HOME |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
 
Newest Reviews
Sweetheart
No Man of God
Gaia
Oliver Sacks: His Own Life
Scenes with Beans
Sweat
Quiet Place Part II, A
Nobody
Prisoners of the Ghostland
Duel to the Death
Mandibles
Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands
Yakuza Princess
Djinn, The
New Order
Triggered
Claw
Original Cast Album: Company
Martyrs Lane
Paper Tigers, The
Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, The
Hall
ParaPod: A Very British Ghost Hunt, The
Collini Case, The
Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard
Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch, The
Superhost
Plan A
When I'm a Moth
Tigers Are Not Afraid
Misha and the Wolves
Yellow Cat
Shorta
Knocking
Bloodthirsty
When the Screaming Starts
Sweetie, You Won't Believe It
Lions Love
Demonic
Night Drive
   
 
Newest Articles
On the Right Track: Best of British Transport Films Vol. 2
The Guns of Nutty Joan: Johnny Guitar on Blu-ray
Intercourse Between Two Worlds: Twin Peaks Fire Walk with Me/The Missing Pieces on Blu-ray
Enjoy the Silents: Early Universal Vol. 1 on Blu-ray
Masterful: The Servant on Blu-ray
70s Sitcom Dads: Bless This House and Father Dear Father on Blu-ray
Going Under: Deep Cover on Blu-ray
Child's Play: Children's Film Foundation Bumper Box Vol. 3 on DVD
Poetry and Motion: Great Noises That Fill the Air on DVD
Too Much to Bear: Prophecy on Blu-ray
Truth Kills: Blow Out on Blu-ray
A Monument to All the Bullshit in the World: 1970s Disaster Movies
Take Care with Peanuts: Interview with Melissa Menta (SVP of Marketing)
Silent is Golden: Futtocks End... and Other Short Stories on Blu-ray
Winner on Losers: West 11 on Blu-ray
Freewheelin' - Bob Dylan: Odds and Ends on Digital
Never Sleep: The Night of the Hunter on Blu-ray
Sherlock vs Ripper: Murder by Decree on Blu-ray
That Ol' Black Magic: Encounter of the Spooky Kind on Blu-ray
She's Evil! She's Brilliant! Basic Instinct on Blu-ray
Hong Kong Dreamin': World of Wong Kar Wai on Blu-ray
Buckle Your Swash: The Devil-Ship Pirates on Blu-ray
Way of the Exploding Fist: One Armed Boxer on Blu-ray
A Lot of Growing Up to Do: Fast Times at Ridgemont High on Blu-ray
Oh My Godard: Masculin Feminin on Blu-ray
   
 
  One-Armed Swordsman Don't worry, he's armless
Year: 1967
Director: Chang Cheh
Stars: Jimmy Wang Yu, Pang Ying-Tzu, Chiao Chiao, Tien Feng, Yeung Chi-Hing, Tang Ti, Fan Mei-Sheng, Wong Sai-Git, Cheung Pooi-Saan, Fan Dan, Ku Feng, Chen Yan-Yan
Genre: Action, Martial Arts, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 3 votes)
Review: When brave student Fang Cheng (Ku Feng) dies saving the life of master swordsman Qi Ru Feng (Tien Feng), the latter swears to raise his son. Years later Fang Kang (Jimmy Wang Yu) grows into a handsomely stoic young man determined to excel at kung fu. Although Master Qi’s spoiled, sword-wielding daughter Pei-Er (Pang Ying-Tzu) has been in love with him for years, Kang rebuffs her amorous advances. Taunted for being poor, he decides to leave the school but is ambushed in the snow by fellow students led by a spiteful Pei-Er. In the ensuing scuffle, she cuts off Kang’s right arm.

Kang stumbles into the care of kindly peasant girl Xiao Man (Chiao Chiao) who nurses him back to health and passes on her late father’s left-handed kung fu manual. Armed with this, Kang trains rigorously till his left arm is superhumanly strong and develops a unique sword fighting style using his late father’s broken blade. Which proves handy given notorious brigand Long-Armed Devil (Yeung Chi-Hing) - whose face is kept hidden building an aura of mystery - and his ally Smiling Tiger Cheng Tian Shou (Tang Ti) are killing off each of Master Qi’s disciples. The pair arm their disciples with a fiendish “sword lock” device that can disable any sword, save of course for Kang’s broken blade…

It is not often a single film changes an entire industry overnight, but that is pretty much what One-Armed Swordsman did for Hong Kong cinema. Shaw Brothers had made groundbreaking and popular martial arts movies before, notably King Hu’s trailblazing Come Drink With Me (1966), but like the Huangmei Opera and musical dramas that were likewise the studio’s stock in trade these centred around heroic swordswomen. Women dominated Chinese cinema throughout the immediate post-war era, something that still seems astonishing given Hollywood actresses still struggle to land decent parts. One-Armed Swordsman popularised the “yanggang” or “masculine male” style of filmmaking in Hong Kong cinema, something pioneering director Chang Cheh deliberately set out to do while taking the heroic swordswoman archetype down a peg or two.

Take Chang’s depiction of Pei-Er. In any other movie release from Shaw’s that year, such a fiery, feisty female would have been the heroine. Here, Chang depicts Pei-Er as malicious, naïve, childish and - arguably the ultimate insult - not even that hot at kung fu. By contrast Xiao Man embodies Chang’s ideal woman: caring, nurturing and largely passive, even though she attempts to dissuade Kang from taking up the sword. It’s not quite “bro’s before ho’s” but when Kang patiently explains her the virtues of brotherhood you know exactly whose side Chang Cheh is on. Thankfully Pang Ying-Tzu (a musical star who became a fixture of martial arts films after finding stardom here) and Chiao Chiao (who went on to play a malicious, naïve, childish woman who was very, very good at kung fu in Shaw’s excellent Heads For Sale (1969) rise above their thin-seeming roles with finely etched characterizations. Chang Cheh’s steadfastly macho melodrama can seem comical to modern eyes, but the performances here are beautifully nuanced overall and the film assembled with greater care and artistry compared to his later zoom-happy efforts. Though stylised and visceral, the action is stately instead of frenetic recalling the Japanese chanbara (samurai) movies Cheh so admired. He pads the film somewhat with several drawn out confrontations between Master Qi’s disciples and Long-Armed Devil. Each falls for the same “sword lock” trick, but Chang labours the point. Nevertheless the finale is suitably stirring and suspenseful.

At its heart rests a tour de force from Jimmy Wang Yu who is actually deeply moving as the downtrodden hero, even though as Master Qi’s wife (Chen Yan-Yan) observes tragedy may have been averted had Kang not been so self-righteous (tellingly, she is quickly told to hush up). One-Armed Swordsman was of course, famously the making of Jimmy Wang Yu. Born in 1943 to a wealthy family, the former water polo star starred in Shaw’s first significant martial arts epic Temple of the Red Lotus (1964) before becoming the genre’s first superstar. Wang Yu returned in, what else, Return of the One-Armed Swordsman (1967) but despite headlining Shaw classics like The Assassin (1967) and Golden Swallow (1968) his relationship was always a fractious one. He became the first - and as far as this writer is aware, only - actor to break his contract with Shaw Brothers and was subsequently blacklisted from working in Hong Kong.

Relocating to Taiwan, Wang Yu signed with rival studio Golden Harvest where as actor-director he pioneered the modern kung fu film with the massive hit The Chinese Boxer (1969), then took his trademark character to Japan for the co-production Zatoichi vs. the One-Armed Swordsman (1971). Meanwhile, Shaw Brothers continued the series with The New One-Armed Swordsman (1974) starring their newest sensation David Chiang whom Wang Yu then lured into a team-up sequel: One-Armed Swordsmen (1976). He also initiated his own lone-limb franchise with One-Armed Boxer (1971), another huge success spawning the superb sequel Master of the Flying Guillotine (1976) and One-Armed Against Nine Killers (1976). Later on his most famous movie was remade twice, first as the stylish What Price Survival? (1994) then as Tsui Hark's revisionist The Blade (1996), which is arguably superior to the original.

A notoriously cantankerous and controversial figure (you could fill a book with his many alleged misdemeanours), Wang Yu’s attempts at finding international stardom with the Golden Harvest co-productions: The Man from Hong Kong (1975) and Queen’s Ransom (1976) met with only modest success and he was eventually eclipsed by stars with far greater martial arts skills. Nevertheless he remains a significant figure in kung fu cinema, not least for One-Armed Swordsman which was recently ranked fifteenth in the one hundred greatest Chinese films of all time.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

This review has been viewed 3787 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

 
Review Comments (1)


Untitled 1

Login
  Username:
 
  Password:
 
   
 
Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.
   

Latest Poll
Which star probably has psychic powers?
Laurence Fishburne
Nicolas Cage
Anya Taylor-Joy
Patrick Stewart
Sissy Spacek
Michelle Yeoh
Aubrey Plaza
Tom Cruise
Beatrice Dalle
Michael Ironside
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Jason Cook
Darren Jones
Enoch Sneed
Andrew Pragasam
  Desbris M
  Paul Tuersley
  Chris Garbutt
   

 

Last Updated: