The Invincible Fist (1969)

The Invincible Fist [鐵手無情] (1969)

Starring Lo Lieh, Li Ching, David Chiang, Fang Mian, Ku Feng, Chan Sing, Cheung Pooi-Saan, Wu Ma, Cheng Lui, Cliff Lok Kam Tung, Wang Kuang-Yu, Lau Gong, Chui Chung-Hok

Directed by Chang Cheh

Expectations: Moderate. Chang Cheh is always fun.

In Chang Cheh’s memoir he talks a lot about the period of creative soul-searching that was 1969. As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, he became fed up with straight wuxia films after Golden Swallow and wanted to find himself a new niche that would excite creatively. He had tried a contemporary picture, The Singing Thief, which I enjoyed immensely but is generally looked down upon by most reviewers and even Chang himself. He tried to subvert the wuxia genre by focusing on an anti-hero in The Flying Dagger. Again, I thoroughly enjoyed that film, but Chang felt it to be a disaster. He tried an over-the-top action sequel in Return of the One-Armed Swordsman, which was incredibly successful, but Chang writes it off as a mere variation on a theme in his memoir. The Invincible Fist, though, he expressed a love for, and a sadness that the box office didn’t reflect the quality of the film he produced. Looking back at the many Chang Cheh films released in 1969, The Invincible Fist is by far the best made of the bunch, and definitely worthy of your time and praise. I’d never even heard of this movie until I embarked on this review series, and that’s a crying shame for a film this good.

Again Chang Cheh seeks to do something different within the wuxia swordplay genre with The Invincible Fist, but it’s not the hand-to-hand fighting you might expect from a title such as The Invincible Fist. Instead, the figurative invincible fist refers to our main character, a bounty hunter played by Lo Lieh, on the trail of a skilled team of bandits. Lo commands a small group of his own (with his brother played by none other than David Chiang in his first major role), but it’s really all about Lo Lieh and his incredible skills as both a martial performer and an actor. He plays the hard-nosed, detective-like character with a badass calm that’s both impressive and chilling. He’s no one to fuck around with, striking fear and admiration in the hearts of all that pass his way.

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The Flying Dagger (1969)

The Flying Dagger [飛刀手] (1969)

Starring Cheng Pei Pei, Lo Lieh, Yeung Chi Hing, Cheng Lui, Shum Lo, Cheng Miu, Wu Ma, Lam Kau, Chui Chung-Hok, Ku Feng, Yau Ming, Lau Gong, Cliff Lok Kam Tung, Yau Lung

Directed by Chang Cheh

Expectations: Moderate. Chang Cheh, but I’ve never really heard of this one.

Before I get into the review proper, let me just say this: I loved The Flying Dagger. It’s not as good as Chang Cheh’s best stuff, but it’s a lot of fun and well worth your time. In Chang Cheh’s memoir he mentions filming this concurrently with Golden Swallow, so for some unexplained reason The Flying Dagger‘s release was held back until after Chang had filmed and released The Singing Thief & Return of the One-Armed Swordsman. Who’s to say what went down, but at this point it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is Lo Lieh, and the ridiculous amount of badass he exudes in this film.

The Flying Dagger opens with a beautifully shot black and white intro sequence (which is somewhat reminiscent of Onibaba with all the tall grass), where a young couple are assaulted by a rogue bandit. He kills the man and then rapes and kills the girl, but before he can cleanly make his escape Cheng Pei Pei shows up and annihilates him. What she didn’t know when she killed him was that he was the son of noted evil clan leader Jiao Lei (Yueng Chi Hung), also known as the Flying Dagger because of his amazing prowess with throwing knives. Jiao makes it his personal vendetta to completely wipe out Cheng Pei Pei’s family to avenge his son’s death, because y’know… he’s just evil like that. Along the way, anti-hero Yang Qing (Lo Lieh) gets mixed up in the middle of the two factions, and it’s in his character that the film truly shines.

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