Taiwan ,  1982
Directed by Lin Bin.
For some inexplicable reason, I decided today to grab some of my old Ocean Shores VHS tapes and pop them in for some old style Kung-Fu action. First up is Great Massacre, named "SHAOLIN HERO" on the Ocean Shores release, a kung-fu revenge/romance that starts out a bit wacky and mad-cap, with hilarious English dubbing. In our endless quest for authenticity, we sometimes dismiss the old dubbed kung-fu films and embrace properly subtitled editions in their "original language". What is forgotten sometimes in our quest is just how much goofy fun can be had with the old dubs, that now feel so charmingly innocent.
There are two girls, Tin and Sue, and two boys, Rocky (Mang Fei) and Willow (Leung Kar Yan). And its like this: all the girls like Rocky, but both the guys love Tin. Willow saves Tin from a villainous rapist, and so he gets the girl: they marry. And in any case, Rocky is, in Sue's words, a "mean, nasty, but super capable bandit".
Or is he? Rocky is being set up by an endless list of kung-fu villain stereotypes. He doesn't like to kill, but when you gotta, you gotta, and within the first ten minutes, dispatches a blind fighter, a Shaolin monk, a Taoist priest, and a beggar. Of course, both girls are regularly imperiled, but far from helpless, as the priceless dubbing explains:
Sue: "Have you heard about this, that Sue kills when she bathes and she can be quite vicious?"
Nine blind kung-fu villains surrounding her hot tub: "We have heard that."
Finally it turns out all these bad guys are part of a secret, evil group, who, when they finally show their true colors, turn out to wear bright red costumes with yellow capes. It's like a SHAZAM convention. And Willow decides to join the others in trying to kill Rocky, to save face. But Rocky has other plans. I've got to let the dubbing speak for itself again when Sue explains, about Rocky: "You haven't changed a bit, my dear. You are still 100% a bastard."
GREAT MASSACRE isn't a good film by any stretch of the imagination, mostly just another in a seemingly endless stream of late 70's, early 80's Taiwanese kung fu films. But the action is sometimes fun: Chopsticks and fans come into play, as does a poisonous change of clothes. And one of our heroines is abducted while still in her bath, and taken cross-country with strategic suds magically still intact. Finally, the dubbing adds a bit more retro charm.
Posted by Peter Nepstad on November 27, 2007.