After a stormy start, the two become closer, eventually even falling in love — which would be sweet if Hsiao-Chien didn’t turn out to be a ghost, her well-appointed villa an illusion covering a decrepit haunted house, and her mistress a demanding old ghoul with a taste for souls.
When it grinds to a halt at the end with an instance of painfully unfunny sexual comedy, you really see this made plain. The moment jars not because it is the film’s most outrageous (it probably isn’t), but because it occurs at a moment when the film has finally stopped to take a breath, thus giving you the opportunity to savor just how stank it is.
This can’t be right, I thought. This sounds awesome, but I distinctly remember the movie being so incredibly boring that I almost gave up on finishing it. But then the fog cleared, and I remembered that part of what makes Amazons vs. Supermen such a colossal disappointment is that, in summary, it sounds like so much fun. But it isn’t.
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.
The martial arts on display in Legend of the Bat are a wild and wonderful mixture of sword fights and kungfu clashes with plenty of supernatural abilities on display. People can punch through walls, jump over buildings, fight off dozens of attackers, and chop off their arm without giving it a second thought.
It looks beautiful, the actors and the characters that they play are incredibly appealing, the action is wonderfully staged and literally non-stop, and the atmosphere is so rich with romance and intrigue that it’s enough to send you into a ninety minute swoon.
Within just a few years of Asia-Pol‘s release, Nikkatsu hit financial rock bottom and was forced to retool itself from being a purveyor of action films to the stylish kink of the more lucrative Roman Porno films it became known for in the seventies.
As far as anything-goes martial arts mayhem may go, the Bastard Swordsman saga may lack the breakneck choreography of Jackie Chan and Ching Siu-tung, or the technical ambition of Tsui Hark, but none of these short-comings really matter in the long run, because Bastard Swordsman and Return of the Bastard Swordsman are still spectacularly fun wuxia fantasies.
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.