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The Jade Tiger

Hong Kong 1977
produced by
Shaw Brothers
directed by Chu Yuan (= Chor Yuen)
starring Ti Lung, Lo Lieh, Lily Li, Ku Feng, Shih Szu, Derek Yee, Yueh Hua
written by Ku Lung, Chu Yuan (= Chor Yuen)

Chu Yuan's Ku Lung-adaptations

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Always make sure of DVD-compatibility !!!
On the day of his wedding, Zhao Wuji's (Ti Lung) father, the head of Dafeng Hall, is decapitated by Shangguang (Ku Feng), who was in employ of the Tang Clan. to avenge his father's death, Zhao Wuji sets out for the Tang's residence with only two leads, one that there's a spy in the Tangs' midst working for Dafeng Hall, & two that Shangguang has stolen a Jade Tiger that contains some all important information for him.

On his way he is attacked by the blind Killer Watchman & his minions, assassins for the Tangs who manage to poison him, but he is saved by Ao (Yueh Hua) & lovely Yu, siblings who tend to avoid the martial arts world at all costs.

When later Zhao Wuji is attacked by Killer Watchman & company again, he is saved by Tang Yu (Szu Shih), one of the heads of the Tang Clan, who tries to gain his trust incognito, only to soon trying to poison him personally. Only in the last minute, when Zhao Wuji tells him he is going to get a list of all traitors among the Tangs' ranks, he reconsiders, & prepares to set Zhao Wuji a trap once he has actually got the list. But Zhao Wuji is already one step ahead of him, since he has long known the identity of his companion & sets a trap for him, even kills him.

With Tang Yu's body, Zhao Wuji decides to travel undercover, posing as a friend of Tang Yu bringing his coffin back to his family's home. Once there though, Tang Yu's brother Tang Chueh (Lo Lieh) has little trust in Tang Yu's friend he never even mentioned & does not take his lies for face value, rather sends out a carrier pidgeon to check his information ... & what do you know, the message the carrier pidgeon brings to Tang residence proves Zhao Wuji's false identity - much to his own surprise. Then though, Ao & Yu, who have earlier saved his life, arrive at the Tangs' - & prove to be members of the Tang family themselves. Out of love to Yu, Zhao Wuji reconsiders his plans for revenge, & now decides to go exclusively after Shangguang, the man who decapitated his dad ... But what do you know, Shangguang proves to be a spy for Dafeng Hall, & Zhao Wuji made the ultimate sacrifice by letting Shangguang decapitate him so he could win the Tang's trust. This is proved by the message found inside the above mentioned Jade Tiger.

But why all this ? Dafeng Hall has learned of the Tangs' aspirations to build poisonous weapons to destroy the martial arts world once & for all.

Caught between his duty to stop the Tang Clan & his love for Yu, Zhao Wuji decides to marry the latter, but on his wedding day, his first wife & his sister Quiangiang arrive at the Tangs' residence, & they are threatening to blow his cover taking him for a traitor, so Zhao Wuji & Shangguang make up some elaborate lies to further decieve the Tangs - & they succeed even though Zhao Wuji's first wife eventually kills herself falling into his sword out of grief.

However Tang Chueh is not one easily to be decieved - at least not for long - & soon it's an all-out battle between the Tang Clan & Dafeng Hall, a battle during which Zhao Wuji is poisoned by the Tangs (once again) but saved by Yu, his new wife, torn between love for him & loyalty to her family.

Zaho Wuji & Shangguang then succeed in destorying the Tangs' poison-plant, & defeat & kill Tang Chueh, while out of grief Yu falls into Zhao Wuji's sword.

In the end, Ao is left as the only Tang alive, & he challenges Zhao Wuji to a duel, even though both men by now are utterly aware of the futility of their fight ... the duel is eventually won by Zhao Wuji only with the help of Shangguang, who has to give his own life though.

Dafeng Hall & Zhao Wuji have won, but it is a bitter victory he cannot enjoy.

 

Another of the usually great collaborations of director Chu Yuan & writer Ku Lung set in the surreal martial arts world. & again this movie scores on almost all levels: it has great action, a conmplex but interesting & suspenseful story, fleshed out vivid characters, colourful costumes & atmospheric if obviously artificial sets., but it offers hindsight for the almost absurd on-screen goings-on - especially in the characters of Ao & Yu or the victorious yet unhappy ending.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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