One of the most critically acclaimed directors from the 1970’s era of Chinese film-makers is King Hu, whose film A Touch of Zen won the Technical Grand Prize award at the 1975 Cannes Film Festival and who was a man determined to do things his way and not be controlled by the powerful studio’s in Hong Kong at the time.
One of my personal favourite films of his is The Fate of Lee Khan made in 1973 and starring a large cast of familiar actor of the period including Angela Mao and Tien Feng.
Lee Khan (Tien Feng) a dangerous and ruthless Mongol official, and his equally deadly sister Lee Wan-erh (Hsu Feng), arrive at the Spring Inn to obtain a battle map that reveals the location of the Chinese rebel army, but a group of resistance fighters, including an all-female group of ex-convicts plan to recapture the map, whatever the cost.
What great about the film is the tension in builds as you slowly find out who is behind the rebellion and if they will get found out. Its mostly set in the Inn and the claustrophobic setting adds to the atmosphere of upcoming conflicts. The acting is first class and the trim and effective running time, unlike his nearly 3 hour A Touch of Zen, make it a very satisfying Wuxia drama.
Action is well choreographed by Sammo Hung who gives the stars, especially Angela Mao a chance to show there stuff, but remember this is a 1973 swordplay movie and the action is typical, if superior, to others from the same period.
Many of King Hu’s classic films have been remastered recently and the new 2K remastered Blu ray released by Eureka is the best the film has ever looked. Colours are vibrant, grain is present and the overall clarity of the image is fantastic. Audio has the original Mandarin mono with good English subtitles as well as the classic English dub. You are also given the option of new 5.1 audio mixes for both, but as these add new and out of place sound fx , the mono is the way to go and is clear and fine.
Extras give you a brand new and exclusive commentary by critic and Asian cinema expert Tony Rayns which goes into great detail about the film, director and actors involved. A bit dry but very interesting. You also get brand new and exclusive video essay by David Cairns as well as the trailer and a nice booklet. You also get a DVD copy of the film on this release. REGION B/ 2 Locked.
A great release of a superior Wuxia drama comes recommended.
FILM – 8.5 PICTURE – 9 AUDIO- 7 EXTRAS – 6.5