20 October 2018 | ckormos1
1967 begins Chang Yi's career starting at Shaw Borthers studio
This movie begins with a black faced character, Bao Zheng. He was a real judge in ancient China. He became legend for his uncompromising position against corrupt government officials. His strong sense of justice made him a folk hero of the common people. In Chinese opera he is portrayed with dark skin and a white birthmark on his forehead and rather ugly. Since 2000, Justice Bao has been the title character of at least three Chinese television series.
Justice Bao does not hesitate to execute a corrupt official in the first scene. Historically, Bao had three guillotines and they are currently on display in the Kaifeng Court, Henan, China. Executing officials who have many high placed friends certainly has consequences. The Hsiang brothers (one is the grandmaster of all martial arts movies - Liu Chia-Liang) are ordered to kill Judge Bao.
It isn't until about 5 minutes into the movie that the title character played by Chang Yi literally drops in.
There is scant biographical information about Chang Yi. HKMDB notes that he came to Shaw Brothers at age 22 after 8 years as a Beijing Opera student in Taiwan. That implies he began as a student at age 14. Typically opera students begin at a much earlier age. Flexibility is the single most important physical need in Chinese opera. That is natural at an early age but even at age 14 much of that natural flexibility is gone. Chang Yi does display the physical attributes of an opera performer. In "The Thundering Sword" he does a forward flip. In general, he swings a sword convincingly from his first fight. Chang Yi's career began at Shaw Brothers in 1967 as lead opposite Cheng Pei Pei in "The Thundering Sword", followed by "The Silent Swordsman" and then this movie. He peaked in 1977 and 1978, the two most prolific years in martial arts movie history. After that he seemed to realize the dream was over and retired to Canada and only did a few small roles.
The key plot point comes up next and seems to be missing something in the translation. The emperor is impressed with Chang Yi's kung fu and gives him a title "King Cat". He is not impressed with titles, a characteristic that matches Judge Bao. So he refuses the title and position but continues to offer help if needed. The news of his title and position goes to a clan of "mouse" characters: Skyward, Underground, Mountain, Underwater, and Brocaded Mouse. Brocaded Mouse, in particular, is extremely offended by this. Why? That's the part that doesn't translate.
As for the movie review, this 97 minutes is only for fans of the martial arts genre who are interested in the history of the genre and Shaw Brothers. The fights are mostly one raised sword striking another. The leaps are wire work and reverses done only because they could be done and do not add anything. Every aspect of filming and fighting is outdated. Yet the movie draws you in and keeps your attention the entire duration.