A Massacre Survivor (HK 1979)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 11/10/19
Action Choreographer: Corey Yuen Kwei
Cast: Shih Szu, cameos by Yuen Cheung Yan, Corey Yuen Kwei

"We hoped you'd become a fairy crane, but you're nothing but a turkey!"

When Kao Jo-Hsueh's (Shih Szu) family is massacred by a group of rebels, she swears vengeance and masters crane style kung fu from a group of Buddhist monks. After completing her training, she leaves the temple and crosses paths with the crown prince of the Eastern Palace, who is looking for the same people that she is. Once the traitors and enemies of the state are exposed, Jo-Hsueh rushes into battle and puts her deadly skills to the test.

Having only seen a handful of Shih Szu's films, I was shocked and pleasantly surprised by her performance, which is easily one of her best. She does an excellent job of expressing strength, grace, determination, vulnerability, and remorse, and her training sequences are superb. The action is mostly weapon based and Corey Yuen's choreography is fantastic. Both he and Yuen Cheung Yan have cameo fight scenes, which adds to the fun. The story is simple and familiar, and merely serves as a framework for staging a bunch of complex and physically demanding fight scenes. The production looks good as far as I can tell, but the only surviving prints are in terrible condition, which is sad and unfortunate. Prior to this, I had only thought of Shih Szu as a cute supporting role actress, but this film proves that she can definitely hold her own and carry an entire film. Now I'm inspired to track down more of her back catalog.