|Before I begin synopsizing the Hong Kong swordplay epic Golden Swallow (1968), Id like to take a moment to introduce the films three main characters, all of whom go by weird nicknames:
· Golden Swallow is played by former ballerina Cheng Pei-Pei. This lovely lass was the star of Come Drink With Me (1966), to which this film is sort of a sequel. Her main occupation seems to be dropping hankies full of coins into the houses of poor people and getting attacked by bad guys. She also apparently dresses like a man, but unless youre familiar with ancient Chinese garb, youre not likely to notice. Her weapons of choice are a pair of big honkin daggers, and shes a nearly invincible fighter, even though she hardly has any fight scenes this time around. Whenever she gives bundles of money to the poor, she includes little "swallow darts," so the recipients know who the donation is from. These darts become a major plot point later on.
· Golden Whip is played by kung fu legend Lo Lieh in one of his rare non-villainous roles. This is the good guy of the film. Hes a pacifist who hates killing, which means that he still kills tons of people, but feels really bad about it. In the pre-credit sequence, he saves Golden Swallows life and nurses her back to health. He loves Golden Swallow unconditionally, so naturally shes completely oblivious to his feelings, and instead harbours a long-standing crush on a mass murderer named Silver Roc. Golden Whip is named after his weapon of choice, which isnt a whip at all, but rather a bumpy metal rod in the shape of a sword.
· Silver Roc is played by Jimmy Wang Yu of One-Armed Swordsman (1967) fame who gets to use both his arms this time. Hes an unstoppable swordsman whos deeply in love with Golden Swallow and he shows his feelings for her by killing dozens of people all across the countryside. He leaves Golden Swallows "swallow darts" at the crime scenes so that the killings will get blamed on her. This is Rocs sophisticated strategy for locating his lady love.
Thus forms the psychotic love triangle that shapes the film. G. Swallow and G. Whip (sorry about the hip hop abbreviations, but I just couldnt stand typing the word "Golden" any more) realize somethings fishy when teams of bad guys start attacking them as reprisals for all the massacres that have been taking place in G. Swallows name. After defeating their foes, G. Whip and G. Swallow theorize that the carnage must be the work of G. Swallows childhood sweetheart, S. Roc. Can S. Roc be stopped in time? Who does G. Swallow truly love? What will happen in the final showdown between S. Roc and G. Whip? Will P. Diddy get back together with J. Lo?
No discussion of Golden Swallow would be complete without a description of the coolest scene. About 20 minutes in, we visit the inner sanctum of the evil Gold Robe gang, where the leader is about to execute one of his loyal henchmen for failing to kill women and children as he was ordered. The Henchman shrugs and prepares to prove his loyalty by executing himself when Silver Roc strolls in like he owns the place. The leader assumes hes here to rescue the henchman, but the henchman says "I dont know this guy. Hes not here to save me. Ill prove it." At which point he promptly throws himself into a giant henchman-chopping machine and dies.
S. Roc ignores this gruesome spectacle and begins a Kill Bill-style massacre of everybody in the room. His fighting style is based on the scientific principle that swinging a sword in a crowded room will kill a lot of people very quickly. After its over, he has to step over about 30 corpses just to get to the door, toss a burning log inside, leave behind a telltale swallow dart and stand there with a stony expression while burning people run out of the building shrieking. Ultracool 60s bloodletting at its finest.