A young woman & her lover rolling in tall grass are discovered by a young villain (Ho Lee) who knifes the half-undressed guy then drags off the girl to rape her, finishing her off with a dagger planted deep in her flesh.
It's then that a beautiful young swordswoman named Yu Ying (Cheng Pei-pei) steps into the picture & speaks censoriously to the son of the Green Dragon Clan Chief, who thinks he can get away with anything. She fights & kills him, & becomes thereby the mortal enemy of Flying Dagger the bandit king.
This prologue to Flying Dragon (Fei dao shou, 2002) immediately before the opening credits is filmed in black & white, & is such fine cinematography it actually seems sad that the film is thereafter in color.
Jiao Lei the Flying Dagger (Chi-Hing Yeung), grandfatherly in appearance, is a cold-blooded killer through & through. He revengefully attacks the Yu family, & soon has the swordswoman's relatives on the run, including her pure-hearted brother (Lui Cheng), baby brother (Gong Lau), her severely injured father (Miu Ching), & a handful of her father's martial disciples.
A rude young fellow named Yang Ching (Lo Lei) is a wanderer of heroic demeanor, but so deeply a loner he is reluctant to befriend anyone, & does not believe there is much difference between good people & bad, since he can see the bad in just about anyone.
Having been an orphan, he's been on his own since childhood, & mistrusts the world. He can one day assist our young swordswoman & her family as they attempt to escape the territory of the Green Dragon Clan, & then the next day save the life of Jiao Lei the Flying Dagger from the group of swordswomen calling themselves "the five ghouls."
Just as he turned down the offer to help Yu Ying's family from the goodness of his heart, he also turns down a well-paid position as first-lieutenant to the baddest baddie on the block.
Yang Ching is a superior swordsman & also has a belt of throwing daggers. His skill with these rivals Flying Dagger, whose never-miss knife-throwing art finally has a target he cannot reach.
Cheng Pei-pei comes off in most of her films as a great swordswoman, but she gets short shrift in this one.
Her fighting scenes are a lot weaker than those for Lo Lei, whose character the director clearly preferred. Though to be sure, the fight choreography for everyone is only fair to middling.
Pei-pei does get more of an opportunity for "acting" this time around, in that there's a romantic subplot of her falling for Yang Ching, then being disappointed in him for not being swift to take her family's side, then forgives him for his rotten streak after she realizes he still has that mistrustful orphan child inside, poor li'l Yang Ching.
Chang Cheh was one of the more competent directors of the era, capable of a serious tale. He directed some of the most famed & influential classics, including The One Armed Swordsman (1967) & Have Sword Will Travel (1969) with a loner hero similar to Yang Ching; Golden Swallow (1968) with a heroine similar to Yu Ying; & The Five Venoms (1978) & All Men are Brothers (1973) with intense male bonding which is one of the hallmarks of Chang Cheh's films.
Although Flying Dagger is not his best work, it's pleasantly pokerfaced, & strives for realistically earthbound swordplay. I tend to prefer the serious wuxia over the more common campy varieties, so quite enjoyed this workmanlike but highly competent entry.
Continue to next Cheng Pei Pei film:
The Jade Raksha 1968
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl