Monday, February 9, 2009

Return of the Deadly Blade (Hong Kong, 1981)

The most apt statement to be found on the web about Wong Tai-Loi's 1981 film Fei dao you jian fei dao / Return of the Deadly Blade is found on the website Trash City Film Blitz, which compares the continuity of the film as being like "trying to follow, say, Buffy, if all you saw was the fights." The (unanswerable) question does naturally arise as to whether or not the Shaw Brothers production was such a scotch-tape affair upon its original release, but the 85-minute version found on the Eastwestdvd that was available at 99 cent stores throughout Las Vegas, Nevada, in November 2008 – as a double feature with The Golden Destroyers (1985), a film by Gordon Chan, who is also responsible for the popular piece of Hong Kong flotsam Fei hu xiong xin / The Final Option (1994) — is a true example of a film made incomprehensible by its editing. Still, the general inanity of the entire project, and some entertaining fight scenes, manages to make the film mildly entertaining if one is in a particularly non-judgmental and non-demanding mood. Of course, one can’t help but wonder about a culture that presents a rapist as the secondary hero, rape as something to laugh about and, in turn, more or less promotes the idea that a way to a woman’s heart is to bonk her against her will. But despite this more than questionable stance, a film that features men using steel umbrellas and fans as weapons of defense, a fight in a public cave sauna fought with bath towels, attacking ninjas on water skis and an important character that twirls around in what has to be described as a flying wheelchair cannot be completely despised.
As mentioned above, the plot is virtually undecipherable, but by the end of the movie a general storyline does emerge. Big Brother Lung (David Chiang of 1974's The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires) is out to find the legendary Master Li (Norman Chu) so as to revenge the death of his father. The Lonely Winner (Yasuaki Kurata), a good-time guy that likes to dip his wick in unwilling females is in search of someone who can finally beat him in a fight, and he sets his sights on Master Li.
The Lonely Winner is also being followed by one of his prior, once-unwilling wickwetters; though he hardly realizes it, he is actually as in love with her as she is with him (an important point, as it emerges later in the film). The paths of the two fighters continually cross on their respective journeys, which end in the mystic Lunar World, where the final big showdown with the Moon Goddess occurs amidst the revelation of all sorts of unexpected family secrets.
OK, given a choice between this flick and say, Sien nui yau wan / A Chinese Ghost Story* (1987/trailer) or Do ma daan / Peking Opera Blues (1986/trailer), Return of the Deadly Blade loses hands down; but if those two Hong Kong masterpieces aren’t around and your weed is good and you’re bored shitless, this oddity does have its appeal. An appeal that would substantially increase if the DVD formatting were better, for at least on the Eastwestdvd DVD the film transfer is atrocious, framed in such a way that most of what occurs left or right is cut down the middle. Indeed, much more so than the film's lack of continuity or clarity, the formatting is actually to blame for destroying much of the visual pleasure that this early hidden-wire-flying-fighters film might have had to offer.

*The fight choreography of Chinese Ghost Story and its sequels (among other films) was done by one Siu-Tung Ching, who also is responsible for the fight choreography of this film. Here, in Return of the Deadly Blade, he still seems to be learning the ropes — although he still does a damned good job.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...