Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Angry River(Gui Nu Chuan, 1971)

What's happening Hai! Karate fans?!! We've got another film on deck for you, this one being the very first picture Golden Harvest Studios ever made, The Angry River! This film also boasts another first, in that it is the first starring role for the iconic screen star Angela Mao Ying!! Wong Fung is in the director's chair for this picture, which also features Pai Ying as the main villain and Kao Yuen as the assisting hero.

The story begins with a series of murders committed in ghastly fashion against various people. All of the victims are noble knights. It's soon found out that the Lunar Sect is behind it, at the behest of their leader, King Hell(Pai). Their main opponent, Liangyi Castle is determined to stop them. Lan Tin-Lung, head of the castle, rounds up other fighters willing to join the cause. But at that moment, the Lunar Sect launches a sneak attack complete with poison darts. Tin-Lung is badly wounded, and it is found that there is no cure for the poison - save for the Black Herb. The thing is, the herb is located in a valley guarded by various treacherous traps. No one has ever come back alive. Tin-Lung's daughter, Lan Feng(Mao Ying)doesn't care what the risks are. And so, she sets out to find the Black Herb.

The journey IS difficult, with Lan Feng's skills being severely put to the test. She has to guessed it, 'The Angry River' and then one of her last trials has her fighting...a monster. I kid you not, a full grown kaiju her size. After these ordeals, she winds up receiving the Black Herb but is now without any of her powers, having lost them in the fighting. She begins the journey back, accompanied by a monk (Fung Ngai) and hero Leng Yu-Han(Yuen) who had tried unsuccessfully to get the Black Herb before. And so, Lan Feng tries to get the herb back despite bandits and the evil wrought upon her by King Hell, with it all coming to a bloody conclusion.

The Angry River is a neat little film that has some kick for all of its ninety minutes. Are there some things you can find an issue in the flick? It does tend to appear a bit boring in a couple of dialogue scenes. Fans of Angela Mao may be a bit thrown off by her few fighting sequences but it IS her first real starring role. Plus, the monster bit does tend to make you chuckle instead of being terrified. That said, Angela shows why Raymond Chow took such a huge risk in casting a relative unknown to star in his first ever picture. Angela Mao was only 20 years old at the time and fresh off of the Chinese Opera scene in Taiwan. That gamble paid off as she would be one of Raymond Chow's shining stars. She displays a good sense of drama throughout, and it is intriguing to see her so helpless in contrast to her future bad-ass persona. But she does get a chance to deliver some punishment and bloodshed, notably taking someone's head clean off in a fight scene. Pai Ying does his villain thing, complete with a heavy tan. If you look closely, you will spot some familiar faces throughout. Sammo Hung features prominently as a villain in a duo with another known role actor who played a villain well, Han Yen-Ching. You will know him from The Big Boss as Boss Mi. You even have Shaw Brothers regular Wilson Tong in an uncredited role and Lam Ching-Ying as a thug is here too, padding the resume. All in all, The Angry River is decent and a good look at just how Angela Mao - and Golden Harvest - got real famous.


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