Lady in Black Cracks the Gate of Hell
aka The Hell’s Gate aka The Black Musketeer (part 3) aka 女黑俠威震地獄門
Directed by Law Chi
Lady in Black Cracks the Gate of Hell is different than the other two Dark Heroine Muk Lan-Fa films, because there is less Muk Lan-Fa in it. Sister Muk Sau-Jan takes much of the spotlight for the first half of the film. I don’t know if actress Suet Nei was busy (she had several other films out that year), or if the studio decided it wanted to focus more on Law Oi-Seung and try to make her a bigger star as well. If so, it didn’t quite work, as her film output never reached star levels and she faded away to obscurity, to be only mentioned by guys with websites.
Lady in Black Cracks the Gate of Hell is also different because it looks more low-rent. The scale seems smaller, the plot more confusing, the stakes are less severe, and the villain dies in one of the lamest (but realistic) ways ever. But it’s still some good Jane Bond. And worth tracking down if you’re into this sort of stuff. Once again, the only available formats is unsubtitled vcd or DVD. And as we all know, at TarsTarkas.net, we don’t need no stinking subtitles!
The Dark Heroine Muk Lan-Fa
aka The Dark Heroine Mu Lanhua aka 女黑俠木蘭花
Directed by Law Chi
Written by Lau Ling-Fung
The Dark Heroine Muk Lan-fa is a pulp heroine who appeared in a series of novels by Ni Kuang and three films in the 1960s. The Dark Heroine films are examples of the Jane Bond genre, a type of film we are big fans of here at TarsTarkas.NET. For our newer readers, the Jane Bond films were a type of film that appeared in 1966 until around 1969 which were heavily influenced by James Bond, and featured female crimefighters or criminal heroes who take down gangs and international conspiracies while wearing hip clothes and always
How much is cribbed from the Black Rose films? A lot. Of course, even those aren’t original, the female crimefigher motif is common in Hong Kong and Chinese film, dating back even before film to Cantonese Opera, having many instances in literature, and continuing to the girls with guns films in modern cinema. The Jane Bond trappings were just the latest iteration. As for the Dark Heroine herself, Muk Lan-Fa and her sister Muk San-Jau team up to fight evil gangs and rob from the evil. Muk Lan-Fa’s name is derived from that of Hua Mulan, and she is the star of the series, hence her name in the titles.
Ni Kuang (倪匡 aka Ngai Hong aka I Kuang aka Yi Kuang) has written literally hundreds of films and novels that films were based on, if you are someone reading this site than you’re more familiar with his work than you probably realize. Notable characters created by Ni Kuang include Chen Zhen (from Fist of Fury), Wai See-lei (Wisely), Yuen Tsang-hop (Dr. Yuen) and the One-Armed Swordsman (with Chang Cheh). I believe there are 60 Dark Heroine books in the complete series. Here is a gallery of some of the awesome pulp covers the books used to have. But they were later reprinted at some point with less spectacular covers, and you can order them on your Chinese eReaders if you read Chinese and want to Google that info yourself.
Later the characters were used for a TV series in the 1980s on TVB Limited starring Angie Chiu and Sharen Yeung. The sisters were given a background of ninja training, though I am not sure if that is the official story for their martial arts or was invented for the series. Hello opening credits! The Dark Heroine Muk Laf-fa later inspired The Heroic Trio films.
Director Law Chi was active in the 60s and 70s. He helmed all three Dark Heroine flicks, along with a few other spy/Jane Bond type films (Lady With a Cat’s Eyes (1967) and The Big Chase (1966)) and some wuxia flicks. His output dropped by the beginning of the 1980s, though he did manage to direct Haunted House Elf somehow. Writer Lau Ling-Fung didn’t seem to have much of a career outside of these three Dark Heroine films, either. Action directors Liu Chia-Liang and Tong Gai would go on to earn acclaim at Shaw, and Tong Gai even scored Suet Nei’s hand in marriage.
Things get pretty confusing at times, as the plot will zigzag all over before it reaches the logical next step. And as a bonus, these lovely vcds come equipped with no subtitles. But at TarsTarkas.NET, we don’t need no stinking subtitles!
The plot to get some sort of weapon, and there is espionage and spy rings involved. The spy rings are run so terribly that random people can just wander into the meetings and become embroiled in the world of secret light weapons and boat gunbattles. And one last thing before we start, for the transitions between scenes, instead of starwipes, this film has explosionwipes! That’s brilliantly awesometacular!