Starring Ti Lung, Chu Mu, Chiang Nan, Lan Wei-Lieh, Tin Ching, Wong Ching-Ho, Lee Man-Tai, Wang Kuang-Yu, Yue Fung, Kwok Chuk-Hing, Lau Kar-Wing, Wang Han-Chen, Hoh Gong, Li Min-Lang, Kong Ling
Directed by Chang Cheh & Pao Hsueh-Li
The Delightful Forest is another Shaw Brothers film based on the classic Chinese novel Outlaws of the Marsh (AKA The Water Margin). This time they’re focusing on Ti Lung’s Water Margin character Wu Song. The Delightful Forest adapts Chapters 27–31, the story of Wu Song’s imprisonment after killing his devious sister-in-law and her lover after they had fatally poisoned Wu Song’s brother. I also just found out that the tale of Wu Song’s brother was told by the Shaw Brothers many years earlier in the 1963 Huangmei opera film, The Amorous Lotus Pan (and again a few years later in 1982’s Tiger Killer). In any case… The Delightful Forest!
The film opens with Wu Song (Ti Lung) confronting his sister-in-law’s lover in a restaurant… you can’t argue with a film that opens with a restaurant fight. Wu Song exacts his revenge and is quickly captured without incident for this murder. Now wearing a cangue, he is escorted by two guards to the nearby prison. The prison chief’s son, Shi En, recognizes Wu Song as the martial hero he is, so he begins giving Wu Song preferential treatment. When confronted about it, Shi reveals that he wishes for Wu Song to help him in a sticky matter.
The Delightful Forest is a well-made, enjoyable film, but it’s one that is too slowly paced to be great. Just looking over that synopsis above, that probably covers the first 40 minutes or so right there. The film seems largely aimless and without a central driving force until the deal with Shi En, and even then it’s not all that driving or engaging on a story level. The film seems to adapt these chapters of the novel quite well, even using some dialogue lines almost word for word (such as the “pubic hair in the steamed buns” crack), but it felt oddly paced to me. Perhaps I’m just becoming an impatient action-hound, but I found myself somewhat bored and indifferent through some sections of The Delightful Forest.
Held up against The Water Margin and Pursuit, I was somewhat disappointed in The Delightful Forest. It’s still a very entertaining, well-made film, though, and I imagine it’ll grow on me when I re-watch it. When a film has such a rousing finale as The Delightful Forest, it’s hard to criticize it too much. Ti Lung thoroughly owns the film with a commanding performance, both physically and in terms of charismatic acting charm. Definitely recommended to Shaw Brothers fans.
Next up in this chronological jaunt through the Shaw Brothers Martial Arts catalog: it’s Lin Fu-Ti’s The Imperial Swordsman, and I hear it’s pretty damn good! See ya then!