19 May 2014 | BrianDanaCamp
Lily Ho shines in lively Shaw Bros. swordplay adventure
THE GOLDEN KNIGHT (1970) is a colorful costume adventure that moves well and has a strong Shaw Bros. cast enacting a typically convoluted plot line about a swordswoman's campaign of vengeance against five martial arts clans (including Shaolin Temple and the Wudang clan) who supposedly killed her father and complications that arise when another swordswoman impersonates her and starts killing off members of each clan. This leads to lots of meetings in a great hall, where representatives of each clan call for punishment of the seeming culprit, Yu Feixia (Lily Ho), while members of the Golden Knights, another group, demand more evidence first. (A crude justice system was in place, but it was pretty rough.) In the film's second half, Lily Ho dresses as a male scholar to travel and find her impersonator (Shu Pei Pei) and persuade her to come in to plead her case at an all-clan gathering in the great hall. There is a Golden Knight (Kao Yuen) who clearly likes Yu Feixia, but he pretty much takes a back seat to Feixia's clever courtship (while in male guise) of the impersonator. Adding to the convolution is the inclusion of three characters who are actually other characters in disguise, assisted by masks made from their victims' faces (shades of John Woo's FACE/OFF!). They are all, of course, played by the actors whose characters are being impersonated.
Lily Ho was especially good at roles of male impersonation because she liked to capture the ways these characters moved. (See her spunky kung fu girl-raised-as-a-boy in THE JADE- FACED ASSASSIN, also reviewed on this site.) Here she dresses as a refined male scholar and visits Shaolin Temple in an attempt to find her impersonator and moves exactly the way such a character would move. Granted, she still looks like Lily Ho, so it's a bit of a stretch that so many characters who already know her would be fooled, but that's one of the conventions of these films and you just have to accept it if you want to enjoy them.
The action scenes are all fun to watch, with large numbers of participants and lots of high jumping and leaping through rooftops amidst large indoor sets and sprawling outdoor locations. Don't look for martial arts technique, though. Whenever a shot focuses on two fighters, the camera switches to hand-held mode and gets way too close for us to see anything. However, since Lily Ho wasn't the most convincing fighter at Shaw Bros., it's probably for the better. But she does wear a lot of great costumes.
The supporting cast features some of the stalwarts of this genre, including Ku Feng, Fan Mei-Sheng, Wang Hsieh, Kang Chia, Ching Miao, Hao Li Jen, and Wang Ching Ho.