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  • Warning: Spoilers
    Once again the opening of the Shaw library is revealing many gems that have been hidden from non-Chinese audiences for too long. While solidly grounded in the wuxia tradition and very much in the style of the 1960's Shaw style this film is notable for a very unusual reason. It's one of the very few martial art films ever directed by a woman. Kuo Pao-Shu, an accomplished 32 year old actress at this point, gets behind the camera for her directorial debut.

    The films opens as Feng Ying Ying is rushing home to her parents after her husband, a security officer, is murdered while protecting a shipment of treasure. With her young son in tow, they stop for a rest but cross paths with a quartet of rogues. The lead rogue decides to rape Ying Ying while the others beat the son for sport. Ying Ying has a sword but is outmatched. She struggles with the rogue but that angers him and he ends up killing her. The boy escapes and rushes to the Feng mansion. The Feng elders are not there but his aunt, Fei Fei is. Outraged at the double tragedy, she immediately sets out to find her sister's killers with the young boy. Although she is an excellent martial artist, she disguises herself as a man. They find them but she is dismayed to discover that the lead rogue is her fiancé, the son of her father's best friend!

    THe film is very accomplished and well paced for a first time effort. Kuo manages to keep the action taut and extensive while giving the film a woman's viewpoint at the same time. It makes what could have been a standard revenge film into something with more depth. Kuo went on to direct a few more films including the classic "The Master Strikes".

    The fights scenes are firmly planted in the style of the era. While energetic and well- choreographed, there's a lot of trampoline work and reverse-filmed jumping onto walls and building roofs. It's fun.

  • It opens with thugs attacking a woman and her son. Unfortunately, this swordswoman missed the lesson where you expose your breasts then stab the man while he is gawking at them. The son escapes. It's a small world: The man just raped and killed the sister of his fiancée. The boy makes it home and reports the crimes. Lily swears revenge for her sister. An arrow with the word "Jin" is a clue to the killer. Lily finds the murderer at the brothel. She is about to deliver the death strike but something stops her. It turns out this time revenge is complicated.

    Lily's first fight in this movie was all swords and it was fantastic. Her moves were powerful and focused. She changes her grip on the sword from offense to defense. The boy is also fighting. It is hard to choreograph a child versus adult fight and keep it believable. Here it was done right. Credit to the action director Han Ying-Chieh.

    Dr. Craig D. Reid in his book "The Ultimate Guide to Martial Arts Movies from the 1970s" gives credit to Han Ying-Chieh as the originator of using the trampoline in these movies. Now I have to rewatch every movie from 1967 to find the first time a trampoline was used! My work never ends.

    The plot had a fault I must point out. The villain is initially presented as the typical one dimensional bad guy. Then it gets complicated as Lily has a history with him. This doesn't really work both ways, you have to pick either the one dimensional villain or the good guy on the wrong path. Perhaps that is asking too much for this genre.

    Fans of martial arts movies of the golden age from 1967 to 1984 share a common problem. We have friends who have never watched these movies. We want to put on a movie that these friends would watch but, besides Jackie Chan, we don't seem to have any options. I dare say this is a movie suitable for a newbie. It has a story beyond simple revenge, it has a strong female lead, a child that is actually not annoying, the bad guys are not ridiculous, and the fights are really good.