The Deadly Mantis (1978 film)
|Directed by||Lau Kar-leung|
Lau Kar Wing
|Distributed by||Shaw Brothers Studio|
|Running time||96 min.|
Shaolin Mantis (1978, aka THE DEADLY MANTIS) tells the story of Wei Fung (David Chiang), a young scholar recruited by the Emperor to infiltrate a group of rebels in the Tien Clan in order to get evidence of the clan's connection to Ming loyalists, the rebel spy network and anti-Ching activities. If Wei fails in his mission, his own well-connected family will be punished.
Wei Fung encounters Tien Chi-Chi (Huang Hsin-Hsiu aka Wong Hang Sau), the granddaughter of the leader of the rebel group. When he is hired as Chi-Chi's new instructor he realizes this is his best opportunity to infiltrate the rebel clan. Events become complicated when Chi-Chi begins to fall in love with Wei Fung at the same time that her grandfather's spies discover Wei Fung's true motives for seeking them out. When Chi-Chi learns that Wei Fung is about to be assassinated she pleads for his life. Grandfather Tien (Lau Kar Wing), unwilling to cause his granddaughter heartbreak, relents and decides that if Chi-Chi can persuade Wei Fung to marry her and never leave their family's villa, he will be allowed to live. If he refuses he will be killed on the spot.
Chi-Chi and Wei Fung are married and begin their life together when Wei Fung receives a message from his family that the Emperor is growing increasingly impatient with his slow progress. His entire family has been arrested and will be executed if his mission is not carried out successfully. Redoubling his efforts, Wei Fung continues his spying and manages to obtain a list containing the names of rebel agents in the spy network. In order to get the list to the Emperor Wei Fung tells Grandfather Tien that he misses his family and wants to return home to visit them with his new bride. Grandfather Tien agrees and tells Wei Fung to go and pack for his return trip home. When Chi-Chi learns that her grandfather has agreed to allow her husband to leave she tearfully reveals that her family is now forced to kill him. In order to save her husband Chi-Chi decides they must sneak out that night under the cover of darkness.
As the couple attempts to make their way out of the villa they are confronted by expert fighters among her family. Chi-Chi at firstg defends Wei Fung believing him unable and unskilled to fight. However, Wei Fung is forced to reveal that not only is he also a highly skilled martial arts practitioner, he is a gifted and talented fighter as both he and Chi-Chi manage to defeat all the expert fighters sent to stop them. The couple's only remaining obstacle is grandfather Tien who becomes so enraged that Chi-Chi has decided to leave her family to join Wei Fung that he publicly disowns her for her perceived betrayal. Grandfather Tien snatches Chi-Chi's necklace which Wei Fung has concealed the list of spies within. An intense fight ensues causing Chi-Chi's own mother (played by Lily Li) to come to her daughter's defense against grandfather Tien. Chi-Chi is inadvertently killed by her grandfather's deadly palm strikes while trying to save Wei Fung. Unable to stand up to grandfather Tien's formidable Shadow Technique style of martial arts, Wei Fung is forced to retreat and make his escape before he is surrounded and his exit cut off.
Eluding capture and making his way to a remote spot in the forest, Wei Fung is alone to grieve for the loss of his wife and the failure of his mission. It is during this time that Wei Fung learns a new martial arts style by observing a praying mantis. Realizing that he might be able to develop an appropriate counter move to grandfather Tien's Shadow Technique style, Wei Fung creates the Mantis style.
Wei Fung returns to the Tien family villa having successfully mastered Mantis Kung Fu. He challenges and defeats the expert fighters of the Tien family before confronting grandfather Tien for the final time. Wei Fung retrieves Chi-Chi's necklace and reveals to grandfather Tien the list of spies he stole from the Tien safe. Grandfather Tien attempts to get the list back, but is eventually killed by Wei Fung's deadly Mantis strike.
Back at the Emperor's court, the Emperor praises Wei Fung and his father for Wei Fung's success in eliminating an entire rebel nest and exposing their spy network. When the Emperor offers up a toast, Wei Fung's father poisons both his and his son's cup of wine. As soon as Wei Fung drinks from the cup, his father proudly proclaims his allegiance to the rebels. A shocked Wei Fung turns to his father who explains that Wei Fung has in fact helped a tyrant kill heroes working to overthrow his diabolical regime. Wei Fung's father dies as soldiers come to protect their emperor before Wei Fung can kill him. The film ends in freeze frame with Wei Fung fighting the emperor's elite royal bodyguards.