Mask of Vengeance (1980)
Feng Liu Can Jian Xue Wu Hen
The Great Conspiracy
The Mask of Vengeance
Mask of Venjence

Nomination Year: 2013
SYNOPSIS:  This movie starts off with a standard kung-fu plot hook: everyone is going to Pai-Wu City for a competition of knife fighters. Characters are introduced in rapid succession, but there's no point in learning their names. Half of them are using nicknames and the other half have at least two or three aliases that they cycle through during the film. To further complicate things, all of the guards and officers of Pai-Wu city wear full face masks, so you can't identify them anyway.

For a while, it seems that the whole competition is a plot by the Master of Pai-Wu City to lure out his enemies. When his main enemy fails to show for the contest, he gives the reward (a scroll of ultimate knife skills) to a patsy, who will have to kill the people who come after it. The scroll goes to a guy we dubbed Knife Guy.

Then it gets complicated.

Knife Guy is trying to find out what happened 10 years ago when his one armed dad (Chivalry Chu aka The Magic Scholar) vanished. He meets up with One-Armed Swordsman who is seeking revenge on the person who killed HIS family 10 years ago. The two of them go their separate ways, but their searches are aided by Ladydude: a kung-fu princess who is poorly disguised as a man. She seems to know more about their pasts than they do.

More and more one-armed people start showing up. People talk in hushed tones about a criminal organization called "The Crippled Gang." Princess Ladydude falls in love with Knife Guy. One Armed Swordsman falls in love with Ladydude and kidnaps her.

I'm leaving out a bunch of characters and side plots. Flute Chick, Clueless Maid, That Bandit, That Other Bandit, Blind Whoopass, Magic Thief, Bad Detective and a whole fleet of other folks are lurking around. I'm just going to focus on the main story, if I can. It isn't easy; at about the halfway point of the film, the plot twists up like a pretzel.

Every scene feels completely detached from every other scene. New characters are introduced and killed off mere minutes later. Old characters make vast leaps of logic and radically alter their plans. Every few minutes I felt like I had just turned on the TV in the middle of a different movie. Things level off after about 20 minutes of this, but for a while I was seriously concerned that the dubbing company had lost a reel or two of the original movie and were just making things up to fit what they'd got.

In the end, it turns out that the Master of Pai-Wu City is, in fact, the head of the Crippled Gang, and that he's also Chivalry Chu, Knife Guy's dad. Years ago, Chu married a woman who was already pregnant, and the past ten years have been an elaborate revenge scheme. Knife Guy and One-Armed Swordsman are both sons of his rival, but by different mothers. Chu's been manipulating things so that the two sons will kill each other, but they foil his fiendish plot by talking to each other first.

Chu is upset by this, so he kills both of their mothers in front of them, and a huge fight ensues. Flute Chick, Clueless Maid, Ladydude, and the two Bandits all get involved, as well as some new characters we've never seen before.

The whole thing ends in a shower of sparks and an explosion.

I kind of want to sit through it again to see if it makes any more sense on a second viewing, but I don't know if it's worth the mental scarring.

Deus Ex Machina

Win / win situation.
All these mind-controlled kung fu men are a serious problem for our hero. Luckily, he runs into a "Chi" healer, who opens the kung fu men's vital points and breaks the mind control on a bet. The healer wins the bet, and our hero doesn't have to fight the kung fu men any more.

Smithee Award Winner! Inane Dialogue

Repetition is the key to clarity.
You say that repetition is the key to clarity?

Our hero's uncle says, "It's an unexpected surprise to see you here. How's your father?"
Our hero explains that his father is dead. He was set upon, and was killed, then fell into the river near this cave.
"You say your father was set upon, and was killed, then fell into the river near this cave?"

Actors/Directors of Note
Actor Claim to Fame
Tao-liang Tan  
Yi Tao Chang  
Kang Chin  
Danny Lee Plays Officer/Inspector/Just Plain "Lee" in nearly all he does 
Hsieh Wang  
Director Claim to Fame
Hsueh Li Pao  

Matt Quirk

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© 2011-2019 Bryan D. Cassidy, Greg Pearson, Matthew Quirk, and Kevin Hogan. All Rights Reserved.