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Marco Polo
The Four Assassins

Hong Kong 1975
produced by
Chu Keng (executive), Peng Shih Wei (executive), Tsu Kang (executive) for Shaw Brothers
directed by Chang Cheh
starring Alexander Fu Sheng, Chi Kuan-Chun, Philip Kwok, Billy Tang, Richard Harrison, Wang Lung-Wei, Leung Kar Yan, Gordon Liu Chia-Hui, Shih Szu, Carter Wong, Si Si
written by Chang Cheh, Ni Kuang, music by Chen Yung-Yu, assistant directors: Chou Hsiao Pei, Liu Wei-Kang, Wu Yueh-ling, Godfrey Ho

Marco Polo

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Marco Polo (Richard Harrison), that famous travelling Italian, is welcomed as the guest of honour at Kublai Khan's court ... but soon enough he witnesses 2 attempts made at the Khan's life. & since the Khan doesn't trust any of his subjects, he makes Marco Polo a Royal Inspector and asks him to investigate in that matter ...

Soon enough, Marco Polo picks up a lead to Tiandao village, & its leader Wang, who opposes the Mongolian rule, but Marco Polo just can't find any concrete evidence against Wang ...

Of course, Marco Polo's hunch was right, since in Tiandao, the four friends (Alexander Fu Sheng, Chi Kuan Chun, Philip Kwok, Billy Tang) of the 2 assassins are plotting revenge. However, since they are just no match against Khan's guards, they undergo painful training sessions (which involve kicking stones, chopping trees, grinding beans and jumping in and out of mudholes) to improve their skills, even if these sessions put them at the edge of desperation more than once ...

Three months have passed. Marco Polo has investigated further, and his suspicions against Master Wang have all but diminished, but he still lacks evidence, so he orders the Khan's army to attack Tiandao in the morning ... but first he wants to enter the city on his own, to finally find proof against Wang ... and when he sees the four friends training, and Wang's daughter killing herself because one of Khan's assassins was her husband, he begins to see the other side of the story, & he eventually tells them about the plans of the Khan's army to attack Tiandao ... plans that he himself made up in the first place.

In the end, the four heroes manage to defend Tiandao against the Mongolians on their own (even if two of them have to die), and give ample proof of their skills and the Mongolian weaknesses. The saved citizens celebrate their heroes, but turn their back on Marco Polo (which, come to think of it, is the nicest thing they could have done anyway, under the circumstances) ...

 

The usual great action as well as a story that is more elaborate than usually make this one of Chang Cheh's best films. Here, Chang Cheh doesn't dwell upon honour & friendship endlessly, like in especially his earlier films, but shows the characters develop (through training, the Four Assassins evolve from carefree young man into valiant heroes, and Marco Polo, at first a fierce enforcer of the Khan, even turns from a villain into a good guy in the end) ... but that doesn't mean that the film can't be full of martial arts action - as we come to expect from Chang Cheh.

 

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Thanks for watching !!!

 

 

Robots and rats,
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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
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written by
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starring
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out now on DVD