The Butterfly Murders (HK 1979)

Rating: **
Review Date: 5/15/17
Director: Tsui Hark
Cast: Lau Siu Ming, Michelle Yim, Wong Shu Tong, Chang Kuo Chu, Qiqi Chen, Eddy Ko, Wang Chiang

A scholar named Fang (Lau Siu Ming) is renowned for his written accounts of the warring factions in the World of Martial Arts. He is invited to Shun Castle to investigate a series of bizarre murders that appear to involve swarms of poisonous butterflies, which are believed to be a curse brought on by the sins of Master Shen's father. With the help of a cute kung fu fighter named Green Shadow (Michelle Yim), Fang searches the creepy old castle for clues, and gets more than he bargained for when a mysterious armored warrior starts killing everyone in sight. The final showdown is an exciting kung fu brawl between three rival groups where no one can come out alive.

It's an intriguing supernatural period mystery, and holds the distinction of being Tsui Hark's directorial debut. The film looks great and shows off Hark's technical skill and flair as a visual storyteller, but it's a narrative mess and the editing is terrible. Scenes are cut together with little rhyme or reason, and the story is often completely incomprehensible. The acting is decent for a low budget film, and the female characters are pleasantly charming. While there's very little kung fu, the fight at the end is surprisingly hard hitting and delightfully out of control. It's definitely worth a look for fans of Hark's early work, and John Carpenter cites the film as a major influence for "Big Trouble In Little China" (1986).