Sunday, October 5, 2014

Eight Escorts(Ba Jue, 1979)

What's going on fight film fans? We've got another movie up for review here on Hai! Karate for you, this one starring veterans Ling Yun and Dorian Tan Tao Liang - Eight Escorts!!! They lead a fairly star-studded cast that features Lily Li-Li, Danny Lee, AND Michael Chan Wai Man. Now in addition to that, you've got Pao Hsueh-Li as director with I Kuang on the screenplay. You'd think this would make for a bang-up film right? Read on, dear reader, read on...

Eight Escorts begins with a rather lengthy credits scene - no doubt inspired by the Shaw Studios theme of elaborate movie intros that was a standard during the late '70s and 1980's. We then find Miss Wu(Hsu Feng) in the possession of a batch of treasure she recovered from her late brother's convoy that she needs to be protected on the way to Wuiyang. To this end, she enlists the help of Chin Kai Tai(Yun) and other fighters to protect the treasure from thieves. One masked bandit in particular with serious martial arts skill. Kai Tai hires seven other men, but a heavy air of suspicion grows - especially amongst them all. Who is the masked bandit? What is the secret Kai Tai has been keeping?

Okay, I'll just come right out with it: Eight Escorts is CONFUSING AS HELL on the first watch. The plot is convoluted, and you need to pay close attention. Part of the problem might be based on the version currently available as far as the dub sure, but you can't enjoy the flick as much if you don't know what's going on. It seems like they wanted to really focus on the action from all of the stars. It's a shame really. I found myself still a bit lost about a half hour in on first viewing.

It's intriguing that the film company in question managed to get all of this talent, mainly recognizable ones from Shaw here in this flick. But it is somewhat symbolic of the one-offs that were prevalent in martial arts cinema at that time. Ling Yun is his old charismatic self here, calm and assured in battle. Lily Li-Li gets down with some fights, and even shows off a more acrobatic side early on. Tan Tao Liang lives up to his 'leg fighter' legacy but in spotty fashion. Chan Wai Man gets some screen time but more towards the middle. But overall, Eight Escorts is a jumble. I can't really claim it as a memorable flick. For fans of the genre, it's worth a view or two at most but the value won't get you more than that.


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