|King Eagle (1971)|
|Starring:||Ti Lung, Pei-Shan Chang, Miao Ching and Ching Lee|
|The Plot: When the figurehead of a powerful martial arts clan is killed by the first-chief, the head-man leaves his dying words and symbol with a young follower who is given the responsibility of carrying the symbol to the eight heads of the clan in order to tell them of this treachery. When the young man is wounded by one of the many groups hunting him, he runs off to a creek where he meets up with Jin Fei “The King Eagle”, as played by the legendary Ti Lung. Jin Fei wants nothing to do with this dying man nor his story and feels that if he lives by the sword, so must he die. However, the man begins to speak and just by hearing the story of who killed this headman, it makes Jin Fei a marked man. Now the entire clan is after him, with the first-chief leading the charge. Behind him is the eighth chief, a scorned woman who believes herself to be the most beautiful in all the martial world but is angered when King Eagle does not react to her looks. Eighth chief has an elder twin sister, the seventh chief, who is an honest and decent woman who just so happens to hit it off with King Eagle. These two begin a subtle romance while they inevitably wander towards the ultimate showdown. A showdown that will feature the superhuman Jin Fei and this evil clan of power hungry lunatics.|
Ti Lung absolutely makes the movie. He excels in this role and shows why he is so beloved by fans of this genre. He delivers when it comes time to show emotion and he is always very believable when delivering the action. He may have been the very best “actor” of the old school Kung Fu era. Here, he essentially plays Superman however. While that may not sound particularly interesting, it adds a completely different element to the movie than what Chang Cheh usually delivers. Bruce Lee often played a similar role, as he was that one guy that truly seemed invincible on the screen. When you watched Bruce Lee, you never even contemplated him losing in a fight. The same can be said here, as we watch Ti Lung rip through his opponents. The difference here is that while Bruce Lee may have finished opponents with a single knockout punch, Ti Lung’s character will quite literally kill you with a single punch to the cranium. A favorite kill of mine comes as Ti Lung monkey wrenches a man’s arm behind his back, and then he proceeds to lift this man straight up into the air via the same arm and shoulder, hurling him six feet in the air where he lands in a flaming bonfire. Super strength? Check. Invulnerability? Check. X-Ray Vision? Probably!
For me, this film represents Chang Cheh at his best. When his stories are streamlined and he gets to bring his various interests into a project that remains less tedious in its plotting, we get to see how talented a director he really is. The characters are introduced at a steady and solid pace, every character is differenciated so that the audience can take mental notes and the plot is generally a very simple one. The characters are interesting, Chang Cheh gets to use some of his marvelous gimmicks and we get some dynamic performances along the way. Although it is not his best film, I don’t see how you could fault someone for listing it amongst their favorites.