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  Battle Wizard drink the snake blood, punch the gorilla, save the girl
Year: 1977
Director: Pao Hsueh-li
Stars: Danny Lee, Tanny Tien Ni, Lin Chen-chi, Yuen Cheung-yan, Norman Tsui Siu-keung, Ha Ping
Genre: Martial Arts, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Lesson One in how to kick off a cult movie: dive straight into sex and violence. Wong Po-lin catches his wife in bed with Prince Tuan Zhengchun, notorious horn-dog and (unfortunately for Wong) master of the Yi Yang Finger. He shoots an energy beam from his fingers that chops Wong’s legs off. Wong retreats to his candy-coloured lair at the earth’s core (living next door to Blofeld, perhaps?) and plots revenge. Twenty years later, he targets the prince’s son, Tuan Yu (Danny Lee), a timid scholar with no knowledge of kung fu. While wandering the countryside, Tuan Yu meets happy-go-lucky, snake loving maiden, Zhong Ling-ehr (Lin Chen-chi) and the pair fall afoul of Wong’s henchmen, including a super-fast, killer hunchback with fangs, a giant claw and a steel head. More than cute, Ling-ehr proves super-cool and throws snakes as weapons that burrow through victims and explode their skulls! When things get really bad, she sends Tuan Yu to seek out mystical swordswoman Mu Wanqing (Tanny Tien Ni), who practices the Yi Yang finger and unfortunately, is known for killing every man she meets. However, she spares Tuan Yu’s life after he warns her of a bandit attack and he reciprocates when she is poisoned by a demon. Attacked by a magic snake, Tuan Yu kills the giant reptile by biting its throat. Swallowing the creature’s blood transforms him into a kung fu dynamo, but his plans to marry Wanqing are scuppered when Prince Tuan Zhengchun reveals who her father is. To make matters worse, Wong Po-lin arrives with his brand-new, extendable, metal chicken legs; captures Tuan Yu and Wanqing and sets in motion his ultimate plan: to feed them to his amazing, kung fu fighting ape!!

How can you not love a Shaw Bros. kung fu movie this crazy? Nowadays, Danny Lee is best known for pairing opposite Chow Yun-fat in John Woo’s The Killer (1989) and Ringo Lam’s City on Fire (1987), or for directing deeply unpleasant crime-horror flicks like The Untold Story (1993). But, once upon a time, Lee headlined some of the freakiest Hong Kong movies ever made: Oily Maniac (1976), Bruce Lee & I (1975), The Mighty Peking Man (1977) - what was the guy on? Battle Wizard is an immensely enjoyable period fantasy, loosely based on a classic novel, “Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils”. Condensed into a scant hour and twelve minutes, it probably doesn’t do justice to the 2000 page epic, later filmed as Dragon Chronicles: The Maidens of Heavenly Mountain (1994), a lavish adaptation starring Brigitte Lin and Gong Li.

Ice-maiden Tanny Tien Ni is a little too remote to fully engage as Wanqing. Stealing the show is Lin Chen-chi as plucky snake-slinger, Ling-ehr. Always smiling, she’s the closest thing to a kooky hippie chick the martial arts genre has to offer. The appealing actress tangled with serpents before in Shaw Bros.’ fairytale fantasy The Snake Prince (1976), but really stood out as a terrifying anti-heroine in Tsui Hark’s Dangerous Encounters of the First Kind (1980). Fast paced, colourful and inventive (I haven’t mentioned Wanqing’s dinosaur bone that shoots laser beams or the magic frog that when swallowed renders someone invincible), this kung fu quickie utilizes props, optical and sound effects left over from Shaw’s earlier Super Infra-Man (1975), starring - you guessed it - Danny Lee.
Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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