18 March 2017 | dmuel
interesting tale of conflicting obligations
This is an unusual and interesting story of the often conflicting, or even contradictory obligations in certain situations in a Confucian society. It is also quite bleak in its conclusion, which often occurs in Shaw Brothers, revenge-driven Kungfu movies, but more so given the conflict of family, romantic and social ties in this film. An oft-recurring theme in Shaw Brothers' films is the lingering Ming resentment of Qing rule, which also is prominent in this one.
There are historic inaccuracies, such as a romantic lead, Chi-chi, who happens not to have bound feet, which would never have occurred in a noble family circa early Qing dynasty, and this would have precluded any martial arts study for women. But the dominant story plot is the hero's conflicting obligations to family, political loyalties and the intimate affairs of the heart.
None of this becomes clear until the second half of the movie, although it is clearly outlined early in the film. Some of the romantic elements develop slowly, perhaps a bit tediously, in the first part of the movie, but conflict deepens quickly with the resultant tragedy and grim conclusion of the film. The "mantis" element in the film seems slightly contrived, and unessential to the broader thrust of the movie, and some of the early fight scenes in the movie lack the luster of other Shaw Brothers' efforts. But the movie is still worth a look!