The team of kung fu fighting diva Judy Lee (aka Chia Ling) and filmmaker Raymond Lui have a great time with this underrated kung fu classic.
Yang Su is the sole survivor of a massacre of Shaolin students by a Manchu regime led by an evil general Hiding out years later, Yang Su is now a bean curd seller who lives with his daughter Ping Erh. What he doesn’t know is that she has been training in secret at a nearby Taoist temple. She specializes in the Crane Fist style of kung fu. When her father discovers her skills after she takes on a fake monk, he is unhappy until he learns her teacher is another former Shaolin student and is actually Yang Su’s older brother.
When Ping uses her skills to help the townsfolk, she attracts the attention of Hai Chao-Chan, known as the Blue Fan. While he is impressed with her skills, he refuses her hand in marriage. However, the general has returned and recognizes Yang Su as well as his brother. He has them both imprisoned and now Ping Erh must plan to rescue them with the help of the mysterious Blue Fan. The general plans to destroy all of the Shaolin rivals in an all-out showdown.
Filmmaker Raymond Lui (not the actor from Flash Point) is quite an interesting filmmaker. He has done quite a few classic kung fu films, but this is by far one of his best films. It helps that he employed one of the top underrated scripters of the kung fu genre, Chang Hsin-I. Chang’s screenplay may seem like the typical Shaolin against Manchu rivalry, but he puts a spin on the story by using the Crane Fist as its main art of kung fu to be shown.
The film is driven by the team of Lui, who plays the mysterious Blue Fan, and Judy Lee, who along with Polly Shang, Doris Lung, and Angela Mao were the kung fu divas of the seventies. She plays the secretive daughter of ex-Shaolin student Chuan Yuan, who studies the titular style and uses those skills to help the townsfolk against the Manchu regime and anyone who is in alliance with them. She does find a comic foil in Ting Hwa-Chung, who plays the lowly servant who gets kung fu lessons from our diva in exchange for his silence.
As Blue Fan, Lui brings a sense of chivalry and sports sort of a playboy look in the role. While he turns down Ping Erh’s hand in marriage, he tends to have eyes for a local concubine, played by Cheng Ting. However, in the most ironic twist of the film, when said concubine is killed during an all out fight between the Manchus and rebels, Blue Fan marries Ping Erh and the “consummation scene” is actually a take on Heroes of the East, where husband and wife test each other’s martial arts skills and done with a bit more comic relief.
Lui truly shows he is a jack of all trades, and he also choreographed the film’s martial arts sequences with So Kwok-Leung, who has a co-starring role in the film. The film uses a lot of Crane Fist. After all, the name of the film is The Crane Fighter. However, the film also makes good use of other forms of martial arts, including some surprising taekwondo style kicks from Kam Kong (who was actually a student of Tan Tao-Liang, the superkicking flash legs of the 70’s) and Lee even gets some nice kicks in the film. The fight scenes are nicely done, and the training and wedding scenes have a bit of comic relief mixed in, which is welcome for this film.
The Crane Fighter is a fun kung fu film from filmmaker Raymond Lui, who also drives the film alongside kung fu diva Judy Lee. Definitely a must see for even the most avid of classic kung fu film fans.
WFG RATING: B+
A Success Film (H.K.) Co. Ltd. Production. Director: Raymond Lui. Producer: Raymond Lui. Writer: Chang Hsin-I. Cinematography: Lin Tzu-Jung. Editing: Tony Chow.
Cast: Judy Lee, Raymond Lui, Ting Hwa-Chung, Chin Kang, Chuan Yuan, Yu Sung-Chao, Cheng Ting, Tseng Chao, Hung Fa-Long, Kao Chen-Peng.