Thousand Mile Escort (1976)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2006-02-28
Summary: So bad its bad.
“Thousand Miles Escort” is made watchable by the great Lo Lieh, here playing a villain who serves Shin Wei, the prime minister of China who is in rebellion against the throne and who is conspiring to hand the country over to the invading Tartars. Or it may be that Shin Wei is conspiring with the king to extend martial law throughout all of China. Whichever is the case, there is a letter that explains it all and that everyone is trying to find. The title refers to the journey that righteous swordsman Zen Ja Ti, played by Pai Ying, and his nephew embark upon in order to deliver the letter to a loyal general whose troops are facing the Tartars.

Lo Lieh as Shao Leung is at first is completely despicable—he supervises and takes part in the slaughter of the entire family of a Privy Councilor who is loyal to the king—the only person to escape is the nephew. Later he undergoes a change of heart and decides he must so what is right for China, then once again becomes a bloodthirsty maniac when his wife, a trained assassin, is killed by Zen Ja Ti. She was trying to kill him and was sent on this mission by Shao. The butcher’s bill is quite high—basically everyone who appears in the movie, with three exceptions, are dead before the final credits roll.

Structurally “Thousand Miles Escort” is a real dog’s breakfast. The person upon whose actions the entire plot is erected, the king, never appears. There is almost no transition from a scene set in one time and place to another—there is a lot of “meanwhile, back at the palace” or “meanwhile, back at the waterfall”. The film is full of flashbacks, including one to a scene that happened several minutes before—what happened in the scene (the death of Shao’s wife and her henchman) had been described and discussed already but, maybe to make sure that no one missed anything, it was shown again. A gang of thugs, who turn out to be good guys, show up in the very first scene, then again for a couple of seconds and then disappear for good. There is a lot of exposition of the dullest sort—people standing around and talking about what is happening somewhere else.

There were plenty of Shaw Brothers trademarks—opulent costumes, beautiful women, perfect hair and makeup on everyone. The action scenes ranged from quite good to dreadful—most of them were simply dull although the ultimate battle between Lo Lieh, Pai Ying and Chia Ling is very well done and exciting. One quite brutal scene had Pai Ying faced with an ambush by a platoon of the prime minister’s soldiers. He lured them into a house then pulled the house down around them. Some were crushed and the rest he stabbed as they tried to escape. Pai Ying uses a staff that shoots daggers, Lo Lieh a sword and Chia Ling a spear. All seem quite good with their weapons of choice but it is Lo Lieh, of course, who really stands out.

The movie ends with the same shot with which it began, which could mean a number of things. It might point to the cycle of death and regeneration. It could be that the director realized that all the other characters were dead so there wasn’t anything else for him to do. Or perhaps he was just as tired shooting the movie as the audience was sick of watching it. But it did end and not a moment too soon.

Recommended only for fans of Lo Lieh who want to own everything he was in.
Reviewer Score: 2