Director: Lo Wei
Writer: Ni Kuang
Producer: Raymond Chow
Cast: Nora Miao, Billy Chan, Paul Chang Chung, Han Ying Chieh, Sammo Hung, Lam Ching Ying, Lee Kwan, Bruce Leung Siu Lung, Angela Mao Ying, Pai Ying, Lydia Shum, Tang Ching, James Tien, Patrick Tse, Lee Ka Ting
Running Time: 95 min.
By Jeff Bona
A group of eight warriors (Nora Miao, Lee Kwan, Angela Mao, Lydia Shum, James Tien, Tang Ching, Patrick Tse and Paul Chang Chung) band together to assassinate General Hsiao (Han Ying Chieh), a ruthless leader who is responsible for murdering their various family members. It won’t be an easy task, as their target is heavily guarded not only by a standard army, but also by a special group of whip-wielding guards.
1971’s Invincible Eight was the first movie released by the then-newly-formed Golden Harvest Studios. Founded in 1970 by former Shaw Brothers managers Raymond Chow and Leonard Ho, Golden Harvest was the first company to give the Shaw Brothers solid competition. The studio gained ultimate momentum with The Big Boss, Bruce Lee’s first action movie, released the same year.
Invincible Eight is directed by Lo Wei, who most likely switched from Shaw Brothers to Golden Harvest, probably due to greener pastures and more creative control. After all, it was no secret that the Shaws were notorious for having a strict guidelines over their actors, actresses and filmmakers; not to mention paying them measly salaries.
Whatever methods the Shaws had over their filmmakers, worked to their advantage; all you have to do is compare Lo Wei’s Invincible Eight to Vengeance of Snow, his last film for Shaw Brothers — it’s easy to see which film looks better, quality-wise. That’s not to say it was a better film.
This brings us to the main problem with Invincible Eight: The sets are there. The talent is there. The plot is there. But compared to the standard Shaw Brothers swordplay movie, it feels rushed, cheap and the choreography is very loose and dodgy. Even the way it’s filmed and crafted, you can see that it was a step back, with no evidence of any innovative style, whatsoever.
Problems aside, Invincible Eight is very entertaining, which explains why it was well-received by the public. The story is interesting, the characters are memorable and the pacing is decent. The cast is good reason enough to check the film out – most notably the beautiful Nora Miao, in her first role role ever. All the others have been around the block, again, in mostly Shaw Brothers movies.
As long as you’re not in it to see inventive action to top-notch filmmaking, you’ll be pleased. The real treat is the climax, which measures up to a big, bloody battle which can almost be compared to the ultra-violence of a Chang Cheh flick — and that’s a good thing.
Jeff Bona‘s Rating: 7/10