Brave Archer (VHS)
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Jin Yong's historical novel The Eagle Shooting Heroes has been adapted into countless Asian television series as well as several films including Ashes of Time and this lengthy and involved Shaw Brothers effort directed by prolific Hong Kong filmmaker Chang Cheh. During the Sung dynasty, a young man named Kuo Ching (Alexander Fu Sheng) is raised and trained by a group of kung fu experts following his father's murder. One day, Ching sees one of his instructors murdered by the Skeleton Claw move, in which the killer straightens his fingers, making them rigid enough to penetrate both flesh and bone. Ching defeats the assassin, then encounters a titled noblewoman named Yung-er (Tien Niu) who is disguised as a pauper. They are subsequently taught by Hung, the Nine-Fingered Beggar (Ku Feng), who can smash a tree into splinters with a single chop of his hand. Ching gains still more knowledge from the master Cho (Phillip Kwok) which prepares him for the three tests he must face and overcome in order to win Yung-er's hand in marriage. The all-star cast includes Danny Lee, Dick Wei, Johnny Wang, and Ti Lung, but most viewers will want to watch for the energetic star turn by Alexander Fu Sheng, whose international stardom was just starting to peak when, ominously, he moved into a house once owned by the late Bruce Lee and known for its negative feng shui. Shortly thereafter, Fu Sheng died tragically young when he crashed into a cement wall in a vehicle driven by his older brother. This film remains one of Fu Sheng's best-known efforts, and led to three sequels. His ghost is still rumored to walk the Shaw Brothers backlot, and his makeup cubicle was left empty for years to appease his spirit. ~ Robert Firsching, Rovi