Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Butterfly Murders

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!


katarina said...

After experiencing what I could only describe to others as a type of butterfly horror (!!?) in Seijun Suzuki's Branded To Kill at the Cinematheque a few months back, I can safely say that I am interested in experiencing more varieties of it.

Colin said...

wish they would make avail the TV series that Tsui did before he made the leap to the big screen with this. If we think this is trippy, what was he doing in the world of 30 episode story telling?

irish said...

what happened to the girl in the green?