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The Fate Of Lee Khan (free)

  • Vilas Hall 821 University Avenue Madison, WI, 53706 United States (map)

King Hu's 1973 film is a dizzyingly choreographed high point in the wuxia genre. Info

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For those who like their fight scenes with unusually balletic razzle-dazzle, the wuxia classic The Fate Of Lee Khan (1973) has it in spades. Featuring a main cast of predominantly women, King Hu’s action flick serves up plenty of sound-effects-assisted gravity-challenging sequences to punctuate a plot full of shifting allegiances and trickery. 

The Fate Of Lee Khan transports viewers to central China in the later years of the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368), where a group of rebel fighters manage an inn as a front to ambush the titular Lee Khan, a ruthless general traveling through to obtain the war map of his adversaries. As employees of the inn (and characters in a wuxia film), the women of the resistance find many opportunities to rid their establishment of cheating gamblers, hot-headed soldiers, and ultimately Lee Khan’s entire entourage.

As with many entries in the wuxia genre, the main draw here is the expertly staged choreography. Hu’s creative camerawork has the ability to transform even the most rudimentary martial arts sequences into a disorienting display of soaring bodies, bounding their way through weightless action; it’s here that one can see the influence Hu would come to have on the modern wuxia epics of Zhang Yimou (House Of Flying Daggers, etc.). The film’s final sequence deserves extra attention just for the sheer scale of the showdown between Lee Khan’s entourage and the rebels of the inn. With inhuman leaps and amazing dexterity, Khan proves to be a formidable villain well worth an all-out battle royale. —Maxwell Courtright