Monday, March 28, 2016

The Golden Knight (1970)

There were six main clans in the martial arts world and they formed an alliance and pointed a master to be their leader. The alliance was to find a solution if there were a problem between or among clans. The Golden Knights from Tongxin Clan sat as outsiders who gave their opinions, more like jurors.

There had been a Grand Master, the ruler for decades with this six excellent skills. When he was dying, he gave six manuals to the chiefs of six clans, each chief received one manual. Yu Yun-yang from Huangshan Clan arrived late. Later the grand master was found dead and Yu Yun-yang was missing.

There were two versions of stories of what happened that day. The chiefs from five clans testified that when they left the grand master's house, they met Yu Yun-yang on his way. They told him that the grand master had kept one manual for him. Then they heard Yu Yun-yang's shout, telling them to return to the grand master's house because the grand master had been murdered. They returned, but only found the grand master's dead body. The manual was missing, along with Yu Yun-yang.

The second version was told to Yu Fei-xia, Yu Yun-yang's daughter, by a woodcutter who claimed that he had seen the chiefs of five clans (in black clothes / disguise actually) attacking and killing Yu Yun-yang. But when Yu Fe-xia was confronted by one of the golden knights, she said she didn't know who the woodcutter was and couldn't find him again.

The trial of Yu Fei-xia
Then appeared a masked girl who attacked two clans and stole their manuals. The five clans believed that the masked girl was Yu Fei-xia because 1) she had declared she would kill all people in the five clans to take revenge for her father. 2) The masked girl used 'Poison Palm', a skill only used by the Yu family. However, the first missing manual contained 'Poison Palm'.

Lily Ho and Kao Yuen
I enjoyed watching this movie. The mystery was a nice touch, although I could guess who the bad guy was from the beginning. The story was well-written. The enemies had a skill to change their faces, so it was fun to see how the good guys solved the puzzle.

The Dream of The Red Chamber (1977)

There are several version movies of The Dream of The Red Chamber, but I chose this one because I was looking for a song. I was not sure from which version it was, but my cassette was from early 1980's. I did find the song in this version, although my song was an instrumental and the rhythm was faster.

This movie is one of the most beautiful movies ever made. The clothes and the furnitures were very nice. Some of the most beautiful actresses were in it: Lin Ching-hsia, Mi Hsueh, Sylvia Chang. Sylvia Chang looked very beautiful as Lin Dai Yu and I was very impressed, because in early 80's she usually played tomboy characters.

Lin Ching-hsia and Niu Niu played male characters. I don't know why some male characters should be played by females. There were male actors in this movie, like Yueh Hua and Tien Ching; but all singing voices were females'.

The movie's pace was slow, but I was mesmerized by what I saw that I watched it in one sitting. It was basically a Romeo - Juliet story, with a lot of tears.

After the deaths of her parents, Miss Lin Dai Yu came to Ning Kuo Mansion in Jinling City to live with her grandmother. Her grandmother was from the rich and powerful Jia family. There Lin Dai Yu met Jia Bao Yu, the only son of the Jia family. They played together and became best friends. Several years later, they fell in love with each other and couldn't live without one another, but as Lin Dai Yu was too thin and frail [Remember that Jia Bao Yu was the only son], on the wedding night the bride was switched. Jia Bao Yu wed Miss Bao and Lin Dai Yu died with a broken heart.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Proud Youth (1978)

Lately I started to notice an actor named Wang Yu (not Jimmy Wang Yu), who appeared in several Liu Chia-liang movies. The rumor said that when Jimmy Wang Yu left Shaw Brothers in 1970, the studio owner was so angry that he hired a look-alike and had him play a parody of the former star. I must say that at first I was mistaken, but now I can tell the difference between two actors. You can actually see the year of the making to see which Wang Yu it was. Their names in Chinese characters are also different.

(L) Jimmy Wang Yu vs (R) Not Jimmy Wang Yu
The younger Wang Yu usually played a naughty kid. If the movie was not dubbed, but was in Cantonese, he could be even more annoying (in a funny way). For a kung-fu actor, I think he was good in acting and in delivery of his lines.

So it was interesting to see he played in this movie. The Proud Youth was based on Chin Yung novel 'The Smiling Proud Wanderer'. Wang Yu usually played proud characters, so this part should be easy for him. I only hoped he could be given more dialogues so he could practiced his fast mouth.

Every two years, sword clans of the Five Mountains gathered on the top of Mount Taishan. They are: Huashan Clan, Taishan Clan, Hingshan Clan, Hengshan Clan, and Songshan Clan. The younger clan members learned from competitions, while the chiefs selected a leader of the alliance.

The head student of Huashan Clan, Nangong Song, saved a young nun from Hao Jie-ying, a rapist. Nangong Song suffered grave injuries from this fight because Hao Jie-ying was a more skilled fighter than him and Song only won because of his quick wit and fast mouth. While the nun treated his injuries, other nuns saw them and reported 'the inappropriate conduct' to their teacher, the abbess of Hingshan Clan.

Nangong Song vs Hao Jie-ying. 'Do you want to try my Toilet Sword Style?'
Shi Zhong-ying from Hengshan Clan befriended Gao Yun from the evil clan, Sun Clan, because they both liked music. Shi Zhong-ying played flute and Gao Yun played khim. They both composed a tune together, called 'The Last Sound of the Empty Valley'.

Leng Ruo-jun from Songshan Clan, the new leader of the alliance, found out about the friendship and commanded Shi Zhong-ying to kill his friend. Shi Zhong-ying refused, so Leng Ruo-jun had all his family members killed. Shi Zhong-ying was wounded, but Gao Yun saved him. Together they played 'The Last Sound of the Empty Valley' before their deaths. Nangong Song who was being treated by the young nun heard the melody and came towards. Gao Yun gave him the sheet music, told him to pass it to a talented musician.

Huashan Clan's chief Luo Chao-jun punished Nangong Song for his inappropriate behaviour with the nun. The young man must face the wall for a year at Huashan's Cliff of Remorse. On this cliff Nangong Song found a hidden cave and learned the unbeatable Chongyang Nine Swords Style.

Learning Chongyang Nine Sword Style in a hidden cave
One year passed and being free again, Nangong Song gave the music sheet to Bai Ying-ying from the Sun Clan. When they first met he couldn't see her face and thought that she was an old woman.

Sheet music
Bai Ying-ying was the Sacred Lady from Sun Clan and because Nangong Song had given her a gift, people from the evil clan came to Huashan Clan to give wine to Nangong Song. They also held a party at Wuba Mound. The Huashan Clan's chief was angry that he kicked out Nangong Song from Huashan Clan.

Nangong Song sees Ying-ying's reflection in a river
Then Nangong Song help a guardian from the Sun Clan to free the Sun Clan's former chief, also Ying-ying's father, who had been locked in a dungeon for twelve years by the recent chief, Sima Wuji.

Shih Szu plays Bai Ying-ying
Sima Wuji had learn 'Plum Blossom Classics' on fighting styles and was actually matchless. Guardian Shi, Chief Bai, Nangong Song and Ying-ying surrounded him but he was stronger than the four of them. Finally Ying-ying and Nangong Song could kill him. In the book, even the 4 of them could not handle the enemy. Only by threatening Sima Wuji's lover, Ying-ying could trick him. But in this movie version, the lover had been killed before the four met Sima Wuji.

Sima Wuji becomes half man half woman after learning Plum Blossom Classics
Hao Jie-ying, the rapist, was also a hired assassin. Someone had paid him to kill the leaders of the four clans and the wife of the Huashan Clan's leader. Easy to guess who had paid him, right? Because only one man left to lead the alliance. Also, if you are familiar with the story you already knew who the bad guy was.

The location of the final fight was at a waterfall, so it was nice to watch. The location where Nangong Song fought Hao Jie-ying was also beautiful.

The final fight. Nangong Song vs Luo Chao-jun
I like Wang Yu as Nangong Song [although I think he was better in Swift Sword (1980)]. He was not convincing in romantic scenes (which were very rare in this movie. In the book, Lenghou Tiong - the original name for Nangong Song, was in love with his teacher's daughter, but she loved someone else. In this movie, she liked him but he only saw her as a sister), though, and maybe that was why the last scene which portrayed Bai Ying-ying talked to him was dialogue-less and the Shaw Brothers logo appeared, a sign that it was the end of the movie.

The Jade Faced Assassin (1971)

Based on Khu Lung's novel The Remarkable Twins, this movie was quite enjoyable. I even prefer this one than the 1979 version with Fu Sheng and Lawrence Ng. Both movies are based on the same novel, but with limited time, it's interesting to see which material stayed and which were omitted.

At first I was a bit disappointed to see that Siao Hi-ji character was played by a female, but later I thought she was okay and played the part well. The character had a scar on her cheek, just like in the book.

Chang Chun ran from Chang Chuen Clan with his wife - the 3rd sister from the clan, and their new-born twins. On their way, they were stopped by robbers and finally killed by the 1st sister from Chang Chuen clan, who thought Chang Chun had stolen their creed. The 1st sister took one of the twins, and left the other for No.1 Swordsman Lian Lan-yan, the sworn-brother of Chang Chun.

When Lian Lan-yan arrived, one of the dying robbers told him that it was Chang Zhai who had betrayed Chang Chun. Lian Lan-yan went for Chang Zhai at the Happy Valley, but he was trapped by the criminals and became paralyzed. The baby was raised by the criminals. They named her Siao Lu-er. She was very naughty that they finally drove her out from Happy Valley.

Tse Hsin-chan (Pan Yin-tze) and Hua Yu-chun (Kao Yuen)
Siao Lu-er saved a girl from robbers who wanted her treasure map. The girl was Tse Hsin-chan, from Chang Chuen Clan. Siao Lu-er showed her later that the treasure map was a fake. Tse Hsin-chan had a martial brother, Hua Yu-chun. Hua Yu-chun first wanted to kill Siao Lu-er because he thought she had harmed his sister, and later was forced to kill her because his teacher said so.

Sweet glutinous rice. So heroes are human and love snacking like us.
But Siao Lu-er saved Tse Hsin-chan (again) when she was poisoned by Chang Ting-le. Chang Ting-le was most renowned hero and respected by many, but Siao Lu-er would prove that he was formerly known as Chang Zhai, the traitor.

Siao Lu-er befriended Yu Chi Zhao Guang the gambler. It was with his help that Siao Lu-er could saved a security bureau which had been robbed by Chang Ting-le. It was a funny scene when the security bureau owner visited Chang Ting-le to thank him for saving his carts before (he didn't know the master behind the robbery) and a moment later a man came to tell him that the carts had been robbed - again. While he was panicking, another messenger came to tell him that the carts had been returned.

Yu Chi Zhao Guang (Fan Mei-sheng) and Siao Lu-er (Lily Ho)
In the end, Siao Lu-er was about to have a duel with Hua Yu-chun, when the 2nd sister from Chang Chuen Clan stopped them and told them that they were siblings. Together they fought the cruel 1st sister and the good won, as always.

The actress who played Tse Hsin-chan was the weakest actress in this movie, in my opinion. Perhaps the camera stayed on her too long that she over-acted.

The title confused me. Who is the jade faced assassin? After giving this some thinking, I guess the assassin was Hua Yu-chun. Kao Yuen was good-looking enough (jade face = handsome) and Hua Yu-chun was sent by his teacher to kill Siao Lu-er. There was also the word 'yu' in his name (yu=jade).

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Shadow Boxing (1979)

What I like about this movie is that I learned something about corpse herding. It's explained in the beginning of the movie: "Transportation was not developed back then. If people died away from their home towns, they will be sent home by the corpse herders."

I had seen in Chinese movies - in backgrounds- a man led jumping zombies, and I paid little attention to it. Now I know that the man was transporting the dead bodies to their loved ones. He shouted: "The dead's on the road, the living stays away." to warn people to stay away or stay in their houses if the corpses were passing by.

Cecilia Wong and Wang Yue
In this movie itself, the location must be very remote, because seeing the hairstyles and clothes, this must be after the Ching dynasty and they should have had carts by then.

Liu Chia-liang played the corpse herder. Wang Yue played his apprentice. With a simple ceremony, they put mantra on the corpses so the corpses could walk (or hop) themselves. No need to carry them.

Corpse herder and his apprentice
On transporting the corpses this time, a fugitive sneaked in and pretended to be one of the corpses. In this way, he could pass through check points safely.

The herders rest, the corpse stay waiting
Like in other Liu Chia-liang movies, the fighting scenes were choreographed in unique styles. This time he took ideas from vampire moves. So far I am most impressed with the fighting styles in 'Return to the 36th Chamber' where Liu Chia-hui learnt how to fight by building bamboo scaffoldings.

The Gang Master (1982)

Loosely based on a part of Chin Yung's novel Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils - the story of Siau Hong, The Gang Master told the story of a young chief from Eagle Clan, played by Austin Wai.

Eagle Clan actively fought the Mongols, who was that the time occupied the land. When the story began, Fu Chung-yuan had just been chosen as the new chief of Eagle Clan by the late chief, his god-father. A woman in mourning clothes came, said that Fu Chung-yuan had killed her husband because her husband had knew a big secret: Fu Chung-yuan was a Mongol by birth. Fu Chung-yuan went away to find his parents, he wanted to ask them; but when he arrived, the parents had been murdered and again he was accused as the murderer.

He met a young girl who suffered a grave injury because of him and he went back to Eagle Clan, begged an elder to save her. The elder said that he would save the girl if she had not been brought by Fu Chung-yuan. But in the end he saved her anyway.

It ended more or less like in the book, that our hero couldn't choose which land and nation he had to defend.

I have seen the 1997 TVB version which told the story in no flashback and that made the mystery have no surprise. In this 1982 movie version, the mystery did work, and we wanted to know who had framed Fu Chung-yuan.

The Kid with a Tattoo (1980)

Wang Yue (not Jimmy Wang Yu), who played Li Pao-tung, the central character in this movie, in my opinion, was very good in playing comedy and kung-fu. I've seen him a couple of times in movies directed by Liu Chia-liang, one of my favourite fighting instructors, and I have always been impressed. He was very good in playing naughty and proud characters. At times, the way he delivered his lines seemed like he knew everything, dared to do anything and thought about the consequences later. He can be compared to several more popular young Hong Kong actors at that time like Jackie Chan and Yuen Piao.

Li Pao-tung was the son of Li Chang-jian, a cotton shop owner who had been in the business for 20 years. The father wanted the son to inherit his business, but Li Pao-tung's interest was only to learn martial-arts. He secretly learned kung-fu from a beggar. When the beggar was murdered, Li Pao-tung was there to witness it and he heard the murderer said that the man who had hired him was 'The Sword in the Cotton'. Who else 'The Sword in the Cotton' if not his father Li Chang-jian? - the only cotton businessman in town. Since then, he saw his father in a different light. For example, when his father took him to a expedition company to learn how to ship cotton, the son thought that his father were teaching him to learn the situation so he went back to rob the place at night.

Wang Yue piled up 3 benches on a table and climbed to the top...
...and jumped to the chandelier.
He had an eagle tattoo on his chest, which he proudly showed to his friends. But when his father discovered it, he showed him that it could be erased because it was not permanent. Father - son relationship here was well depicted by Sun Chung, the director.

If you hit me again, I'll become a monk and you'll have no grandsons.
The final fight between Wang Yue and Wang Lung-wei was enjoyable to watch. At first glance, Wang Lung-wei should have been able to win - if you calculate the strength, experience, skills; but with his naughty tricks, our hero won.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Look of Silence (2014)

In the first part of his documentary on the events after G30S/PKI in 1965, director Joshua Oppenheimer interviewed some of the men who did the killings. This movie is the second part of the documentary and the director put a relative of one of the murdered victims to interview the 'killers'.

I think the intention of making this documentary was to find out what really happened. What I learned at school (late 70's - early 90's) was how cruel the PKI had been (PKI = Indonesia Communist Party) and how the army under General Soeharto's leadership could sweep the movement quickly. From my aunt I heard the stories after the event, that so many people had died because 'communists' had had to be killed. She told me how her uncle had been taken to be tortured and killed. They lived in Solo at that time.

This documentary was about the massacre in Sungai Ular (Snake River), Deli Serdang, North Sumatra. A 44 year-old man named Adi was in search of what really had happened to his brother Ramli.

By sending a victim's brother to interview the doers, to ask them what had happened and then sort of accuse them, ask them questions like 'Do you regret what you have done?' and 'Have you realized that you were wrong?' - of course they became angry and stopped the interview. I prefer the director's approach in making The Act of Killing (the first part of the documentary), where he asked them politely to reveal what had happened and not accused them and blamed them, for this was a sensitive issue.

In the last part of this movie, Adi went to this family to interview them. The father of the family, who had passed away, told Joshua several years ago about how he led the massacre. He also had written a book about it - complete with illustrations, titled 'Embun Berdarah' and gave a copy to Joshua. His wife and sons claimed that they knew nothing about what their father did at that time and did not want to talk about it. What happened to Ramli was told in that book. There were so many victims, the number given was around 500-600 but the father of the family could gave a detailed account of what had happened to this particular victim.

Adi was born in 1968 so he never saw his brother. Perhaps he grew up listening his mother's stories about what had happened when Ramli had being taken away. We can see when he interviewed the doers how he was emotionally bitter.

There was a scene of a school-teacher taught his young pupils about the G30S/PKI history. Seeing the pictures of the president and vice-president hanging on the wall, this scene was recent. They were the pictures of SBY and Boediono (2009-2014).The teacher told the pupils how cruel the PKI was. They had kidnapped the army generals and cut their faces with razor and gouged their eyes out. When I was still at school, my history teachers never mentioned those gory details. The textbooks only also said that they had been tortured. I first learned the details of the tortures when I had to watch this G30S/PKI film made in 1984 by PPFN and later more horrible details in 1988 book 'Siapa Menabur Angin Akan Menuai Badai' (borrowed it from a neighbour). But then I heard that the tortures had never happened. The PKI shot the generals to death but never tortured them. So why this teacher still told the pupils that the army general had been tortured? Whichever was true, those pupils were elementary school kids and they should not be told gory details. Like a censorship for a movie, the teacher should know if the kids can handle such stories. It's useless to blur inappropriate images on TV if you tell sadistic stories to your pupils.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

That Man in Chang-An (1967)

Empress Lu sent out a secret imperial edict to behead King Dai, but the edict was seized by a masked man who delivered it to King Dai to warn him. The Empress had been killing Han officials and General Lu Kun had prepared troops for a mutiny. The masked man asked King Dai to warn the emperor in Chang-An, but Lu Kun had arrived to catch King Dai.

However, King Dai's sister and her maid had time to sneak out, but Lu Kun's troop was after them. They fell into a cliff and were helped by Zhuang Hai, a medician and alchemist, who hid them in a cave. The maid didn't trust him, so they went out and continued their journey and were caught by Lu Kun's men.

Zhuang Hai, the princess and the maid in the cave
The Huns, in their collaboration with Lu Kun, demanded some money to dispatch the troops. Lu Kun didn't have it and it was impossible to increase the tax because of the drought. So he invited Zhuang Hai the alchemist to make the gold. He didn't know that Zhuang Hai was the masked man he had been looking for. By staying in Lu Kun's house, Zhuang Hai could spy on him and check on the princess's safety. He finally stole the agreement between Lu Kun and the Hun and sent it to Chang-An, so Chen Ping* could lead a punitive expedition.

*My knowledge of Chinese history is not good, so I don't know who was Chen Ping and what was his role in the empire. I think this was not the same Chen Ping who lived in Liu Bang's era.

The masked man
Although this movie is quite old, I enjoyed watching it very much. The mask worn by the masked man covered his entire head, with two holes for the eyes, so it made sense if the princess etc couldn't recognize him, didn't know who he was.

The Brothers (1979)

Watching this movie was like a deja-vu. The story was familiar, yet I couldn't remember if I had watched this before. I wonder if there was a remake.

The story was very dramatic. Zhang family lived near the pier. The father was probably the head-village. A German boss wanted to buy the land on the shore. Zhang led the people to refuse the sale because the land was a heritage, but the buyer's men kidnapped Zhang's wife and two sons, so Zhang signed the deed. The villagers didn't know what had happened so they took Zhang as a traitor. They tattooed 'Traitor's son' words into Zhang's oldest son's arm.

The father died and the mother and sons moved from the village. The mother and the oldest son worked, so the youngest son could go into a school. Time passed. The youngest son went into a military school, while the oldest son still worked as a coolie in a pier. He refused to pay security money and beat the thugs. Their boss admired him and hired him to work for him. Later he became their leader.

Liu Yung as the oldest son
When the youngest son returned, he had to catch a notorious criminal: his own brother. [I am not sure why a military school's graduate worked in a criminal case - and not became a soldier and go to a war.]

Two brothers: one is a triad member and one a police - they have to confront each other, this theme is used again in 'A Better Tomorrow'. I like better Danny Lee's portrayal as the youngest son here than Lesley Cheung in 'A Better Tomorrow'. Here we could see the traces of his love to his brother and his gratitude for his sacrifice in the past. He didn't hate his triad brother. He wanted to put him to jail and hoped that he would change.

The mother here loved his two sons equally. She only agreed to leave the expensive house bought by his oldest son's illegal money because she thought that it was inappropriate. When the oldest son called her about his marriage, she received the call  and spoke like a mother who loved her son, regardless of what he had done.