Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Finger of Doom (Taai Aau Chi, 1972)

Since Halloween is not too far away, it looks like it's as good a time as any to chop it up about this next flick here on Hai!Karate! The film? Finger Of Doom from 1972 starring Ivy Ling Po and Chin Han and directed by Pao Hsueh Li.

Finger Of Doomstarts out with four hero swordsmen set up and turned into living zombie slaves by Kung Suen Mao Neong(Park Yi-Jyeon), a renegade from a particular cult that uses sorcery and a technique known as the 'Finger Of Doom' to enslave people. Kung Suen's mission? To dominate the martial arts world. The cult's matriarch sends her sister(Ling Po)out to stop her & execute her if necessary. And so, she goes after thieves and bandits to make them her slaves who'll carry her around in a coffin as Meong has done. Meanwhile, Heaven Sword(Han) and his brother Earth Sword(Chen Feng-Chen) are hiding out in an abandoned villa, on the run after witnessing the murder of a famous martial artists & his entire clan. Heaven Sword doesn't want to look for trouble, but their third brother gets set up by an Chang; the same man who works for Kung Suen. This winds up putting Heaven Sword and Kung Suen's sister together to stop a common enemy in a final blood-curdling showdown.

Finger Of Doomis the fifth film from Pao Hsueh-Li, who had gotten his start with Shaw Brothers after being in Taiwan first. He's known as one of the key men behind the look and feel of Shaw films in the 1970's with his cinematography, which comes into excellent play here. The fight scenes aren't too overpowering visually but they flow very well. He makes it a point to buttress the protagonists with good framing. There's a bit of mystery with the coffins and the walking corpses, but nothing too gory like later Shaw horror pieces. Ivy Ling Po stands out strikingly here as the big sister of the Finger Of Doom clan. By this point she was a veritable movie star and this marked her 18th year in acting. She uses her smirk to perfection here, and the chemistry between Han and her helps to to drive the film right on through its slow points. With regards to Kung Suen, the actress Park Ji-Hyeon is an intriguing case. A native of South Korea, Park was implored to come to Hong Kong to establish herself as an actress with both comedic and dramatic range. She wound up working with Shaw Studios and this film got her a lot of admiration from director Chu Yuan. He then offered Park a pivotal role opposite Shaw beauty Lily Ho in his upcoming film, Intimate confessions of a Chinese Courtesan. But it never came to pass, as Park encountered visa problems which limited her to only have three films under her belt, Finger Of Doom being the last. The role went to Betty Ting-Pei and the rest became history.

This movie is interesting, but it does tend to slightly drag a bit. Part of that is due to a lot of dialogue to set up the action. But overall it's entertaining and has enough chills and intrigue to keep you fixated throughout.

Rating: 3 Dragon Punches out of 5

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