing costume adventure shot on lavish Shaw Bros. sets and featuring a fine all-star mix of unforgettable Shaw Bros. performers.
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