What started as masterful kung-fu filmmaker Liu Chia-liang’s homage to the heroic Sung Dynasty Yang family became an angry, even savage, rumination on heroic sacrifice when international idol Alexander Fu Sheng died in a car accident midway through production. Fu’s death was not only tragic because he was such a close friend, but because the role he was playing was one of only two survivors of an ignominious betrayal by a jealous General. Knowing that he had to immortalize Fu’s final, unfinished performance, Liu carried on, having co-star Hui Ying-hung step into the action. The finished film is unique in the director’s extraordinary filmography for the intensity and power of its emotions and kung-fu. There are heartbreaking references to the tragedy throughout, but the climax is truly unforgettable as the other family survivor, now a Shaolin-trained warrior faces his betrayers amid a pyramid of coffins. What he, and his Shaolin masters, do then has to be seen to be believed….
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