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  Thrilling Bloody Sword Snow White and the Seven Kung Fu Dwarves
Year: 1981
Director: Cheung San-Yee
Stars: Fong Fong-Fong, Lau Seung-Him, Chang Yi, Ha Ling-Ling, Elsa Yeung Wai-San, Hui Bat-Liu, Luk Yat-Lung, Lee Kwan, Chiang Sheng, Chin Han
Genre: Martial Arts, Weirdo, Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Sometime in ancient China a fiery meteor flies down from outer space and impregnates Queen Yi-Mei. Sadly, the King (Chin Han) is less than impressed when his beloved dies giving birth to a revolting, pulsating red blob. Just like Moses, the mutant baby is exiled by basket downriver where it is discovered by seven wacky kung fu dwarves who like to clown around with their wisecracking pet bird and groove along to that funk classic: “For the Love of Money” by The O’Jays. The glowing blob splits open to reveal a cute baby girl whom the dwarves christen Yau-Gi. Years later, Yau-Gi (Fong Fong-Fong, so good they named her thrice) grows into a beautiful woman who is soon smitten with the brave, handsome Prince Yur-Jun (Lau Seung-Him).

That’s right, Thrilling Bloody Sword is a Taiwanese kung fu version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves! That said Cheung San-Yee, director of such fan-beloved chop-socky flicks as Incredible Kung Fu Mission (1979), 5 Kung Fu Daredevil Heroes (1977) and the Angela Mao favourite Broken Oath (1978), borrows liberally from Cinderella, The Thief of Bagdad (1940) and even, The Singing, Ringing Tree (1957). Furthermore, soundtrack aficionados will recognise cues stolen from the likes of the original Battlestar Galactica (1978), the anime classic Space Battleship Yamato (1974) and The Electric Horseman (1978), of all things.

While Yau-Gi is meeting cute with her prince charming in the countryside, a one-eyed monster is killing people around the city. The king summons glamorous lady exorcist Gi-Ehr (Elsa Yeung Wai-San, sexy star of schlock classics: Bruce, Kung Fu Girls (1976), Challenge of the Lady Ninja (1984), Golden Queens Commando (1984), and many more), who has a wardrobe Elizabeth Taylor would envy, and her powerful magician ally Shiah Ker (Shaw Brothers veteran Chang Yi). Having demonstrated her powers by making the chief minister perform an uncanny Linda Blair impersonation complete with a 360 degree head spin, Gi-Ehr makes short work of the one-eyed demon. But then why wouldn’t she, since it’s all a ruse so the scheming sorcerers can rise through the royal ranks and seize the throne.

Inside their hellish lair, Gi-Ehr and Shiah Ker worship a glowing demonic effigy named Au-Dau that swiftly summons a nine-headed dragon to terrorize the country. Unfortunately, the visiting Prince Yur-Jun despatches the dragon and becomes a guest at the royal palace, earning the enmity of the evil wizards. Meanwhile, Yau-Gi rescues a bunny rabbit that magically reveals itself to be the dainty Little Fairy of the Forest (Ha Ling-Ling). She conjures a lovely gown so Yau-Gi can sneak inside the palace where the king immediately notices her resemblance to his late wife. Gi-Ehr grows doubly jealous when Au-Dau informs her not only is Yau-Gi “fairest of them all” but also the king’s daughter. Whereupon the villains turn Prince Yur-Jun into a bear (well, a guy in a shoddy bear costume anyway) then kidnap Yau-Gi to their lair where she is subjected to a bizarre ritual being levitated through a ring of fire and attacked by flying, cackling severed heads. Instead of traumatising Yau-Gi into a coma, this voodoo hoopla somehow hypnotises her into agreeing to marry Shiah Ker - whom Au-Dau suspects has had a secret crush on the princess all along. Aw, bless. Not to worry though, the Little Fairy of the Forest knows the whereabouts of some magic weapons…

Thrilling Bloody Sword is certainly a spectacular looking production, beautifully photographed with superior sets, inventive opticals and monster costumes whose outlandish charm compensates for their lack of mobility. Key elements here anticipate later Taiwanese children’s fantasies, notably the all-knowing fairy that proves a powerful ally (Child of Peach (1987)) and the squabbling mob of martial arts heroes (Twelve Animals (1990), a movie produced by this film’s leading man Lau Seung-Him). The film does surprisingly little with its source material, downplaying the “wicked queen’s” role in the story and reducing the seven dwarves to slapstick stooges. The twist here is the dwarves were once the king’s generals, now under an evil spell cast by Gi-Ehr and Shiah Ker. Small world, isn’t it? The preponderance of toilet humour suggests Taiwanese filmmakers are of the opinion characters need to behave childishly in order to engage children.

While the leading actors remain stoically bland throughout, by far the most engaging character is Little Fairy, charmingly played by actress Ha Ling-Ling. In fact the fairy does a lot of the hard work, whether instructing Yau-Gi how to change Yur-Jun back into a man or leading the prince to an undersea palace where a talking skeleton gives him a magic pearl, some enchanted armour and the fabled Thunder Sword. Thereafter the film starts to resemble the late Eighties British kids’ game show Knightmare. Venturing through various secret lairs and dungeons, the prince is attacked by zany frog and chicken monsters, flying dentures, and hopping hairy monster feet before unearthing Magic Master (Hui Bat-Liu), a gigantic magical being imprisoned in a silver casket by, you guessed it Gi-Ehr and Shiah Ker. Man, those two get around. It is Magic Master who finally helps Prince Yur-Jun take on the terrible twosome in a genuinely thrilling finale. As always Little Fairy has his back, occasionally zapping bad guys with her star-shaped magic wand or drawing Yu-Jun to the “vulnerable points” on various immortal warriors. One warrior’s vulnerable spot happens to be up his arse. Ouch.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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