Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A couple Shaw Bros movies

A couple Shaw Bros movies...

Have Sword Will Travel by Chang Cheh (1969).
Starring the usual and best ones : David Chiang, Ti Lung, Li Ching and Ku Feng.

Like every year, Lord In, assisted by the 'Invincible Village', has to transport an important amount of government gold across China. As Lord In is ill and has lost his martial arts skills, he recruits 2 disciples of a famous master, to accompany the escort safely. Those swordsman and woman are Siang (Ti Lung) and his martial sister Yun Piau-piau (Li Ching) who are in love and are thinking to get married. But of course, this year, the escort is in danger since a fearless band of thieves, the Flying Tiger Stockade (led by Ku Feng) plans to ambush the convoy and steal the gold. At the same time, a lonely, wandering swordsman, Lo (David Chiang), whose martial arts skills are more than impressive, happens to bump into Siang and Piau Piau. Obviously Piau Piau can not resist to this mysterious, valiant knight who is also touched by her trust and kindness. Siang who notices the mutual, yet, unsaid, sympathy shows directly his antiphathy and suspicion towards Lo. But Lo is a heroic, righteous man and will get involved to their difficult task....

The film starts with an opening sequence which actually forshadows the story while presenting the characters and showing the credits with someflashy colours before that we discover the young couple lying in the hay. The story is rather simple and straightforward and delivers a long bloody and final fight for the end. This movie is highly influenced by western (and even the music theme underlines this influence). The film uses several slow-motion (especially during the fights or while Lo is imagining his end), but the pace and the editing is rather fast and to the point. I like David Chiang in this role, very stoic, charismatic and mysterious outsider (typical anti-hero). I also liked the music. Well, I won't say more, but it's a solid and enjoyable swordsplay movie very well made.

Another Chang Cheh... The Assassin (1967)
The movie was directed at the same year than the most known Chang Cheh's movies One-Armed Swordsman. The Assassin features again Wang Yu or Jimmy Wang Yu and Chiao Chiao.

The movie tells the story of the legendary Chinese assassin, Nie Zheng, during the times of the Warring States Period (476-221 BC), based on The Records of the Grand Historian. Like Zhang Yimou's Hero, Nie Zheng is an assassin whose dream is to achieve great deeds for worthy cause in History and whose aim will be to assassinate the Prime Minister of Han.

The movie contains a much more slow pace in order to take time to develop the different steps of the story : Nie Zheng, student of Master Wu until the fall of the school, Nie Zheng flees in another kingdom with with mother and sister, but without his lover and becomes a butcher, the brotherhood with Official Yen, his farewell with Yen (nice scene actually), and so on.... up to the assassination (which could remind us of Hero).....
The movie is of course heroic, more of historical than action movie (there is more dialogue too), yet, it reserves some swordfight scenes and a bit of blood splashing (I liked the close-up on the blade with drops of blood falling down).

All Men Are Brothers by Chang Cheh and Wu Ma.
Made in 1973, the movie only got released in 1975.
With a title as such we could expected the worse (or laugh).
The movie is actually the sequel of The Water Margin movie made by the same directors.
Seven heroes are chosen for a mission to get rid of a rebel general based in Hangchow after several defeated attempts by other "brothers". The new recruited outlaws are led by Yen Ching (David Chiang again) who with the other six (well apart Black Whirlwind who's too impulsive and whose capacity of thinking a bit further than his muscles and fights is rather slim, but he's a good old lad.. err.. sorry I mean brother) are trying to figure out a way to take the city from the inside. Among those seven fighters, there is a couple, a man and a woman. She's the second woman in the film; the first being a courtisean who introduced the outlaws to the Emperor and made him sign a letter promising the pardon. Actually the first scene, the meeting of the courtisean and David Chiang, is rather implicitly erotic. Knowing that women aren't really seen in their bright sides in most Chang Cheh movies (or their roles are subdued), I guess here there is at least a female warrior. After several flashbacks on the stories of each outlaws, they are heading to this fortress and working out a plan to seize the place....

The movie is a bit more bloody, and goes right into the action, the story is simple, the characters aren't that developped either. The fights, quite a lot, are, I guess, okay. David Chiang is also okay (but I prefer him in Have Sword Will Travel for instance). I was wondering what happened to Ti Lung since he mainly appears, and still briefly, towards the end (it must be because of his costume and the haircut style.... which didn't suit him at all!).
Overall I didn't find the movie very great or memorable (even if it's not bad).

The Wandering Swordsman by Chang Cheh (1970)
with David Chiang and Lily Li.
Very briefly, I liked the movie which stars in a solo leading role David Chiang, with a constant grin on his face, quite playful and arrogant yet naive and for who action precedes thought. A shame that the female role is basicaly inexistant (she keeps crying, even if she once proves that she can fight, but still, and as David Chiang says to her she isn't beautiful when she cries so she should stop crying!). The movie is worth for the music and for David Chiang. Sometimes it really reminds me of some westerns. The last 30 minutes ( two main swordsfight scenes) are rather good too.

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