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Killer Clans

Hong Kong 1976
produced by
Shaw Brothers
directed by Chu Yuan (= Chor Yuen)
starring Tsung Hua (= Chung Wa), Ku Feng, Yue Huah, Ching Li, Chen Ping, Wang Chung, Lo Lieh, Ling Yun, Danny Lee (= Li Hsiu-Hsien)
screenplay by Ni Kuang, based on a novel by Ku Lung, martial arts director: Yuen Cheung-Yan, music by Chen Yung-Yu

Chu Yuan's Ku Lung adaptations

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Uncle Sun Yu's (Ku Feng) Lung Man Society seems to be constantly under attack, both from the Roc society and Sister Ko's (Chen Ping) stable of killers. But when both Uncle's son Sun Chien (Wang Chung) and his mysterious guard Han Tang (Lo Lieh) are killed, this gets too close for comfort, and he begins to trust only ahandful of his closest followers, most prominent of all Lu Hsiang-Chuan (Yueh Hua), his right hand man.

Meanwhile, Meng Sheng-Wen (Tsung Hua), sister Ko's top killer, meets lovely Hsiao Tieh (Ching Li), the daughter of Uncle Sun Yu, and the two almost immediately fall in love. Still, Meng shows little hesitation when he is given the order to kill her father, Uncle Sun Yu. Sister Ko though wants to make extra-sure, and so she orders Yeh Hsiang (Ling Yun), a former top killer turned drunkard who was once also in love with Hsiao Tieh, to kill Uncle as well.

However, Uncle has smelled the beef from far away and has evaded Meng Sheng-Wen's dilligent plan to kill him with ease while Yeh Hsiang's blunt attack poses no threat for him, and in the end, the drunkard kills himself. With two assaults on his life made in one day though, Uncle Sun Yu realizes he cannot trust anyone anymore ... anyone but his would-be killer Meng Sheng-wen, who underneath his being an assassin is a honourable man.

To ensure his succession, Uncle shows Lu Hsiang-Chuan, his second in command, the secrets of the Lung Man Society, only to be attacked by Lu immediately afterwards and being hit by a poisoned dart. Fortunately though, Uncle has contemplated such treachery and built himself a system of secret hallways to ensure his escape, and a hiding place inside a well to throw Lu completely off the track.

Lu meanwhile knows that he has successfully poisoned Uncle, but he won't believe Uncle is dead until he sees his body, which is of course nowhere to be found. In the meantime he tries to, with the help of the Roc society, take over the Lung Man society ...

Then return Uncle - who has fought the poison by meditation - and Meng Sheng-Wen - who has since joined forces with Uncle - with a small army of loyals, and they beat the Roc Society for good and in the end, traitor Lu gets his just desserts ...

 

Killer Clans was director Chu Yuan's first adaptation of a novel by martial arts author Ku Lung, and the first in a string of successful Ku Lung adaptations by Chu Yuan, most of which turned out to be genre classics (see Magic Blade, Clans of Intrigue, Swordsman and Enchantress, to name a few). In this first film, all the elements that would become staple of the series are already firmly in place: a convoluted mystery plot, fancy weapons and fancy villains, a few fantastic elements, a reliance unexpected plot twists and old-fashioned secret passageways, lavish sets, great martial arts, and characters that transcend a simple good-and-evil dichotomy. However, Killer Clans is not Chu Yuan's best Ku Lung adaptation, the plot is just too convoluted, features a few too many plottwists and the whole film is simply too over-populated to keep track of who is who.

Still, that doesn't make it a bad film, it's still a fascinating piece of martial arts cinema with set-pieces that will keep your mouth agape. Only thing - in later years Chu Yuan would prove that he could do even better.

In 1993, Killer Clans was remade as Butterfly and Sword, a quite elegant martial arts flick. However, storywise, the two films have only very little in common.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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On the same day
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WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
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directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
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out now on DVD