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Bat Without Wings

Hong Kong 1980
produced by
Shaw Brothers
directed by Chu Yuan (= Chor Yuen)
starring Derek Yee, Ching Li, Ouyang Pei-Shan, Ku Feng, Wang Jung, Tang Ching, Jason Pai Piao

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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The Bat without Wings, a master martial artist but also brutal killer & rapist, is dead, he was killed 5 years ago by 26 masters of martial arts ... but of these 26, only 2 - Master Szma (Ku Feng) & Master Leng - would survive, & while Master Leng lives completely cut off from the rest of the martial world, Master Szma has vanished ...

Jump to the here & now, where Miss Lei Feng from the security bureau is invited by Xiao to meet at the abandoned Tailung temple ... & while she has never met Xiao she is flattered by the invitation of this martial arts master & leaves her staff behind at an inn to meet him  - the staff, it should be mentioned, is soon poisoned & butchered at the inn.

At the temple, Lei Feng doesn't meet master Xiao but the Bat without Wings, who doesn't seem dead at all, & they soon start a fierce fight, but Miss Lei feng can chase the Bat away ... or so she thinks, as soon she finds a maddened old duffer in a secret chamber under the temple, & suddenly she is overcome ba the Bat, who just forces the name of who Miss Lei Feng resembles to out of the duffer, then he hacks her to pieces.

The real Xiao (Derek Yee) meanwhile is hired by Miss Szma, Master Szma's daughter, one of only 2 women the Bat did capture but not rape & kill, to retrieve a priceless blade for her, the blade the Bat gave to her but which was stolen. & as if that wasn't enough, soon afterwards Xiao is visited by Lei Feng's father Lei Xun & her fiancé Han Shen, who hire him to help them find her.

Xiao accepts both offers, sensing they must lead into the same direction, & indeed, Miss Lei Feng is soon fond, all hacked up though - & so Xiao agrees to accompany Lei Xun & Han Shen on a mission to avenge her death ... a mission that leads through many a martial arts fight, poisoned pond & an assortment of other traps to Leng, who defeated the Bat 5 years ago ... & he seems to give our trio vital clues (like the fact that the Bat wasn't indeed killed but driven to lunacy & chained up, & the identity of Ximen, the second woman the Bat didn't rape & kill but gave a sword to), but refuses to join in on their mission.

Our trio soon finds Ximen, a dead ringer of Miss Lei Feng, but she's already fatally wounded & her sword seems to have been stolen, too, so our heroes dash off to go after her killer, the Bat ... although it later turns out that she is not really dead, but in league with Leng, who is secretly following our trio, & just waiting for them to fight the Bat, to rake in the profits of their demise (whatever that means).

& while our heroes are still trying to piece the puzzle together & at the same time avoid all traps laid for them, everything becomes crystal clear before our very eyes: The Bat who has killed Miss Lei Fend & a host of other people was not the Bat at all, but Master Szma, who wanted to get his hands on the 2 swords the Bat gave to the 2 women he didn't rape & kill as they contain a map for a pricesless treasure, & Szma's daughter (who thinks her father is looking for martial arts manuals though), who is in possession of one of the swords, was never really robbed but hired Xiao to find her the other sword. The real Bat proves to be the old duffer, who was always mad (& homicidal) but now has really gone over the edge.

Soon Master Szma actually finds the treasure - of all places inside the Tailung temple, where the story began & circled around ever since -, but hot on his heel are not only Xiao with Lei Xun & Han shen but also Master Leng with Ximen & company. It all culminates in a wild fight fith poisonthrowing aplenty, which in the end though only Xiao, Lei Xun, Han Shen & Miss Szma, who was tricked by her own father, survive, while the diueing old duffer - or real Bat - sets the temple - & the tresure with it - on fire.

 

Another one of Chu Yuan's mysteries set in the bizarre martial arts world ... & another great movie, that uses all the basic elements of a (pulp-)whodunnit - like trapdoors, sliding doors, secret chambers, poisoning & mysterious knife throwers - but beautifully integrates them into the context of a martial arts film, set once again in the extremely colourful but entirely artificial sets of the Shaw Brothers studios - which only adds to the movie's quality.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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