And while making a claim for any film as the first giallo will only degenerate into an unresolvable debate akin to naming the first punk rock band, a lot of people tend to agree that it’s Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace — which I’ve never seen.
There’s a story about the day Sho Kosugi first arrived in the United States in pursuit of his dream of movie stardom. As the legend goes — for surely anything related to Sho Kosugi must qualify as legend, shrouded in myth, mist, and mystery — Sho stepped off the plane at LAX and meant to…
Bat Without Wings takes the now familiar Chor Yuen wuxia trappings and injects an element of the horror film into them. Yuen’s style has always seemed somewhat informed by a combination of horror films and old mystery serials, packed as they are with sinister cults, trap doors, secret identities, and hidden chambers.
The underlying story — about a man discovering the world beyond the safe confines of his palace home, as well as discovering the sordid past of his otherwise heroic acting father — may take a back seat to all the chicken leg kungfu and lasers, but its presence at all makes Battle Wizard a cut above the usual fare.
For all its failings, Battle Beneath the Earth is a difficult movie to hate. In my case, this is partly due to it having the disarming quality of seeming like it was the result of someone watching me play army men on my bedroom floor when I was six and then making a movie out of it.
As such, it can simply use it’s resemblance to those other films as a terse signifier of those themes (the fetters of family honor, the value of friendship and community, etc.), while it goes briskly about its real business of being a violent and somewhat trashy little potboiler.
Although people come for the weirdness and spectacle, Bastard Swordsman offers plenty of other elements that make it worth staying around. For starters, taking a note from Chu Yuan, Lu’s film is packed with complex, well-developed characters. Norman Chu makes a compelling and empathetic lead. We root for him when he’s the abused underdog, and we cheer for him once he begins to discover his true potential as a fighter.