I watched the 1972 Shaw Brothers adaptation of chapters 64 through 68 of The Water Margin this week, as part of the homework I’ve given myself before attempting to get into Suikoden. It was rad!
The story opens with a fatal ambush on the Liangshan Marsh gang’s leader by a man named Shi Wengong. The remaining heads of the gang decide that their best ally in confronting this foe should be “Jade Unicorn” Lu Junyi (Tetsurō Tamba), as the two were both disciples of the same master. They also discuss Junyi’s sidekick and star of the show Yan Qing The Prodigy (played by David Chiang) who spends all of his screentime kicking ass and mugging for the camera, knitting his brows as though it aches to be so beautiful.
In his introduction he enters a wrestling match out in the street, takes off his coat and the camera snap zooms to the tattoo on his chest while his musical cue plays (bassline chicka chicka chaa!). His skill is immediately apparent to onlookers.
So, Wu Yong “The Wizard” and Li Kui “The Black Whirlwind” approach Junyi disguised as fortunetellers angling to direct him their way, but are outed as marsh bandits by Qing and taken prisoner. Yong and Kui are set free but not before Junyi’s adulterous wife and her lover take advantage of the situation to paint Junyi as being in cahoots with the outlaws and he is taken into custody with a death sentence put on his head.
The rest of the film is a series of attempts by Yan Qing and the Liangshan gang to spring Lu Junyi before his execution.
The music is great and I don’t know where I can find it to listen to outside of the movie which is frustrating. They kept introducing new characters over an hour in (they got 108 members after all). Anyway, it’s lots of fun! Best homework I ever had.