Tsui Hark | 1979 | 88 min | Hong Kong
Set in a time when 72 martial arts clans roamed China, all wanting to be no. 1 in the martial art world; a number of martial artists and Fong, a martial arts writer, find themselves at Shum Castle to investigate a number of deaths said to have been caused by butterflies. As they investigate the mystery of the poisonous butterflies, members of the party start to drop off like common flies.
The Butterfly Murders was Tsui Hark's first feature, and it shows. Not in terms of quality, but rather in terms of how much Hark stuffed into the one movie. Martial arts? Check. Butterfly horror(!!!)? Check. Scooby Doo style mystery? Check.
Some of the horror stuff isn't very effective, but it's a difficult task, to make butterflies seem threatening on film (which is accomplished on a few occasions). The action is good, solid stuff, just like you'd expect from Hark. It's not as kinetic as his later films, but his visual flair is very present; as is his impeccable sense of geography in his camera setups and editing.
What's most impressive about the genre hodge podge nature of the film is that never do any of the different elements seem out of place. I quickly accepted that it's a loose movie that has no interest in being straight-forward and conventional. If you're looking for that kind of film, look elsewhere. This one's called The Butterfly Murders!