The Imperial Tomb Raiders [盜皇陵] (1973)
AKA The Emperor’s Tomb Raiders
Starring Wang Yong, Tso Yen-Yung, Chiang Yang, Hsueh Han, Chang Ping-Yu, Chu Ching, Yeung Lee-Gwan, Ling Yin, Yang Lian-Ying, Wang Li-Yun, Yuan Shen, Ko Hsiao-Pao, Shan Mao, Cheng Fu-Hung, Li Chiang, Kwan Hung, Tsai Hung
Directed by Ting Shan-Hsi
Expectations: Don’t know what to expect from this previously lost film.
Thanks to the restoration efforts of Celestial Pictures, who acquired the Shaw library in the early 2000s, it’s not too hard to see the majority of Shaw Brothers films. Prior to this, it was a completely different story; the challenge to access films was one of the defining characteristics of being a Hong Kong movie fan. A few films still slipped through the Celestial cracks, though. The Imperial Tomb Raiders didn’t receive a remastered DVD re-release with the rest of the Shaw catalog, nor was it found on the ZiiEagle set-top box that had a few other remastered, but unreleased films. To be honest, I was under the impression that Imperial Tomb Raiders was just flat-out lost. I could never uncover much information about it, so it was quite a shock when it popped up on the Internet in remastered quality!
According to Imperial Tomb Raiders, in the 19th Century the Xianfeng Emperor‘s favorite concubine was buried with a huge, luminous pearl in her mouth, worth an untold fortune. The tomb’s location was kept a secret so the Empress Dowagers Cixi and Ci’an could not plunder the treasure. The concubine was interred along with eight handmaidens, who were locked inside and left to starve to death… but one of them escaped! The bandit leader Chin Da-Kui (Chiang Yang) has heard these rumors and set his sights on that great big beautiful, luminous pearl! Unfortunately for him, the hero Luo Qi (Wang Yong) has been sent by a security bureau to exterminate him and his gang, which is where we come into the story.