Dragon Swamp (HK 1969)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 2/12/12
Director: Lo Wei
Cast: Cheng Pei Pei, Lo Lieh, Yueh Hua

This fun swordplay adventure features the lovely Cheng Pei Pei in a dual mother/daughter role. When Fan Ying (Cheng Pei Pei) was tricked and betrayed by her lover to steal the sacred Jade Dragon Sword, she was imprisoned for twenty years in the Dragon Swamp. During that time, her daughter Qing Erh was raised by a Taoist priest. Twenty years later, the Jade Dragon Sword is stolen again, and the young Qing Erh (Cheng Pei Pei) ventures out into the secular world to retrieve it. During her travels, she befriends a man who is searching for Fan Ying (Yueh Hua) and the two of them visit Dragon Swamp. Fan Ying's shame keeps her from revealing herself to Qing Erh and Roaming Knight, so she disguises herself as a man and agrees to help them get the sword back. After reclaiming the sword from a crafty Yu Jiang (Lo Lieh), Fan Ying is poisoned and Qing Erh is ambushed at an inn by a group of unsavory thugs in what is highlight of the film. From there the film loses momentum as the drama unfolds and the main characters converge upon their final battle.

First of all, Cheng Pei Pei is utterly adorable as the impishly cute Qing Erh, and gracefully elegant as the heartbroken Fan Ying. Her fight scenes are also quite good and she handles a sword with fierce conviction and determination. I had forgotten how enjoyable she is to watch in action. Lo Lieh also gives a fine performance, and his fight scenes are wonderful. Dragon Swamp itself is rather amusing and features some of the tackiest rear projection effects I've ever seen. Other than that, it's a lavishly colorful place. There's also a transformation sequence at the end where an ailing Fan Ying regains her youth, but Celestial Pictures has obviously reworked the scene with their re-issue of the film. I'm not sure how I feel about them messing around with the source material like this. It looks quite good, but it's clearly out of place and presents a mental and moral hurdle. Even though it drags at the beginning and at the end, I found "Dragon Swamp" to be a fun and satisfying martial arts romp.