I respectfully disagree with Brian's review of Female Chivalry. I've seen about 20 of Judy Lee's films, and this one is my overwhelming favorite. I'll admit that the plot is a trifle, the production values are minimal, and the dramatic tension is nil. Visually, the film is very drab, with very little color in the costumes and sets. And, since she's dressed like a man, we don't even get to see her all dolled up.
But what do we want from female kung fu films? I know what I value the most:
(1) The heroine should fight unarmed. (Weapons are equalizers, largely reducing the size and weight advantage of male opponents. So when a female can defeat her male opponents using only her hands and feet, it is much more impressive and enjoyable.)
(2) There should be a minimum of camera tricks, so that the fighting seems firmly grounded in reality. (A minimum of hidden trampoline jumps, reverse-projection jumps, wire work, clipped frames, or anything else which makes the action seem fake and unreal.)
(3) The heroine should be able to defeat her opponents unassisted by anyone else. (She particularly should not need a partner to "gang up" on the main bad guy.)
(4) The fight choreography should be smooth and well-done.
(5) The heroine should be empowered and in full control of her own destiny.
In "Female Chivalry", all of these criteria are fully met. Judy is THE star, and is in total control every moment she is on screen. All of her fighting is unarmed, and she uses no camera tricks during any of her fights. The other hero in the film, Barry Chan, is presented as clearly inferior to her (most of his victories are won by bribing his opponents to lose!), and the film's climactic battles are hers alone. During the film, she also has two good, solid fights against big Cheng Fu Hung, and those fights are quite a contrast to Angela Mao's fight against him in "Deadly China Doll." Angela's fight with him was poorly choreographed, very unconvincing, and used lots of camera tricks (supposedly jumping over his head, etc.). Judy did it straight and did it far better. Judy's fighting, though smooth and graceful, is rather simplistic in this film and centered on her roundhouse kicks, so her fighting here looks elemental compared to her polished and stylistic fighting in some of her later films. But the choreography is handled very well. "Female Chivalry" is her most empowered hand-to-hand role that I have yet seen.
Aside from her fighting and total domination of this film, her personality here is irresistible. Spritely from start to finish, she goes through the film with an attitude of amused superiority. She's better than anybody else, and she knows it, but she doesn't strut or brag, she just quietly laughs to herself at the pitiful efforts of others, and then she easily and playfully beats them up.
Since the film is weak on plot, it depends on incident and characterization to succeed. There are over a dozen superb incidents which are scattered through the film like sparkling jewels. For example, the way Judy repeatedly plucks a chin whisker and then slaps the face of the chief robber (you have to see the gleeful expression on her face as she does this). Judy's characterization is enormously appealing and makes me want to see much more of this character. In fact, the film could serve as the prototype for a great weekly TV series.
As a film, the 5.5 rating was probably about right. But as a vehicle for July Lee, I would rate it way up at 9.0. If I had to trim my video library down to one Chia Ling film (perish the thought), this is definitely the one I would keep.
Check out Bruce's sites dedicated to Angela
Mao and Kitty Meng Chui.