HOME |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
Newest Reviews
Wandering Earth, The
Good Fairy, The
Killer Party
Holmes & Watson
Monster in the Closet
Sand, The
Glass
My Brilliant Career
Knife for the Ladies, A
Man in the Attic
Destroyer
Fillmore
Bumblebee
No Kidding
Honkytonk Man
Woman in the Window, The
Shed of the Dead
Dead Easy
Tucked
Widows
Last Movie Star, The
Death Game
Juliet, Naked
November
Arcadia
Sugar Hill
House with the Clock in Its Walls, The
Devil Thumbs a Ride, The
Suspiria
Secret People
Spy Who Dumped Me, The
Beautiful Stranger
House That Jack Built, The
Undercover
White Chamber
R.P.M.
Summer of 84
On Secret Service
Survive!
My Sister Eileen
   
 
Newest Articles
Outer Space and Outta Sight: Gonks Go Beat on Blu-ray
Tucked: The Derren Nesbitt Interview
Locomotion Pictures: The Best of British Transport Films on Blu-ray
Roman Scandals: Extreme Visions from Ancient Rome
Spider-Wrong and Spider-Right: The Dragon's Challenge and Into the Spider-Verse
Monster Dog: Cujo on Blu-ray
For Christ's Sake: Jesus Christ Superstar and The Last Temptation of Christ
Not In Front of the Children: Inappropriate Kids Movies
Deeper into Ozploitation: Next of Kin and Fair Game
Between the Wars: Babylon Berlin Series 1&2 on DVD
Hard Luck Story: Detour on Blu-ray
Oh, What Happened to You? The Likely Lads on Blu-ray
Killer Apps: The Rise of the Evil 60s Supercomputers
How 1970s Can You Get? Cliff Richard in Take Me High vs Never Too Young to Rock
A Perfect Engine, An Eating Machine: The Jaws Series
   
 
  Killer Clans Trust no oneBuy this film here.
Year: 1976
Director: Chu Yuan
Stars: Chung Wa, Chen Ping, Ku Feng, Norman Chu Siu-Keung, Yueh Hua, Danny Lee, Lo Lieh, Fan Mei-Sheng, Ching Li, Cheng Miu, Wong Chung, Yeung Chi-Hing, Ling Yun, Goo Goon-Chung, Wong Ching-Ho, Wang Hsieh
Genre: Sex, Action, Martial Arts, Historical, Fantasy
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: “Killers are like shooting stars. They appear in brilliance and vanish quickly.” Wise words there from prolific author Gu Long. Beginning with Killer Clans, visionary Shaw Brothers director Chu Yuan adapted a series of wu xia (“swordplay”) novels written by Long. In contrast to the “Oi! You killed my teacher”-style plots of his contemporaries, Yuan’s films feature dense, labyrinthine stories wherein double and even triple crosses are the order of the day, and a scorecard is required to keep track of who is in cahoots with who and why.

Set in a semi-mythical past ruled by esoteric clans and martial arts superheroes, Killer Clans concerns the Lung Men Society. Lordly patriarch Uncle Sun Yu (Ku Feng) keeps the feuding families in line, relying on three trusted warriors: eldest son Sun Chien (Wong Chung) and foster sons Lu Hsiang Chuan (Yueh Hua) - who “has 72 secret weapons” concealed about his person, with more gadgets than James Bond - and legendary Han Tang (Lo Lieh), a forest dwelling hermit able to kill any man with a single blow.

Their talents prove handy when Uncle Sun shelters a fallen prince (Danny Lee, future co-star of John Woo’s The Killer (1989)) and defends local peasants from bandits “the Tigers of Kuan Shi.” His philanthropy inadvertently ignites a feud with rival clan the Black Roc Society, who stage sneak attacks wherein a mysterious assassin murders Sun Chien and Han Tang.

Elsewhere, seductive femme fatale Sister Ko (Cheng Ping) recruits righteous swordsman Meng Sheng Wen (Chung Wa) to infiltrate Lung Men castle. She throws in some hot sex to sweeten the deal. Chu Yuan often emphasises the erotic elements in wu xia literature and here intercuts softcore writhings and nudity with explicit illustrations from the Karma Sutra. On his travels Meng is captivated by a beautiful, poetry spouting, mystery maiden called Hsiao Tieh (Ching Li), who lives in the mystical Butterfly Forest and it transpires had a tragic relationship with his close friend, the drunken and despondent swordsman Yeh Hsiang (Ling Yun). Seizing his chance to get close to Uncle Sun, Meng finds himself swept along in a tidal wave of shock revelations, betrayals and murders.

Although based on a Gu Long novel, Killer Clans shares some remarkable parallels with The Godfather (1972). Like that celebrated mafia saga, this introduces its characters amidst a lavish banquet where Uncle Sun grants favours to his subjects, which include avenging the rape of a peasant’s daughter (Mai Laan - a starlet whom Shaw Brothers contracted solely for naked cameos in countless movies. The same applies for co-star Cheng Ping). The story revolves partially around three sons, alternately impetuous, weak or calculating, whose exploits mirror scenes in earlier film, while Lo Lieh essentially plays Luca Brazzi. No horse heads in the bed sadly. Then again, Marlon Brando never used “internal energy” to expel poison darts from his body or leapt through a trap door into a vast subterranean kingdom.

While streamlined for the purpose of providing a synopsis, different characters provide the focal point throughout the twisty narrative, switching from good guys to bad and sometimes back again. It can be a bewildering experience first time around, beset by puzzlers like why characters played by Ching Li and Danny Lee share the same name. However, the plot sucks you in as it speeds along with the momentum of a runaway freight train. A dizzying array of characters fight, scheme, and stage deaths both faked and real, all the while underlying Yuan’s theme that the allure of power unmasks the corrupt and deceitful, no matter who they are.

Whereas his heart-warming comedy hit, House of 72 Tenants (1973) involved disparate strangers bonding as a family, Killer Clans finds a family unit destroyed from within and concludes with the survivors rejecting blood ties and the way of the sword to start a better life elsewhere. Veteran character actor Ku Feng seizes a rare chance in the spotlight with a commanding performance, while Yuan again casts Ching Li as his feminine ideal. Daughter of actor Ching Miao, Ching Li was nicknamed “leader of the Happy Troop” on account of her cheerful personality. A precocious talent she rose quickly to stardom in melodramas My Dream Boat (1967) and When the Clouds Roll By (1968), and became the favourite actress of Chang Cheh and Chu Yuan, who cast her in over twenty of his films.

Borrowing as much from James Bond movies, spaghetti westerns and softcore porn as from Chinese classical literature, Chu Yuan makes artful use of the Shawscope frame. His lyrical lighting and imaginative art direction recalls such maestros of excess as Joseph Von Sternberg and emphasises the sense of his characters being trapped by destiny. The martial arts choreography is outstanding, with fighters leaping from trees or springing out of trapdoors and reaches a highlight when Yueh Hua is hoisted aloft on a web of ropes. Choreography was by Yuen Cheung Yan, brother of Yuen Woo Ping, who later worked on Hollywood movies like Charlie’s Angels (2000), and the ingenious Tang Chia, a specialist in designing wacky weaponry. Lookout for his Q-branch creations: a bullet-proof vest worn by Uncle Sun, the super-cool “Seven Star Needle” and the detachable multipurpose weapon wielded by the black-cloaked mystery killer.

Gu Long’s original novel later provided the basis for the excellent Butterfly and Sword (1992).

Click here for the trailer

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

This review has been viewed 6690 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

 
Review Comments (0)


Untitled 1

Login
  Username:
 
  Password:
 
   
 
Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.
   

Latest Poll
Which star do you think makes the best coffee?
Emma Stone
Anna Kendrick
Michelle Rodriguez
Sir Patrick Stewart
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
  Rachel Franke
Andrew Pragasam
Enoch Sneed
  Derrick Smith
Paul Shrimpton
Darren Jones
George White
   

 

Last Updated: