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Original Title:
Wu lin sheng huo jin

Hong Kong 1983

Fantasy, Wuxia

Lu Chin-Ku

Max Mok Siu-Chung
Philip Kwok
Leanne Lau
Jason Pai Piao
Yung Jing-Jing
Yeung Ching-Ching

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Holy Flame of the Martial World

Story: The fighters of many schools are all searching for the mighty weapon "Holy Flame". The couple, that knows the secret place where the weapon is hidden is killed by Monster Yu (Jason Pai Piao) and Jing Yin (Leanne Lau), who is the leader of the Er Mei Clan. Yama Elder (Philip Kwok) intervenes and saves one of the two childs of the dead couple. He vows, that in 18 years the boy is going to take revenge for the murder of his parents.
18 years later, Wan Tien-sau (Max Mok Siu-Chung) is old enough for his master Yama Elder to send him to search for the "Holy Flame". Wan finds the sacred weapon and on his quest he also saves the life of the girl Juan'er (Yung Jing-Jing) from the fangs of a bloodsucking Clan. Wan is prepared to finally take revenge on the murderers of his parents. However, he has to find out that the "Holy Flame" he has in his hands is only one half of the actual weapon.
The other half is guarded by Jing Yin. She trains Wan Tien-sau's sister, whom she brought up after having killed her parents, in handling the weapon, hoping that she can infuriate her with the help of Monster Yu and her scheming of intrigues. Her plan is to make brother and sister bitter opponents.
Meanwhile, not knowing who his sister is, Wan Tien-sau is looking for his lost sister, since he can only avenge their parent's death with her help and her half of the "Holy Flame".

Review: "Holy Flame of the Martial World" is a colourful fantasy flick, that couldn't be any more batty and silly. In a positive sense, of course. At a tremendous pace we are bombarded with nonstop action without being given even the slightest of breaks. We get green mummies that speak English, swords that whirr through air via use of telekinesis, lighting flashes out of hands or fingers, and in general the protagonists move more often through the air than on the ground. If this sounds like it is absolutely not your type of stuff, then you should really avoid this movie. However, you shouldn't be put off by what you just read about the film, because the movie doesn't take itself too serious and it's really apparent that the actors had one hell of a fun time shooting this flick. This also has its influence on the viewer, instantly carrying him away into this almost-adaptation of a comic for 85 minutes and taking him into a very different and colourful fantasy world.

At first, you might feel a bit overwhelmed by the amount of characters and names which are thrown at you every other second. Luckily, it all soon calms down (at least concerning the story) and we get a feeling for who's important storywise and who isn't. Still, the amount of story relevant characters is enormous, yet thanks to nice character drawings (which aren't that deep, though) we soon get to distinguish one from another.
Despite the fast-paced dialogues (even here there is never a break) and lots of story entanglements, it's rather easy to keep track of the story. You always know what's going on and why.

In fantasy flicks like this you shouldn't have high expectations concerning the acting, yet the performances are all quite convincing most of the time. Many of the characters will be taken into your heart right away, funnily enough this also applies to the villians! This is mainly because the people that die by the hands of the villians kick the bucket with a big bang (literally), so that it's impossible to take anything for serious that happens on screen. There is also some really lax commentary and some rather cool lines to be found in the film that strongly add to the jovial atmosphere. The humour sometimes is even that absurd and at the same time subtle, that it's impossible for any living being not to laugh.

Since "Holy Flame of the Martial World" was shot in the Shaw Brothers Studios, the movie is full of great and wonderful looking sets. Of course you shouldn't stick at trifles, for example the fact, that you can actually see the papier-maché of the sky behind the actors. Because, apart from that the sets are astonishingly colourful and are bursting with ideas. When Wan Tien-sau in order to solve a riddle in an old cave has to defend against symbols that have come alive, then the heart of every fantasy- (and Pen & Paper-RPG-) fan jumps for joy. In general, one did come up with quite some extraordinary ideas for this flick. There are snakebites that will turn you into a laser shooting warrior, pictures that come alive and the several characters also have their individual special moves. For example, there is Yama Elder who can make any eardrum suffer by using his ghostly laughter. And the best part of it: he even looks incredibly funny when doing it!

The special effects really aren't the best of what the HK movie industry is capable of, yet they are brought on screen with lots of colours and a keen eye for small details. The fact that the "Holy Flame" actually looks like a carpet beater only adds to the wacky charm of the film. Since everything here is presented with a wink, it's unlikely not to be amused by it.
The numerous costumes are fashioned very nice, look very gaudy and sometimes even (intentionally) funny, as it is the case with the green playsuit of the mummy.

Naturally, apart from all the lightning attacks and other fog machine supported attacks there are also some good old Kung Fu and sword fights scattered throughout the film. Even though they are fast cut and feature lots of jumping and somersaults, you can always keep track of what's going on, which makes the fights also recommendable for old-school Kung Fu fans. However, as already said the movie puts more emphasis on fire balls, lightning and similar special attacks during the fights.

"Holy Flame of the Martial World" is a loony fantasy film which feautures lots of genuine ideas, loveable characters, some very cool humour and most of all nonstop action. Assuming that you don't hit the pause-button you will have no time to breath until the very end. Sadly, with its 85 minutes the movie is rather short, but it makes up for it with its content which is many times greater than what you are used to see of 2-hours fantasy flicks. If you like colourful action rides and grand fantasy then this film is for you!

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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