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Holy Flame of the Martial World

Hong Kong 1983
produced by
Shaw Brothers
directed by Lu Chin-Ku
starring Mok Siu-Chung (= Max Mok), Philip Kwok (= Kuo Chue), Yang Ching-Ching, Liu Hsueh-Hua, Mary Jean Reimer (= Weng Ching-Ching), Candy Wen Hsueh-erh, Jason Pai Piao, Chan Shen, Liu Shao Chun (= Lau Siu Guan)

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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The masters of the martial world, an odd bunch led by (female) gandmaster Jing Yin (Liu Hsueh-Hua) of the Er-Mei temple, & the Monster (Jason Pai Piao) are chasing Ching & his family because he is in the possession of the Holy Flame Creed, the most powerful weapon of the martial world - but trying to do so both Ching & his wife are killed, only his son is saved by Phantom (Philip Kwok), a benign master who doesn't want the sword to fall into the wrong hands, who wards off his foes mainly with his ghostly laugh, & who swears them revenge in 18 years time, when Ching's son is big enough to dish it out himself ... what nobody knows though is that Ching's daughter has also survived the ordeal, & is raised by Jing Jin ...

18 years later: Ching's son, Wan (Max Mok) has grown up to be a righteous young man & - due to Phantom's tutelage - an expert martial artist. On his master's request, he goes to fetch the Holoy Flame from the moonstone cave, & on hte way there has even time to save snakecatcher Dao & his daughter Juan-er (Mary Jean Reimer) from the Bloodsucking sect. & in the cave, he even saves Tuan (Lau Siu Guan) from a bunch of ghosts, even though Tuan was sent by evil Master Monster to steal the Holy flame. Since Tuan is essentially a good boy though, he soon becomes friends with Wan, & when Wan, Holy Flame in hands & returning to his master, learns that Juan-er was again abducted by the Bloodsucking clan, Tuan agrees to help him save her. Only after that is accomplished - & they even had to fight a zombie -, do their ways part.

Continuing his way to his master, with Juan-er - who he has of course fallen in love with - in tow, Wan encounters a bunch of girls from the (all-female) Er-Mei templefighting the mysterious (& female) Goloden Snake Boy (Candy Wen Hsueh-erh), & - ignorant to the fact that the leader of Er-Mei has actually killed his parents, he sides with the girls from the temple & chases of the Golden Snake boy - but not before she could sting Juan-er & give her some special martial arts powers derived from a snake's bladder.

Enraged that Wan, son of the man she has killed 18 years ago, has shown up on the scene, Gandmaster Jing-Yin pulls a trick or 2 out of her own sleeve to win out over both Wan & Phantom. First, she tells her star student Dang Feng (Yang Ching-Ching), incidently Wan's sister, a slightly untrue version of what happened to her parents - that Phantom killed them - & trains her on her half of the Holy Flame (that, it turns out only now, was broken into a Yin & a Yang half, with each of the siblings now holding one). Then she sends her off to assassinate Wan, Phantom & Juan-er, but when Dang Feng realizes she has to kill the people who have helped her against Golden Snake Boy, she hesitates, abandones her mission & is left full of doubt against her master.

Her doubts are only corroborated  when Golden Snake Boy shows up again & tells her who really killed her parents ... & thus she decides to side with Wan, Phantom & Juan-er.

Soon Jing Yin & Monster (who have since killed all the other clans' masters) show up at Phantom's place with Tuan - beginning to seriously doubt his master - for the final duel, which is fought with massive martial arts & all sorts of magic, as while Wan & Dang Feng togeher do now have the complete Holy Flame, Monster & Jing Yin know the secret of the pressure points, but in the end, thanks to Juan-er's weird snake powers good can prevail over evil, Monster & Jing Yin fall to dust, & Tuan is finally freed from the evil influence of his master.

 

Colourful & special effects-laden martial arts/fantasy film, that - despite the fact that many other studios produced their own martial arts/fantasy films at the time (e.g. Zu: Warriors of the Magic Mountain, Buddha's Palm) - seemed a little dated even at its release date in the style-obsessed early 80's: The action takes place in pretty much the same studio sets Shaw Brothers have used for the last 15 to 20 years, with all exterior shots done in the studio as well, which is painfully obvious & was rather out of date back then, and the effects range from average to rather shoddy, with the wires on which the actors hang to fly about sometimes clearly visible.

However, despite all that, thanks to light-hearted storytelling & a healthy portion of humour, Holy Flame ... is still an enjoyable if mindless romp.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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