The Young Avenger (1972)
Reviewed by: bmwracer on 2006-08-09
Summary: Little Poisonous Dragon
"The Young Avenger" is a 1972 Shaw Brothers Studios wuxia action film starring Shih Szu, who for most of the 1970's was the reigning queen of the Shaw Brothers kung fu/wuxia films, having inherited the title from Cheng Pei Pei, who had retired to raise a family.

First off, "The Young Avenger" is an odd title for the film, since it's not even close to the literal translation. From my recollection (I saw this movie when I was a kid--had a thing for Shih Szu, but that's another story) the translated title is "Little Poisonous Dragon," and a quick check using Babel Fish confirms this. Why the studio changed this name so dramatically is beyond me, but it's not the first time an Asian film has its title hacked to pieces (no pun intended) upon translation to English.

Like many wuxia films that came before and would follow, "The Young Avenger" is a revenge film, with Shih Szu in the title role as Bao Zhu. Her father, Li Kui (Tung Lin), master of the Poisonous Dragon Sword style, is wounded in a battle with Liu Tou (Fan Mei Sheng), a revenge-minded swordsman with a hunchback. Though beaten, Liu Tou swears to return in ten years to avenge his defeat at the hands of Li Kui. Unfortunately, Li would eventually die from his injuries, but not before sending Bao Zhu off to a monastery to learn the Poisonous Dragon Sword style. After ten years, Bao Zhu returns, now a master of the Poisonous Dragon Sword style, and wielding her father's deadly cane sword. But now she is also an assassin/bounty hunter, heading back to town seeking to face off with Liu Tou and avenge her father's death during the Mid-Autumn Festival. Her return also allows her to reunite with her cousin, Chen Shi Lun (Yueh Hua), a master of the Iron Fan style. Together, they plan on how to deal with Liu Tou and his thugs.

The quality and quantity of swordplay in this film is first rate with minimal wirework. Shih Szu appears to be very comfortable and adept with a sword as she slices up the thugs with confidence and aplomb. And after she routs them, she has this knack of carefully wiping off the blood on her sword on her sleeve before re-sheathing it, an interesting detail. Bao Zhu's final battle with Liu Tou is pretty well done, although I was really disappointed that the story required her needing outside assistance to defeat Mr. Hunchback. Major demerit here. Was it because she's a woman? I think so. That might also explain why the male lead (Yueh Hua) is shown more prominently on the DVD cover than she is, though Shih Szu is more prominent on the original poster art. Strange.

Speaking of women, I found it extremely hard to believe that a number the characters mistook Bao Zhu as a boy and even referring to her as such. Early on in the movie, she was disheveled and appeared to be a beggar, but come on, she's no boy. I guess the need for glasses in medieval China was considerably more severe than anyone could have imagined. LOL.

Like all of the remastered Shaw Brothers films (from IVL - Intercontinental Video Limited) on DVD (Region 3) that I've seen, the picture and audio are very good with good color saturation and detail. I didn't see any flaws in the film aside from some the typical lack of focus in a few shots (the cinematographer needed glasses too, I suppose). The extras are thin as usual: just trailers, selected bios, and some brief movie info.

All told, "Little Poisonous Dragon," er, "The Young Avenger" gets an 8 out of 10.