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Film / The Protectors

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The Protectors is a 1971 Martial Arts Movie and wuxia film released by Shaw Brothers, the first movie directed by Wu Ma for the Shaws, and possibly the shortest theatrically-released movie from the studios with a running time of 62 minutes. (yes, it's barely an hour in length!)

A shipment of silver is stolen in the aftermath of a raid by the Bandit Lord Jin Buhuan and his minions, the corrupt Shaolin monk-turned-henchman Thousand Hands Buddha and the mercenary swordsman Spear Prince. The security leaders responsible for escorting the silver, Chief Ling Xiao (Lo Lieh) and Chief Guan Wang Long (Chang Pei-Shan) must work together to retrieve the silver, by infiltrating the heart of the bandit camp.

Considering how short the movie is, the movie feels much like a video game that simply dumps the protagonist from one action scene to another, with a handful of minutes tacked in-between to form a somewhat coherent plot. Not that it's a bad thing

Do not confuse this with the British TV series of the same name, also from the 70s. Or the alternate title to Tom-Yum-Goong.

The Protectors contain examples of:

  • Blade on a Stick: The bandit mercenary who calls himself the Spear Prince uses, you guessed it, a spear in all his fights, and he's damn good at it too. The front of the spear can also extend by maybe a few feet, allowing him to perform ambushes or catch his opponents unaware.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Chief Ling Xiao, the hero of the film, a lawful security chief and honorable hero, wears black for the wentirety of the film, up to and including the final battle against all the villains.
  • Dirty Old Monk: Thousand Hands Buddha, who is a pervert in addition to being a dishonorable backstabber, trying to grope Fang Yan-er
  • Detachable Blades: The sword used by Chief Guan Wang Long, whose blade can detach with a spring-loaded switch, and shoot out for a sneaky ranged attack. He uses this weapon to ambush and kill his supposed ally, the Spear Prince, and later tries using it against the hero Ling Xiao.
  • Disposable Woman: Fan Yan-Er, the Nice Girl who showed affection towards Chief Ling Xiao, ends up being kidnapped, suffer an Attempted Rape by Thousand Hands Buddha, and then unceremoniously killed by Bandit Lord Jin Wuhuan, in order to motivate the hero for the final battle. She had even less development than other examples of this trope, mostly because of the film's ridiculously short runtime.
  • Duel to the Death: Ling Xiao's final duel against the three main villains, mano-on-mano, where he fights and kills them all one at a time. Justified because in the villains' haste to backstab each other, the villains had sent all their remaining lesser mooks to their deaths by poisoning the water supply, hence the lack of backup.
  • Evil vs. Evil: When it's evident that there is no way to equally divide the shipment of silver, the villains, consisting of Bandit Lord Jin Wuhuan, evil monk Thousand Hands Buddha, bandit mercenary Spear Prince and the traitor Chief Guan Wang Long begins plotting to backstab and usurp each other.
  • Eviler than Thou: Chief Guan Wang Long and the Spear Prince appears to form a temporary alliance, until the former reveals his true colours by ambushing and then killing the latter. The Spear Prince managed to remark that he may be a bandit and marauder, but at least "he had honour" as his Last Words.
  • False Friend: Chief Guan Wang Long to Chief Ling Xiao, pretending to be an ally and comrade, but secretly plotting to raid the shipment of silver for himself and frame Ling Xiao for the theft.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: In the final battle, when it's up to Chief Ling Xiao against the last surviving villain, Chief Guan Wang Long, the hero managed to knock the villain's own sword out of his hands... before activating it's Detachable Blades, sending Guan Wang Long's favorite weapon for sneak attacks through his very own guts.
  • In a Single Bound: It's a wuxia, obviously. Taken to the extreme in the final battle with Ling Xiao scaling cliffs while fighting the final villains, who can leap as far as he can.
  • In the Back: Chief Guan Wang Long reveals his true allegiance when, during the bandit raid, he ambushed an allied warrior while pretending to assist him in battle from the behind. Said warrior only managed to gasp before he falls.
  • Knows the Ropes: The villainous monk called the "Thousand Hands Buddha" uses a rope in conjunction with his dagger in battle.
  • MockGuffin: The silver in the carriage has been swapped with bricks by Chief Guan Wang Long, who intends to hoard all the loot for himself. The villains didn't find out this fact until, during a big fight scene with the hero Ling Xiao, Ling hacks down a bandit lieutenant trying to flee while carrying a crate of silver, breaking the crate into half in the process and revealing the silver to be just bricks.
  • The Mole: Chief Guan Wang Long is secretly working for the bandit lord Jin Buhuan, including assisting the bandit legions in setting an ambush and stealthily killing plenty of his fellow security officers.
  • One-Man Army: Ling Xiao takes plenty of names even when outnumbered by massive amount of bandit mooks, notably when he launches a one-man assault on the bandit's forest hideout, single-handedly killing dozens in one big fight scene.
  • Red Baron: Thousand Hands Buddha and Spear Prince are only known by their nicknames, which established them to be a genuine threat.
  • Run the Gauntlet: Ling Xiao in the final battle have to battle the main villains, firstly Thousand Hands Buddha, and then Bandit Lord Jin Buhuan, before fighting the traitor and The Mole, Chief Guan Wang Long, as his final obstacle.
  • Slipping a Mickey: The method used by Thousand Hands Buddha to get rid of his fellow bandit lords, in an attempt to hog all the silver he gained for himself, by poisoning their water supply and declining a drink while the bandit legion pauses to rest in a valley. He managed to poison every remaining, faceless mook still alive, but their boss, Bandit Lord Jin Buhuan had long suspected there is a traitor among their ranks and is the only one to escape poisoning.
  • Sword Fight: Tons of it. With Ling Xiao in the center of most of them.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: The method used by Ling Xiao to impale Thousand Hands Buddha, nailing the villain on a cliff face. What's even more impressive is that they are roughly two hundred meters apart.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: In order to fool his partner, Ling Xiao, and get his guard down, the traitor Guan Wang Long deliberately cuts his shoulder with his own sword, pretending he was wounded in battle and tells Ling not to forsake their mission and go after the bandits to recover the silver. The silver which the villain had hidden for himself, of course.
  • Wuxia