Golden Swallow - a.k.a.Girl with the Thunderbolt Kick

Reading the other day that Cheng Pei Pei was going to star in the film Crouching Tiger,Hidden Dragon along with Chow Yun Fat and Michelle Yeoh, gave me an irresistible urge to finally watch this Shaw Brothers classic. It is a sequel to another classic film – King Hu’s Come Drink with Me – but this one was directed Chang Cheh – the legendary kung fu director.
Cheng Pei Pei again stars as the heroic character Golden Swallow who uses her two-sword method of killing to fight evil in ancient China. In this film though Jimmy Wang Yu joins her and the death count escalates dramatically. Wang Yu was coming off his huge box office hit – The One Armed Swordsman – and this really becomes much more his film than Cheng Pei Pei’s.
Wang Yu stars as Silver Roc – dressed elegantly in white and silver - who cuts a swathe of death across the countryside - always leaving a golden dart behind at each scene to implicate Golden Swallow. I am not talking about a killing here or there either – this is sometimes wholesale slaughter in which Roc shows absolutely no mercy. In the aftermath of one scene the camera pulls back to reveal a mass of dead bodies covering nearly every inch of the floor. These victims though are all bad guys – most of them belonging to a gang called the Golden Dragon Gang.
The reason that Silver Roc is attempting to implicate Golden Swallow is because of love. It turns out that both of them were trained together in the martial arts – but Silver Roc disappeared suddenly after avenging his murdered family. Many years later he still loves Golden Swallow and this is his method of getting her attention. Whatever happened to flowers and chocolates? Wang Yu does a nice job of portraying this tortured nihilistic soul who carries around with him bitter memories of his youth and his feelings for Golden Swallow that only drink and the company of easy women can ease.
Han Tao, Golden Swallow and maybe Wu Ma (?)
In the meantime, Golden Swallow was nearly killed at the beginning of the film and saved and nursed back to health by Han Tao. She has since become attached to him and his friend played I think by a young Wu Ma – but she still has strong feelings for Silver Roc. Han Tao is clearly in love with her and they both go off separately to find Roc.  Much more killing takes place – Cheng Pei Pei – getting involved as well – but this is all leading to a showdown between the two men over Golden Swallow.
Though this film doesn’t have the weight and wonderful textured feel of Hu’s Come Drink with Me it is still a terrific adventure film with three well drawn characters and a huge amount of action. Wang Yu never impresses me in his kung fu films, but I find him quite acceptable in his swordfighting roles. The swordfighting style is clearly influenced by the Japanese Chambara films – nearly all rapid no motion wasted killing (though much less blood spurting going on) – with no lengthy one on one fights (until the duel).

Much more of Cheng Pei Pei’s character is revealed here than in Come Drink as she displays both the soft and the killing sides to Golden Swallow. The American title – Girl with the Thunderbolt Kick – is a complete misnomer because Golden Swallow never utilizes martial arts – relying totally on her two-sword technique to do her killing. Cheng Pei Pei was in fact a dancer and not trained in the skills of martial arts – but she looks very lithe and graceful with a sword and can take on such a hard cruel look when she is fighting. Cheng Pei Pei was really the first great action heroine in HK films and though I don’t expect she will be doing any fighting in Crouching Tiger – this being filmed some 30-years after her Golden Swallow days – I still look forward to seeing her.

My rating for this film: 7.5