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Lady of the Law

Hong Kong 1975
produced by
Shaw Brothers
directed by Shen Chiang, Hsiao Yung
starring Lo Lieh, Shih Szu, Chang Pei-shan, Yang Chi-ching, Dean Shek, Chan Shen, Tong Tin Hei
written by Shen Chiang

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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As a kid, Jiao Yaner (Lo Lieh) had to watch his father (Chan Shen) run into an ambush by the Forest's Four Evil Spirits, then be labelled as a traitor and killed by Chief Chen (Yang Chi-ching), one of his own allies. Jiao Yaner only was not killed by Chief Chen as well because Madam White Brow, a benign martial arts master, and Leng Rushuang, her kid student, interfered.

Eventually, Jiao Yaner is brought up at Chief Chen's martial arts school but is not allowed to learn any fighting there because the chief fears he might one day want to retaliate ... still, Jiao Yaner secretöy hones his fighting skills to utter perfection thanks to a manual his father ahs given him before his death ...

Many years later, Jiao Yaner is still nothing but a low rank servant, while Chief Chen's own son (Dean Shek) has made it his pastime to drug and rape pretty girls ... until one day he runs actoss Leng Rushuang (Shih Szu), who has meanwhile become the famous crimefighter Lady of the Law,  and who successfully chases him off. But when escaping, the young man accidently kills the concubine of the Valley Head, a prominent and influential guest of his father. To get away with it, Chen and son make up a plan to blame the murder on Jiao Yaner, and not only that, they make up a complex scheme to use the Lady of the Law, whom Chen's own son has tried to rape just hours ago, for their own evil ends ... and in fight, the Lady of the Law manages to defeat (and arrest) even Jiao Yaner.

But then Chief Chen figures it's not such a good idea to give Jiao Yaner a fair trial, since his and his son's involvement in the crime could be revealed after all - expecially since there is one man, Blind Yan, who is able to identify the rapist ba his voice - , and decides he would rather have him killed ... which prompts Jiao Yaner to break out of jail and try to get a hold on Blind Yan before Chief Chen's assassins do.

This culminates in an extended chase during which Jiao Yaner successfully evades the Lady of the Law, Chief Chen and his assassins and the Valley Head and his harem ... and finally he gets his hands on Blind Yan and brings him back to Chief Chen's place - where he spies on Chen and son preparing to poison their honourable guests, the Valley Head and the Lady of the Law. He substitutes the poisoned wine for good wine, but still it seems everybody dies from poison. When the Chief and son see their guests dead, they give away their involvement  in the murder in a conversation - which is when Valley Head, who knew he was supposed to be poisoned and thus didn't drink the wine, comes back to life, but far from actually wanting revenge for his dead concubine, he actually asks for a replacement ... and when the Lady of the Law, who also knew she was supposed to be poisoned, comes back to life, the men agree on having her become the Valley Head's new concubine - something she very much opposes to. Soon enough, the situation culminates in her dueling the Valley Head on a tightrope while Jiao Yaner, who comes to her aid, fights off Chief Chen and his soldiers - until finally Blind Yan arrives with the army, identifies Chen's son as the rapist and clears Jiao Yan's name - who in the end rides off with the Lady of the Law.

 

Lady of the Law is in equal parts martial arts movie and convoluted (but not over-convoluted) murder mystery - and it works fine on both accounts: The action is competently staged, inventive and fast moving while script is intelligent, features many unusual plottwists and unusual plot devices - all of which make this an excellent martial arts movie.

Recommendation.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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