9 May 2012 | BrianDanaCamp
THE CRANE FIGHTER – Showcase for the great Chia Ling
Chia Ling (aka Judy Lee) made over 40 kung fu films from 1972 to 1982, in some of which she starred (QUEEN BOXER, IMPERIAL SWORD, LADY CONSTABLES) and in some of which she contributed extended cameos and fight scenes (EIGHT MASTERS, BLAZING TEMPLE). She's the star of THE CRANE FIGHTER (1979) and has quite a number of exciting action-packed fight scenes where she employs Crane-style kung fu against various interlopers, including men from the occupying Qing army. She plays Ping-Erh, the daughter of a hidden kung fu master (Chuen Yuen), a refugee from the now-banned Shaolin Temple, who has forbidden his daughter to study the art. The two of them run a bean curd shop and are assisted by a goofy servant (Ting Wa Chung), whose comical antics can get really annoying. On her own, however, Ping-Erh has watched Taoist monks secretly practicing and has learned enough kung fu to defend herself. Eventually, the local Qing chief notices her skill and decides to neutralize her by marrying her off to his idiot son. Her father instead stages a contest promising his daughter's hand in marriage to the man who can beat her. Ping-Erh handily beats and maims the idiot son, but soon meets her match in a handsome stranger (Raymond Lui) who had come to her aid earlier in the film. At first, he refuses to marry her, which infuriates her no end, but it's all part of a circuitous courtship.
In the meantime, a Qing general (Kam Kong) and enemy of Ping-Erh's father arrives in town, recognizes the father and has him and his brother imprisoned. Ping-Erh and the handsome stranger have to join forces to rescue him and the other prisoners in a grueling nighttime fight scene. They all go into hiding (in rather plain sight, it seems) and, in the course of it, Ping-Erh and the stranger marry. She then refuses to sleep with him until he can muster up the skills to overpower her and force her into the marriage bed. Right at an inopportune time, the Qing forces find them and another battle erupts.
Chia Ling is beautiful throughout, particularly in her wedding scene, and is quite a fierce fighter to boot. Her co-star, Raymond Lui, also directed the film and served as fight choreographer. He's quite good and a worthy match for Chia Ling. I'm not familiar with his other credits listed on IMDb, other than his first film, ANGRY RIVER, although I don't remember him in it. CRANE FIGHTER might well be the first starring film of his I've ever seen.
The poor-quality gray market DVD I watched for this review offers a pan-and-scan print dubbed in English. I'd love to see a restored, letter-boxed, legit edition in Mandarin with English subtitles.