Golden Swallow (1968)

Directed by
Chang Cheh brings his own style to Come Drink With Me sequel
Reviewed by Simon on 2021-08-01

Golden Swallow is ambushed by bandits and wounded with a poison dart, but Golden Whip Han Tao arrives just in time to rescue her and nurses her back to health. The two settle into a domestic bliss in the mountains, but trouble comes knocking when her childhood friend turns up, now a particularly ruthless killer of bandits known as Silver Roc.

Despite nominally being a sequel to Come Drink With Me this is very much a film about Silver Roc, a doomed antihero in the classic Chang Cheh model. Whilst Cheng Pei-Pei does seem to be playing the same Golden Swallow character (witness her signature twin daggers) there's no obvious reason why it needed to be her, there's no connection to the events of her previous appearance. I suspect the script was already written when it was decided to cast Cheng Pei-Pei and make the film a crossover.

GOLDEN SWALLOW is definitely a Chang Cheh film, an ode to masculinity - or the specific form of it Chang Cheh was infatuated with. Golden Swallow is more or less sidelined in her own film, with her main purpose being to serve as the impetus for conflict between Silver Roc and Han Tao. Her role is more prominent than an actress could expect in later Chang Cheh films though, and Cheng Pei-Pei is a joy to watch as ever.

Stylistically the film is closer to Chang's own One-Armed Swordsman than it is to King Hu's film, grandly melodramatic and soaked in blood. Silver Roc and Han Tao represent opposing philosophies, Han Tao believes in mercy and kills as rarely as possible whilst Silver Roc seemingly believes exactly the opposite. Seeing his family massacred by bandits as a child has clearly left scars deeper than the one across his face.

GOLDEN SWALLOW sees Chang and Pao Hsueh-Li experimenting stylistically and creating some striking imagery. There's some innovative camera work, including some in fight scenes that was years ahead of its time. Sometimes it must be admitted that their ambitions exceeded their abilities (and some shots are just plain out of focus :p), but full marks for trying.

It's interesting to see Chang's evolution in these years, forging his own style of wuxia quite distinct from that of King Hu, and nowhere is that more apparent than here. His particular vision was still a work in progress, but you can easily plot a path from this film to his Heroic Bloodshed films like VENGEANCE!

Side note: we ought to normalise hanging out in brothels like Shaw Brothers wuxia films do.