Starring Yueh Hua, Liu Wu-Chi, Lau Dan, Tung Lam, Fang Mian, Chiang Tao, Chan Shen, Li Min-Lang, Lin Wen-Wei, Ku Wen-Chung, Lam Fung, Luk Chuen, Chin Chun, Sai Gwa-Pau
Directed by Kuei Chih-Hung
Expectations: High. I love Kuei Chih-Hung.
Payment in Blood is one hell of a revenge film, unfortunately it’s also extremely rare and the only known-to-exist version is from a German-dubbed VHS without subtitles. Kuei Chih-Hung is quite the dynamic visual filmmaker, though, which makes the experience visceral and engaging even without understanding a single word of dialogue. It helps to have a general idea of how revenge films work, but seriously just about everything you need to know about the movie is communicated visually, so there’s little lost in this less-than-ideal experience. I will say that watching the film in German is somewhat odd, and it also seems like they changed the score to music less conducive to creating the familiar Shaw Brothers feel. But whatever, I’ll take it over never seeing the film!
The film opens at night, with a car chasing a man and trying to run him down. Meanwhile Yueh Hua is leaving his job, but as he is about to get into his car he sees the villain’s car run over the man multiple times. A villain willing to do this isn’t the kind to leave any witnesses, so naturally he turns his attention to Yueh Hua. Before the villain can kill Yueh, the cops shows up and scare him off. Yueh is then placed into some kind of lazy witness protection where a few cops tag along with him and hang out at his house. But since this is a movie, the cops are ineffectual at thwarting the criminals, and Yueh and his family are subjected to all kinds of horrific events.
The stairwell fight is especially good, but there are a pair of close-quarters fights that are strangely reminiscent of the films of Indonesian action star Iko Uwais. A quick fight occurs in an elevator as a proto-version of the incredible fight in Merantau, and later there’s an amazing fight inside the back seat of a car that brought The Raid 2 to mind. I doubt Payment in Blood was an influence since it’s such a rare film, but who knows? Maybe the video store near Uwais’s childhood home had a couple of Shaw films and this was one of them!
Next up in this chronological journey through the Shaw Brothers Martial Arts catalog, I’ll be delving into the Golden Harvest classic Enter the Dragon! Haven’t seen it in a long time, so I’m excited to revisit it! See ya then!