Killers Five (1969)

Killers Five [豪俠傳] (1969)

Starring Tang Ching, Li Ching, Ku Feng, Cheng Miu, Wang Kuang-Yu, Tang Ti, Yeung Chi Hing, Carrie Ku Mei, Ou-Yang Sha-Fei, Tien Feng, Lau Leung-Wa, Wong Ching-Wan, Poon Oi-Lun

Directed by Cheng Kang

Expectations: High. Cheng Kang usually delivers.


The Duke’s daughter has been kidnapped by bandits! Are you a bad enough dude to rescue the duke’s daughter? That’s the question asked of our heroes in Killers Five and the answer is a resounding yes. Killers Five is debatably the best martial arts/action film to be produced by the Shaw Brothers up to this point. It includes everything I could want in a movie, providing entertainment at every turn. I went in expecting fights and intrigue, but I also got fun & charismatic characters, wonderful performances, awesome traps, suspenseful thrills, shocking double-crosses, over-the-top gore and absolute sophistication behind the camera. This movie is just flat-out awesome.

Unlike so many 60s Shaw Brothers martial arts films, Killers Five doesn’t fuck around with lengthy plot exposition and slow-moving narrative. The duke’s daughter is kidnapped and within a minute or so, our main hero played by Tang Ching is on a quest to create a martial team badass enough to take on the evil bandit lord Jin Tianlong (Tang Ti) who’s taken the duke daughter to his fortress on Mt. Jinlong. The film takes on something of a Western vibe, or even The Seven Samurai, during this section as the hero travels around the countryside collecting the best people for the job.

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The Land of Many Perfumes (1968)

The Land of Many Perfumes [女兒國] (1968)

Starring Chow Lung-Cheung, Ho Fan, Pang Pang, Tin Sam, Fang Ying, Lee Heung-Gwan, Lau Leung Wa, Irene Chen Yi-Ling, Wong Ching-Wan, Cheung Yuk-Kam, Kong Dan, Yip Bo-Kam, Lee Hung-Chu, Gloria Wang Xiao-Ing, Tsang Choh-Lam

Directed by Ho Meng-Hua

Expectations: Moderate. I’m getting somewhat bored of these because they’re all pretty similar.


What’s to say about this series that I haven’t already said? The Land of Many Perfumes is the fourth and final entry into the Shaw Brothers Journey to the West series of films, and unfortunately it’s the most minor of them all. Like the previous films, The Land of Many Perfumes opens with the monk Tang and his followers looking for a place to sleep at night. It’s a long, hard road to the West in search of Buddhist scriptures and beds are hard to come by.

The many perfumes of the title do not refer to thousands of little bottles of “eau du toilette” as you might expect. Nope, they’re talking about all the ladies in the region. Our heroes venture into a realm where only women dwell, reproducing via the river, but this method only allows them to produce female offspring. When the men arrive on the scene, it creates a frenzy among the women as many of them have never seen a man. They all wish to marry Tang, but it is the Empress and her daughter that scuffle the most about it. They don’t want to eat his flesh as the villains in the previous films all did, but they do lust for his flesh in other ways.

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Mini-Review: The Cave of Silken Web (1967)

The Cave of Silken Web [盤絲洞] (1967)

Starring Chow Lung-Cheung, Ho Fan, Pang Pang, Tin Sam, Angela Yu Chien, Lau Leung Wa, Shen Yi, Helen Ma Hoi-Lun, Shirley Wong Qui-Lee, Tin Mung, Yau Ching, Shum Lo, Tang Ti

Directed by Ho Meng-Hua

Expectations: Moderate. The last one wasn’t as good as the first.


Third in the Shaw Brother’s series of four films based upon the classical Chinese novel Journey to the West, The Cave of Silken Web is a definite step up from the previous sequel Princess Iron Fan. The focus is tightened here to one story for the entire film and it serves the arc of the story and the film better than the episodic format that the earlier films had. With only one story to focus on, director Ho Meng-Hua and his wonderful group of actors can really settle into their roles and have a great time. Not to mention that the villains here have real weight and pursue our heroes relentlessly. Chow Lung-Cheung takes over the role of the Monkey King for this film, and while he’s not quite as emotive or charismatic as Yuen Hua was, it’s pretty seamless and most viewers probably won’t even notice the difference.

The Cave of Silken Web starts off like any other story from the series, with the monk Tang and his band of protectors riding West in search of Buddhist scriptures. While looking for a place to stay for the night, they are tricked into the evil plans of the seven spider-demon sisters of the Cave of the Silken Web! They are quite devious and before you know it, Tang is turned into mist and captured in a vase and all seems to be lost. Of course nothing is yet written in stone, as the Monkey King, Pigsy and Sandy are all diligent followers of Tang and fight tirelessly to free their master.

The first half of the film is something of a rehash of most of the previous stories, but the film really hits its stride come the second half. The action moves completely within the cave and it’s a non-stop ride to the finale with all kinds of mistaken identity and hijinks that only the Monkey King can provide. Everything else takes a backseat to the last couple of minutes though when Sandy’s acquisition of the deadly Seven Flames is unleashed. The Seven Flames is the only thing capable of counteracting the seven sisters’ spider webs and it’s basically just a flamethrower disguised as a large jug. Watch as Sandy and the Monkey King lay waste to all kinds of shit with a flamethrower! I defy you to not be entertained by that! This is the first flamethrower I’ve seen in a Shaw Brothers film, and I sure hope it isn’t the last. This isn’t the type of movie I’d expect a flamethrower to pop up, but I ain’t complaining!

And if nothing else, The Cave of Silken Web teaches one very important lesson. No matter how powerful or supernatural you are (or think you are), a big rock to the back of the head is always capable of knocking you out. So watch your backs and give this one a shot. It’s not necessary to see the preceding films first, but it will help quite a bit and I recommend it.

The Silent Swordsman (1967)

The Silent Swordsman [儒俠] (1967)

Starring Chang Yi, Yue Wai, Shu Pei-Pei, Lisa Chiao Chiao, Wong Chung-Shun, Goo Man-Chung, Cheng Miu, Tien Feng, Yeung Chi Hing, Fang Mian, Lau Leung Wa, Lam Jing, Wong Ching Ho, Lo Lieh

Directed by Kao Li


Released only six weeks after The One Armed Swordsman, I went into The Silent Swordsman with no expectations that the heroic, masculine bloodshed of Chang Cheh would have penetrated into the other films of the studio this quickly. This worked out, as The Silent Swordsman is absolutely nothing like The One Armed Swordsman and it would be unfair to compare the two films. Instead The Silent Swordsman is more of a political intrigue historical epic than a wuxia film, and should be viewed as such.

The film opens with a massive battle as invaders try to overtake the wall General Yuan defends. They should have received reinforcements by now and they fear that General Lu Qiang of Zhenxi is a traitor, refusing to send troops on purpose. General Yuan sends a message to the Sun Moon martial club, hoping that their clan leader can spy on General Lu and coerce him into providing the reinforcements. Our main character though is Shen Bingyi (Chang Yi), a young skilled martial artist who sets out to find his brother Zhong, the leader of the Sun Moon Club. He’s not in the movie in the way a traditional main character is, but by the second half the story has shifted enough to allow him into it.

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The Sword and the Lute (1967)

The Sword and the Lute [琴劍恩仇] (1967)

Starring Petrina Fung Bo Bo, Lo Lieh, Chin Ping,  Jimmy Wang Yu, Ivy Ling Po, Yueh Hua, Cheng Miu, Lily Ho Li Li, Margaret Hsing Hui, Wu Ma, Ku Feng, Lee Wan Chung, Lau Leung Wa, Kao Pao Shu

Directed by Hsu Cheng Hung

Expectations: High, after how much I enjoyed The Twin Swords.


The Red Lotus Temple has been burned to the ground and the twin swords of Chin Ping and Jimmy Wang Yu have been entrusted with the beautiful but lethal Phoenix Lute. The lute is more than a simple musical instrument, it is capable of shooting hundreds of needles at once; crippling, killing and maiming anyone in its path. They must take it back to the Jin family, where it is to be destroyed by the Fish Intestine Sword (or the less-fun translation, Invincible Sword).

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The Twin Swords (1965)

The Twin Swords [鴛鴦劍俠] (1965)

Starring Chin Ping, Jimmy Wang Yu, Ivy Ling Po, Petrina Fung Bo Bo, Lo Lieh, Tien Feng, Cheng Miu, Wu Ma, Ku Feng, Lau Leung Wa, Chen Hung Lieh, Chiu Ming, Feng Yi, Kao Pao Shu, Lam Jing, Lee Wan Chung, Wong Ching Ho, Wong Yeuk Ping

Directed by Hsu Cheng Hung

Expectations: Low. The first film was OK, I don’t expect this will be too much different. I have heard it is better though.


This is more like it. I hope you like martial arts fantasy movies, because The Twin Swords packs lots of imaginative fun into its compact runtime. Starting off with the final scene from Temple of the Red Lotus, our heroes Jimmy Wang Yu and Chin Ping battle through the villainous scoundrels of the Red Lotus clan. They are once again saved by the quick darts of the Scarlet Maid, but the forces of evil are not known for resting on their laurels. They quickly concoct a plan to lure our heroes and their twin swords straight into the Red Lotus temple, which has been newly retrofitted with tons of lethal traps!

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Temple of the Red Lotus (1965)

Temple of the Red Lotus [江湖奇俠] (1965)
AKA “The Red Lotus Monastery”

Starring Jimmy Wang Yu, Chin Ping, Ivy Ling Po, Lo Lieh, Petrina Fung Bo Bo, Tien Feng, Ku Feng, Wu Ma, Kao Pao Shu, Lau Leung Wa, Chen Hung Lieh, Chiu Ming, Feng Yi, Ko Lo Chuen, Kok Lee Yan, Lam Jing

Directed by Hsu Cheng Hung

Expectations: Moderate, as this is such an early Shaw and it’s bound to be rough, but I’ve been building a lot of mind-hype for this over the past few months.


It all had to start someplace, and for the Shaw Studios, this is evidently the first of their films to include martial arts sequences. It fared very well at the box office, spawned two sequels (which I will be looking at in the coming weeks), and launched an entire genre. While Come Drink With Me and The One-Armed Swordsman may be more well-known films from this early period in Shaw history, Temple of the Red Lotus was their first color martial arts film and is notable for that if nothing else.

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