Posts tagged "wuxia"

The Bride with White Hair

The Bride with White Hair

aka 白髮魔女傳 aka Bai fa mo nu zhuan
The Bride with White Hair
1993
Written by Elsa Tang Bik-Yin, Lam Kee-To, David Wu Dai-Wai, and Ronny Yu Yan-Tai
Directed by Ronny Yu Yan-Tai

The Bride with White Hair
The Bride With White Hair films are classic wuxia tales from an era when Hong Kong cinema was undergoing its latest periodic resurgence. They’re one of a pack of films that helped hook people like me into becoming Hong Kong cinema fans for life, and Part 1 is one of the best films from 90s Hong Kong period. The frenetic pace, heartfelt romance, and sorrowful endings propel it to the top. The sequel picks up a lot of the story threads but goes in its own direction (and will be discussed in its own review), but is necessary to see the conclusion of the tale begun in The Bride With White Hair.

Lien Ni Chang and the rest of the characters originated in the serialized wuxia novel 白髮魔女傳 (Baifa Monü Zhuan) by Liang Yusheng (published between 1957-58). Each filmed version of the tale borrows different elements from the source, using it to tell their own tale. While Pearl Cheung Ling’s Wolf Devil Woman goes in the direction of energetic insanity to create a tale of revenge, The Bride With White Hair films go with a love story with an ultimately tragic ending (though still romantic.) I have not seen the 1950s Cantonese version (the three parts of which may or may not still even exist!) The character surfaced again in The Forbidden Kingdom, has been the subject of several television serials, and will be getting a new big budget film version in 2014 (which will hopefully break the trend of big budget Chinese cinema being boring and empty despite the effects!)
The Bride with White Hair
The story of the Bride with White Hair is famous enough that images of a man-hating white haired woman, with her prehensile hair used as a weapon, has become an iconic imagery in wuxia. The original stories contain all sorts of clan intrigue, palace conspiracies, regicides, and bandits with a mix of historical and jianghu characters. The simplification of the tale to turn it into a passable movie is understandable, though I’m sure there are purists upset that yet another adaptation isn’t true enough to the original tale. Every version of the tale I have seen has strayed drastically from the source, using it as a springboard to tell their own interpretation based on what elements stood out to them. Ronny Yu Yan-Tai saw is as a tragic romance, and the two films are united by their shared love dynamic.

The Bride With White Hair is packed with great action sequences, with plenty of wirework and sword battles. The set design in particular is well done, the madness of the Supreme Cult displayed by the decoration of the headquarters and the writhing and dancing pandemonium that mirrors the extremeness of the twin Chi Wu Shuang. Chi Wu Shuang are presented at times in extreme angles and odd closeups, while their makeup and costumes enhance their feeling of wrongness. It is no mistake the villains are so beyond evil, without their influence, Lien Ni Chang would lose sympathy upon her transformation and eventual turn as villain in the sequel.
The Bride with White Hair
The love tale begins after it ends (or at least as it ends at the end of this film), with Cho Yi Hang guarding the magic flower as he waits a decade for it to bloom, in the midst of a never-ending blizzard atop a mountain. A group of soldiers working for the Emperor arrive, demanding the flower to save the Emperor himself. Cho kills them all, and the leader’s dying breath asks who could be more important than the emperor.

Cho narrates that he has a woman in his heart, and the film drifts into a the flashback…

Cho Yi Hang (Leslie Cheung Kwok-Wing) – The proud chosen successor to the leadership of Wu Tang Clan, Cho Yi Hang is almost too righteous, causing trouble with his acts to protect the weak. He grows disillusioned with the politics of governments and martial clans, and meeting Lien gives him the excuse he needs to run off. But fate does not have that future in store for him.
Lien Ni Chang (Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia) – An orphan raised by wolves, and then adopted into an evil cult where Lien was trained as their best killer. She was never given a name until Cho Yi Hang. His betrayal of her trust causes her to completely flip out.
Chi Wu Shuang (Francis Ng Chun-Yu) – Lord of the Supreme Cult. Part of a conjoined twin pair with his sister, who mocks everything he does in her fits of hysteria. The male Chi Wu Shuang enjoys slaughter, and aspires to be a grand mastermind. But none of his plans and schemes have won him the heart of the wolf girl, who he adopted as a child and raised to be a killer.
Chi Wu Shuang (Elaine Lui Siu-Ling) – Sister pair of the Lord of the Supreme Cult. While her brother takes on more of a leadership aura, the female Chi Wu Shuang is more mad, finding everything darkly amusing and not hesitating to cut anyone down with insults, even her favorite target, her brother. The manic insanity is an outstanding performance. Elaine Lui Siu-Ling starred in several of the girls with guns films, including the breakthrough that launched the imitators, Angels

The Bride with White Hair
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - December 19, 2013 at 8:18 am

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Zu: The Warriors from the Magic Mountain

Zu: The Warriors from the Magic Mountain

aka 新蜀山劍俠 aka Xin shu shan jian ke
Zu Warriors From Magic Mountain
1983
Written by Shui Chung-Yuet and Sze-To Cheuk-Hon
Directed by Tsui Hark

Zu Warriors From Magic Mountain
My life having gone through the binge period of renting blurry Hong Kong VHS second generation dubs with hard to read subtitles from locally owned video stores in the 90s, Zu: The Warriors from the Magic Mountain is one of those films that unleashes giant waves of nostalgia. Despite the bad conditions it was being viewed under, the energy and effects magics caused it to rise above the masses. I’ve since seen it on first generation VHS, vcd, and DVD, each time being a fun experience as an idealistic young fighter is caught in the world of wuxia masters, who turn out to have just as many problems as the normal folk (only their problems are a million times more dangerous!) With Tsui Hark’s direction (and choreography work done by Corey Yuen Kwai, Yuen Biao, Fung Hak-On, and Mang Hoi), Zu is visually distinctive. The choreography and effects jumpstarted the look of modern Hong Kong film from the 1980s, while the color and humorous tone helped distinguish it from the Shaw Brothers films that it often shared rental store space with.

The effects look a bit dated now, flying people on obvious wires, old school makeup effects, and cartoon lasers zapping around. But a lot of the practical effects still look nice, and the pulsating monster seems more dangerous as a jiggling puppet than it would as just a bunch of lifeless CGI. The effects were pushed to show that Hong Kong could produce films on par with Star Wars and other early 80s effects-laden films from Hollywood. While I don’t think they quite match the talent, much is accomplished on what is obviously an insanely smaller budget (and Hong Kong effects would develop much further thanks to experience from producing films like this one!)
Zu Warriors From Magic Mountain
Despite the effects, much of the film is character driven. Dik Ming Kei’s endless idealism, Ding Yan’s tough exterior hiding a lonesome and good man, Yat Jan being a royal screw up, and the Ice Queen being the total opposite of her name when it comes to Ding Yan. It’s Moon Lee’s first major role, she would go on to be a major player in the Girls with Guns films of the late 80s/early 90s. Brigitte Lin began her domination as a martial arts queen that would ripen with Swordsman II and The Bride with White Hair.

The energy of Zu: The Warriors from the Magic Mountain is infectious, it covers so much that we’re sprinting from concept to concept. Despite that, the basic story is simple to follow. They even stop to remind everyone that it is just good vs. evil!
Zu Warriors From Magic Mountain

Dik Ming Kei (Yuen Biao) – A former scout turned man fed up with war, who then gets entangled in drama in the martial world. He will become involved on a quest to literally save the planet. Through it all, his optimism and hope for the future becomes almost as powerful a weapon as the martial art skills he learns along the way.
Ding Yan (Adam Cheng Siu-Chow) – Ding Yan of Nam-Hoi, a lone martial fighter who fights against evil and lives a solitary life. Ding Yan is proud and stern, but he’s also loyal to his friends.
Yat Jan (Mang Hoi) – The student of Hiu Yu, a goofy klutz who doesn’t feel he is worthy to carry on the legacy of the Kwan-Leung school. Needs a healthy dose of confidence. Wears a turtle shell on his back.
Hiu Yu (Norman Chu Siu-Keung) – Leader of Kwan-Leun school and trains his student, Yat Jan. Is called Heaven’s Blade. Poisoned early in the film, requiring the help of the Ice Queen.
Ice Queen (Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia) – the Lady lives in her secluded palace and has the power to heal those injured by supernatural means. But it also costs her much energy to heal them, and she usually decides to heal or not to heal based on fate, things ouside her control. Her isolation is argued to cause her to be cold, but she does have humanity in her (as evidenced by her interactions with Ding Yan)
Ice Queen’s Guard (Moon Lee Choi-Fung) – One of the guards of Ice Queen’s palace, she is tricked by Dik Ming Kei and Hiu Yu when they embarass her to try to get past. She gets revenge on them by embarrassing them much more, and is the only member of Ice Queen’s crew to escape her palace. She joins the heroes on their quest as she has nowhere else to go.
Chang Mei (Sammo Hung Kam-Bo) – Founder of Ngo-Mei School and fighter against evil. He holds the big villain at bay for 49 days with only a mirror and his eyebrows, surviving only with the hope the dopey goofs he sent on the quest to save the planet actually get their act together.

Zu Warriors From Magic Mountain
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - December 15, 2013 at 6:41 pm

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A Field Guide to Cantonese Fantasy Monsters and Creatures

A Field Guide to Cantonese Fantasy Monsters and Creatures

Just imagine: One day in ancient China, you are wandering around the forest while on a quest to find 1000 Iron Fist Li, when suddenly you spot an unknown creature in the distance. Is it a friendly face that will bestow ancient knowledge? A pet of a mad monk sent to destroy you? Or a fearsome warrior guarding a passage to valuable treasure? Now, you can easily find out what creature you spotted and learn the information you will need to return to the Golden Swallow Tea House to tell tales to impress Jade Phoenix, the Purple Warrior of Fire Mountain.

This Field Guide to Cantonese Fantasy Monsters and Creatures will provide you with the identification information you need to make an informed decision as what to do when encountering a fantasy monster or creature. You will learn what the ancient masters know, with facts culled from ancient tombs and recent scientific expeditions.

The ever-growing Field Guide to Cantonese Fantasy Monsters and Creatures will be updated as more fantasy creatures are discovered upon watching more old wuxia flicks. Names and scientific names are often conjecture or assigned by the guide. The guide is not responsible for inaccurate information that results in injury or death. Do not let this guide fall into the hands of the Spider Clan or Master Liu Fan-bei of Lohan Peak by order of the Emperor.

Name:Condor
Scientific Name:Gymnogyps giganticus
Appearances:Buddha’s Palm Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
Height:6′
Weight:155 lbs
Description:The magical Condor of Master Ku Hon-wan, the Wicked God of Fiery Cloud, is Master Ku’s loyal companion in the four Buddha’s Palm movies. Condor also saves two of the main characters from assailants, both of which Master Ku adopts as his own children. After Master Ku’s death, Condor refuses to leave his grave. He’s probably still there now.




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Posted by Tars Tarkas - February 25, 2013 at 10:49 pm

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Buddha’s Palm (Part 4)

Buddha’s Palm (Part 4)

aka 如來神掌(四集) aka The Young Swordsman Lung Kim Fei Part 4 aka 如來神掌(四集大結局)

1964HKMDB Link
Written by Sze-To On
Story by Shangguan Hong
Directed by Ling Yun

Buddha's Palm
Hey, it’s Buddha’s Palm Part 4! As you recall from the introductions to Buddha’s Palm Part 1, Buddha’s Palm Part 2, and Buddha’s Palm Part 3, we’re sort of getting burnt out introducing the same thing over again. So let’s pretend this introduction has more exciting information than it actually does. But, seriously, if I did suddenly find new information, I would probably be editing it into the relevant Buddha’s Palm movie.
Buddha's Palm
The adventured we got “To be continued!” on in the last time comes to a close. And it’s really the close of the whole story, except for that whole several more sequels produced years later by different production companies thing. Let’s just forget about that for now, and focus on the current installment. Do we got cool new monsters? YES! Two brand new cool monsters show up for battle. Do they die a horrible death, murdered by our bloodlusting protagonists who can’t let innocent monsters who are minding their own business live? Yes! So “BOOOOOO!!!” to monster murder! Is there magic drawn on effects that show the super wuxia forces at battle? Yes! Is there no stinking subtitles, of which TarsTarkas.NET does not need? Yes! Yes as in no subtitles.
Buddha's Palm
Though this is the end of the Buddha’s Palm Quadrology, don’t worry. There is one more article coming up, and it will be something special. A celebration. But until then, let’s get on with the show!
Buddha's Palm

Lung Kim-fei (Walter Tso Tat-Wah) – The Buddha’s Palm hero must find a way to stop the Three Devils from taking over the world of kung fu, and also unlock the secret of the ninth style of the Buddha’s Palm.
Kau Yuk-wah (Yu So-Chau) – Kung fu sister who has to help save the day from evil jerks who want to take everything over.
Kau Yuk-kuen (Patricia Lam Fung) – Kung fu sister who also has to help save the day from evil jerks who want to take everything over.
Master Ku Hon-wan (Ling Mung) – How many tripod jars can you levitate with a sword in your back? Probably not as many as Master Ku, though that doesn’t stop him from dying.
Condor (Man in suit) – Master Ku Hon-wan’s magic condor is still giving rides and rescuing people, though he refuses to leave the grave of Master Ku, so he won’t be in the rest of the film.
But Ku (Ko Lo-Chuen) – The helmsman of the Cheung Lei Sect doesn’t let evil jerks trying to take everything over stop him from loudly yelling before he enters a room. But that may be the death of him…
Luk Yu (Kwan Hoi-San) – Friend of the Kau sisters, a guy who gets captured a lot and Lung Kim-fei keeps saving. Does he get captured in this movie? No!
Suen Bik-ling (Yung Yuk-Yi) – Matriarch of the Kau’s clan. She died in the last movie, but shows up in flashback here for another example of how she wasn’t very nice.
Auyeung Ho (Siu Chung-Kwan) – A jerk guy who bullied Lung, and now pals around with the Three Devils. Except they aren’t pals any more, if you know what I mean…
Three Devils (Cheung Seng-Fai, Hoh Siu-Hung, Lee Sau-Kei) – Three evil dudes who conspire to cause trouble in the land of kung fu while solidifying their power. Will use the palm-imprinted tripods to figure out the secret of the Buddha’s Palm technique, but they don’t have all the tripods!
Lau Piu-piu (Chan Wai-Yue) – The helmswoman of Heavenly Fragrance Sect, she’s reluctant to help stop the Three Devils because Suen scarred her face long long ago. But a magic face cream cures everything, so she agrees to help. But it may be the death of her…

Buddha's Palm
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - February 16, 2013 at 1:35 pm

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Buddha’s Palm (Part 3)

Buddha’s Palm (Part 3)

aka 如來神掌(三集) aka The Young Swordsman Lung Kim Fei Part 3 aka 如來神掌(三集大結局)

1964HKMDB Link
Written by Sze-To On
Story by Shangguan Hong
Directed by Ling Yun

Buddha's Palm
It’s a whole new chapter in the Buddha’s Palm saga as Part 3 takes us into new intrigue and adventures. A joyous celebration becomes a tragedy when murder is the special guest. Lung Kim-fei and his new bride Kau Yuk-wah must find out who killed Suen. The rest of the crew is also searching for answers, and we run across arrogant martial arts masters and evil jerks causing trouble. But most excitedly, there is a brand new monster!
Buddha's Palm
Buddha’s Palm (Part 3) goes more into the details of the world we were introduced to in Part 1 and Part 2. We meet some new schools, and find out that part of the reason there are so many problems in the martial world is a mix of rash accusations and arrogant school heads. Of course, everyone stopping to chat around some tea doesn’t make good cinema. Unless you’re really good at writing dialogue…
Buddha's Palm
Once again, the effects and monster costumes are what make the Buddha’s Palm films. Though we only get one new monster, there are a lot of new martial arts effects – waves, blasts, explosions, giant bells. The increase in effects in Parts 3 and 4 is very evident. Once again, there are not subtitles, but at TarsTarkas.NET, we don’t need no stinking subtitles!
Buddha's Palm

Lung Kim-fei (Walter Tso Tat-Wah) – The Buddha’s Palm hero is set to be wed, but an untimely murder ruins everything, including his honeymoon! Now he has to hunt down murderers.
Kau Yuk-wah (Yu So-Chau) – Kung fu sister whose marriage is marred by the murder of her matriarch. Spends her time with Lung hunting down clues. They are much more polite about accusing everyone they meet of murder than her sister’s group.
Kau Yuk-kuen (Patricia Lam Fung) – Kau Yuk-wah’s younger sister who sets out to find out what happened to her matriarch. Is kidnapped twice during this film. Also finds the most best clues. And causes the most trouble with people who aren’t keen on being accused of killing people.
Master Ku Hon-wan (Ling Mung) – Is gone for most of the film, but returns to Earth to find out about the murder and surmises who is responsible rather quickly. But it may be the death of him…
Condor (Man in suit) – Master Ku Hon-wan’s magic condor is still giving rides and rescuing people!
But Ku (Ko Lo-Chuen) – The helmsman of the Cheung Lei Sect doesn’t let a murder investigation stop him from loudly yelling before he enters a room.
Luk Yu (Kwan Hoi-San) – Friend of the Kau sisters, a guy who gets captured a lot and Lung Kim-fei keeps saving. Does he get captured in this movie? Yes!
Suen Bik-ling (Yung Yuk-Yi) – Matriarch of the Kau’s clan. No longer hides her disfigured face, which is beginning to heal. Is murdered by a mysterious weapon, and much of the film is spent trying to figure out who did it.
Auyeung Ho (Siu Chung-Kwan) – A jerk guy who bullied Lung, and now pals around with the Three Devils. He’s graduated to being more evil than before!
Ten Thousand-hand Lohan (???) – Just a guy who can identify rare weapons, which makes him a target of friends and foes. Gets foed. Despite having ten thousand hands, this is one Lohan who never goes to jail!
Three Devils (Cheung Seng-Fai, Hoh Siu-Hung, Lee Sau-Kei) – Three evil dudes who conspire to cause trouble in the land of kung fu while solidifying their power.
Lau Piu-piu (Chan Wai-Yue) – The helmswoman of Heavenly Fragrance Sect, she’s initially suspected of Suen Bik-ling’s murder, but is cleared when she claims to be a sworn sister of Suen.

Buddha's Palm
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - February 15, 2013 at 11:47 am

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Buddha’s Palm (Part 2)

Buddha’s Palm (Part 2)

aka 如來神掌(二集) aka The Young Swordsman Lung Kim Fei Part 2 aka 如來神掌(下集大結局)

1964HKMDB Link
Written by Sze-To On
Story by Shangguan Hong
Directed by Ling Yun

Buddha's Palm
Buddha’s Palm Part 2, the adventure continues! When last we left our intrepid travelers, Lung Kim-fei had helped recover dragonroot to restore the sight of Suen. The first thing she sees when she regains her sight is his uniform, the same uniform as his sifu, Master Ku Hon-wan the Wicked God of Fiery Cloud and enemy of Suen. So she blasts Lung in the chest!
Buddha's Palm
This edition is unique in it is the only one of the Buddha’s Palm series that does not have the iconic opening credits sequence of Lung Kim-fei shooting palm blasts at a Buddha painting every ten seconds. But don’t fear, it will return for the next two parts of Buddha’s Palm. Part 2 finishes the story began in Part 1, while Parts 3 and 4 are their own story. Some of the monster costumes from the prior film return, along with a new surprise.
Buddha's Palm
Burdened by the story, there is less quest adventuring going on, and more of running and fighting adventuring. The next two chapters will attempt to balance the questing and the fighting, but for now we got a stream of action sequences. The plot is largely propelled by Suen’s anger, while Master Ku is given a moment to act all cocky like his character’s back story is supposed to be. But oddly enough, that saves the day. So the lesson is to be cocky, but explain yourself? Sure, whatever Buddha’s Palm!
Buddha's Palm

Lung Kim-fei (Walter Tso Tat-Wah) – This zero became a hero and got blasted in the chest for it! Luckily he’s saved by Kau Yuk-wah and his friends until things are set into motion and clans prepare to battle, unless Lung Kim-fei helps bring peace.
Kau Yuk-wah (Yu So-Chau) – Kung fu sister who falls for Lung Kim-fei and tries to save him. Spends part of the film racked with guilt when she thinks her sister died. Helps Lung rescue Luk Yu and then tries to help calm down the feuding clans.
Kau Yuk-kuen (Patricia Lam Fung) – Kau Yuk-wah’s younger sister who is believed killed early in the film, but is actually rescued by Master Ku and trained in the Buddha’s Palm Technique. Her being saved and welcomed helps calm the feud between Master Ku and Master Suen.
Master Ku Hon-wan (Ling Mung) – The Wicked God of Fiery Cloud, his sight was recently restored by Lung. Trains Kau Yuk-kuen in the Buddha’s Palm technique after Condor saves her.
Condor (Man in suit) – Master Ku Hon-wan’s magic condor who saves people all the time. And you can ride him!
But Ku (Ko Lo-Chuen) – The helmsman of the Cheung Lei Sect. Always announces himself via incredibly loud offscreen yelling. Helps rescue Lung and tries to calm the clan feuding that’s going on.
Luk Yu (Kwan Hoi-San) – Friend of the Kau sisters, a guy who gets kidnapped a lot and Lung Kim-fei keeps saving. Does he get kidnapped in this movie? Yes!
Suen Bik-ling (Yung Yuk-Yi) – Matriarch of the Kau’s clan. Was blinded in duel with Master Ku Hon-wan long ago, and just regained her sight. Wears a mask to hide her disfigured face. Is willing to start a war to get revenge on Master Ku.
Auyeung Ho (Siu Chung-Kwan) – A jerk guy who bullied Lung, but not he gets shown up by the kung fu trained Lung. So suck it, bully!
Auyeung Ho’s wife (???) – Auyeung Ho’s wife, she gets to watch her jerk husband be humiliated…again!

Buddha's Palm
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - February 14, 2013 at 11:40 am

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