"The Bloody Escape", a 1975 Shaw
Brothers release, was officially directed by Sun
Kung Fu Instructor"), some sources state
that he was assisted by famed "Five
Venoms" director Chang Cheh. To be honest,
the truth is largely irrelevant, as the film is
not really up to the best work of either men,
though it is entertaining enough in a rough and
tumble sort of way.
The story follows Gu Hui
(Chen Kuan Tai), a member of the 'Wolf Head Gang'
who becomes unhappy after the unscrupulous chief
(Wu Chi Chin) decides to abandon their old code of
conduct. After the chief kills a travelling family
and kidnaps the daughter (Shih Szu) for his own
depraved ends, the half-noble Gu frees her and
escapes, hiding out in a nearby town and trying to
start a new life as a humble shoemaker.
Unfortunately, the gang refuses to let him go and
put a bounty on his head, forcing him to face up
to his newly-found responsibilities.
The plot of "The Bloody
Escape" is the usual 'path to righteousness'
drama, with the central protagonist learning to
cast aside his wicked ways and act as a member of
civilised society. However, since the bandit gang
is a vicious bunch who rape, rob and kill, and the
hero himself is only distinguished by his proud
determination to only steal half of his victim's
money, the film has a low-down, dirty feel to it.
The script is basic at best, with some oddly harsh
moralising, summed up amusingly by a scene in
which the rescued girl advises the tortured hero
not to avoid violence or to flee, but to instead
to single-handedly take on the gang in order to
find peace of mind.
Despite this, the film is a
lot of fun, if for no other reason than the
villainous bandits seem to spend half the running
time throwing their heads back and laughing
fiendishly. Although a few cackles here and there
are perfectly acceptable for self-satisfied
villains, "The Bloody Escape" takes this
to almost surreal extremes, with the entire gang
rolling around in fits of uncontrollable giggles.
Matters are not helped by the fact that most of
the characters are hilariously overwrought,
glaring intensely and punctuating everything they
say with forceful hand gestures.
Sun Chung's direction is, it
has to be said, fairly shoddy, mainly due to his
shameful addiction to sudden zooms, which he uses
almost every time a character enters the frame or
displays any kind of emotion. The editing
throughout is bizarrely abrupt, at times almost
cutting off characters before they even finish
what they are saying, and whilst this does help
the film towards its commendably brief running
time, it is nevertheless a little jarring.
Thankfully, the frequent
action scenes are well handled by Lau Kar Wing and
have a definite gritty feel to them. The film is
packed with old fashioned martial arts, without
wirework or any kind of fancy special effects, and
this fits the tone quite nicely, making for
occasionally thrilling viewing. Interestingly,
although the film is not particularly violent or
bloody, despite its promisingly lurid title, it
features a fair bit of nudity, which is unusual
for films of its type.
Overall, "The Bloody
Escape" is an enjoyable, though fairly
unremarkable effort. Filled with unintentional
laughs and bruising action, it is likely to appeal
to any genre fan, though newcomers would be
advised to pick a more auspicious place to start.