I’ve now finished what has been referred to as “The Brave Archer Trilogy” with more than a bit of confusion. Mainly because it turns out it’s not a trilogy.
The Brave Archer movies, directed between 1977 and 1981 by Chang Cheh, are based one of those million-page Chinese novels I keep hearing about , Eagle Shooting Heroes. It seems at least half of the wuxia movies ever made are based on Eagle Shooting Heroes (a slightly less bizarre translation is Legend of the Condor Heroes), or at least use it as a template. I should probably try to dig up a translation at some point, if only to find out how well the movies follow the book.
Though each movie does rather wrap up one of the conflicts laid out, there are still plot elements unresolved from picture to picture, leaving the viewer with an Empire Strikes Back sort of denouement. The movies are one damned thing after another with a bewildering roster of colorful characters – anyone who read Jademan comics during their too-brief American run knows what I’m talking about.
So having heard about the trilogy, I settled in with the new remastered Region 3 discs from IVL, expecting some sort of closure at the end of Brave Archer 3, only to find… I was out of luck, and movie.
Alexander Fu Sheng, playing the lead character (even if he never engaged in any archery), died in a car wreck in 1983, in the midst of making Lau Kar Leung’s 8 Diagram Pole Fighter. There is a Brave Archer 4, with Andy Lau substituting for Fu Sheng, but IVL does not have it on their release list for this year. Admittedly, that list only goes through March, but… I rather wish, since they released the three Fu Sheng movies in a row, that the 4th would have followed thereafter.
Or that I knew where I could get a copy of Legend of the Condor Heroes.
I don’t want to give the impression that this diminished my enjoyment of the movies in any way – though it might have had I known I couldn’t get the full story arc going in. There’s the usual Chang Cheh exterior sets everywhere (like a kung fu flick filmed on the Ponderosa), but there’s also the usual hyperbolic Chang Cheh fight scenes, and the cast is like a Who’s Who of Shaw Brothers flicks. I spent entire scenes thinking, “Wait… isn’t that…?”
IVL, you’re gonna get my money sooner or later. For my satisfaction, though, I definitely wish it was sooner.
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