Legend Of The Fox

飛狐外傳 | Fei hu wai zhuan | Legend Of A Fox
 •  , ,  •   • Dir.

Reviewed by   |  Jul 3, 2024

Bedraggled Hu Fei and his sickly uncle take refuge in a large mansion during a thunderstorm. As they dry themselves, various other characters follow their example. Firstly, gang leader Yan Chi and his men enter, followed in quick succession by Tian Guinong and his wife, and noted fighter Miao Renfeng completes the guest list. There is clear tension between the latter visitors and Hu Fei’s uncle explains the history of their dispute to him, something which, surprisingly, involves his late parents. Hu Fei learns about the battle for a fighting manual and the subsequent rupture it has caused in the martial world. Ultimately, this lays the ground for his vengeance against those who were responsible for his parent’s deaths, but Hu quickly learns that not everything is as it appears.

I was especially eager to catch up with the Blu-ray release of this lesser known Venoms film; I remember watching the DVD nearly two decades ago and being impressed though all I could truly remember was the strength of the opening. And, as it turned out, this was for good reason as ‘Legend of the Fox’ uses a classic conceit to bring all of the principal characters together at the start, namely the opposing forces being forced to seek shelter at a mansion during a storm. It has that Agatha Christie-style allure that is not often used in this genre and Hu Fei becomes an unwitting participant in the intrigues of the martial world. These first twenty minutes really drag you into the story.

Unfortunately, the early promise doesn’t manage to last the full two hours. This is an adaptation of a Louis Cha work and not many directors have managed to convey his labyrinthine works with sufficient skill to keep the audience hooked throughout. That is not a reflection on Chang Cheh who was one of Hong Kong’s premier directors, more a reminder of how filmmakers like Chu Yuan managed the extraordinary in making these world accessible. ‘Legend of the Fox’ is packed with characters, motivations and twists, giving the viewer little chance to catch their breath. While that always seems to be Chu Yuan’s metier, Chang Cheh is less successful with the material here. It quickly becomes one of those ‘character must go on side mission to complete another mission that is linked to the main mission’ pieces that I struggle to be enthused by.

On the plus side, ‘Legend of the Fox’ is a good showcase for the oft forgotten Chin Siu-Ho. Arguably a Venom – a secondary Venom at the very least – Chin’s boyish charm and undoubted physical skills always bring a freshness to genre films. Few can pull off his mix of vulnerability and cockiness, with ‘Legend of the Fox’ being a fine example of what the star can do. Yet his character gets lost in the convolutions with a few solid fight scenes being the only redemption. It’s a shame to report that ‘Legend of the Fox’, while peppered with solid characters and decent fisticuffs, is a frustrating experience. A lesser Venoms film that goes off the rails as the bloated running time plays out.

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