The ‘Biographies of Assassins' section of Records of the Grand Historian, an epic Chinese text written in the Han Dynasty by Sima Qian, is an account of five historical figures noted for their radical acts of valour. The assaults they committed were originally depicted as amoral and motivated by personal interest or loyalties, but on the silver screen they often get repackaged as a noble rebellion against vicious rulers or officials in a dramatic good vs. evil setting, as is the case in these two films.
The Hidden Dagger is based on the story of Zhuan Zhu of the Spring and Autumn period, who posed as a chef and hid a dagger inside a fish he had prepared in an attempt to assassinate King Liao, portrayed in a much more negative light in the film than in the original text. The Assassin, a Mandarin flick from Shaw Brothers, was adapted from the Warring States exploits of Nie Zheng, who was recruited to kill the "villainised" Premier Han Kui in what turned out to be a suicide mission.
The Hidden Dagger is a rare colour picture of 1950s Cantonese cinema, featuring action scenes with Kwan Tak-hing of Wong Fei Hung fame and dramatic moments highlighting traditional ethical values. Even more action-oriented is The Assassin, directed by Chang Che early in his martial-arts tenure and starring Jimmy Wang Yu in his charismatic prime.
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|6/5/2018 (Sun)||5:00pm||Cinema, Hong Kong Film Archive|
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