I don’t normally have a problem watching films raw with no subtitles but in ‘Patriotic Heroine’ the sheer number of characters and apparent double crosses meant that without an English option, on this occasion my viewing pleasure was hindered drastically. Still, being a big fan of White Haired Foxes (and let’s face it – who isn’t?!), this was one that I still had to check.
The film opens with our Fox in question, Yee Yuen, who is sprung from jail and swiftly commences a murdering spree of his past enemies as the credits begin to roll. Shortly after, a snooping Chiang Ming witnesses the killing of a messenger carrying a letter containing, what I’m assuming must be, incriminating evidence towards Yee Yuen. Cheung Ching Ching, a roaming swordswoman, also stumbles across the dying messenger who manages to entrust her with the letter before giving out his final breath.
Nearby, some men have been despatched to get rid of the prying Chiang Ming who puts up an admirable fight but is eventually poisoned and collapses in the front room of an attractive young woman. Displaying strong signs of neighbourly love, the woman proceeds to suck the poison out of the strangers wound and helps him to recover and get fighting fit again (happens to us all every day doesn’t it?!). From this point on, the film is a series of set pieces consisting of wave after wave of enemies desperately trying to retrieve the letter from Cheung Ching Ching. Every time they are outwitted by our girl who displays some impressive, gravity defying manoeuvres to outwit her foes. Our heroine can uproot trees - tossing them at her opponents like matchsticks, walk up walls Jimmy Wang Yu style and my favourite trick of hers is being able to fly across vast expanses of river on her wide brimmed hat!. Wow, what a woman! All this ultimately leads to a showdown with the mighty Fox himself who displays some super human feats of strength of his own, lifting and flinging a huge boulder around with a single hand. Do our heroes have what it takes to conquer the seemingly unstoppable Fox?
I still enjoyed this film despite my confusion over the story and Yee Yuen always makes an incredible Fox – sometimes almost rivalling Hwang Jang Lee or Chang Yi for sheer intensity and intimidating looks.
As just mentioned, I was totally lost on the plot twists and the cropped full screen print did not help make things any clearer for me. This film is crying out for rediscovery and a nice widescreen makeover but I have a feeling that it is going to languish in obscurity for many more years to come.
The performances were all fairly solid and the restrained budget never really got in the way of things. One highlight was a tense and fairly large scale scene where Cheung Ching Ching is trapped on a treacherous bridge by the Fox’s men. They cut one end of the bridge, felling it and leaving her dangling in mid air. One lackey is shown smirking at her misfortune until his boss orders him to jump and try to catch her. This quickly wipes the smile off of his cocky little face and to my amusement he is then sent crashing to his doom by his master for hesitating to follow his instructions! Keep an eye out for Yee Yuen’s right hand man who unleashes some Black Death Palm action (a la ‘Adventure At Shaolin’ – great stuff!.