Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Killer Clans

Killer Clans (1976)

I would be lying if I said I wasn't confused by this 1976 film. Killer Clans is considered a classic which is surprising because -- apart from a few nude scenes from Chen Ping -- the film feels like an average late 1960's Shaw swordplay saga. Not as acrobatic as a Cheng Pei-Pei flick, and not as bloody as anything directed by Chang Cheh, Killer Clans is really a story of court intrigue with a few sword fights mixed in.

And, of course, one heck of a cast of Shaw Brothers regulars.

The action is choreographed by Yuen Woo-Ping's brother, Yeung Cheung-Yan and, yet, I'm forced to admit that not much of it was memorable for this fan apart from the sequence where Yueh Hua is held aloft by the ropes of a gang of henchman.

It would be a losing battle for me to try to recap the plot using the character names so I'm just going to use the actors' names. And my ability to follow the plot was not helped by some pretty weak subtitles -- lines of dialogue were frequently rendered twice in a row.

Basically, Yueh Hua is the most trusted member of the clan of Ku Feng's Uncle and then betrays the family. He then sets out to kill Uncle and his family members as Uncle flees with the aid of trusted confidantes.

There's also Uncle's son (I think) played by Chung Wa, an estranged daughter played by Ching Li, and a brief appearance from Fan Mei Sheng. And Ling Yun is there as well in a few scenes with Chen Ping.

I'll admit, I was not sure what her relationship was with the male characters in the film but she's always a pleasure to watch on the screen.

Add to this already impressive mix of stars, an inexplicable appearance by Lo Lieh. Admittedly, this is one of the best action scenes in the film but the actor is literally on-screen for less than 10 minutes and I had no idea who his character was.

Director Chu Yuan did a ton of movies in multiple genres for the Shaw Studios but he is perhaps most famous for The House of 72 Tenants -- here's a review from YTSL by way of Brian's old site, a film that is rumoured to be due for the remake treatment according to a link on Monday's HKMDB Daily News File.

The DVD has some short interviews with Yueh Hua and Ching Li but, unfortunately, they do not have English subtitles. There is also a short interview with Paul Fonoroff in English that is too basic to be of use to anyone other than people who know almost nothing about the Shaw Studios (no offense to Mr. Fonoroff).

And the usual Celestial Pictures extras are on the DVD as well.

You can order Killer Clans on DVD here.

[Photos courtesy YesAsia.com/Celestial Pictures]