Tasked by senior members of the martial world, a flying swordsman infiltrates a martial clan to retrieve the deadliest of all kung fu manuals in this intrigue-filled, old school wuxia adventure from Shaw Brothers and writer-director Shen Chiang (TEMPLE OF THE RED LOTUS). This is a dated production with lesser Shaw stars that takes some patience to get into but an above-average script filled with interesting wuxia elements, solid star performances and stylized fighting action lead to a thrilling conclusion worth seeing. Slender actor Chen Hung-lieh, best known for villainous roles in swordplay movies including COME DRINK WITH ME, takes on his first heroic lead role as Flying Hero Guo Jiou-ru, a righteous swordsman recruited to track down two missing halves of a powerful kung fu manual written by the deceased King of the Martial World. The power-hungry King of Hades, Master Yin (Ching Miao), already possesses one half and will soon have the other. He has arranged for his daughter Cai-fa (Angela Yu) to marry Winged Tiger Deng Fei (Cheng Lei), owner of the other half of the manual. Guo, whose ability to fly mirrors that of the Winged Tiger, intercepts him enroute to the Yin estate. Having discovered the Winged Tiger’s secret attack, Guo is able to defeat him and successfully assume his identity. Sensing an imposter, Master Yin plots with his blind advisor (Paul Wei) to entrap Guo. Complicating this situation is Yin’s daughter who falls in love with Guo and three fighting allies of Master Yin who want the manual for themselves. Essentially, THE WINGED TIGER is a super spy movie in the guise of a swordplay actioner. It starts out slow with perfunctory exposition and dialogue-heavy intrigue dominating the first two-thirds of the film. The highly enjoyable payoff arrives in the final act as Guo’s cover is blown and he’s forced to fight while relying on the conflicted loyalties of Cai-fa. Action choreography from masters Tang Chia and Lau Kar-leung is impressive for 1970 due mostly to its inventiveness, technical difficulty and stylized presentation. With flying being a primary component of the fighting, heavy wirework is used effectively with the wires themselves mostly hidden from view. The fighting benefits from creative use of handheld camerawork and sporadic undercranking. None of the primary cast members are martial artists but future kung fu movie masters Yuen Woo-ping, Hsu Hsia and Lau Kar-wing can be spotted among the nameless fighting extras. David Chiang, who had only begun his ascension to superstardom the previous year in Chang Cheh’s DEAD END and HAVE SWORD, WILL TRAVEL, is relegated to a throwaway supporting role. Also of note is Paul Wei, who famously played the pitiful Japanese toadie in FIST OF FURY, here playing a crafty and deadly blind swordsman Chen must contend with.
Angela Yu • Chen Hung-lieh • Cheng Lei • Ching Miao • David Chiang • Genre: Wuxia • Lau Kar-leung • Paul Wei • Shaw Brothers • Shen Chiang • Tang Chia • The Winged Tiger (1970)