( 1972 / Hong Kong )
Review By-Paul Cooke Director: Yueh Feng Starring: Shih Szu , Yueh Hua , Chen Yen-yen & Tung Lin Source : Celestial Pictures / NTSC Region 3 DVD / Wide Screen Ratio 2:35:1 / Anamorphic 16:9 Enhanced / Mono Sound / Original Mandarin Language / English Language Subtitles / Trailers / Production Notes / Biography & Selected Filmography / Original Poster Art
‘‘You’ve been paid , so do your job , let’s fight’’
Sallow skinned Shih Szu is the titular young avenger , a hot ‘n sexy beggar girl urchin who can wield a sword and strike a pose with the best in this competitive martial arts world. A young world taught in the ways of the Dragon Sword in order to defend the honour of her father and family. Raised by a reclusive and considered mad monk she becomes infamous amongst the criminal underworld and carves out a name for herself. Like a period Robin Hood she helps the poor and unfortunate against the thieves and killers of the surrounding land she grew up in. Her true purpose is to hone her skills for a fateful showdown against a killer hunchback known as Liu Tou , The Judge !. An unwittingly compunctious killer of a revered swordsman who vows to return to kill Li Kui , the sword master who spurns Liu Tou’s advances to learn the guarded art of ‘Piercing of the dragon’. Li Kui is struck from behind by the hunchback with his Iron Hand , later proving to be fatal. The hunchback disappears for the ten year period but his vow of vengeance is carried over to Li Kui’s immediate kin , his daughter Bao Zhu. Shih Szu is of course the grown young woman Bao Zhu who returns herself almost ten years to the day , having spent the entire duration with her uncle The Mad Monk , training under his tutelage hidden away in a closeted monastery.
Whilst living an almost hermit like lifestyle weaned in the ways of the mighty dragon sword Bao Zhu’s similarly aged male cousin Chen Shi Lun , played by the always watch able Yueh Hua , is taught in the ways of The Iron Fan. Together the two reunite with the incredible skills they have acquired and take a stand against the soon to return Liu Tou. The hunchback has also been in training and this time he is not alone !. With him he brings a horde of fighting criminals , all looking to storm the village and oppress the villagers. Bao Zhu and Chen Shi Lun as The Young Avenger and The Master Of The Iron Fan stand in their way , and the villagers are not unprepared for the fight either !.
Director Yueh Feng uses all of his mastery of the silver screen to serve up a very cool yet almost untypical Shaw Brothers production with ‘The Young Avenger’. The opening sequence showing the assassin for hire Bao Zhu doing what she has been hired to do with proficient ease. Star Shih Szu is almost expressionless in her portrayal in this superb scene as she deftly puts to the sword three unscrupulous villains deserving of their fate. The setting is sublime in its dilapidated stone ruins at night , lit up with flashes of steel and the breaking through moonlight. A washed out colour technique , etched in Seventies regalia that fits well like a favoured pair of well worn jeans. The rips and tears are evident for all to see yet the designer label Shaw Brothers boldly sells the product to an appreciative audience. An impressive opening then to set out the stall , and the grand finale brings a lot to the table in welcome harmony.
The final coming together of opposing might pit’s the mighty sword thrashing hunchback against the daughter and nephew of deceased master Li Kui. The backdrop village is masterfully worked by the set dressers , as scenes of rooftop spies and alley stalking killers being picked off by the rallied villagers is very well done. With a look and feel more associated with a latter day Japanese Action Club film it is perhaps not unlikely that the great Sonny Chiba took elements of this very movie as inspiration for his own mid Seventies screen vehicles.
A genuine thrilling entertainer that showcases the abilities of all its lead players well. The very attractive Shih Szu is a pleasure to watch and never looks uncomfortable in her ability to impress with a sword and handle herself in a fight. Elements of Ninja high leaping techniques are used sparingly , eliminating the sometimes over saturation of wire work often seen in similar productions. The violence is there to be seen , but the blood letting is more sparse. The red stuff does spray with satisfaction during the grand finale however.
Imagine a well made overture of ‘Yojimbo’ and ‘The Seven Samurai’ with a female Clint Eastwood bearing a sword arm and devoid of any chin stubble , but with the same cool exterior and some lethal finishing moves. Shih Szu is ‘The Young Avenger’ out to avenge the death of her father Li Kui , and the hunchback !? , well he’s back to take vengeance upon her and he’s still got the hump.
Film : 3.5/5 Shaw Good Picture : 4/5 Shaw Good Sound : 3.5/5 Shaw Good Overall : 3.5/5 Shaw Good
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