Iron Bodyguard – 1973
As a fan of Chen Kuan Tai I always look forward to watching one of his films, especially more so if it's not one I have seen before.
Now Iron Bodyguard is labelled as the next in a trilogy of films starring Chen Kuan Tai , the films have no connection in story but Chen playing the hard nosed hero with a honour and boundary he won't cross.
The Most famous out of the three films is of course The Boxer from Shantung , closely followed by 1972 's Man of Iron.
Yes this is the third of the three films and once again co- directed by Chang Cheh and Hsueh Li Pao.
Unlike the other two films this is set much earlier , it evolves around the attempted reforms by newly appointed political members to reform the ancient and demoralising effects caused by the Ching and the Empress Dowager .
Chen Kuan Tai plays Wang Yu a legendary fighter and Sword expert who has stood for justice and helped the oppressed.
Because of his life he has made certain enemies who want payback .
After helping some wrongly accused locals and aiding there release he catches the attention of Tan Tzu Tung ( Hua Yueh) a local reformist but it's not till Wang is threatened by the grudge bearing Iron Fist Yen that Tan spies a opportunity to help and gain Wang's friendship.
This he does and the two become good friends , it's quite funny really as the scene is set as the two go horse back riding together and other activities in a montage reminiscent of a spiralling romance.
In the end the result of this is very much in the vein of John Woo's films of Male Bonding , but jst goes about it in a different way.
Tan want's Wang to help with the cause which he agrees.
But when Tan and his fellow reformists are arrested by decree of the Empress and sentenced to death Wang decides to plan a daring rescue gainng the help of fellow fighters and locals ,one of which is a Ching Official .
The one thing to add about this and the aforementioned films is they are less Kung Fu or Wuxia and lend themselves more to Heroic Bloodshed genre.
So those expecting overly flowery Sword techniques or over long traditional Kung Fu fights are in for a let down. If you took the Bullet Ballet of John Woo's Heroic Bloodshed films and transported them back to the seventies classic Shaw's action then this is what this film is.
Unlike Boxer From Shantung and Man of Iron , Iron Bodyguards action scenes are not as intricate or as adrenaline filled as it's predecessors .
Also there are gaps in the action which drag a bit for a film of under 100 minutes.
What's on offer is fine whn taking place but won't set your heart pumping.
Also the main antagonist gets boring as everytme Wang meets him he beats him ,so when he turns up at the end he's still as useless as he was earlier.
The saving grace of the film is Chen Kuan Tai acting and his on screen presence holds the film , whether it was time constraints or money or even the combination of Chang Cheh and Hsueh Li Pao running out of ideas we will never know.
But to think in the same year Chen starred In Blood Brothers with Ti Lung and the following year starred in classics such as The Teahouse , Heroes Two and Men form the Monastery .
Review Date 07-08-2020
Review By Sertes Nake
Viewed on Amazon Prime in HD with English Subtitles and Mandarin Language
(c) Image Copyright 1973 Shaw Brothers / Celestial Pictures 2002
Directed By Chang Cheh and Hsueh Li Pao
Producer : Mona Fong
Studio : Shaw Brothers
Starring : Chen Kuan Tai – Wang Yu
Hua Yueh- Tan Tzu Tung
Lily Li – Tan Chiao
Betty Pei Ti - Camomile
Danny Lee – Hi Chi
Ti Lu as Iron Fist Yen Feng
Language : Mandarin
Year : 1973