Vengeance may take time to enact but it doesn’t forget.
What They Say
From the vaults of the Shaw Brothers hails a film that showcases the legendary wuxia masters' talent like a blood-soaked prize. In a performance celebrated as her magnum opus, Cheng Pei-Pei (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) memorably demands body parts from her foes in a vengeful rage.
Cheng is the Lady Hermit: a paragon of poise and stealth, in hiding for years, plotting revenge ever since her injurious run-in with the sinister Black Knight. Shih Szu (Shaolin Handlock) is a lethal go-getter with wicked bullwhip skills who begs Cheng to teach her, hoping to stay the demon herself. The Black Knight's days are numbered as the Lady Hermit and her protégé perfect the technique to take him down - call the Flying Tiger.
The feature contains both an English and Mandarin mono language track. For the purpose of this review this review the Mandarin language track was used. The track is a basic one with dialogue and sound coming from the right and left front speakers and with no center speaker presence. The track contains no distortions though dialogue spoken off screen can drop to a level that almost approaches a dropout in a scene or two.
Originally created in 1971 the video is presented in 16:9 matted widescreen format. The feature itself contains grain, noise and is a bit soft in its presentation though it does present colors and handle action scenes well without any major issues.
The front of the DVD slipcover features the titular character of the Lady Hermit against the background of a large blue-green pagoda and a goldenrod colored sky for the top portion of the cover with a white banner just beneath that which appears to wrap around to the back and contains the title. Under the banner is a monochrome colored still of the Lady Hermit in action from the film. The back has the Black Demon in a fight ready stance with a deep orange Kanji and English logo for the series set against a goldenrod colored background. The back also contains an image of the original theatrical poster and the date, director and four stars named as well as the feature copy inside a white banner. Along with that it also has five stills from the feature but this release did not have the slip cover some previous Shaw releases have had. It does retain the Shaw Brothers print on the back of the DVD cover like other Shaw releases, this time in a greenish-blue color. The DVD label uses the top image from the front cover of the DVD slipcover.
The main menu features the close up image of the Lady Hermit and pagoda from the front slipcover with the same colors as well as a white banner with the logo and the selectable options while a bold audio track plays in the background. The scene select screen features the image of the Lady Hermit fighting taken from the front cover in a reddish purple and white color scheme and little stills representing the chapter stops while the audio select screen uses the blue-green wallpaper from the back of the DVD slip cover.
This feature contains no extras.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
The feature opens on a foggy night in Baijiang Town as the remains of the rain storm earlier in the day still lie in puddles on the street and drip off the eves of the roofs. The night is not still as two figures first meet on a bridge and then one prowls in front of the homes by the river. He passes by houses with talismans hanging on them until he finds one that does not have them. A close up reveals a face that looks to be from the grave as he enters the home via the window and shortly after a scream is heard followed by a splash of blood.
The scene in Dungan Town the next day is far more peaceful as Miss Leng Yushuang-a servant in the local Da An security company- is out shopping for supplies and stops at a stall selling chestnuts. The bustling but peaceful scene is broken as a man wearing peppers and shaking a bell enters. Nothing escapes Miss Leng’s eyes though as she sees him focusing on a man and his stack of silver ingots at another store. As the man with the ingots is accosted and being robbed by the man creating a disturbance Miss Leng reaches for the jar of chestnuts when a young woman confronts the would be thief and stops his actions. The thief is not alone as two of his friends come out of the crowd to confront the woman who unleashes her whip. With her skills with the weapon the thieves appear to be driven off though it is clear the young woman received some assistance in her task with some appropriately thrown chestnuts that helped to even the odds.
The young woman (Cui) is shown to the security company and is introduced to its head Mr. Wang. Cui states that she has been looking to learn martial arts and has heard rumors that the renowned Lady Hermit has been seen in the area. She is told that the Lady Hermit might be in Baijiang a short distance away and decides to head there in the morning as the security company has a load they are escorting heading there then as well. Since Cui is the daughter of Mr. Wang’s friend he offers he a place in the compound to sleep for the night. As she prepares for bed she gets to talk with Miss Leng and express that she wishes to defeat the man known as Black Demon and someday become the number one martial artist in the land. Miss Leng expresses some reservation as to Cui’s motives but stays pleasant until she clutches her waist in pain as she is leaving and after Cui expresses concern Miss Leng says it will go away with some rest.
The night will not be a quiet one however as the thieves from earlier in the day infiltrate to exact their pound of flesh on the woman who foiled them. Cui manages to fight them off though she seems a little oblivious that she has a guardian angel helping her in secret with some well placed thrown blades. Miss Leng talks with Mr. Wang later that night and heavy allusions are made as to her more famous nom de plume as she mentions she will have to be leaving. The events in Baijiang that lead to the rumors of the Lady Hermit turn out to be a scam being run by Black Demon in her name in an attempt to draw the Lady Hermit out of wherever she had been hiding for the last few years. Cui sees through the scam and decides she will not allow this injustice and will defend the name of the women she dreams of calling master out of principle.
The trap works though as Cui along with Changchun from the security company (who also has feelings for Miss Leng) become outnumbered and perilously close to overrun when trying to expose the fraud being committed. They are saved by the real Lady Hermit but the act of saving them exposes Miss Leng’s identity and she attempts to run from a very persistent Cui. After a long chase Cui does finally persuade Miss Leng to take her on as her disciple and Miss Leng teaches Cui the technique she created to counter Black Demon’s style. Their days of tranquility will be short however as the love of the same man may split their master/student relationship forever. Despite this impasse Cui decides that she will not let her master’s name be tarnished and sets out to challenge the Black Demon. With her student traveling into a situation where she will be facing impossible odds the Lady Hermit must don her garb and hope her injury will hold up and allow her to save those she has grown to love from the person she despises most in the world.
The Lady Hermit is a great example of two of the best women martial artists in the Shaw Brothers’ fold as they go about their various objectives of training and vengeance but also throwing in some moments of conflict born of a shared love for the same man. Some of the set ups such as the demons in the city at the open of the feature are brilliant ploys to try to bring the Lady Hermit out of hiding and showing of the clever nature of the Black Demon and great writing techniques. The feature also contains some impressive choreography including an impressive fight up and then decent of a pagoda from the outside. On the down side the Black Demon doesn’t seem to be a practical threat as much as he should given the level of intelligence he displays and some of the special effect tricks are a bit obvious in nature. Those aside this is a truly fun film.
The Lady Hermit is a wonderful example of the ladies getting a chance to shine in the martial arts film world and showing off their skills as being the equal of their male counterparts. The film also has a spectacular sequence of a fight being staged on a pagoda and there is impressive work making the ascension and descent from the outside look stunning. That the film works in a tale of love requited and not amidst the interplay without losing a step is a tribute to the writers and actors involved. Hopefully this isn’t the final Shaw Brothers film FUNimation releases as it is the end of what they have announced having signed, but if it is they are taking their license out not with a whimper but with a heck of a bang.
Mandarin Language, English Language, English Subtitles
Samsung 50" Plasma HDTV, Denon AVR-790 Receiver with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080.