Li-Pao Hsueh

7.0 The Battle Wizard (1977)
7.0 Finger of Doom (1971)

Li-Pao Hsueh (China, 1936), raised in Taiwan after the civil war, moved to Hong Kong where his filmmaking career got started with Tai Yin Zhi/ Finger of Doom (1971) that blends zombie movie (without the horror), cartoonish fantasy story, and lots of kung fu and sword fighting. The story is set in a world in which, when people need to hide, they jump to the ceiling, and when people are in a hurry, they don't walk out the door, they jump from the window. But the plot is actually quite rational and linear, and several scenes are visually stimulating. A man who is called a hero, Chang, meets four kungfu fighters in the forest and summons them to the hideout of madame Kung Suen Mao Neong. Chang has joined the Tai Yin Cult that she aims to control. He takes them to the Tai Yin cave, claps his hands and a grinning Quasimodo-like hunchbacked cripple appears. He announces that the lady of the cult is looking for four assistants. The kungfu fighters say that they are not interested in obeying orders. The lady instructs Chang to spar with them in order to test their skills and then, once satisfied, she herself jumps into the fray and disarms them in a few seconds. She pulls out her steel fingers and injects into their neck some magic potion that renders them zombies. The hunchback gives them white robes. They put her in a coffin where she sleeps by day waiting for the night. Sky Wolf is her enemy.
Elsewhere, an older master (also a woman) instructs her favorite pupil, who looks just like the evil Kung, to find Kung and kill her. Kung is a renegade from the Tai Yin Cult, and the master is determined to stop her from harming the world.
The evil sister, meanwhile, keeps drafting people into her army of zombies: she confronts a highway robber who has just killed a lot of people and forces him to become her slave; she confronts archers who are torturing a poor man and forces the poor man to join her army.
Szeto Wa of the Sky Wolf Cult was assassinated with his entire family of 36. Three brothers witnessed the massacre and now live incognito painting umbrellas. The eldest, Lu, prefers a simple life to the risk of death. The other two miss the days when they were famous in the world of the martial arts. The middle brother decides to blackmail Chang, who is responsible for the massacre. Chang pretends to pay him in gold for his silence but it is a trap: middle brother is surrounded by zombies, then killed by the evil lady and thrown in the river. When later the brothers examine the cadaver, they marvel at the wound: a hole in the neck. And they witness how the hunchback and the zombies steal the cadaver. Now Lu and the youngest brother want to find out who is behind the ordeal and they grab their swords again. Lu stumbles onto a coffin that looks like the coffin in which his brother's cadaver was carried away but inside there's the master's favorite disciple, the one sent to capture the evil sister. White men immediately pop up from everywhere to defend the good sister. She admires Lu's sword skills and then interrogates him to find out what he wants. At home the two brothers find the hunchback and a horde of zombies. After a swordfight, the hunchback sets their house on fire. The brothers visit Chang who denies involvement. Then they find the good sister in the hotel, talking to the hotel owner from inside her coffin, surrounded by her white men. The hotel owner has no intention of giving a room to such a weird team, but Lu rents the whole hotel for her. Later she asks to see him alone in her room and flirts with him. She also explains to him that she's a living dead. Lu believes in her innocence, and still suspects Chang, who had the motive to kill his middle brother. Lu spies at night Chang's house but is see by the hunchback who tries to kill him. Lu is saved by the good sister, who was also secretely watching the house. She also explains to Lu that the hole in the neck of his brother was made by her sister with her steel fingers, and she shows him her own hand of steel fingers. The good sister tells Lu that she was sent to stop her sister. Meanwhile, the third brother wants to examine the good sister's coffin but the evil sister has entered the hotel and is hiding just in that coffin. The evil sister captures the third brother in the coffin. When Lu and the good sister return to the hotel, they are attacked by the evil sister's men, and Lu helps her stop them. The good sister realizes that the evil sister is there, and confesses that it was planned that way: to draw the evil one into a trap. However, the evil one easily escapes thanks to her zombies. Lu understands that the only way to defeat the evil one is to provoke a fight during daylight, when her zombies cannot operate. Lu and the good sister need to find where she is hiding during the day and suspect Chang's adobe. They enter his adobe and are confronted by the whole gang: the evil sister, Chang, the hunchbak and... Lu's second brother, now turned into a zombie. The good sister and Lu are captured after a swordfight. The evil sister is even using Lu's middle brother for sex, and now tries to seduce Lu, but he rejects her. The hunchback tries to rape the good sister but she kills him and frees herself and then frees Lu. After one last swordfight the good sister kills the evil one.
There followed a deluge of films: The Water Margin (1972), Boxer from Shantung (1972) and Tai Yin Zhi (1972), etc.

The short (one hour long), super-busy and somewhat ridiculous Tian long ba bu/ The Battle Wizard (1977), adapted from Louis Cha/ Chin Yung/ Jin Yong's sprawling labyrinthine novel "Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils" by scriptwriter Ni Kuang (also an assistanto to abovesaid writer), is a Mario Bava-esque gorey fantasy with an implausible plot and amateurish acting, and therefore mostly relies on visual effects. The action is frantic and farcical like in the old Sennett slapsticks and in the Looney Tunes cartoons.

Zhengchun is having sex with a married woman. She tells him that she is pregnant of his child. The husband catches them in the act and tries to kill them. Zhengchun shoots a magic black ray from his finger to maim the husband. Then his fiance shows up, revealing to the widow, Hongmian, that she's been duped by Zhengchun, who is a prince. Twenty years later the husband, Poyen, decides that the time has come for his revenge on the man who cut his legs. He orders his servant Canglong, a hysterical jumping hunchback with fangs and claw, to kidnap Zhengchun's son Yu. Meanwhile, Zhengchun's legitimate son has grown up to become a gentle scholar who shuns the martial arts. The problem is that the emperor has no children, and Zhengchun is his brother, which means that Zhengchun's son Yu is next in line to become emperor, a title that requires mastery of martial arts.
Meanwhile, Zhengchun's illegitimate daughter Yaochi/ Wanqing grows up in poverty with her mother. One day her mother sends her out into the world and tells her to wear a black scarf to cover her face in order to avoid the lust of men. The mother also instructs the daughter to kill the woman who married Zhengchun. Unlike her half-brother, whom she never met, she has become a virtuosa of the martial arts, or at least of the one practiced with magical darts.
Yu decides to set out in the forest to find out for himself whether martial arts are truly indispensable to survive. While walking a stroll in the forest, Yu stumbles into a pretty young woman, Lingehr, who is surrounded by snakes. Yu attacks the snakes but she complains that they are her friends. She offers to teach Yu the martial arts if he teaches her literature, but Yu is just too inept in martial arts. She tells him that he'll better find the red python that makes people invulnerable. They are attacked by bandits and she shows Yu what the snakes are for: she uses them like darts to kill the attackers. The attackers belong to a sect that uses poison as the uniting tool: each new member must swallow a poisonous potion for which the chief has the antidote. The tribe captures them but Lingehr shoots a snake into the chief's body and demands that he releases Yu. The chief cannot stand the pain and obeys. Lingehr tells Yu to look for help from her good friend Yaochi. Meanwhile, the snake has left children that spread inside the body of the chief, so the pain multiplies. Yu sets out on a dusty road. Whenever he mentions Yaochi's name, people run away terrified. Finally one man tells him that Yaochi (his half-sister, but he doesn't know) is a ruthless kungfu master, and warns him that she has killed every man who approached her (her mother's wish). Yu finally finds her and brings her Lingehr's message. After giving him a demonstration of her fighting skills, she jumps on a horse and lifts him on the back. They argue all the time as they ride towards the place where Lingehr is still kept captive. Yaochi easily defeats the entire tribe and frees Lingehr. Just then Canglong appears. He too has superpowers and almost prevails over her, but Yu drags her unconscious body on a horse. Canglong chases them on foot. They survive a jump over a chasm and finally leave Canglong behind. She is wounded but doesn't want him to clean the wound because no man has ever seen her body (nor her face). He has to use violence to suck the poison out of her wound. She eventually relaxes and seems to enjoy the bodily contact. When he is attacked by the red python, she tells him to bite the beast and suck its blood. Yu does so but then falls unconscious, exhausted. That's when Canglong attacks Yaochi, who is still lying on the ground weak. He manages to see her face, the first man to do so. Yu wakes up and send Canglong away. Now that Yaochi's face is no longer a secret, Yu and Yaochi decide to get married. Canglong reports this news back to his master, the betrayed husband of Yu's mother, who knows Yaochi's identity and laughs at the idea of the siblings getting married without knowing that they are siblings. He decides to ask Yaochi's mother for help. Yu takes Yaochi to the emperor's palace and introduces her to his parents. Alas, Yaochi identifies Yu's mother as the woman whom her mother wants dead. Yaochi tries to assassinate her in front of everybody but she is stopped. Yu's father takes her in another room and proves to her that he is her father, i.e. that she is Yu's sister. Meanwhile, in another room Yu's mother tells Yu the same. Both are furious but don't have time to communicate because Canglong and his master Poyen break into the palace. Canglong and Poyen capture Yu and Yaochi and carry them unconscious to a building in the forest. Canglong is ordered to dump them into a cave where a meat-eating gorilla lives, although he first tries to rape the girl (he strips her naked but is stopped in time by his master). Lingehr is invited to Poyen's palace because her parents are friends with him, and, learning of Yaochi's and Yu's capture, she sends a snake with a message to the emperor. The emperor and his brother, the father of the two captives, arrive to Poyen's palace. Poyen can now laugh in front of the man who amputated his legs. Poyen erupts fire from his mouth, the emperor shoots laser beams from his fingers. In the cave the gorilla is released but Yu is now invincible and uses his superpowers to kill it. Then Yu and Yaochi use superpowers to jump out of the cave (blending scenes from Superman and Spider Man). Yu literally disintegrates him, but Yaochi is killed and dies in her brother's arms, staring at her father. Yu and Lingehr ride away together (apparently Yu has just fallen in love with her).

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