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Crash Masters: Beautiful Swordswoman

Crash Cinema // Unrated // March 13, 2007
List Price: $14.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by J. Doyle Wallis | posted April 4, 2007 | E-mail the Author
Beautiful Swordswoman (1969) is a Taiwanese swordplay, one that plays out as a lukewarm female revenge piece hampered by a flat script and weak action lead.

The beautiful swordswoman of Beautiful Swordswoman is actress Wong Ling. She plays Yuan-yuan the daughter of a wealthy family. With help from her governess, she secretly moonlights as an assassin. We begin by seeing her going undercover as a bride, slashing the unsupecting hubby on the wedding night. Then she acts like a broken down farmer, hacking away at another anonymous guy. In the next scene, she and her governess act like retarded, raggedy bums and use this ruse get the surprise on a party of men they cut down.

After the setup, the film gets into her seemingly happy home life where her family is totally unaware of her other life and the fact that she is capable with a sword. She feigns girly-girl defenselessness and weakness when she is in their presence. Apparently, she has been secretly tutored by a swordmaster and her governess, and Yuan-yuan has only recently has begun getting assignments to kill certain men. She does this on total blind faith and is never given the reason behind why the men she murders deserve killing. Eventually, she gets orders to kill her own father and she learns the truth about his past and rise to power via killing her real parents and stealing their fortune.

Unfortunately, Wong Ling isn't an entirely convincing strong, action heroine and really pales to genre peers like Cheng Pei Pei and Angela Mao. She is most convincing and charming in the scenes where she acts like the willowy pampered princess. When it comes time for the action, its pretty weak stuff. In the non-action scenes, she doesn't get much help from the script. For instance, a convincing reason for why she readily kills, not just random men but people close to her family, without question is never fully developed. She just kind of whines, ‟No, I cannot kill third uncle,‟ bites her hand, and then in the next scene is daggering poor, unsuspecting third uncle in the face.

Not that the film doesn't have its moments. Even if the action and scripting leave much to be desired, Yeung Siu's direction is relatively polished with simple but well composed shots and sets. An extended flashback showing Yuan-yuan's faux father's former bandit ways and murderous raid on her family is a real stunner. While in the present day he's just an average well off man doting on his daughter and son, the flashbacks reveal him as a scruffy madman gleefully spiking babies to the floor and killing his comrade in order to get his hands on the guys wife. Also, coincidentally, much like another film I reviewed this month from Crash, Knight of Old Cathay, the finale is one that plays its reasoning for revenge to gray shaded morality rather than black and white, good and evil.

The DVD: Crash Cinema

Part of Crash's recent ‟Crash Masters‟ line of lesser known, ‟lost‟ titles, Beautiful Swordswoman boasts the same claim of remastering, though this is budget remastering so some glaring problems remain. Beautiful Swordswoman is missing some frames in a couple scenes, leading to a severe jump and bits of missed dialogue. Most glaringly, about two thirds into the film there is a pause, stutter, and total reel rollback for about ten seconds of film. Also, annoyingly, during the films final scene the audio is completely out of synch for a good second or two.

Unfortunately, Crash makes a terrible decision in their packaging by misrepresenting the final product in their "Crash Masters" line. The back cover still photos, including a before/after remastering screenshot, are complete phonies and not representative of the image on the DVD. The saddest fact of this misstep is, they have nothing to be ashamed or worth being deceitful about. Sure the image looks rough, but it's an old, badly preserved kung fu film, and hopefully in the future they will remedy this serious act of dishonesty.

Picture: Well, it is a mixed bag, suffice to say much of the film is in poor shape and bears marks of age rot and ruin, dirt, lines, and general spottiness. The image is often pretty blurry but thankfully the colors are relatively good. Contrast varies. Usually in kung fu films, night/low light scenes look the most muddled. In this prints case the night scenes actually fare teh best and have nice details and deep, even contrast levels. The brighter, outdoor scenes, surprisingly, suffer the worst and come across as severely washed out and plagued with tint deterioration.

Sound: Mono, Mandarin with burned-in English and Chinese subtitles. It is an okay track, obviously limited by its era, but aside from the synch issues, is free from too many bad bits off hiss and canniness.

The subs are the real issue with this release, by far the biggest grumble of the whole affair. I sympathize with only finding a print of the film with unremovable subs, but when they are this badly translated and hard to read, I think you need an alternate approach. I prefer a bad dub or dual/overlapping new subs on top of old subs to illegible subs. When you can actually manage to read the subs, they are plagued with grammatical errors (‟You want to get die?‟) and my biggest pet peeve, translation universal inflections like, ‟Ha, Ah, Oh,‟ and ‟Huh?‟

Extras: Trailers for Beautiful Swordswoman and Knight of Old Cathay.

Conclusion: Of the recent batch of Crash Master's releases that includes The Sword and Knight of Old Cathay I think Beautiful Swordwoman is at the bottom of the bunch. The quality is a problem too, making it only watchable or purchase worthy for true die hard martial film fans. Rent it.

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