“Don’t drink and fu.”
In this late era Judy Lee film, she stars as the confusingly-named Brother Blind, a name which scores only 50% for accuracy. She is indeed, largely unable to see, the result of a confrontation with the motley group of bandits who killed her father (Sit). Though even here, there is some confusion as to whether there are 13 of them, as an alternate title suggest, or 14 as the English dub mentions on several occasions. They’re certainly a random bunch, some of who are missing limbs or fingers, as well as two “giants” who aren’t very tall, and a “poison dwarf” who wields a blow-gun, responsible for Brother Blind losing her sight.
She becomes a nomadic alcoholic, roaming the country with her kid brother and stealing wine wherever she can – not that this impacts her kung-fu skills [the most common date for this, 1979, would put it one year after Jackie Chan’s classic Drunken Master, which inspired a host of imitators]. It turns out she’s not the only one to have suffered at the hands of the gang, who are out for revenge on Wang, the official who jailed their leader, Wolf Fang. To cut a long story short – and the film certainly doesn’t – Brother Blind teams up with Wang’s daughter, Mei Gwan (Sun), his long-lost son, Brother Mallet (Kam), who works as a carpenter, and a imperial bureaucrat with a fondness for pipe-fu, to stop the bandits after they have infiltrated a wedding.
This is almost completely mad, right from the opening credits which tells us the martial arts director was “King Kong.” Yet there’s a lot here to admire, with both Lee and Sun kicking butt in a variety of styles, for a director who knows how to show off the talents of everyone involved. The characterizations here are interesting too, with Brother Blind largely grumpy and irascible, rather than being heroic. The bureaucrat (who is never named) is worse still: basically an entitled and arrogant dick. Yet, when the chips are down, he doesn’t back off, and demonstrates his arrogance is not unjustified.
The film does contain the typical unfortunate stabs at comedy, which would have been much better left to Jackie Chan. Even if we allow for everything amusing in the dialogue having been lost in the dubbing, the physical stuff is no more entertaining. Fortunately, the martial arts on view, more than makes up for it. There are a huge range of different styles, courtesy of the dozen or more bandits and their various abilities, and the same goes on the side of the good guys, whose varying talents all get showcased. It even does an unexpectedly good job of dealing with firearms, their firing pins being surreptitiously removed by the bureaucrat. The prints floating round are desperately in need of restoration, however: a letterboxed and subtitled version might merit our seal of approval, especially if the plot then made more sense. This pan ‘n’ scanned, dubbed atrocity? Not so much.
Dir: Ting Shan-Hsi
Star: Judy Lee, Sun Chia-Lin, Kam Kong, Sit Hon
a.k.a. Against the Drunken Cat’s Paws, 13 Evil Bandits, Revenge of the Lady Warrior or Flying Claw Fights 14 Demons