The Magic Crane (1993) poster

The Magic Crane (1993)


(Xian He Shen Zhen)

Hong Kong. 1993.


Director – Benny Chan, Screenplay – Chui Daat Choh & Tsui Hark, Producer – Tsui Hark, Photography – Tom Lau Moon-Tong, Music – Wong Bong, Art Direction – Cheung Sek Wa. Production Company – Long Shong Pictures/Film Workshop.


Tony Leung (Ma Kwun Mo), Anita Mui (Pak Wan Fai), Rosamund Kwan (Butterfly Lam), Damian Lau (Yat Yeung Tze), Kelvin Wong Siu (Tsao Hung), Lawrence Ng (So Pang Hoi), Norman Chu (Lam Hoi Ping)


Ma Kwun Mo is part of a delegation travelling to a meeting of Shaolin martial arts schools when he encounters the beautiful Pak Wan Fai flying on a giant crane. She has lived in seclusion on a mountain all her life and has never met another man. At the same, she meets Butterfly Lam, who wields a mandolin capable of emitting deadly sound waves, and the two realise that they are sisters who were separated by their father at a young age. A bitter feud now ensues as the three become embroiled in the complicated in-fight for supremacy amongst the Shaolin schools.

The Magic Crane is another entry in the Hong Kong Wu Xia fantasy cycle that began with the likes of Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain (1983), A Chinese Ghost Story (1987) and Swordsman (1990), all of which had been either directed or produced by this film’s producer Tsui Hark.

By the point of The Magic Crane, all the basic moves – flying swordsmen, tree-bouncing acrobatics, mid-air combat – had been copied by numerous imitators. In order to attain some sort of originality, Magic Crane has to go to some wild extremes. The film gets way out with images of a giant flying crane and a battle with a giant turtle, or with one of the heroines who wields a mandolin that causes sonic waves to batter people and repels all attacks with her strumming. This results in a totally nutty climax with, amid all the rest of the usual fantastical martial arts, the villain wielding a giant cast iron bell that causes earth tremors. The battle is won when the crane does a kamikaze dive down into the mouth of the bell!

Anita Mui wields deadly mandolin with Tony Leung in The Magic Crane (1993)
Anita Mui wields deadly mandolin with Tony Leung in background

The Magic Crane is fun, although does gets extremely silly – like the slapstick scenes with the army playing hot potato with the lizard gillet. As is often the case with these films, the plot does not make a lot of sense. We are not sure what the fight for supremacy in the martial arts school is all about, nor the reasons why the father took one of the sisters away as a child.

Furthermore, there is the abrupt reversal in the middle of the film where one of the sisters, who had previously been played as villain, romantically takes up with the hero and he switches affections from the other sister who for equally cloudy reasons now becomes a villain.

Trailer with no English subs

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