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VENGEANCE OF THE PHOENIX SISTERS is quite a treat for fans of low-budget old-school kung-fu films. Recently restored, this 1968 Taiwanese wuxia tale, directed by Chen Hung-Min, boasts some sharp B&W photography that gives an added level of artistic flare to a boilerplate revenge tale. Like an untold number of other kung-fu, samurai and western movies, THE PHOENIX SISTERS starts off with a family attacked by a gang of murderers. The parents are killed and the children, in this case three sisters, grow up with revenge on the brain.

More than anything else, THE PHOENIX SISTERS looks great. I'm not sure if some of the flicker and glow that I found so appealing was intentional or a by-product of age, but it doesn't matter. As it stands, it's a pleasure to watch, and some scenes feature ghostly lighting effects that only add to the magical nature of the story. There's nothing new or especially original going on, and the choreography and fight sequences aren’t exactly of Shaw Brothers caliber, but it's made with a lot of gusto -- with committed performances, colorful characters, and some adventurous camera work. Even if you’re just a casual fan of the genre, VENGEANCE OF THE PHOENIX SISTERS is likely to leave you with a big smile.

Screens online at the Taiwan Film Festival: http://festival2020.impressiontaiwan.org/index.html

Sean Erickson