Review Date: 10/1/00
Director: King Hu
Cast: Cheng Pei Pei, Yueh Hua
A classic Shaw Brothers swordplay drama that marked the film debut of the lovely Cheng Pei Pei. The plot is rather simple - a group of bandits kidnap the governor's son and threaten to kill him if their boss isn't released from jail. Too bad for the villains that their hostage's sister is the renowned master swordswoman known as Golden Swallow. Aided by a mysterious drunkard named Drunken Cat (Yueh Hua), she attacks the villains in an attempt to free her brother, but falls victim to a poison dart. While she's recovering, the second half of the film focuses on Drunken Cat and the part he plays in the overall scheme of things. Golden Swallow and Drunken Cat eventually team up, take out all the bad guys, and go their separate ways.
The look of the film is fantastic, and the sets, camerawork, and lighting are excellent. The film is also well written and well acted, and Cheng Pei Pei's performance is superb (I think she may have won a Golden Horse award for best actress for this film). While she may not be the most proficient swordswoman, her beauty and intensity command every scene she's in, and her piercing stare will burn a hole through your soul. She really does a spectacular job, and it's unfortunate that she's absent for the second half of the film. The combat sequences are violent, bloody, and well staged, and Cheng Pei Pei does a convincing job of holding her own. Like many films of the time, the pacing seems a little sluggish, but it doesn't drag down the story or its dramatic impact. Good stuff!