Holy Flame of the Martial World
Year of release: 1983
Director: Tony Liu
Action directors: Phillip Kwok, Yuen Tak
Producer: Mona Fong
Writers: Tony Liu, Cheung Gwok-Yuen
Cinematography: Ma Gam-Cheung
Editing: Chiang Hsing-Lung, Lau Shiu-Gwong, So Chan-Kwok
Music: So Jan-Hau, Stephen Shing
Stars: Max Mok, Leanne Lau, Yung Jing-Jing, Lau Siu-Gwan, Jason Pai Piao, Phillip Kwok, Yeung Jing-Jing, Liu Lai-Ling, Yau Chui-Ling, Elvis Tsui
Rated IIA for mild violence
Movie Review Index
Produced towards the end of the Shaw Brothers' reign as the dominant film studio in Hong Kong, Holy Flame of the Martial World doesn't really make a lick of sense and looks cheap, even by the Shaw's legendary chintzy standards. But that sort of stuff doesn't really matter here, as this is an incredibly fun film that most fans of old school kung fu should enjoy.
In one of his first roles, Max Mok plays Yin, a young warrior whose parents were killed by Monster (Jason Pai Piao) and Jing (Leanne Lau), who are trying to find the legendary "holy flame" sword. After being adopted and trained by Phantom (Phillip Kwok), Yin heads out to find the sword, only to discover that there are actually two swords, and the other is wielded by his sister, who has been under the tutelage of Jing and become a formidable fighter.
Produced in answer to Golden Harvest's hit Zu: The Warriors from the Magic Mountain, Holy Flame of the Martial World was one of the initial releases in the new wave of high-flying wire-fu based wuxia (fantasy swordsplay) martial arts films that would take the place of the more traditional martial arts fare Hong Kong studios favored in the 1960's and 1970's. These sorts of movies are oftentimes divisive in the fan community, as many defenders of the "old school" methods point out that wire-fu oftentimes does not let the audience see the "true" nature and portrayal of martial arts.
While that may be true to an extent, these wire-fu movies did allow film-makers to stretch their wings, as the old school subgenre has run its' course for the most part at this point, with many releases featuring the same recycled plots and similar set pieces. Even though the film-makers here were obviously hampered by a lack of a big budget, there is a sense of free-wheeling inventiveness here that is quite refreshing and makes the movie still stand out, even to this day. Though the martial art aspect might be a bit lacking overall, this is the sort of movie that ends up becoming more than the sum of its' parts, especially if you're not too nitpicky of a viewer and can just turn your brain off for the ride.