That Man in Chang-An [幪面大俠] (1967)
Starring Fang Ying, Gam Jan-Fooi, Yen Chun, Allyson Chang Yen, Tang Ti, Tien Feng, Wong Ching Ho, Cheung Kwong Chiu, Piu Liu-Chik, Chiu Ming
Directed by Yen Chun
That Man in Chang-An is yet another early Shaw Brothers film that gets as much wrong as it does right. It’s not a poorly made film by any stretch, but it suffers from being overlong and light on the action. The first hour is devoted mostly to setup with only a couple of small sequences of excitement, notably a wagon chase and a fight in the middle of the forest. Both scenes are excellent and are shot with an eye for enhancing the action through quality camera movement. There’s also a fantastic opening sequence in which our hero, The Masked Man, infiltrates the enemy’s castle and steals an Imperial Edict.
The sets are as lavish and beautiful as the costumes, and it’s clear the picture was meant as a costume drama over anything else. The second half of the film does get more interesting with various escape plots and short battles with guards. One of these fights features an impressive horizontal tracking shot that follows the Masked Man as he lays waste to all comers. As you’d expect from an early Shaw film, the choreography leaves a lot to be desired, but the shot is electric nonetheless.
The final fight is pretty exciting though, thanks in part to the undercranked fast motion of the combatants. I’m not a big fan of this technique but it worked very well here to get things moving. At 111 minutes this is a lot longer than your average Shaw film and it feels like it, so any increase in speed is appreciated. There’s also a ton of gorgeous exterior shots that add a lot of flavor to the overall tone of the picture. Ultimately, this is another one strictly for those already attuned to the works of the Shaw Brothers.