The Fists of the White Lotus; aka, Clan of the White Lotus (Hung wen tin san po pai lien chiao, 1981) is a punch & block film with numerous unusual "styles" tossed in like "embroidery needle kung fu" & "acupuncture kung fu."
Though it works as a complete stand-alone film, it's at least in part a sequel to Executioners from Shaolin (Hung hsi-kuan, 1977).
Yang Tsing-tsing aka Yeung Jing-jing plays "Ching Ching" (essentially using her own name in the role), a very acrobatic kung fu girl whose defeat is a sad moment in the film.
Kara Hui Ying-hung aka Hui Ya Hing plays Mei-hsiao, another kung fu gal. She has the key to defeating the evil white lotus priest. Far too many Shaolin movies leave out beautiful tough-girl action, but when it's included, it always adds a great deal to the entertainment quotient.
Actor-director Lo Lieh puts in a very strong appearance as the evil monk Pai Mei & his exact twin double the evil head priest of White Lotus Sect.
He's capable of achieving weightlessness. He has also trained himself to possess the "iron groin" & can get popped in the nuts a lot without injury. And he has the soul-snatching palm technique that kills the victim well after the punch.
Hsiao Hou plays the swordsman in white also of the White Lotus cult, the sinister priest's main henchman. Lin Hui-huang does comic releif kung fu. Everyone attempts to exemplify a different form of hun gar.
The hero is played by Gordon Liu Chia-hui. In order to defeat the villain he will have to become the pupil of one of the women fighters, as for some things, women's style is best. (It is an amusing side-note that Gordon Lu would years later play Lo Lieh's character of the evil monk with the soul-snatching fist in Kill Bill 2).
It's almost all fighting with scarsely any story worthy of being called a story. As an acrobatic display with an imaginative array of exaggerated empty-hand kung fu techniqes, it'd be a lot of fun for anyone who needs nothing else but action.
Fists of the White Lotus is on many a kung fu fan's list of favorites for the mere fact of concentrating on the action & not worrying about story structure or anything else.
It's bound to have an extra appeal to viewers who've taken a few traditional hun gar lessons themselves & can recognize some of the shitfts of styles, making it all seem a little redundant.
The fight choreography takes advantage of some genuine physical skills with a minimum of editing tricks which nowadays predominate. These actors have conviction in motion, & many a beautiful tableau is created with kicks & grabs & twists & turns.
After scene upon scene of action then more action, The Fists of the White Lotus manages even so to reach an action climax that is not just more of same, but bigger more of same.
Still, for film lovers like myself who want a good story along with the action, this film is mostly a frustration, as so much talent went into it, only to leave out such signal ingredients as plot & character.
It amounts to "you fight & lose against baddies, so you train hard, then you fight & win against baddies," with costuming standing in for character deliniation.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl