Magnificent Bodyguards (1978)

There comes a time when you watch a film and it does something so audacious you can only marvel at the no-fucks-given attitude required to pull it off. In this case, it’s the jaw-droppingly blatant manner in which Lo Wei simply lifts bleeding, not to mention bleedingly obvious, chunks of the score to a film released the previous year called Star Wars (you may have heard of it) to soundtrack parts of his own tale about a young man pressed into helping a young woman in a dangerous situation… I know the Hong Kong was hardly a haven of copyright observance, but the total disregard for the fact that people might notice you’ve just pirated part of one of the most successful films of that year is kind of belief-beggaring. To a lesser extent, the rest of the film is a bit like that too… Jackie Chan is a warrior with mighty fists, an astonishing period wig and ludicrous sideburns, and if I hadn’t known he was in it I’d barely have guessed that was him; he’s hired (along with a deaf leather-worker and a swordsman with a fondness for skinning his opponents) to help protect a young woman transporting her ill brother through a dangerous region, except that things on that front aren’t entirely what they seem. It was filmed in 3D, leading to lots of gratuitous shots of things being thrust at the audience, and in a good 3D print it’d be kind of fun; alas, this is a flat print in piss-poor quality (apparently HKL’s “Ultrabit” discs weren’t always what they claimed to be, and I had to keep fiddling with the brightness and contrast to get a decent picture), which did detract. It might also have been better had the film been made by a more capable director than Lo Wei seems to have been, and had Jackie been more prominent in the mix; again I got the feeling that the focus on the supposed star was weak. It’s not bad, but should’ve been better. Fortunately for Jackie, better things were just around the corner…


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