The Story in the Temple of Red Lily

This is one of those films that you always bump into when going through the videos in the kung fu shops here in New York. With its cover of a fierce looking Judy Lee (aka Chia Ling) it is an easy purchase. I have been a fan ever since watching her final amazing fight in Queen Boxer, but have not really followed up on many more of her films. I have had this one sitting amongst a pile of unwatched kung fu videos for ages now, but I am in the mood for some kung fu femme fatales this weekend and where better to start than with Judy Lee.

But perhaps not this film. It is like opening the refrigerator after being away for weeks and discovering that you forgot to throw out the opened carton of milk. This one is a rancid stinker – the kind of kung fu film to make you want to stay away from kung fu films for a while. The plot is unfathomable and the choreography looks to be in sloooow motion. One would see better fighting in a high school play than here. Truly bad for the most part. It stars – so the credits say – Judy Lee and Tan Tao-liang – but not that you would notice. Tan Tao-liang stops by long enough for a cup of coffee and Judy doesn’t really show up until the second half of the film.

The story basically revolves around a group of conspirators – headed by the evil Baron – who have killed all the monks in the Temple of Red Lily and replaced them with their own. Now these monks should be in GQ Monk magazine with their fabulous gold robes and these very large fashionable bells they carry around to kill people with. The Baron also is trying to kidnap the Prince – and as he whispers to his two giggly concubines – “then I will be king and you will both be queens”. They like the sound of that.
Protecting the Prince is a bunch of people with no personalities and an inability to kill the bad guys. They defeat them but can’t kill them and so we have to see the same couple of bad guys keep coming back to get beaten up again. Why don’t they practice more before getting beaten up again? Now the second half picks up a bit when Judy Lee decides to lend a hand with her brother Tan. Tan Tao-liang throws a few kicks and then remembers that he is making another movie next door and beats it – since Judy has her face on the cover of the video she has to stay.
Her fights are definitely a notch up – but still feel clunky and much slower than she is capable of. Part of the problem is that she has no good competition. She is surrounded at one point by a large party of bell swinging monks – who looked quite deadly in practice – but have the unfortunate habit of running right into the path of her two cutting blades. The final fight is probably the best – as Judy, a small boy with a deadly metal hoop, another good guy and a giant black bird all take on the main bad guy. You have to feel a bit sorry for the villain though because he is out numbered, is about sixty years old and has a huge ugly mole on his face. I don't blame him for bring a little cranky. I always find it interesting that in many of these kung fu films ganging up on the bad guy in the end is considered smart not bad manners as it would in a Hollywood film.

My rating for this film: 3.0