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The Smart Cavalier
cast: Lo Lieh, Sze Ma-lung, Lung Jun-er, Yi Yuen, and Doris Lung

director: Joseph Kuo

90 minutes (15) 1977
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
MIA Old Skool Kung Fu DVD Region 2 retail
Also available to buy on video

RATING: 4/10
reviewed by Debbie Moon
A mysterious old man wanders into town with his beautiful granddaughter, offering her in marriage to the first man who can beat her in a kung-fu contest. The girl soon proves herself more than just a pretty face, humiliating all her suitors in combat. Except one - but he really doesn't have time to get married. He and his brother are part of the resistance to a usurping Emperor and his evil war minister, a practitioner of dark magic. The brothers flee to join an uprising, but the old man and the girl are strangely persistent, tracking them halfway across the country - and soon turn out to be of great use to the resistance. However, the subject of marriage just won't go away...
   Not that any of that really matters, because it's all very obviously an excuse for the kung fu. If five minutes pass without a fight, it's unusual - and that's probably a good thing, because the awkward dubbing doesn't do the comedy scenes any favours. A series of set-pieces - a search for the brothers in a whorehouse, rescuing strangers from bandits, a bar-room brawl - pad out the story, allowing the performers to showcase their remarkable agility. It's impressive stuff - but it's hard to believe the characters are in any danger, and some shoddy editing simply adds to the sense that you're watching a sports display, not a narrative.
   The Smart Cavalier (which doesn't exactly live up to its title, since there's not a horse in sight) probably isn't going to win any new fans for kung fu movies. The story isn't strong enough to compare to narrative driven western cinema, nor fantastical enough to appeal to fans of the weird and wacky. If you're a real kung fu nut, you'll probably enjoy it; if not, I suspect there are better examples to begin your acquaintance with.