The Rescue

The short running time of this film (79 minutes) is a fairly good indication that it was a quickie B movie from the Shaw Studios and it certainly plays out that way. There isn’t much here in terms of originality, plot or character development, but it does try to make up for these deficiencies with a few large somewhat enjoyable action set pieces. These do offer some munchies for action junkies who like their body count high and the blood syrup to be purchased by the gallons. Still it’s all you can do to keep your attention from wandering far far away to another galaxy when no one is getting sliced and diced and its somewhat bleak ending comes as a relief. This is a bit surprising in that director Shen Chiang was behind the scripts of a few of the martial arts breakthrough films with "Temple of the Red Lotus" and "Twin Swords", but here he gives little attention to developing the characters in a meaningful way - or perhaps those parts were edited out of the film explaining it falling short of the typical 90-minute running time?
The story takes place back in the late 1200’s with another one of those darn dynasty changes. The Mongols have swept down from the north and tossed out the Sung dynasty (960-1279) on their bottoms and are trying to impose their control on the populace. The Mongols don’t really seem all that bad except for their sense of fashion in which they seem to enjoy accessorizing their head gear with the tails of a dead animal. This is very tacky (like large windshield ornaments that spell out déclassé in any language) and one has to wonder just who designed their clothes – didn’t they have any gay men among those jolly hordes – they would never have allowed such a fashion faux pas. It is hard enough trying to rule another people who tend to be resentful even if the former rulers raped and pillaged them on a regular basis – but throw on top of that poor fashion sense and you get no respect. As it turned out, the new Mongol dynasty, The Yuan Dynasty, only lasted until 1370 and in those 90 years there were 12 different rulers – and it all comes down to those dead animal tails they wore. So much for the history lesson for today. For a little more information on the Yuan Dynasty, click here:

So at this point in the plot, the Mongols have already taken over and the only chance the Chinese have is to free Lord Wen who has been imprisoned. Lord Wen has the political clout to organize all the different factions into a widespread rebellion, but he is securely locked up far behind the walls of a fortified prison. Nevertheless, a group of patriots decide to spring him – thus the title of the film. The feisty Shih Szu scouts out the prison and reports back to her elders – but along the way she bumps into Lo Lieh who quickly develops a mad grin crush on her. He follows her back and soon shows his great kung fu skills when they all try to kill him for being a spy. Of course he isn’t; he is just in love. Their rescue plan entails being arrested and thrown into the same prison as Lord Wen and from there they will rescue him. Huh? Did these same geniuses plan for post-war Iraq? It turns out to perhaps not have been thought out much beyond let’s get in and hope we get lucky. As they are being intentionally arrested, Lo Lieh spots them from the room of his favorite prostitute (Ling Ling) and decides to forego his afternoon repast and get arrested too!

These attempts at rescue lead to three different action brouhahas in which the small – and constantly getting smaller – band of patriots fight off a seemingly never-ending parade of bad guys who are willing to take one for the Gipper. Among the scowling Mongol fighters are Chen Chi-chu, Chan Shen and Bolo Yeung. The fights aren’t bad – more frantic and fast moving than great choreography - though the over used wirework is very poorly done – with the wires visible on occasion. There is a surprising amount of gore with blood spurting like a fourth of July firework display and the landscape is literally littered with dead bodies. Lo Lieh has some fun with a hatchet that he has on a rope and he uses it like a game of tether ball to split numerous skulls.
Shih Szu generally wields a deadly set of knives in her hands along with a near constant pout as she whirls and twirls among the enemy with deadly results. Shaw had brought her over from Taiwan in 1970 to star in "The Crimson Charm" and they planned to push her into replacing their premier female martial arts star, Cheng Pei-pei, who they considered to be getting a little old for martial arts films. Shih fails to really impress in this film as her acting rarely goes beyond the humph stage and her martial arts don't go much beyond waving her arms about and watching guys fall over dead. It was some of her later works that solidified her reputation. To most Westerners she is probably best known for her role as the sister in The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires as her films have not been the easiest to find in the past. She was to retire in the early 1980's.

My rating for this film: 5.5

Someone's Tribute to Shih Szu