Hong Kong, 1971
81 minutes, in Cantonese with English subtitles
Directed by: Chung Chang-Wha
Starring: Lo Lieh, Margaret Hsing-hui, Chin Han, Huang Tsung-shun
Special guest, director Chung Chang-Wha, will attend the screening!
Film Society of Lincoln Center
Sunday, July 1 @ 3:20pm (buy tickets)
A sweeping Robin Hood epic, written in swift strokes of the sword, Chung Chang-Wha (Five Fingers of Death) declares that THE SWIFT KNIGHT is his favorite out of all the movies he directed. It’s a perfect companion piece to Five Fingers, since both movies star Shaw Brother’s beautiful brute, Lo Lieh, and whereas Fingers is a barehanded martial arts brawler, THE SWIFT KNIGHT is an elegant swordplay swashbuckler. It’s an anti-1% film, full of Grand Guignol weaponry, unearthly sunsets painted on indoor backdrops, blasts of gold and fuschia that stand in for natural light, and a veritable flock of severed arms sailing through the sky.
Suckville, Ancient China. A land of stunted wastelands surrounding pockets of ill-gotten plenty, where good men have to squat in ruins while bad men get rich. The Swift Knight, who’s like Ancient Chinese Batman, steps in to rescue young Xian Qin from being sold into prostitution, but in a world where even the people he rescues try to scam him for cash, nothing is as it seems. A series of color-coded flashbacks reveal that the Swift Knight has just stepped into a big stinking pile of palace intrigue, and soon electric guitars are prowling on the soundtrack as the psycho bloodfreak, Zhu Pao of Hell, enters the picture, distributing hearty portions of ultraviolence, while a ragged beggar reveals that not only is he a better swordsman than your average hobo, but he’s also concealing important secrets.
The Shaw Brothers sets have never looked better, and Chung frames and lights them far more carefully than Chang Cheh ever did. The action is swift, innovative, and open, with constant breaks in the swordplay for opponents to size up each other’s weaknesses and reconsider tactics, and the ending is a spectacular orgy of bloodletting that filches excellent tricks from both King Hu (Dragon Inn) and Sergio Leone (The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly). A rarely-seen, old school classic where every five minutes people have just gotta start stabbing each other or they’ll go insane, THE SWIFT KNIGHT moves at a breathless clip, full of stunts, horse chases, last minute rescues, throbbing horn sections, and Chung Chang-Wha’s undisputable talent.