Red Heroine

dir. Wen Yimin

Series - Higher Learning

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The only surviving section of the thirteen-part serial Red Knight Errant, this barn-burner of an action epic is a prime specimen of the wuxia (martial-arts/fantasy) film explosion of the late 1920s.

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The only surviving section of the thirteen-part serial Red Knight Errant, this barn-burner of an action epic is a prime specimen of the martial arts/fantasy film explosion of late-twenties and early-thirties Shanghai — but one with a significant twist. In place of the typical manly hero, Red Heroine presents a swashbuckling woman clad in exotic costume soaring through the air, disappearing in clouds of smoke and laying waste to armies of baddies with a sweep of her sword. Opening with Red Heroine's abduction by a tyrannical warlord, the film follows her rescue by a hermit monk, her training to become an unstoppable killing machine, and her efforts to stop the warlord ravaging the countryside and enslaving numerous (very) scantily-clad young women. (Chiang Kai-shek, the Nationalist strongman then ruling China, had threatened to ban all martial-arts cinema for its immorality, but one wonders if the films' politics cut a bit too close to the bone as well!) Reportedly a smash hit on its release, Red Heroine helped set the template for later revivals of the martial-arts genre in Hong Kong and elsewhere.