Thursday, September 10, 2009

In short: Iron Mistress (1969)

aka Iron Petticoat

The swordswoman known as the Iron Mistress (Han Hsiang-Chin) leads a merry band of Sung Chinese against their unloved new Mongolian overlords.

They are not real patriotic revolutionaries, though, but more a bandit gang that does only care for certain group of victims, and not every member of the group is as high-minded as their leader.

For that reason, the enemies of the mistress aren't putting as much effort into catching her and her men as they could if they'd take them as a real threat to the Mongol dominion. Until the gang frees some of their captured men who are supposed to be beheaded, that is. After this, the efforts to capture them get a bit more enthusiastic.

Now that the authorities have put their minds to it, it's not too difficult to find the Mistress' mountain hide-out, and even easier to pick a date for an ambush; if you are evil, you are bound by law to disrupt a wedding.

The core quartet of fighters escapes from the cowardly attack and does not decide to take bloody vengeance (that would be exciting), but rather to learn from a local scholar how to be more responsible patriots.

Iron Mistress really isn't the most exciting of Taiwanese wuxia films. Far from the mad, madly entertaining excesses of Weird Fu, but equally distant from the artfulness of someone like King Hu, this really deserves the description "bog standard".

It's not a bad film in any way, instead everything about it - from fight choreography to acting - is perfectly solid and mindnumbingly bland, giving new proof to my pet theory of mediocrity, not ineptness, being the  main enemy of entertainment.

It is even more of a shame that most of the film is so dreadfully boring when one takes a look at its production values. Far from the quarry-based martial arts films one tends to connect with Taiwan, this one has some nice locations and some good looking sets, but it refuses to make good use of them.

As regular readers might have noticed, I find competent, mediocre films like Iron Mistress exceedingly difficult and frustrating to talk about, because there really isn't much of interest to say about them. All elements you'd usually associate with a decent film are present, but not one of those elements has enough character to make it worth talking about.



Todd said...

Often with mediocre films I just don't bother writing about them. I admire your ability to soldier through and come up with an entertaining review regardless.

houseinrlyeh said...

Thanks, Todd.
With a lot of mediocre films, I don't bother either, or I only wring a "3 films..." third out of them, but only writing about actively entertaining films would get boring, I think.
Of course, if I had less blogging time, films like this would be the ones I'd ignore.