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Film / Killer Clans

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Killer Clans is a 1976 Shaw Brothers wuxia directed by Chor Yuen, starring Tsung Wa, Yueh Hua, Ku Feng, Lily Li, Danny Lee and Lo Lieh. Then film itself is based on the novel Liuxing Hudie Jian (Meteor, Butterfly, Sword) by Taiwanese writer Gu Long.

The martial world is in uproar when a conspiracy involving numerous skilled martial artists getting killed surfaces. With two clans competing for superiority, and a possible traitor among the ranks of the clans, a young swordsman, Meng Hsin-Wan (Tsung Wa) sets out to find the truth, by seeking the elder, well-respected martial arts leader, Master Sun (Ku Feng). Running into a colorful cast of kung fu masters, Meng must stay one step ahead of killers who wants him dead.

See also Butterfly and Sword, a 90s wuxia based on the same novel.

Killer Clan of Tropers:

  • Big Good: Master Sun, who unifies the clans, whose name the trainees pledge their allegiance towards, and is their high-ranking leader.
  • Blood from the Mouth: Lu Hsiang Chuan, towards the end of the film, after getting hit in the back by Uncle Sun and throwing up a mouthful of blood. At which point he decides to just bail from the fight and escape.
  • The Chessmaster: Lu Hsiang Chuan manipulates the masters of the martial world into killing each other, and then personally kills everyone who gets in his way, so that he may rule over every single clan by himself.
  • Dead Star Walking: Han Tang, played by Shaw A-lister Lo Lieh, who dies roughly 12 minutes into the film. But at least he have two fight scenes before his demise.
  • Destination Defenestration: The fights in taverns tend to result in numerous faceless mooks getting chucked through windows, and in the final battle Lu Hsiang-Chuan sends multiple white-clad mooks out of windows and doors.
  • Dual Wielding: Many characters display the ability to wield two weapons at the same time, notably Han Tang who use his Deadly Disc hat together with his sword.
  • Ensemble Cast
  • Evil Counterpart: Lu Hsiang Chuan can be seen as the villainous version of Yueh Hua's previous role, Lin-Chung from Pursuit. Both of them are military leaders and strategists, whom are the brains of their respective martial clans and expert fighters with a silver spear. But Lin Chung is strictly an honourable man on the side of good, while Lu Hsiang Chuan is a manipulator and traitor who backstabs everyone on his way to power. And while Lin Chung has a best friend in the form of Flower Monk Lu, willing to stick his neck out for Lin no matter what costs, the treachery of Lu Hsiang Chuan is known to practically every member of the martial world, to the point where his alleged best friend ends up betraying him by spiking his wine with poison.
  • Good Weapon, Evil Weapon: Yeah, it's no surprise that the character who use the deadly Seven Star Needles coated with extremely fatal poison turns out to be the film's true Big Bad, was it?
  • Heroes Prefer Swords: Played straight with Meng Hsin-Wan, the protagonist, who uses a jian in all his fight scenes, while everyone else use either spears, staff or assorted weapons.
  • Hidden Villain: The fact that Lu Hsiang Chuan is the true villain, an usurper who wants to eliminate Master Sun, and then systematically kill off every clan leaders so that he can usurp leadership, isn't made clear until late in the film.
  • In a Single Bound: No wuxia would feel complete without this trope. In fact, one of Lu Hsiang Chuan's action scenes have him being ambushed by an assassin, where both of them leaps vertically from ground level to the third floor of a tavern, reaching the ceiling, before clashing in mid-air. What follows is a Single-Stroke Battle where Lu lands on his feet, while his opponent lands as a corpse.
  • In the Back: Han Tang is killed in this way, by Lu Hsiang Chuan when he reveals himself to be a traitor.
  • Knows the Ropes: A group of revolutionaries tries capturing Lu Hsiang Chuan using ropes, by launching these from tall balconies as Lu enters a hallway.
  • Martial Arts Staff: Master Sun uses a staff as his main weapon, whose tip ends with a menacing yet cool-looking dragon's head.
  • Poisoned Weapons: Lu Hsiang Chuan's preferred weapons when going for ambushes, the scary-sounding Seven Star Needles, whose poison is fatal. Lu uses this weapon to maim his benefactor, Master Sun, but although there exists no antidote for said poison, Master Sun managed to control his chi to prevent his body from absorbing the poison at all. Somehow.
  • Professional Killer: Most of the named characters are expert killers. That's why the movie is called "Killer Clans", see?
  • Secret Underground Passage: When Lu Hsiang Chuan tries to kill Master Sun, the Master reveals he had one of these hidden under his bed, triggered by hitting a switch that releases a trapdoor. Lu Hsiang Chuan tries jumping in after the Master, only to realize the trapdoor leads to an underground water-tunnel with a Convenient Escape Boat.
  • Shield-Bearing Mook: Master Sun's personal legion of backup, a squad of Elite Mooks (Elite Red Shirt?) who uses huge shields in conjunction with their swords. They notably use their shields to form a makeshift wall in an attempt to trap Lu Hsiang Chuan, but to no avail as the villain leaps over their defense and turns his spears on them.
  • Slipping a Mickey:
    • This is how Ma Fung Chung, Master Sun's loyal servant, goes out with his entire family.
    • Lu Hsiang Chuan, at the end of the film, who believe he successfully escaped with his life after double-crossing his benefactors and allies, only to be betrayed by his closest friend who spiked his wine with toxins.
  • Together in Death: Master Sun's loyal servant, Ma Fung Chung, who is forced to kill his entire family, consisting of his wife and two children, by spiking the entire family's dinner with poison. The two children are oblivious to what's about to happen to them, until a later scene when Lu Hsiang Chuan and his mooks arrives at MA's house... only to find the entire family dead.
  • Villain: Exit, Stage Left: Lu Hsiang Chuan bails after realizing his treachery is exposed and every hero in the martial world is out for his blood. He almost made it, but ends up getting killed by poisoned wine that night.
  • Weaponized Headgear: Han Tang's wide-brimmed straw hat, which he use as a melee weapon in conjunction with his sword. The hat functions equally well as a Deadly Disc, removing an unfortunate challenger's head.
  • Wham Line: Delivered by Lu Hsiang Chuan, after he ambushed and double-crossed his benefactor, Uncle Sun.
    "You would regret these two actions before your death. Trusting me after you suspected me, and then thinking it was me, but refusing to believe in your doubts." — Lu Hsiang Chuan
  • The World's Expert (on Getting Killed): Many of the so-called "elite" martial artists and professional fighters barely last for minutes during the fights in the film, and dying shortly after establishing themselves as killers in the martial world. With the worst example being Meng Shin-wan's first onscreen opponent, a "murderer who had killed 108 people the night before"... and gets killed by Meng before the titles can even appear.
  • Wuxia