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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Once again the opening of the Shaw library is revealing many gems that
have been hidden from non-Chinese audiences for too long. While solidly
grounded in the wuxia tradition and very much in the style of the
1960's Shaw style this film is notable for a very unusual reason. It's
one of the very few martial art films ever directed by a woman. Kuo
Pao-Shu, an accomplished 32 year old actress at this point, gets behind
the camera for her directorial debut.
The films opens as Feng Ying Ying is rushing home to her parents after her husband, a security officer, is murdered while protecting a shipment of treasure. With her young son in tow, they stop for a rest but cross paths with a quartet of rogues. The lead rogue decides to rape Ying Ying while the others beat the son for sport. Ying Ying has a sword but is outmatched. She struggles with the rogue but that angers him and he ends up killing her. The boy escapes and rushes to the Feng mansion. The Feng elders are not there but his aunt, Fei Fei is. Outraged at the double tragedy, she immediately sets out to find her sister's killers with the young boy. Although she is an excellent martial artist, she disguises herself as a man. They find them but she is dismayed to discover that the lead rogue is her fiancé, the son of her father's best friend!
THe film is very accomplished and well paced for a first time effort. Kuo manages to keep the action taut and extensive while giving the film a woman's viewpoint at the same time. It makes what could have been a standard revenge film into something with more depth. Kuo went on to direct a few more films including the classic "The Master Strikes".
The fights scenes are firmly planted in the style of the era. While energetic and well- choreographed, there's a lot of trampoline work and reverse-filmed jumping onto walls and building roofs. It's fun.
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