Lady Whirlwind (1972)

ladywhirlwind

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Angela Mao takes center stage in this classic kung fu film that takes the revenge theme and doubles the action with Mao and Chang Yi doing what they do best.

Tien Li-Chun is a young woman who has come to town to look for someone. She finds a local casino and learns that the casino owners have been rigging the games to rip off money from the locals. When she is confronted by the manager, Tien unleashes her martial arts skills against the manager and his men. The manager is the brother of female crime boss Tiao Ta-Niang, who runs the local syndicate with Tung Ku.

The person Tien is looking for is Lin Shi-Hao, whom she blames for her sister’s suicide many years ago. However, three years ago, Lin was left for dead by Tung Ku, but was nursed back to health by Hsuang Hsuang. Lin has been looking for a way to get even with Tung. However, when Tien gets in the picture, Lin offers for Tien to get her revenge, but only if he can get his revenge against Tung first. When Tung brings in an old classmate from Japan, Wen Tien, his skills prove too much for Lin, who goes off to learn Tai Chi. Upon his return, Lin and Tien, despite their eventual duel, decide to team up to stop Tung Ku and his gang before it’s too late.

While Bruce Lee was the kung fu king, Golden Harvest was making more kung fu films with director Huang Feng, who had a top star in the female action legend Angela Mao. While by today’s standard it may seem dated, this film can be said to be quite the classic. What may sound interesting is that despite the film being called Lady Whirlwind, most of the focus doesn’t really go to Mao, but actually that of her co-star Chang Yi. Mao does get a long fight scene in a casino, where she faces a young Sammo Hung (who also serves as fight choreographer) and countless thugs. However, after that scene, she usually appears to confront Chang’s Lin and challenge him. Eventually they must join forces if Mao wants to get her revenge.

As for Chang Yi, he truly is a kung fu film legend. He plays a tortured soul who, like Mao, seeks revenge. However, his mission of revenge is that against the gang leader who left him for dead, played by veteran Pai Ying. Despite the fact that screenwriter Wa Toi-Chung he they needed to add a Japanese character to show the constant tension between Chinese and Japanese during the war, the fact that Mao’s story and Chang’s story is connected and does in fact, make for an interesting storyline. Yet, they didn’t really need to add a Japanese character in the mix. The character of Chin Yuet-Sang’s Wen Tien didn’t need to be a necessity as Japanese.

As mentioned, Sammo Hung served as the film’s martial arts director and as always, he makes his stars look good. It is apparent he learned well under the tutelage of Han Ying-Chieh. He lets Mao unleash her kicking skills and in one nice sequence, Mao actually does a scissor leg takedown against Hung himself in the casino fight sequence. Sure, it may look dated, but it was just a precursor for Hung’s frenetic style and the use of the scissor leg takedown in films. Of course, there is a bit of insane wirework used in the film, but it’s ultimately forgivable.

Despite its date, Lady Whirlwind is a classic Angela Mao film. The interweaving of the revenge plots mixed in with Sammo Hung’s action makes for a pretty good kung fu film.

WFG RATING: B+

A Golden Harvest (HK) Ltd. Production. Director: Huang Feng. Producer: Raymond Chow. Writer: Wa Toi-Chung. Cinematography: Lee Yau-Tong. Editing: Peter Cheung.

Cast: Angela Mao, Chang Yi, Pai Ying, Oh Kyung-Ah, Anna Liu, Chin Yuet-Sang, Sammo Hung, Kim Nam-Il, Yeung Wai, Huang Feng.

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