AKA Fists of Vengeance
Starring Ching Li, Ling Yun, Lily Li Li-Li, Cheng Miu, Chen Yan-Yan, Chan Shen, Dean Shek Tin, Lau Gong, Goo Man-Chung, Chen Feng-Chen, Tang Ti, Lee Ho, Lee Wan-Chung, Lee Sau-Kei
Directed by Chang Il-Ho
Expectations: Low, but hopeful.
The Deadly Knives is about as standard as Shaw Brothers movies come. It has very little to set itself apart, and I doubt I will remember it in a few months. It’s still entertaining and enjoyable, but it’s just another heated revenge movie featuring the Chinese vs. the Japanese in the good ol’ Bruce Lee mold. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that, but The Deadly Knives is kinda lazy in this way, and at times it almost feels like it knows it and doesn’t care.
The Chinese vs. Japanese struggle in this particular film surrounds a forest and the logging operation that resides there. It is owned by the Yan family, but this particular forest is strategically useful to the Japanese Army. A Japanese businessman named Mr. Ogawa (Cheng Miu) enlists the help of Mr. Guan (Tang Ti), a Chinese man who prefers money over Yan, his Chinese neighbor. Meanwhile, Yan Zi Fei (Ling Yun) and Guan Yue Hua (Ching Li) are returning home from college on the train. They are the offspring of the two Chinese families in the midst of this struggle, but are blissfully unaware as they talk about getting married. All they need is the approval of their families… so… clearly, this isn’t going to work out for them.
But after the film ended, I had a thought. It’s also possible that the rapes are in the film for another reason. The Deadly Knives opens with a shot of a falling tree, the sounds of saws cutting it down to be shipped away via train. It is a beautiful natural resource controlled and used as the man in charge sees fit. The rape scenes that come during the film are of a similar nature, with the men who are seeking power via the forest trying to overcome and control a beautiful girl. Then the film ends with our hero’s revenge fulfilled (sorry about the spoilers for nearly every martial arts film!), but no matter what he did, he was unable to save the ravaged girl’s spirit.
The Deadly Knives does a good job of providing melodrama and fight scenes, but neither of them are successful enough to make for a great film. The story is perhaps the weakest link, giving us a rather uninteresting lead character in a clichéd situation. Die-hard fans of the Shaw films will find things to enjoy, but all others would be better served watching a better film. Fans of Jackie Chan’s films with Yuen Woo-Ping will also enjoy seeing a young Dean Shek Tin in a comedic role here.
Next up in this chronological jaunt through the Shaw Brothers Martial Arts catalog is the Chang Cheh non-martial arts film, Young People, featuring David Chiang, Ti Lung and Chen Kuan-Tai! See ya then!