Sunday, June 28, 2009

Little Dragon Maiden with Leslie Cheung

Little Dragon Maiden

I have to admit that I was almost totally confused with what was happening in 1983's Little Dragon Maiden; the film is not as disjointed as The Battle Wizard but it's close.

In what other film can you see a giant bird-like costumed creature kill a snake and then feed it to a fatigued Leslie Cheung? Said bird creature looking about as realistic as Big Bird from TV's "Sesame Street"!

Leslie plays a young scholar (usually in a bad wig, by the way), who wanders the martial arts world and gets grief from each school or clan that he encounters. The frog guy -- some old man who hops like a frog and kills a dog for lunch -- and a heavily made-up Ku Feng in another scene -- all of these people have it out for Leslie due to something his father did.

He takes solace in the tomb-like chambers of the title character, played by Mary Jean Reimer who reminded me a bit of Joey Wong, Leslie's costar from the classic A Chinese Ghost Story, made just a few years after this film.

Leslie eventually takes the Dragon Maiden back to her family, endures more scorn for spending the night with her despite the fact that the lovers are not yet married, and then meets the bird creature and finds a magical sword in order to defeat the villain seconds before the final title cards roll.

Shaw heavyweight Chen Kuan-Tai looks a bit embarrassed in most of his scenes and I think viewers can understand why.

The film might have appealed to kids in 1983 but I think most kids -- even in 1983 -- would have laughed at the sight of the bird-creature costume. And the film is not quite lighthearted enough to keep kids entertained for 92 minutes.

There are some nice real locations used in the film and the final duel, though quick, is well staged with a few camera angles that seemed to slightly prefigure scenes in Ashes of Time.

The DVD is an early one in the Shaw re-issue series and the film should be anamorphic widescreen given the year of its release but it's not; the DVD is a hard letterbox. The usual extras are included as well.

For Leslie completists only (does that make me one now that I sat through this?).

You can order Little Dragon Maiden on DVD here.