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Xiaowu and Lianzhu are eloping together when they find some women being captured. They set off to help but fall into a series of traps set by the Red Lotus Clan. Lianzhu is captured by Xiaowu returns home to seek help from the rest of the Gan family - which is just what the Red Lotus Clan were planning for.Written by
bob the moo
Colorful Hong Kong costume adventure with Jimmy Wang Yu
TWIN SWORDS (1965) is an elaborate studio production that boasts great color, beautiful sets & costumes, and a non-stop music/narrative song soundtrack. This was the Shaw Bros. studio style of the early 1960s before things got darker and more intense with ONE-ARMED SWORDSMAN (1967), which also starred Jimmy Wang Yu and propelled him into martial arts stardom. TWIN SWORDS starts right in the middle of the action--a sword fight in which Lien Chu (Chin Ping) and Kwei Wu (Jimmy Wang Yu) fight off hordes of bandits led by familiar actors from early Shaw Bros. films. The film is a sequel to TEMPLE OF THE RED LOTUS (also 1965) and was followed by another sequel, THE SWORD AND THE LUTE (1966).
The basic plot line finds the two young leads in the process of eloping when they are interrupted by cries for help from four young women being kidnapped. They try to rescue the women from the Red Lotus Temple, which is installed with elaborate traps by bandits disguised as monks. Lien gets trapped and Wang Yu escapes to go plead with Lien's family, the Kans, for help. In this highly melodramatic section of the film, the family is scornful and doesn't trust him. Lien's former suitor, played by Lo Lieh, volunteers to go investigate and makes an ill-fated rescue attempt, prompting the Kans to finally step in.
It's Grandma who calls the shots here and the entire family goes, including Lien's mother and aunts, all beautifully dressed. Dad (Tien Feng) gives the family heirloom, an iron-chopping sword, to his youngest daughter, Little Ling, who later uses the sword, to lethal effect, on a hapless guard. Most of the family members have perfect aim and the ability to leap up walls and balconies, often in unison! To make a long story short, they all go to the Red Lotus Temple and put up a series of fights. An older swordswoman, Scarlet Maid (Ivy Ling Po, one of the top female Shaw Bros. stars of the time), joins in to help them out.
The film is notable for its rich, lavish, brightly-colored studio look, a characteristic of the Shaw Bros. studio costume films of the time (1960s). Several scenes have background choral songs that provide a narrative accompaniment. The film was directed by Sui Jang Hung, although Chang Cheh, later the studio's top kung fu director, is credited with Production Design. The fight scenes feature lots of acrobatics and high leaping (or 'vaulting'). The heroes win fights quite easily. Wang Yu fights, but doesn't employ the brutal moves, both swordplay and kung fu, that he'd develop in his later films, relying here on more of a slashing sword style that represents a transitional moment in the studio's methods of fight choreography. He overacts well, however, pleading and crying very convincingly. I can see why he wanted to play tougher guys in his later films.
In the Tai Seng VHS edition, in Mandarin with English subtitles, the subtitles sometimes dip off the screen during the first hour. The full-frame transfer cuts off the subtitles on the sides anyway, making only the middle of each line visible. But until a letter-boxed DVD becomes available, this is the only way to see a film which remains one of the best early examples of Hong Kong's 'wuxia pian' genre, the type of stylized swordplay film that director Ang Lee sought to recall, in his own fashion, with CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON (2000).
ADDENDUM: (9/25/07) Six years after I wrote the above review, a remastered letter-boxed DVD edition of TWIN SWORDS has indeed finally come out, courtesy of Celestial Pictures' line of restored Shaw Bros. classics. I'd picked up the sequel, THE SWORD AND THE LUTE, a year ago, but waited till after I'd gotten the new edition of TWIN SWORDS and watched it again before watching the sequel, which I've now also reviewed for IMDb and which is found only under its Chinese title, HUO SHAO HONG LIAN SI ZHI QIN JIAN EN CHOU. So now all three films in the trilogy, which began with TEMPLE OF THE RED LOTUS, are available on Region 3 DVD from Celestial. The DVD of TWIN SWORDS contains its original four-minute trailer, which asserts that it's based on a "famous Chinese classic," although I have yet to determine the literary source.
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