Rape of the Sword (1967)

Rape of the Sword [盗剑] (1967)

Starring Li Li-Hua, Li Ching, Kiu Chong, Chen Hung Lieh, Tien Feng, Tang Ti, Lee Wan Chung, Yeung Chi Hing, Ku Feng, Fan Mei-Sheng, Kok Lee Yan, Tsang Choh-Lam

Directed by Griffin Yueh Feng

Expectations: Low… I don’t expect much from the non-Chang Cheh movies now.

Rape of the Sword is the first post One-Armed Swordsman Shaw Brothers movie to take full advantage of its success. While this is still within the martial opera film genre most of these early Shaws fall under, there’s tons of inspiration torn from Chang Cheh’s playbook, resulting in a much more satisfying film overall. It doesn’t always work, but when it does, it’s golden.

The film’s story revolves around the invincible Qing Shuang sword. The sword was stolen from its rightful owner by Tang Ti in a murderous mountain duel in order to give it to an official, thus securing himself a nice, cushy job. The murdered man’s wife doesn’t take kindly to this injustice though, going undercover and plotting to retrieve the sword at the first opportunity, beginning a fun tale of revenge and betrayal.

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Mini-Review: Come Drink With Me (1966)

Come Drink With Me [大醉俠] (1966)

Starring Cheng Pei Pei, Yueh Hua, Chen Hung Lieh, Yam Ho, Yeung Chi Hing, Simon Yuen Siu Tien, Ku Feng, Lee Wan Chung, Kok Lee Yan, Han Ying Chieh

Directed by King Hu

Expectations: High.

There’s a reason why Come Drink With Me is more readily remembered as the first Shaw Brothers color martial arts film and not Temple of the Red Lotus. Quite simply, it is leaps and bounds better, in addition to being a unique film unlike any other Shaw Brothers film I’ve seen up to this point. Credit must be given to director King Hu, as the differences and clever touches are predominantly found in the distinct style of camerawork and the excellent lighting, utilizing shadows to great effect.

The plot involves a group of bandits kidnapping a noble in hopes that they can exchange him for the release of their leader from prison. Instead, the Gold Swallow (Cheng Pei Pei) is sent to claim the kidnapped man. If these bandits only knew the shit they were about to be in when the Gold Swallow takes action! Her introduction scene in the barroom when the bandits challenge and test her is excellent, electric cinema; reaching similar heights of taut intensity that Leone achieved in Once Upon a Time in the West.

The fights are fairly well done, with spots of brilliance throughout, but it’s the end fight that is especially great. There is also a surprising amount of blood and gore and it all plays out realistically and effectively, heightening the mood of the picture. The combination of slow, precise sword strikes with the quick motions of Chinese martial arts beautifully couples the feel of a Japanese samurai film with the contained chaos of Hong Kong action cinema. Come Drink With Me is stunning to watch, thanks in part to King Hu’s inspired camerawork and solid acting from Cheng Pei-Pei, Yuen Hua and the wonderful supporting cast of bandits, most notably Chen Hung Lieh as the pasty-faced featured villain. Highly recommended to junkies and new fans alike, as it is well worth your time.

Temple of the Red Lotus (1965)

Temple of the Red Lotus [江湖奇俠] (1965)
AKA “The Red Lotus Monastery”

Starring Jimmy Wang Yu, Chin Ping, Ivy Ling Po, Lo Lieh, Petrina Fung Bo Bo, Tien Feng, Ku Feng, Wu Ma, Kao Pao Shu, Lau Leung Wa, Chen Hung Lieh, Chiu Ming, Feng Yi, Ko Lo Chuen, Kok Lee Yan, Lam Jing

Directed by Hsu Cheng Hung

Expectations: Moderate, as this is such an early Shaw and it’s bound to be rough, but I’ve been building a lot of mind-hype for this over the past few months.

It all had to start someplace, and for the Shaw Studios, this is evidently the first of their films to include martial arts sequences. It fared very well at the box office, spawned two sequels (which I will be looking at in the coming weeks), and launched an entire genre. While Come Drink With Me and The One-Armed Swordsman may be more well-known films from this early period in Shaw history, Temple of the Red Lotus was their first color martial arts film and is notable for that if nothing else.

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