(director: Hark Tsui; screenwriters: Fan Lin/Chi-ming Lam; cinematographer: Chin-Yu Fan; editors: David Wu/Chih-Hsiung Huang; music: Frankie Chan; cast: Siu-Ming Lau (Fong Hongye), Michelle Yim (Green Shadow), Shu Tong Wong (Tien Feng), Cheung Kwok Chu (Master Shum), Chen Chi Chi (Lady Shum), Kuo-Chu Chang (Shuen), Li Kim (1000 Hands), Eddy Ko (Guo, ‘The Magic Fire’), Hsu Hsiao Ling (Ah Chee, mute castle servant girl); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: See-Kin Ng /See-Yuen Ng/Quan Zhang ; Mei Ah Entertainment (Seasonal Film); 1979-Hong Kong-in Cantonese with English subtitles)

One of the director’s best.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The directorial debut of the New Wave maverick Hong Kong filmmaker Hark Tsui(“Double Team”/”The Warrior”/”Knock Off”) is a good one even though his convoluted film is quite complex. It’s not easy to say where this unique film fits in as to classification of genre. It has touches of both Hong Kong and Hollywood films, elements of Chinese wuxia, a Hitchcock thriller feel, themes from Edgar Allan Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death and even a James Bond-like look. The dazzling fantasy thriller, brilliantly photographed by Chin-Yu Fan, stands out as a cult classic, one of the director’s best.

In ancient times in China, at a time of warring factions, the wandering scholar and martial artist journalist Fong Hongye (Siu-Ming Lau), with no fighting skills and the film’s narrator, is stuck trying to unravel a mystery in the ‘Martian World” for an aristocrat family (Chen Chi Chi & Cheung Kwok). He’s helped by master martial arts fighter, the fearless and beautiful Green Shadow (Michelle Yim), a friend of the Tien Clan. At the mysterious labyrinthine Shum castle they encounter poisonous killer butterflies (as if such a thing could ever exist) that are controlled by a ruthless killer clad in black leather armor named Shuen (Kuo-Chu Chang). He’s revealed as one of three vicious killers known as the Thunders, all enemies of the Tien Clan that’s headed by Tien Feng (Shu Tong Wong, also the choreographer). All parties converge at the castle and battle for supremacy in the martial world, in a bloody ‘fight to the finish.’

It bombed at the box office upon its theater release, but was later rediscovered and Hark reached legendary status as a filmmaker. It’s visually stunning and features lively well-choreographed martial arts and swordplay fight sequences and an involving tale over killer butterflies and hidden identities.

REVIEWED ON 2/16/2015 GRADE: A-   https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/