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_L (1965)
Temple of the Red Lotus

Reviewed by: cal42
Date: 12/23/2006

Wu (“Jimmy” Wang Yu), on his way to marry his childhood sweetheart that he hasn’t seen in many years, interrupts a bandit raid over a chest of gold. Although injured, he survives and meets his beloved at Jin Castle. However, the inhabitants start acting strangely. He hears talk of the mysterious “Red Lotus Clan”, but what’s worse, the family he is now married into seem to be the ones that carried out the bandit raid in which he was injured! Wu must decide who is right and who is wrong, as Red Lotus raids increase and the body count gets higher and higher.

There are a few nice twists and turns in the storyline of the TEMPLE OF THE RED LOTUS, and for once everything is nice and easy to follow. However, I found I really couldn’t “connect” with the film much, and I found most of the characters unengaging. There was one scene I thought was good: on the night that Wu and Jin Lianzhu (Chin Ping) get married, Wu is horrified when Lianzhu gets changed to do some sword training instead of spending the time in the marital bed! It was one of the few times the characters seemed human, somehow.

Wu is initially out to seek revenge for his parents’ murder, but that plotline is left hanging and is presumably picked up in the sequels, THE TWIN SWORDS and THE SWORD AND THE LUTE. Instead, the film focuses on the importance of family for far too long. Lo Leih makes an early appearance as Lianzhu’s brother Du, and there’s a significant amount of needle between him and Wu when Wu realises that he is the one responsible for the raid which injured him. The villains of the piece are another letdown – they’re just cardboard cutout villains who kill and rape their way across the land while waiting to be taken down by a hero or two.

The production values are quite high, and I loved the opening credits set against some great artwork (I assume this film is an adaptation of a traditional Chinese novel, or series of novels). The actual Wuxia on show is not terribly intricate, but more or less typical of the age. I found the action scenes lacked excitement though.

Quite disappointing.

Reviewer Score: 4

Reviewed by: balstino
Date: 09/05/2003
Summary: Interesting, but not very thrilling now.

This very old swordplay film was quite involving character wise and quite charming. Similar in style to Come Drink with Me, but with better film making and fights. Definitely one for the interested, but not a scratch on the later Chor Yuen stuff.

Reviewed by: Heiko
Date: 08/22/2003
Summary: A must see!

When I first saw Temple of the red lotus I was impressed by the cast and
the camera work. The story and the
characters are brilliant. The action
is o.k. for a 60ties movie.
In short word "a cult-classic" ans a must see for every fan of chinese movies

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 04/05/2003
Summary: Highly recommended

Well, a while ago I made the claim in my review for COME DRINK WITH ME that "this is where it all started". It turns out I have to take that back, 'cause 1 year before COME DRINK WITH ME was TEMPLE OF THE RED LOTUS... and "it" all seems pretty well in place here

Jimmy Wang Yu has the starring role, as a young kid who heads off to Dragon Valley to meet the childhood friend who was promised as his bride. When he gets there, he finds that the family of the bride might not be an entirely honest bunch of people though. What is the story behind their feud with the monks at the Temple Of The Red Lotus, for a start?

The movie is a luscious period drama featuring a strong story and excellent performances from the entire cast, especially young Wang Yu in his star-making role, and the gorgeous Chin Ping as his bride. The sets and costumes are as sumptuous as any Shaw Brothers period piece, and its all beautifully filmed. TEMPLE OF THE RED LOTUS has a truly compelling plot, full of drama and emotion, and a nicely developed intrigue. Unlike many other swordplay movies, there is never any trouble following the plot and the cast of characters are all easy to keep track of. The script is very tight, and more solid and professional than most HK movies.

Most surprising to me though are the action sequences, featuring exciting and dynamic swordplay choreography that's filmed just as well as anything in COME DRINK WITH ME. In fact, though King Hu definitely introduced some dramatic style of his own, I'd go so far as to say that TEMPLE OF THE RED LOTUS actually has better action than his seminal work... or indeed any other 60's film I've seen so far. So, is this where "it" started. Apparently, it is. I don't even know who was responsible for the action direction here, though Tong Gaai and Lau Kar Leung are all listed as extras at HKMDB, so it would seem quite possible that this is some very early work from those legendary choreographers. If that's the case though, I don't know why it's so much better than their work a year later in THE JADE BOW. Yuen Wo Ping is also listed as an extra, but surely he was much too young to be action director at that point.

Looking at the movie it's hard to believe it was made in 1965, as it stands up easily to pretty much any swordplay of the 60's or 70's (or any time). I've never even heard of director Chui Chang Wang before, and HKMDB only lists 15-20 movies for him. I hope that this beautifully remastered Celestial DVD will help to make his name as well known amongst the fans in the west as equally visionary peers King Hu and Chang Che. I am especially looking forward to the two sequels to RED LOTUS, THE TWIN SWORDS and THE SWORD AND THE LUTE.

Highly recommended.

Reviewer Score: 9