Reviewed by: Macathustra
Summary: Bong-Shatteringly Great
[Additional comments October 2003: Since posting this review, I have gotten ahold of the current VCD edition of "No One Can Touch Her," and I have to say that I now understand why everybody hates this movie. The VCD version cuts out all of the critical scenes at the end of this film, making it a total waste. As I explain below, the whole first hour is a buildup to the last half hour, which, when missing, makes the movie one gigantic waste of time. In addition, the subtitled version lacks the great dialog found in the English-language dubbed VHS version, making it just that much more crappy. The only benefit of the VCD is that you get to see the names of the characters, so it's good as a sort of appendix to the movie. But definitely get yourself the VHS English version, if you can find it, and skip the VCD. In fact, it might be a good idea to skip any VCD from Ocean Shores Video, as all of the movies of theirs that I've seen have been edited horribly.]
This is not so much a review as a plea for someone to restore "No One Can Touch Her" (known as "Against the Drunken Cat Paws" in the United States) and release it on DVD and also to provide additional information about the cast. This film is one of the rare greats, not just in the martial arts genre, but in cinema in general, and I will happily volunteer my time and equipment in a restoration effort.
Now, let me qualify what I mean by "one of the rare greats." Fans of Chia Ling and Kam Kong no doubt see this as a sloppy vehicle to show off the skills of these stars, barely tolerable except for the few excellent fighting scenes. I won't dispute the fact that the film is rough. The American release in particular has a plot that's barely comprehensible at times, with scenes that are out of sequence, with characters who appear and disappear without expanation and with audio and dubbing that sound like they were recorded, mixed and edited on a Radio Shack tape recorder. However, hidden within the hisses and pops of the audio and the near-seizure-inducing anomalies of the video is a masterwork of choreography and character development.
Like just about every other kung fu movie of the period (assuming anybody knows the period in which this was made, since cited release dates range from 1975 to 1984), "No One Can Touch Her" dedicates the first hour of the movie to skill development leading up to the final conflict, which, in this case, is a massive battle with the 14 Bandits (plus two five-foot-tall "giants"), headed up by Wolf Fang. But there's a twist: Neither of the two principal protagonists (Chia Ling and Kam Kong) knows that his or her skills are being developed. And, for that matter, neither does the viewer, until all is revealed in the last battle, which takes up a full third of the movie with non-stop action that makes "Romper Stomper" look relaxed by comparison.
Now, the catalyst for all of this is an inspector sent by imperial order to track down and eliminate the bandits. The inspector is played by an actor whose name is apparently and sadly lost to the ages, unless someone here can enlighten me (and everybody else) on the issue. His character is never mentioned in discussions of the movie, and yet it's unique in film. He's a fop and a braggart, a buffoon, a coward and an opium-smoking bully. (Don't try to convince me that's tobacco in his pipe.) He's received his appointment owing to the fame of one of his ancestors, though he himself is worthless.
But in the end, this character, who doesn't even rate a sidenote in other discussions of "No On Can Touch Her," turns out to be everything he claimed to be--a genius and a martial arts god. But unlike in other movies where an insufferable ass turns out to be a hero, the inspector doesn't suddenly turn out to be a "good guy." He's still as big an ass as ever at the end of the movie, utterly unrepentant and even unaware that he has anything to repent for. He simply demonstrates that all his boasting was accurate; that his bullying of Brother Mallet (Kam Kang) was to prepare him for the coming battle with the seemingly invincible giants; that his buffoonery was a device to set up his opponents and get them where he wanted them; and that his cowardice was to throw off the suspicions of the bandits. He was, for the first two-thirds of the film, merely playing with his food.
So, he sets up and disarms the bandits; he trains Brother Mallet (AKA "Hammerhand"); he recognizes that the way for Brother Blind (Chia Ling) to defeat Wolf Fang is to use her drunken style; and, when need be, he steps in himself and defeats some of the more difficult opponents with his "pipe technique," which involves bashing and impaling his opponents with his opium pipe.
Nowhere in any other movie (kung fu or otherwise) is there a character like the inspector. (Now will somebody please tell me the name of this actor?)
Add to this the truly remarkable choreography in some of the fight scenes and dialog that will make pot smokers choke on their Doritos, and you have a film that, to me, is worthy of the title "one of the greats."
A few other notes:
--The choreography in "No One Can Touch Her" is magnificent. Most of the great moves appear to be unaided by hidden wires (sorry "Crouching Tiger" fans), and, aside from the showmanship in the fighting, most of the moves make sense. For example, you don't see someone doing backflips to run away from a pursuer. When I see someone backflipping to a gold medal in the 50-yard dash, I might appreciate that kind of thing in a kung fu movie.
--The sheer volume of fight scenes is impressive. As I say, the last third of the movie is one long fight scene in which 14 bandits and two "giants" are picked off.
--There are some moments of visual beauty, though they are admittedly few, at least in the two transfers I've seen. The unveiling of the false bride, for example, is one of those things I wish could have happened at my own wedding (though I guess I should be thankful that 14 bandits aren't after my father in law).
--Again, the dialog. If you can't find at least five lines to quote at parties, you're not paying attention.
Now, don't get me wrong. This movie is no "Fong Sai Yuk" (I or II), but it is an hour of foreplay and a half hour of orgasm. You've heard of tantrik sex? This is tantrik kung fu. "No One Can Touch Her" utterly lacks refinement. It can be ridiculous at points, even boring, but you will walk away from this film with soiled linen. Watch it. Study it. Master it. Then spread the joy.
And listen, if you're reading this and own the rights to this movie (or know who does), please, please, restore it and re-release it.
Reviewed by: STSH
Summary: Below Average
In quantity, there is a fair amount of fight scenes in this patriotic period action flick. But these sequences never recover from the opening stop-motion animation which curse so many chop-socks from the 70s and 80s. The climactic fight scene is the best of the film, but nothing much compared with many other such climaxes.
Reviewer Score: 3
The film isn't a total loss, tough. Chia Ling plays an unusual role, spending much of the film with the highly unglamorous look of a sooty-faced near-blind beggar, a role she plays sternly and seriously.
There's the usual quota of comic relief, mainly provided by the stock "endearing cute little kid sidekick" who is actually an irritating little so-and-so, and his battle with the dwarf who caused Brother Blind's sight problem.
The whole thing fails to gel, a result of poor scripting and almost non-existent direction.
To see an example of how a similar cast can be much better used, rent instead the stunning "Crane Fighthers", where Chia Ling and Kam Kong show themselves at peak power. I cannot recommend No-one Can Touch Her, unless there's nothing else on the shelves.
And one final insult - the print I watched had the front credits removed. Grrrrr. It was quite nice watching Chia go through her Drunken Fist paces and being frozen every so often, but so annoying not to have any names to read. Grrrrrr again.