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  Miraculous Flower Vengeance will bloom
Year: 1984
Director: Sze Ma Peng, Pearl Chang Ling
Stars: Pearl Chang Ling, Chung Wa, Gua Ah-Leh, Wang Hsieh, Tin Yau, Peng Kong, Got Siu-Bo, Cheung Ping, Clement Yip Chiu-Yuk, Wong Kwok-Fai, Samuel Suen Sau-San, Chan Sau-Kam, Wong Kwok-Fai
Genre: Drama, Martial Arts, Weirdo, Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Third in the so-called Wolfen Ninja trilogy, Miraculous Flower opens as bedraggled waif May (Pearl Chang Ling) stumbles through the snow dragging her ailing mother by sled. Shortly before dying, the old woman urges her daughter to seek out the Happy Fairy (Gua Ah-Leh) and visit the Phoenix Temple inside which is hidden a box that holds the secret behind May’s life. Somewhat cryptically, she instructs May upon opening the box to make sure she burns her wooden cane. On her way, May happens across dirt-phobic Master Tang Sun who generously feeds the starving girl and teaches her a few secrets of kung fu. She later overhears three swordsmen plotting his doom and heroically intervenes, earning the gratitude of his father (Wang Hsieh), who adopts her into their family.

Schlock producer Godfrey Ho distributed this movie on video under the alternate title of Phoenix the Ninja, just as he had released its predecessors Wolf Devil Woman (1982) and Matching Escort (1983) as Wolfen Ninja and Venus the Ninja, respectively. Ho also obscured most of the original onscreen credits, save for his own bogus acknowledgement as writer and director. However, there was no denying the real dingbat genius at work here. Pearl Chang Ling produced, co-directed, scripted and starred. She also sang the theme tune. Badly. However, that song is absent from the English dub and Pearl actually made a decent fist of her other jobs. With Miraculous Flower, the multi-hyphenate actress appears to have been striving to make a real epic, given this features the most complex and emotionally layered plot of all her movies.

Along with Pearl’s usual preoccupation with poverty and social injustice inflicted upon the peasantry, the film wrings emotional mileage from the heroine’s dilemma. May is torn between her love for her adopted family and her moral duty and is sidetracked from her quest. After years living in the lap of luxury, guilt compels her to journey to Phoenix Temple. Unfortunately a mysterious ninja steals her precious iron box. Whereupon the Happy Fairy appears and recounts the story of how May’s father invented a unique, all-purpose super-sword for which he and his family were hunted down by a cadre of evil martial arts masters. She also spends one year with May ensuring she juggles jars of wine, is suspended over burning coals and cocooned inside a giant snowman. Somehow this unorthodox training regime endows May with mystical kung fu skills and the ability to “fly like a bird”! When Happy Fairy presents May with her missing box, she duly burns her cane and discovers her father’s sword was hidden inside all along.

Clad in a cool purple costume, May seeks out the men that slew her family and kills them, one by one. The action sequences are frequently inspired, including a superb chase across the rooftops, a waterfall fight with ninjas exploding out of the river, and a memorable moment where May skis down a snowy mountain to despatch one surprised villain. However, while ambitious the film is much slower paced than Pearl’s usual output and the plot tends to meander. May’s confrontation with her treacherous adopted father is quite powerful, but Pearl fumbles the moment as the Happy Fairy abruptly arrives to impart information that could have saved everyone a lot of bother.

Pearl Chang Ling proves she could deliver a sober characterisation and gives her strong performance whilst also looking her loveliest in some very chic wu xia by way of mid-Eighties catwalk outfits. Her visual strengths are also to the fore as she juxtaposes spectacular mountain scenery with some of the most lush and beautiful studio sets featured in a low-budget kung fu movie: trippy fantasy lands bathed in candy-coloured lighting, surreal skies awash with psychedelic patterns, snow-capped toy towns and intricate interiors straight out of a storybook. The film climaxes with a dazzling fight between May and a mad monk (Peng Kong) inside an active volcano, one of the best directed and scariest sequences in her entire, eccentric career.

Music-wise, it’s a case of “name that tune” with traditional Chinese orchestrations offset by choice excerpts from John Barry’s score for Robin and Marian (1976), Jerry Goldsmith’s Planet of the Apes (1968) and the theme from The Twilight Zone!

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam


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