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GREAT MASSACRE unusual kung fu tale with romantic elements
GREAT MASSACRE, a 1982 kung fu film that's also known as SHAOLIN HERO, is available on video in the U.S. under the title, AVENGING EAGLE, although it should not be confused with the 1978 Shaw Bros. classic of that name which starred Ti Lung and Fu Sheng. This one stars Meng Fei and Leung Kar Yan as two martial arts masters who are forced into opposition when Meng Fei is framed for the murders of other martial artists. To complicate things, Madame Liu, Leung Kar Yan's wife, was once Meng Fei's lover, a fact which is used in an attempt to turn the two heroes against each other. Interestingly, the male-female scenes are extremely well-handled. The scenes between Madame Liu (played by Yeung Gwan Gwan) and each of the two male stars are often quite tender. At one point, the wife spends a chaste night with Meng Fei after he has rescued her from abductors, drawing comparisons with the similarly themed SWORDSMAN AND ENCHANTRESS (1978), also reviewed on this site.
There are several other interesting female characters on hand, including two that fight and one whom we first see in a bathtub, which is then carried off--with her in it--by a quartet of blind swordsmen, who are then stopped by a female fighter. The fight scenes are plentiful and well-staged. Philip Ko plays the chief villain, the head of a religious sect which is behind all the trouble. The two lead actors are quite impressive here. Meng Fei, in particular, comes off as a mature action hero and romantic lead after nearly a decade of playing callow youths forced into kung fu training (in films like PRODIGAL BOXER and KUNG FU OF EIGHT DRUNKARDS).
The story is confusing at times, but the chain of events is nicely odd and unpredictable. I like the dubbing and English dialogue, which includes voice-overs, internal dialogue and some poetry. There are flashbacks to the two heroes' past days with Madame Liu, including scenes set in beautiful fields of flowers. There is a lovely original Chinese music score, including a Chinese-language song heard on the English dub soundtrack during one romantic interlude.
The quality of the tape edition available leaves a lot to be desired, but the film itself is worth a look for kung fu fans who want something entertaining and emotionally involving that breaks away for a moment from the standard kung fu formula.
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