Saturday, December 23, 2006

[DVD] The Proud Youth (Xiao Ao Jiang Hu) (1978)

Faked Du Gu Jiu Jian Not Working!

As mentioned in my earlier review of Swordsman, it isn't easy condensing plot elements from Louis Cha's richly textured martial arts novels for the big screen. In The Proud Youth (bad title by the way), somehow it managed to do so, given a screenplay written by Ni Kwang, but it's ultra summarized, with zero room for character development, and scenes which don't seem to flow smoothly from one to the other, resulting in episodic treatment of sub plot development.

But the most unforgivable thing done to it, was complete name changes to almost 90% of the characters. Gone are Linghu Chong, Renwo Xing, Dong Fang Bu Bai etc, and in place were some generic names like Gongsun Song for Linghu Chong! My guess was that given the summarized nature, having the actual names will do no justice to the original source material. So the next best thing would be to change the names, while retaining certain character traits that will allow them to be distinguished and mapped back to the original.

It's a pity though, while the names of the 5 sword sects are kept, the ultimate swordplay technique had to undergo a complete, unnecessary revamp of title and style, which made it look like a very lame, generic martial arts move, with totally different origins. Fans of Du Gu Jiu Jian, I'm sorry but you won't get to see it demonstrated here. The fight scenes are reminiscent of styles of old though, with the heavy reliance of "ketchup" as a substitute for fake blood. While the fights look interesting, at times they turn out to be quite clumsy, with its special effects being shoddily done (yes, I'm aware it's the 70s), and camera angles being out of position, and revealed quite clearly that swords were flimsy cardboard, and driven into the sides of bodies only.

There are familiar plots like the introduction/battle with Dong Fang, the book Kui Hua Bao Dian requiring the practitioner to castrate himself, the rescue of Ren Wo Xing, the driving out of Linghu Chong from Hua Shan sect, and his learning of the Du Gu Jiu Jian, the musical number consisting of the flute and zither, and on hindsight, it's pretty amazing how all these were squeezed into 90 minutes. I was surprised at the exposure of a boob though, and in slow motion some more. And that was in 1978, for a martial arts movie some more!

This is no Xiao Ao Jiang Hu. In name only, but definitely not in spirit. Please give this a miss, and proceed to the version starring Sam Hui.

Code 3 DVD contains very limited special features. There are a few production and movie stills, one original poster, a one page one paragraph worth of production notes, the theatrical trailer and other trailers of the same genre, and a very short cast and crew biography.

No qualms about the transfer, and traditional Chinese and English subtitles are available over a Chinese language soundtrack.

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