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The Voyage of the Emperor Chien Lung

Hong Kong 1978
produced by
Shaw Brothers
directed by Li Han-Hsiang
starring Liu Yung, Chiang Nam, Li Kun, Chan Shen, Kara Hui (= Hui Ying-Hung), Wang Sha, Yueh Hua, Cheung Ying

Chien Lung

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Always make sure of DVD-compatibility !!!
Travelling through the provinces incognito with his servant Er Rong-an (Chian Nam), emperor Chien Lung (Liu Yung) delights in betting on just about everything with his treasurer Liu (Li Kun), who always has to fight enormous odds but each time tends to win thanks to his wit & eloquence, winning many a ring from his master but yet having to win the royal gorn which he so longs for. When the 3 of them learn about painter, poet & calligrapher Zheng (Yueh Hua), who refuses to paint on demand, Chien Lung & Rong-an see a great opportunity to win everything they lost back & ask Liu to get one of his paintings. But Liu is once again a step ahead of them, as he first gets Zheng considerably drunk, & then forbids him to paint a picture for him, always knowing that Zheng is not a man to be forbidden anything. Having lost the bet & pretty much broke, Chien Lung & Rong-an visit a fortune teller (Chaung Yin), who of course sees through the emperor's disguise (after all, he is a fortune teller) but unfortunately knows he has to die the day he sees Chien Lung. Chien Lung offers him his protection, & soon the emperor, the fortune teller & Rong-an visit a restaurant, where Chien Lung gets into a fight, defending the girl Phoenix from the evil clutches of the governor's sons - even though the girl, a skilled martial artist, does not need al that much help. & despite all the dangers of the fight, even the fortune teller survives it when the emperor's army arrives to incarcerate the governor's sons - unfortunately he is killed though soon afterwards by some falling debris from the fight. After this the emperor decides to have his head shaved on the streets incognito, but soon loses his nerve with the barber (Wang Sha) & his wife, who all the time fight about a lottery ticket. That gives him an idea though & he decides for yet another bet, Liu has to beat the local lottery & win all its money, a task that would seem insurmountable even for Liu. But Liu hasn't lost his wits yet & disguises himself as a rich tourist who spends all his money only to win in the lottery, no matter at what cost. But as the head of the lottery is greedy, he soon tries to trick Liu out of his winnings - which Liu lets happen quite deliberately, since he has already taken precautions that the head of the lottery will be beaten exactly by his own trick. Finally, Liu wins the royal gown, but only for a day, & in the heat of the summer ...

 

This light comedy, actually the third in a four part series about emperor Chien Lung, that proved to be pretty popular with audiences & even won a Taiwanese Golden Horse Award for best adapted screenplay in 1979 - but the screenplay is exactly one of the major faults of the movie, as it is made up of loosely or not at all connected episodes rather than telling one story, with the focus of the film changing from Liu to Chien Lung & back again rather at random (in the Liu-epsiodes the emperor even seems to be rather the bad guy). The movie has its moments though & even a good martial arts battle (though not being a martial arts movie per se), but it's far from being a masterpiece.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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