Reviewed by: Bruce
Summary: Very nice female kung fu film, particularly for fans of Hsu Feng.
Hsu Feng became a leading actress during the 1970's by specializing in Ice Princess type of roles: a serious, cold-blooded, dominant female with nerves of steel, highly intelligent, and able to devote total effort to whatever plan is motivating her. She's an actress, not an athlete, so her action films usually found her armed her with a sword. A good director and choreographer can make almost any female look good holding a sword, but unarmed female fighting is much more difficult to present. It is for precisely that reason that I prefer to see females fighting unarmed against male opponents; if it is well done, it is more impressive than swordplay. Hsu Feng's unarmed fighting in other films usually looks implausible and weak ("Win Them All" particularly comes to mind, when she fought very poorly against Yasuaki Kurata). Her most famous film (solely because Jackie Chan was the star) is "To Kill With Intrigue"; I've always felt that film would have been much better if she had been the one to go after Jackie's enemy, and then for Jackie and her to have been together at the film's end. Certainly she was much more appealing than the wimpy heroine.
But back to the film at hand. In "White Butterfly Killer", Hsu Feng is the star, and most of her fighting is unarmed. The director and choreographer have done a good job making her look fairly convincing, despite her limited physical skills. Her personality and acting ability carry this film the rest of the way to success.
Plotwise, a gang of bandits invade the home of Hsu Feng and her grandfather. The grandfather is killed, and six bandits take turns assaulting her. The seventh is a nice guy (though a thief) who feels sorry for her, and he lets her escape. Years pass, and now Hsu Feng is the owner of the White Butterfly Inn, where she waits for her chance for revenge. The seven bandits come to stay at the inn, and she schemes to pick them off, one by one. She is aided by three young women working at the inn, who are all expert fighters. That's the setup, and the revenge plot works quite well, at least until the end of the film, which falls rather flat.
Female kung-fu films of the 1970's must be judged by more lenient standards than male kung-fu films. (Let's fact it, there was no female Bruce Lee, Gordon Liu, Hwang Jang Lee, Jackie Chan, etc.) Accordingly, this is quite a good film, and if you are a fan (as I am) of female kung-fu in general, or Hsu Feng in particular, then this film should be very enjoyable. Some films with female stars still have about 50% male vs. male fights. Fortunately that is not the case in this film, which only has about 20% of the fighting as male vs. male.