Dragon Swamp (1969)Director: Lo Wei
Starring: Cheng Pei-pei, Yueh Hua, Kang Hua, Lo Lieh, Huang Tsung-shun, Lo Wei, Ku Feng, Chao Hsiung, Fan Mei-sheng, Han Ying-chieh, Zho Xiao-lai, Chen Shao-peng, Yuan Hsio-teng, Chao Hsin-yen, Ellen Pan, Huang Ching-yun, Yukio Someno, Kazou Terasawa
Tagline: What Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was based on
In a slightly confusing opening Tang Ta-chuan (Huang Tsung-shun) is captured by Taoist monks for stealing the Jade Dragon Sword, but escapes with their son leaving his wife Fan Ying (Chen Pei-Pei) to take the blame. For her punishment she is banished to the Dragon Swamp for twenty years and she gives up her daughter to the monks to raise.
Cut to twenty years later and the baby has grown up as Chin-erh (Cheng Pei-pei) a bright and bubbly twenty year old who likes to sneak out of the monastery to practise her dance steps around the courtyard. She doesn't know someone is spying on her though and when the Jade Dragon Sword is stolen the whole monastery has to go look for it.
It turns out the Jade Dragon Sword is not just an ordinary sword, as well as being able to cut any sword and have a green spotlight shine into each scene when it is drawn, it also killed Buddha so its owner will be cursed and their family will be torn apart.
Chin-erh manages to find the sword fairly easily after using the oldest trick in the book to find the person who stole it. She is no match for the sword however and ends up being rescued by the Roaming Knight (Yueh Hua) who takes her to Dragon Swamp to seek help. After dodging the giant goannas and the sinking sands, they end up in the Dragon Swamp master's bitchin' pad. It has internal waterfalls with dry ice in them, glass mushrooms and a bevy of kung fu beauties.
The Dragon Swamp master (Kang Hua) is rather gruff and sends the Roaming Knight away, but she agrees to help Chin-erh and we find out the master is actually Fan Ying wearing the old master's face as a mask.
They go back to get the sword and the Dragon Swamp master canes everyone's arses with ease, but she is tricked by the person who stole the sword and they both end up poisoned. She sends Chin-erh back to the monastery with the sword and goes to get the antidote for herself which is where the story really takes off.
There are lots of characters in this movie so it is difficult to follow at times, but if you have watched Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon it will be easier to follow as that movie lifts entire sections of the story from this film, even the infamous 'trash the restaurant' scene where Chin-erh is challenged by a whole lot of marital arts masters and manages to fight them off.
I also liked the fight scenes with literally hundreds of extras as someone just has to open a big wooden door and they all pour into the courtyard. I also liked the scenes where the master of Dragon Swamp carries the large stone lion dogs on his shoulder like they are a slab of beer.
Cheng Pei-pei is the main star here and she looks great in her action scenes. The only time the film slows down is when is not on screen which is thankfully not that often. The scenes when she plays two characters at the same time are not that hard to follow either which is a bonus. The Dragon Swamp master also has some really powerful abilities, but only gets to use them in a couple of scenes which is a pity.
I also liked the family reunion scene, but I won't spoil it by letting you know who gets back with whom. It does help the movie stand out from the usual martial arts story though even if some of it does come across as a bit corny.
I would recommend this movie to people who liked Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon but thought it was a bit slow or if you like old fashioned martial arts movies with lots of fantasy elements in the story.