Broken Oath (1977) is a fun film with a mostly great cast and some pretty dang fun fight scenes. Bruce Leung Siu Lung and Chan Wai Man are long time favorites of mine so when they show off a bit and fight each other in this film, I feel like a kid who just got a trailer truck delivery of cotton candy.
The big finale fight takes place in a secret evil underground lair. The set design is extremely low budget: a large empty “chamber” with a couple shitty dragon statues and some painted doorways. It’s passably lair-y. I’m okay with it. The boys start threatening each other in anticipation of their monumental showdown when I suddenly notice this on the wall behind Leung Siu Lung:
I know, I know. It’s supposed to be an illustration of a secret kung fu technique. That’s how super-secret esoteric kung fu is kept secret in the wuxia world – by placing huge how-to illustrations in an obscure location for some talented novice to discover. But seriously, what could one possibly learn from this illustration? How to dislocate a hip? Why is the figure so shiny and lumpy? Is it putty? Latex? Are there no figure drawing classes in Hong Kong?
The fellow above reminds me a bit of Roman frescoes, except not as well executed. I think I can say with confidence that he is illustrating how to do The Charleston. And the other fellow on the left is obviously trying to save the world by stopping him. Wait, are Leung Siu Lung and Chan Wai Man still fighting? I’ve forgotten about them.
I don’t really enjoy being neurotically critical about art but this kind of comical monstrosity has a hypnotic power over me. I do truly want to watch Leung Siu Lung and Chan Wai Man tear it up; I don’t want my eyes glued to the wall behind them because my brain can’t process the bad art. Still, even after the hip dislocation and The Charleston I should be able to forgive the set design, move on and enjoy watching the rest of the fight. But then there’s this:
Dammit, Hong Kong. After this, I don’t even remember what happens in Broken Oath. It’s all a traumatic blur, which is sad for me because Chan Wai Man looks really awesome in his wig. Is there another movie in which I can watch Leung Siu Lung and Chan Wai Man fight each other without the distraction of bad art? Please let me know!