The Shadow Whip (1971)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2010-05-23
Summary: Let one hundred Macguffins bloom.
“Why, we are the 16 Bandits of Yunyun--didn’t Fang Chengtian mention us?” asks Go Ming, playing the leader of the gang. As it turns out that is just one of many questions that Fang Chengtian hasn’t addressed regarding his past a failure which will cause significant problems for Miss Yun/Yang/Fang. Since it is Cheng Pei-Pei who is discommoded a lot of blood will be spilled before this movie is over.

Much of what made Shaw Brothers wuxia films enjoyable for a couple of generations of fans is present here: excellent action choreography carried out by principals and extras who have worked with each other and with experienced action directors; super-sharp “Shaw-scope” print showing the wide-angle and close-up cinematography; dependable stars who can sell the evil nature of their characters (Ku Feng) or change sides as they learn the truth (Yueh Hua). The blood was bright scarlet and as thick as latex paint.

Bad guys show up early to bother Miss Yang and her employees and new ones keep showing up. First to arrive are the Serial Trio, three ruffians who expect people to get out of their way and who have the martial arts and swordplay skills to force them. They are working for Chief Hong who is distracted when Wang Jianxin shows up in town on the same mission as Hong. The 16 Bandits have the best costumes, head to toe black leather trimmed with white piping. Their cool outfits don’t help--come and go (mainly dead) in one scene.

The target for all this mayhem is Fang who is suspected of killing a politician that Chief Yang was guarding and stealing a hoard of priceless jewels fifteen years before. He has been hiding out as proprietor of a small inn on the edge of town, tucked away in snow clogged foothills, raising his niece Miss Yang who is strong, courageous and simply amazing with her whip--and pretty good with the short sword that she pulls from the whip’s handle.

It is all a mistake--Fang is righteous, Miss Yang, while deadly, is pure of heart, the Serial Trio realize the error of their ways but may also get killed. With bodies, parts of bodies and abandoned weapons everywhere--Chief Hong follows the accepted tactics of either a general commanding battalions or leaders of armed raiding parties, at least according to Hong Kong movies, and has his men fight until they are all dead. Both Fang and Yang seem to account for over one hundred bad guys each.

The main reason to see “The Shadow Whip” is Cheng Pei-Pei. She cuts quite a figure even swaddled as she is in a long coat and a floppy fur hat. Wherever the setting was supposed to be it must have been during an extended cold snap since none of the characters went so far as to loosen a scarf or unbutton a coat. Chief Hong removed his tall fur hat and it was more surprising than any of the sudden appearances of yet another group of evildoers for our heroes to slash and whip their way through.

The jewels stolen when Chief Yang was ambushed and murdered fifteen long years before the action takes place are a MacGuffin. Everybody wants them or the 300,000 taels they are worth but once the bad guys are exposed and the killing is done they aren't mentioned again which defines this plot device as well as any of the films of Alfred Hitchcock the director who invented the term (but not the device).
Reviewer Score: 7