THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR 2 (1993) is directed by part 1 editor/co-writer David Wu, with Ronny Yu as producer and co-writer. I guess since he’s the editor Wu throws in a bunch of quick flashbacks (sometimes to new backstory, but mostly to the first movie, even though this came out around four months after the first one so anyone who’d seen it probly remembered). This story takes place at about the time of part 1’s flash-forward prologue, when Master Cho (Leslie Cheung, ONCE A THIEF) has been freezing his ass off sitting on a mountain for ten god damn years waiting for a flower to blossom and/or for his ex turned evil witch Li Ni-Chang (Brigitte Lin, DEADLY MELODY) to come talk to him.
She doesn’t, so he sits out almost the entire movie while a new generation of Wu Tang students deal with “the witch,” who now leads a cult made up entirely of women who have been wronged by men. Our new main character Kit (Sunny Chan) gets in trouble with the Wu Tang elders not for getting in fights and stuff but just for mentioning the name of “that coward” Master Cho. Kit is about to marry his girlfriend Lyre (Joey Maan, CENTURY OF THE DRAGON) when Ni-Chang flies in, kills some people with her hair, and abducts the bride to teach her to “never be so blindly loyal to these heartless men.” She brings her to her cult, where everybody hates men and bangs their swords together rhythmically, which seems pretty fun. Also they dress kinda like Queen Amidala.
Wu and cinematographer Kwong-Hung Chan (TIGER ON BEAT, FULL CONTACT, LEGEND IS BORN: IP MAN, IP MAN: THE FINAL FIGHT) mimic the first film’s smoke machines and blue tinting, but rarely get it to look as beautiful. It starts out a little awkward. But the more we get into the story of this group of scared young people mounting an attack and rescue the more entertaining it gets.
My favorite character is Moon (Christy Chung, BODYGUARD FROM BEIJING, GEN-X COPS 2: METAL MAYHEM, THE MEDALLION), a tough girl said to dress like a boy who always has a cigarette dangling from her lip. She also has a lifelong crush on Kit, which leads to a funny moment in a montage of Kit and Lyre sending each other love letters via carrier pigeon. When Kit is sad that one letter has gone unanswered it cuts to Moon in the woods enjoying a roasted pigeon.
I also dig Granny Ngo-mei (Lee Heung-kam, who appeared in the related 1959 movie STORY OF THE WHITE-HAIRED DEMON GIRL), an old lady who gets sent because she’s the youngest student of her clan, but her presence is welcome because she’s able to offer some guidance to these brats. There’s a great gag where she shows up with her hair down, so Moon mistakes her for the witch and fires off three arrows. They seem to hit her in the face and take her down, but then she stands up and pulls them out of her mouth like she caught them in her teeth.
There’s also an explosives expert named Yee (Jackie Yeung, SHAOLIN INTRUDERS, THE TOUCH) which is cool because, you know, he blows people up.
I think there’s less flying than in part 1, but there’s some pretty cool POV shots and some good, weird kung fu gimmicks. For example, Moon is poisoned by the white hair, and she’s warned that the toxins will spread if she ever does kung fu again. So if she needs to use her kung fu she’ll be sacrificing her life.
There’s an interesting idea that the young generation is getting forced into a conflict they have nothing to do with. They’ve never met Cho and also aren’t allowed to talk about him, yet they have been propagandized to believe that Ni-Chang “seduced” him. After seeing Moon get poisoned, Green breaks down crying to Kit. “Stop lying to yourself. We are destined to die. You have a valid purpose to save your wife. How about us? To avenge for the old men?”
I think the most interesting thing about the movie, though, is this gender theme. It might reflect a genuine fear of women, the way these cultists team up against men, bonding over the wrongs that have been done to them, and seem to have some lesbian temptations. She has sort of a right hand woman named Chen Yuen Yuen, who was the lover of General Wu, who Cho learned so much from growing up (both are real historical figures). She tried to leap to her death after he betrayed their people, and Ni-Chang flew in and caught her. Now Chen tells Ni-Chang they’ve been fighting for too long and suggests running away together, just like Ni-Chang and Cho were planning to do before all this white hair business.
There’s a very telling moment when the rescue party shows up and Lyre accuses Kit of only wanting her so he can have kids for the glory of Wu Tang. There might be some truth to this – it was certainly all the elders talked about when planning the wedding for him. But instead of considering the possibility that she’s right they knock her out and say that she’s been bewitched!
The most fucked up male behavior is when a blood-covered Green repeatedly stabs one of the cultists saying “This is for Moon!,” then forcibly kisses her saying “This one’s for me” and then “Now you know what a real man is.” I honestly don’t know what that’s all about because he blows himself and her up before the extensive therapy he would need to unpack it all.
I sense a tiny whiff of homophobia in the portrayal of Chen as an aggressive lesbian trying to convert Ni-Chang and sour her on men. And I think she’s kind of right that Ni-Chang is a sellout for still loving this guy. I mean sure, she is in the wrong, this was all a misunderstanding and it’s an overreaction to massacre people and start a radical anti-male cult. But I’m betting you most of these women she’s recruited have stronger cases against their men. She has a responsibility to stand up for their needs. It’s fucked up that nobody will listen to them and just dismisses them as evil and possessed. Ain’t that how they do you, though? It’s accurate, I think.
Still, it is pretty powerful when Cho finally shows up long-haired but defrosted and attempts to apologize to Ni-Chang. It’s kinda like holy shit, you never expected your divorced parents to get back together. Kinda crazy, but it’s sweet.
Wu got his start as an assistant to Chang Cheh’s editor at Shaw Brothers Studios, where he became friends with fellow apprentice John Woo. Later he edited A BETTER TOMORROW, A BETTER TOMORROW II, THE KILLER, BULLET IN THE HEAD, ONCE A THIEF, HARD BOILED, BLACKJACK, RED CLIFF II and THE CROSSING for Woo, which is another way of saying he’s one of the architects of modern action cinema. In a 2011 interview with Hong Kong Cinemagic he said, “I created some editing techniques in his films that you can now see everywhere, in Hong Kong, Korea and North America films. But mainly I must say that it is John’s style that influences to those international followers. Funny enough, we were originally influenced by North American directors. Life is a circle.”
After THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR 2, Wu moved to Vancouver, BC and directed many Canadian TV movies and shows (SNOW QUEEN, MERLIN’S APPRENTICE, Relic Hunter). His most recent directing credit is a 2012 episode of XIII: The Series, but he still works as an editor.
Of his relationship with Yu, he said, “Ronny Yu is my buddy. We have the same taste in movies, music and lifestyle… But I don’t like to make horror flicks, he does.” Nevertheless he stuck with Yu for four more movies after this one, including one very important horror movie.
Next week: Ronny Yu returns to directing tragic love fantasy with THE PHANTOM LOVER.
April 14th, 2023 at 8:30 am
I think I actually saw Wu’s WEBS, in which Richard Grieco enters a dimension that is populated by people who are possessed by alien spiders. That was when my arachnophobia wasn’t THAT bad and I was able to purposely scare myself with it from time to time, but there weren’t really spiders in that movie anyway. Maybe at the the end. Never finished it. The spiders were really just humans who acted evil. Unlike I’m mixing it up with something else (It was something like 15 years ago), I liked its look, which was cheap, but stylized and (at least in my memory) actually looked a bit like a Network TV version of the screencaps that you put up here. (As in “Filmed in a studio with lots of colourful lighting.)