Hong Kong Cinema

Bride with White Hair

  • Made: 1993
  • Format: DVD
  • Region: PAL Reg 2
  • Release Date: 25 Jun 2001
  • Company: Tartan
  • Length: 89 mins
  • Picture: 2.35:1 Widescreen Letterboxed
  • Sound: DD 2.0
  • Language: Cantonese with English subtitles
  • Extras: Filmographies, film notes, trailer reel
  • Classification: 18


Ronny Yu


Brigitte Lin, Leslie Cheung, Francis Ng, Elaine Lui, Eddy Ko, Paul Fong, Joseph Cheng,

Ronny Yu is one of many Hong Kong directors whose later Western efforts don't number among their best. Admittedly Freddy vs. Jason, Bride of Chucky and 51st State are diverting, but none of these match up to the earlier effort The Bride With White Hair. Hopefully his newest film, Fearless with Jet Li, will be more of a return to form. Bride with White Hair makes a nicely weird little addition to the world of fantasy martial arts. With all the wire-work and special effects on display, it is the acting chops of Leslie Chung and Brigitte Lin that set the Bride apart. It managed to take a respectable HK $19m in 1993, which placed it in the top 15 releases of the year. This is impressive bearing in mind almost all the top films that year had to star Stephen Chow (Flirting Scholar), Jet Li (Fong Sai-Yuk) and Jackie Chan (City Hunter)! It also won three HK Film Awards for cinematography, art direction and costumes.


It is the time of the Ming Dynasty and out of the eight big clans, the leader is that of the Wu Tang. Cho Yi Hang is the top Wu Tang swordsman, though his stubborn independence matches his skill. Dark times are afoot as the evil cult of the Siamese twins Chi Wu Shuang once again rises from Manchuria. The ace up the cult's sleeve is the wolf girl, a formidable warrior who literally makes mincemeat of her enemies with her whip. It is she who Cho falls for after she saves him from wolves as a child. Later they help deliver a peasant's baby together and lastly they meet again on the battlefield, leaving together as lovers, but that is where the trouble starts.

Deciding to sever ties, Lien the wolf girl, returns to the cult. The male Chi Wu Shuang demands sex to let her leave but discovering she is no longer a virgin he forces her to walk over hot coals and broken glass. She is beaten by the cultists on the way and forbidden from using kung fu. In the meantime, Cho's uncle has betrayed the clans by letting in the Ching people, and returning to the Wu Tang base Cho finds his clan massacred and his master beheaded supposedly at the hands of Lien. She appears but is attacked by the remaining clan members, and after realising that Cho has broken his promise to trust her, she goes crazy and becomes the Bride with White Hair.


At the heart this is Romeo and Juliet, as the two formidable warriors disobey their masters to embrace the enemy. The trouble around them changes the course of China. Whilst the film doesn't offer the best of what it does, all the parts fit together as a satisfying whole with heartfelt drama, inventive and surprisingly gory action and a convincing love story. You wouldn't know it was Ronny Yu's first period martial arts piece as he seems so comfortable with the genre.

Central to the film are the performances of Leslie Chung as the dissatisfied but formidable warrior, and Brigitte Lin as the deadly and strong-willed wolf girl, and together they give the film a heart. Whilst not quite on the same level as Crouching Tiger, it is that direction you should be thinking of and we are treated to a scene where our lovers retreat to a watery ruined hideaway which is probably reminiscent of Crouching Tiger due to both films sharing the same cinematographer (Peter Pau). Don't go thinking there's nothing for gorehounds though, as bodies are dismembered and blood spilt left, right and centre with a choice scene where Chi Wu Shuang seems to display particularly bad breath.


Considering the film is well over a decade old and the majority of the scenes are very dark, the picture is clear and sharp enough and is presented in widescreen (though not anamorphic). Thankfully the original Cantonese track is included along with the English dub as it's from the old school of laughable adaptations that don't suit anything other than comedies.


Any fan of fantasy martial arts films would be pleased with Bride., and with so much to offer this is worth a watch for any followers of Hong Kong cinema. Be it love story or gory violence, the Bride with White Hair should have something that appeals to you.