In 1971, Shaw Brothers studios released The Boxer From Shantung, the martial arts classic that introduces the character Ma Yong-zhen, based on the real-life chivalrous gangster and classical anti-hero with the same name, who died in a mob war after being double-crossed by his underlings. In that same year, Jimmy Wang Yu released his version of the story, titled Furious Slaughter, spawning a sequel titled Bloody Struggle or Ma Su-zhen merely weeks later.
Making her debut in the sequel is Ma Su-zhen, the (supposedly) fictional sister of Ma Yong-zhen, who learned of her brother's death and traveled from Shantung to Shanghai, in a mission to avenge him. Following Bloody Struggle, comes an entire series of spin-offs and adaptations from 1972 to 1988, based on Ma Su-zhen's quest for vengeance. Following Nancy Yen's version of the character, multiple actresses has portrayed Ma Su-zhen, including...
- Chia Ling in The Queen Boxer (1972)
- Nancy Yen in Bloody Struggle a.k.a The Rebel Boxer (1972)
- Doris Lung in Brave Girl Boxer In Shanghai (1972)
- Wang Ping in The Sister of the San-Tung Boxer a.k.a Heroine Susan (1973)
- Li Yun-Juan in Ma Su Chen's Revenge (1988)
While popular in her heyday, most of these movies nowadays caters more towards a niche market, for fans of martial arts movies featuring ass-kicking heroines from the early 70s.
This series contains examples of the following:
- Action Girl: Ma Su-zhen, professional brawler, martial artist, and killing machine.
- Badass in Distress: Tough as she may be, but Ma Su-zhen in a few of those movies do end up being captured and needing to be rescued by her allies.
- Barely Changed Dub Name: Don't be surprised to get your hands on an English-dubbed copy of one of her movies that calls her "Susan". Heck, Heroine Susan did it right in the title.
- Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Often averted, Ma Su-zhen frequently suffers cuts, grazes and bruises on her face while fighting loads and loads of mooks, but sometimes it's played straight.
- Blue Is Heroic: Ma Su-zhen usually wears light or navy blue outfits, as seen in Brave Girl Boxer In Shanghai and Heroine Susan.
- Braids of Action: On the title character.
- Due to the Dead: Most of the films would emphasize Ma Su-zhen's determination to avenge Ma Yong-zhen.
- The '40s: Most of the films starring Ma Su-zhen are set in 1940s Shanghai, post-war with the mob enforcing control over the city.
- Furo Scene: The latest installment, Ma Su Chen's Revenge has her fighting a group of punks in a public bathhouse, all her opponents clad only in towels. Ma Su-zhen during the fight ends up being dragged into one of those pools, leading to a Sexy Soaked Shirt moment.
- Good Old Fisticuffs: Many of her movies have Ma Su-zhen preferring a fist-to-fist confrontation against her foes.
- Groin Attack: Since we're referring to a female protagonist in an action series...
- Illegal Gambling Den: A reocurring setting of the many adaptations of Ma Su-zhen's adventures.
- One-Man Army: Excuse me, One Woman Army.
- Kick Chick: Regardless which actress gets to portray Ma Su-zhen, half of her moment in battles involves her kicking the crap out of her enemies.
- Knows the Ropes: In at least one of those movies ( Brave Girl Boxer In Shanghai) Ma Su-zhen is shown capable of restraining her enemies with ropes to capture them alive for interrogation.
- Meaningful Funeral: At least one of those movies features Ma Su-zhen attending her brother's funeral, before swearing revenge for him.
- More Deadly Than the Male: Played straight that she outlasts her brother and most of her sidekicks, which are usually men as well.
- Revenge: For her brother.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: All the films involving Ma Su-zhen have her seeking revenge over the death of her brother, Ma Yong-zhen, and brutally killing those responsible for his demise. Although at least 1 of those movies subverts it (Bloody Struggle) revealing that Ma Yong-zhen is still alive.
- Seeking the Missing, Finding the Dead: In at least one of those movies begins with Ma Su-zhen travelling to Shanghai to find her missing brother, only to find out he's Dead All Along. Before the story resumes with the usual revenge plotline.
- Strictly Formula: For all the movies, the plot involves Ma Su-zhen travelling to Shanghai (either with the intention of avenging her brother or learning of her brother's death upon arrival), befriend some of her brother's former allies who helps her infiltrate the local Tongs, get into fights, escape, fight some more, train herself for a final showdown, rematch and win.
- Sweet Polly Oliver: Some of the movies will have Ma Su-zhen dressed up as a male to infiltrate the mob, but by the end of the day her cover will usually be blown.
- The Triads and the Tongs: They are the villains of the adaptations featuring Ma Su-zhen, often depicting as running illegal gambling parlours or actively terrorizing the local populace.
- Tyop on the Cover: The poster of A Brve Girl Boxer in Shanghai.
- Unkempt Beauty: Sometimes Ma Su-zhen would get really, really roughed up during her battles, but still look quite attractive.
- Waif-Fu: How she managed to take out legions upon legions of male mooks with ease.
- Yakuza: Occasionally, the triads are depicted to be working for the Japanese mob.
- You Bastard!: A mobster in Ma Su Chen's Revenge name-drops this line verbatim.