Although “The Bloody Escape”, a 1975 Shaw Brothers release, was officially directed by Sun Chung (“The 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.
Cheh Chang, Chung Sun (director)
CAST: Kuan Tai Chen