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~l (1977)
Magnificent Wanderers

Reviewed by: cal42
Date: 06/13/2006
Summary: Not too magnificent, sadly.

Master Chu (David Chiang) is a wealthy rebel fighting against the Mongols to restore order to the land using his bow to fire golden pellets at his enemies. He is aided by three (presumably magnificent) wanderers in his fight against the corrupt Mongol chieftain (is there any other kind?) and his army.

You think you’ve got a director sussed and then you watch something like this and it comes straight out of left field. I thought I had Chang Cheh pegged. Watching his films, you expect compelling (if sometimes baffling) scripts, superior acting and a sense of the dramatic often lacking in the usual gut-bucket kung fu films of the early 70’s. What you don’t expect is fluffy kittens, strong female leads and goofy comedy.

OK, this doesn’t have fluffy kittens and strong female leads, but it does have goofy comedy in abundance. I was so shocked, I checked the back of the box twice to make sure it really WAS directed by the same guy who gave us HAVE SWORD WILL TRAVEL and BLOOD BROTHERS. Yep, same guy. It even says so in the credits.

The Magnificent Wanderers of the title are Fu Sheng, Li I-Min and Chi Kuan-Chun (who always looks a little bit too much like Chen Kuan-Tai to me, which tends to get me all in a muddle). Fu Sheng does his usual I-was-Jackie-Chan-before-Jackie-Chan routine which is OK for the most part, and Li I-Min was obviously an accomplished acrobat, which makes for some interesting flips and somersaults (although he does tend to overdo it).

The trouble is, it’s not terribly coherent. What’s more, the kind of comedy on display here is the type that will either tickle your fancy or annoy the hell out of you. I tend to side with the latter. I’ve said it before, but the Shaw Brothers’ attempts at comedy often grate on me. The stuttering chieftain who can only get his words out when there’s no one around to hear him raised a smile (I’m a sufferer myself, so I can laugh at the irony), and the two Mongol officers who always fail to capture Master Chu and have to go grovelling back to their boss was a nice running gag, but apart from that it’s just a bit lame.

I happen to think that David Chiang was the best action ACTOR ever to come out of the Shaw Brothers studio (another staple of the Shaw set, Ti Lung, would BECOME a great actor later on), but he’s pretty much wasted here.

However, some of the action is pretty good. As mentioned, Li I-Min’s somersaults are very camera-friendly, and some of the skirmishes with the other two are quite well executed. It’s just a shame they weren’t shot around a better overall project.

Reviewer Score: 5

Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 12/07/2003

I'm willing to bet a lot of people agree on this title being one of the very worst Shaw Brothers productions ever. The music is pretty much a rip-off of "Swordsman at Large" (1972), and David Chiang, David Chiang - he just ruins everything.