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Even though the studio had officially closed the preceding year, the Shaw Bros. continued to release films sporadically over the years. This is possibly the last film that closely resembles the classic Shaw kung fu drama. The Shaws' rehired director Sun Chung, who had been working independently, to helm this Ti Lung film.
Ti Lung reprises his role from Sun Chung's earlier "Kung Fu Instructor" as the kung fu master, Tong. This time he has a young teenage son who follows him since the mother is dead. Hired by a general to retrain his troops who've become lazy and useless, Tong's first act is to stop the soldiers' nightly forays to the town's classy brothel. This goes over poorly with the town's chief constable who secretly owns the brothel. The constable targets Tong's son and persecutes the child by framing him for thievery. Complicating the plot is Tong's attraction to the star prostitute in the brothel and the politics that prevents Tong from just smacking the crap out of the constable. Things don't get better, especially when the emperor's eunuch shows up looking for new young boys to castrate.
Heavy on drama, low on martial art action, this would be a minor Shaw effort if it was from the 1970's. What makes this film an exception is it's production date of 1985. While chock full of Shaw supporting actors and apparently shot on Shaw sets in Taiwan, this is not filmed on the standard "ShawScope" widescreen film ratio. With a more standard screen ratio of 1:1.85 it looks different and while colorfully lighted the film stock looks much more modern then Shaw films of a year before. Also the ever present "The End" title with the motto, "Another Shaw Production" is missing replaced with a more standard credit roll.
Is it a good film? For me the story is disjointed and in a way arbitrary. The brothel setting brings on two useless sequences with nudity. There's a pointless subplot about a soldier and a pregnant prostitute. The soldiers are a stock set of goofy rascals that you've probably seen in other Shaw films. Wong Yu, a wonderful presence and martial artist in Liu Chia Liang films, is almost completely wasted here. He gets to act as the leader of the soldiers but he never lifts a finger in a fight. Sun Chueng's direction is solid as usual and the two fights in the film are filmed with his intense action style. The script veers from heavy melodrama to goofy hijinks to rather intense violence. Believe me, when the eunuch shows up things do not get pretty. Ti Lung is the saving grace in the film, he pulls off his role of a conflicted fighter who is trying raise his son and continue his living as a wandering kung fu instructor. Unfortunately he suffers during the stagy melodrama scenes. The fights are very well done, too bad there are only two during the entire 90 minutes.
Interesting but not great at all. The violence is distasteful at times.
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