Vengeful Beauty


This rather enjoyable low budget Shaw kung fu film reminds me of a pet dog that goes rabid. For half of its running time it feels like a typically traditional revenge motif and then takes you unaware as it slowly turns into something much more outlandish and mildly perverse. Of course there had to be some reason for two of its female stars to be Chen Ping and Yum Yum Shaw – two of Shaw’s best-known exploitation actresses. Layer on top of this that the director is Ho Meng-hua – the crazy mind behind such manic offerings as the Monkey King films, The Flying Guillotine, Black Magic, Mighty Peking Man and Oily Maniac. He also was responsible for the grim sweat stained The Kiss of Death that was Chen Ping’s debut in 1973. Five years later Chen is somewhat more respectable, but just as deadly when pissed off.
Of all of Ho’s films – and his filmography is lengthy and goes back to the late 1950’s – perhaps his most notorious is The Flying Guillotine. Those lovely little Frisbee like head snapping devices that all of us wish we have had at times. Think how useful they could be – some idiot is chatting loudly six rows ahead of you in the theater – one flick of your hand and you have his suddenly silenced head in your lap – have some popcorn. So many annoying people in this world and so few flying guillotines! And lets not even talk about our illustrious political leaders who swarm about Capitol Hill with their palms out as they talk in platitudes about life and death and send other parent’s children off to war  - we could use a squad of flying guillotines for them. We have one in fact in this film – the return of the flying guillotines! *
The Emperor of China, Yang Zheng, does his best to present a humane face to his people, but behind the scenes his ruthlessness knows few bounds and he uses a secret group of stealthy killers to silence his opponents – their form of assassination is the flying guillotine. One of his own top court officials finds this out and the Emperor sends the head of his group of killers, Lo Lieh, to make sure this information doesn’t go any further. They succeed in murdering his family and servants, but don’t realize that his wife is out for the day. As Uma might say “Big Mistake”. She (Chen Ping) is a highly trained martial artist and of course needs to make amends and becomes the “Bloody Hibiscus” to revenge her husband and all others that the Emperor has slain. One minor problem though – she is pregnant (though not showing) and tends to have labor pains when she is in the middle of killing someone – but this doesn’t stop her from killing hordes of men and jumping upwards twenty feet over walls. If she were living today she would write a best selling book and have a late night cable info commercial about coping with pregnancy “How to Kill while Carrying your Child”.
Lo Lieh instructs his two sons and one daughter to go after her and finish her off – and whichever one of them does it will inherit his title and wealth. Off they go like snapping Chihuahuas to hunt her down  - one of the sons being Johnny Wang and the daughter is the not so sweet Yum Yum. In Chen’s journey to sanctuary, she first comes across an old friend that she trained with, Yueh Hua, who still carries a crush for her like a sharp heavy stone and then later a dishwasher, a very young looking Norman Tsui, who is an ex-flying guillotine assassin who wants to go straight but still practices his skills with pots and dishes. The two men come to Chen’s assistance – not that she needs a lot as she often easily dispatches large groups of men – one nice action scene in a bamboo field that is reminiscent of Touch of Zen – leaving them dead and strewn about the ground. But that darn baby keeps kicking.
Soon though it appears the director was getting a little bored with all of this and decided he needed a little more oomph – and the film reaches perhaps its high point – or low point depending on your perspective – when Chen duels a topless Yum Yum Shaw. It is a film that never slows down really and though clearly the two leading ladies were far from being adequate martial artists, they are more than an eyeful to watch here and are well-doubled for when needed.

My rating for this film: 7.0

* Though John Charles with his eagle eyes notes in his review that much of the guillotine head separating scenes are “recycled from his earlier film.”