Invincible Eight (HK 1971)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 4/29/07
Producer: Raymond Chow
Director: Lo Wei
Cast: Tien Chun, Angela Mao, Nora Miao, Patrick Tse, Tang Ching, Pai Ying, Han Ying Chieh, cameo by Samo Hung

A rare Angela Mao film that took me over ten years to track down, and sadly it's only available on VCD. Thankfully, however, the print quality and compression are quite good (better than some DVDs I own), and it's fully letterboxed. Unfortunately, it's not subtitled, so the various plot intricacies are completely lost on me. Basically, a nasty Imperial general (perennial villain Han Ying Chieh) has the local people cowering in fear, and eventually eight martial artists team up to air their grievances with him. But first they have to get through his evil right hand man (Pai Ying) and his gang of whip masters. Their first attempts leave them imprisoned and sentenced to death, but they manage to escape and regroup. Adorable Nora Miao finally devises a way to combat the fiendish whips that bedevil them, and the team charges into the general's castle and kills everyone in sight. The evil general puts up an impressive struggle against the eight, and continues to fight with several knives, darts, and swords sticking out of him. When he finally drops, the Invincible Eight leave their proclamation of justice on the castle wall and ride off into the great beyond.

An above average kung fu/swordplay film that benefits from an all-star cast and high production values. The only thing I found disconcerting was the jarring visual shift between scenes shot with natural lighting and those shot on a soundstage - a common artifact of films from that time period. Acting, direction, cinematography, and choreography are all quite good, and while the action sequences aren't particularly hard hitting, they're still energetic and fun to watch. Even though Angela Mao and Nora Miao have small roles, it's always a treat to see them kicking some butt. And Nora Miao just has the sexiest scowl I've ever seen. Incredible. It may not be among the classics, but it's worth a look for anyone who enjoys the genre.