How Princess iron Fan Burnt Down the Heavenly Gate (1959)

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Image sourced from hkmdb.com

You can find a list of cast and crew on the Hong Kong Movie Database here.

This old black and white film hasn’t aged well, I am afraid – compared to the lively and lovely animations of the Wan Brothers about the same set of characters, and compared to the live action kung fu films that would start gracing the screens of Hong Kong and elsewhere less than a decade after this was made, its action looks static and stagey.

The later films inspired by Journey to the West in the Shaw Brothers canon, directed by Ho Meng Hua and released in 1966 and 1967, are far more dynamic and obviously benefit from the Shaw Brothers production model and its ability to resource directors and art departments.

The two things about this 1959 film that did intrigue me are:

  1. That there are musical numbers inserted into the film (this also happens in the Shaw Brothers Journey to the West movies). This may well be a nod to the influence of Chinese Opera on the development of kung fu movies (please feel free to comment and disagree if you have a better theory or know otherwise) and is also an indication as to where the reliance on episodic plot making in kung fu movies may have come from.
  2. Lam Ka Sing in the lead role of Sun Wukong and glimpses of his abilities as an acrobat. The Hong Kong Movie Database lists him as starring in over 300 (yep – 300!!!) films, and that alongside and busy and successful career as a Cantonese Opera performer. I enjoyed watching his acrobatics – I wish he had been able to do more, but I guess if he was rushing off to make 300 other films he didn’t have time to hang around and film long detailed action sequences.

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