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DEAF AND MUTE HEROINE (c1971)
TRADITIONAL CHINESE 聾啞劍
AKA Deaf & Mute Heroine

CAST

Wu Ma
Helen Ma Alan Tang Kwong Wing Yang Wei


DIRECTOR

Wu Ma


PRODUCTION COMPANY
Kong Chiao

A rhythmic hypnotic drumbeat cascades over the solitary female character silhouetted against the blood red background. The pace of the drumbeat is quickened as she is surrounded by a large group of men with deadly intentions. Her sword is raised above her head in cutting edge readiness as the men circle around her looking for an opportunity for a quick strike, for a quick kill, for a quick reward. They attack – one by one, two by two – in a fierce rush, in a cacophony of sound – the woman becomes a quick silver flashing and spinning instrument of death – her sword swirling and slicing – everywhere – then the men draw back – many of them left on the ground with the stillness of death hovering above them. They catch their breath and attack again – and again – each time to be driven off - with more lifeless forms covering the ground like piles of leaves on a late autumn day. One left and a geyser of blood signals his demise. The woman is alone once more – only kept company by the ghosts of the mass of slain men around her. The drums continue – but she doesn’t hear them; she is silent because she cannot speak – she is the Deaf Mute Heroine! She sheathes her bloody sword with a snap of her wrist and walks away. The drums stop.

So begins this very cool 1971 film directed by Wu Ma and starring Helen Ma. It is considered one of the classic female martial arts films from Hong Kong and for the most part it lives up to its reputation. Helen Ma didn’t strike me as overly gifted in her action scenes – a bit slow of foot and I think doubled for parts of it – but she does bring grace and a strong brooding presence to her role. Wu Ma’s direction, editing, choreography and imaginative use of the environment more than make up for Helen’s lack of martial arts skills. The fights certainly push the limits of believability, but are wonderfully inventive, very violent and terrific fun to watch.

After the initial action (which actually takes place as the opening credits unfold), Helen escapes with a bag full of valuable pearls, but soon is being chased after by a gang of villains led by another tough female. Helen is attacked again and is badly wounded but is able to escape into the woods where she collapses. A kindly farmer takes her in and tends to her cuts and of course they fall in love. He isn’t in the least bit suspicious about her wounds, her background or how she is able to catch a fly in her chopsticks (a device of course that was used in The Karate Kid).

This being a martial arts action film this idyllic life eventually comes to an end when the villainous female and at least forty of her male minions track Helen down. The fight is lengthy, bloody, full of flying hats, flying darts and flying daggers, incredulous jumps, piercing poles, twisting somersaults and death. Lots of death. This is only the warm up though for Helen’s final encounter with a masterful swordsman looking to avenge himself. This final duel is a sumptuous smorgasbord of kung fu swordsmanship that is just palpitating. The character and this film should have been a perfect set up for a series in the manner of Japanese films like Lone Wolf and Zatoichi – but regrettably that never occurred. You are left wanting to know more about this mysterious woman – where did she come from, how did she become so masterful with the sword – questions that go unanswered as she walks away – alone again in her silence.
Source: http://www.brns.com

Comparison Of Versions And Cuts

Widescreen German = 1:32
Fullscreen Chinese = 1:23

Initial analysis of both prints reveals that the Chinese version jumps 15 minutes into the movie(!), skipping important introduction footage present in the German version--includes the "reeds and mud" fight mentioned in one of the reviews*. The fact that this footage is over 9 minutes long (difference in time between the 2 prints) means the longer German print itself must be missing atleast 6 minutes for a combined uncut running time of about a 100 minutes.
*The reviewer must have had access to a far superior print than any of us have seen.

There's another smaller scene deleted from the Chinese print when Tang Ching arrives late for work and speaks briefly with the foreman.

There's a tiny jump cut in the German print when Wei Ping Au and Miss Liu put their dominoes down onto the casino table with a couple of negative comments from Wei.

Another small scene cut from German print:
I trust my many followers will,
I'm just sending extra searchers
Why aren't you off yet?
Let's go!
Now you've come, don't worry, Mr. Ma
I'll find the mute girl within 3 days
3 days are long enough
Hu Chi!
Let's celebrate Mr. Ma's arrival

2 minutes cut from German print between penultimate and end fight, including the flashback fight scene with "Reflex Swordsman" Ma.

Final cut in German print: during the end fight on a beach, Heroine and Ma are back to back, Heroine backflips and the two grapple. Both swords get flung high into the air and both fighters perform kung fu jumps (Heroine travels over Ma!) before catching their swords. They continue to spar, and the heroine falls down into a puddle. Ma proceeds to flick sand into her eyes using his sword. Both fighters weapons become locked, so they each spin their swords in continuous counteracting circles until the heroine's gets flung away from her and she loses it.
Everything I just described is missing from the German print.

Information About Special Edition DVD

It's based mainly on the excellent quality widescreen German version with four inserted scenes from the fullscreen subtitled version forming a virtually uncut hybrid.

We've added optional/removeable English subtitles based on the afforementioned fullscreen print--aided greatly by a 2007 showing at Southbank, London--our third source print for this project. This particular print has never been available on home video, but by taking notes on it, we've been able to fill in some missing gaps in the script, ie. the longer lines of subs cropped in the fullscreen presentation; for example:

Visible in fullscreen presentation Actual lines noted from the theatre Additional Chinese and German dialogue translated by Toby Russell and Felix, respectively.

Special Features: Chinese Credit Sequence + Stills Gallery.

VERSION(S)
Format Language(s) Subtitles Presentation Quality Time Screenshots

1 PAL Chinese English (Emb.) Fullscreen 3rd Gen. 01:23 Download

2 PAL German English (Opt.) Widescreen 0 Gen. 01:36 Download
RareKFM Special Edition (includes some dialogue in Chinese)

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