China during the Song Dynasty. The Emperor Kang is kidnapped by Jin bandits. The martial arts warrior Li Ma and two swordmaster sisters head to the Jin stronghold on Lying Mountain to rescue him. Captured, they learn of the Jin scheme to substitute a double for Kang. They try to make an escape to stop the plan.
This Chinese film is a copy of the Hong Kong Wu Xia cycle. It rehashes the cycle fairly routinely – mid-air sword duels, people running along the tips of swords, scarfs that double as handy daggers and so on. It is conducted on a noticeably lower budget and is shoddy is many areas – poor photography, a substandard dubbing job (which for some reason dubs all the swords clashes with the sound of whip cracks).
What makes The Magic Flying Mouse interesting over its Hong Kong parent is the way the cycle has been twisted into a propagandist piece by the Chinese. For more than half the running time, the film acts as a light and entertaining fantasy romp with no purpose other than to entertain. However, that turns out to only be an extended deus ex machina and toward the end the plot is twisted in an unexpectedly different direction. It goes from what looks like the climactic build-up to a promised confrontation with the bandits and instead becomes about trying to spur the Emperor, who has become corrupted by the pleasures of the palace, into action. In the decidedly downbeat ending, the hero of the piece manages, as he lies dying poisoned, to persuade the Emperor to fulfil his promise about fighting the bandit invaders. The film fades out with the narrator telling us that the next day the Emperor returned to wine and women. The pro-peasant, anti-imperialist message is obvious.