Sunday, March 19, 2006

[DVD] Return of the One-Armed Swordsman (1969)

After watching the original One-Armed Swordsman, directed by Chang Cheh and starring Wang Yu in the title role, I knew I had to watch this direct sequel, as the others had David Chiang replacing Wang Yu as Fang Gang.

Continuing where the first movie left off, we see Fang Gang leading a life of a farmer, without a care of JiangHu politics. But as the saying goes, and in martial arts movie, so long as you're a reputable swordsman, trouble will always be looking for you. The emergence of the evil Eight Demon Swordsmen clan brought about chaos, with their issuing of forced challenges and a grand meeting amongst the swordsman clans. The senior members of various clans get annihilated or captured, and its down to the junior members to try and convince Fang Gang to come out of "retirement" to assist them in their quest of rescue, and getting rid of the Eight Demon Swordsmen.

It's also pretty cool to see the main villains being crafted with various deadly weapons and different personalities. Like the one with the deadly chain-attached sickle, or the mean looking knife-shield. How about a weapon which seemed to fire pellets of poison, and a sword with extensible blade? Perhaps the more interesting villain was the lady assassin, with her demure looks, and deadly hidden knives, giving a new meaning to back-stabbing!

However, being villains, our hero and his gang of merry men, while on the way to the villains' fortress, get to dispatch them one by one in deadly, bloody fashion. Although by today's standards the blood is pretty fake looking, it's still quite a bloody affair with slashings, stabbings - knives through body, and squirting blood. But I must add that it did give a sense of cheesy nostalgia to how blood was created for the screen in those days.

Classic martial arts movie scenes like the bamboo forest also get featured in this movie, though the forest did look a bit sparse, since it was filmed in a sound stage. Added to the fight scenes was a demonstration of superb "qing-gong" (light-skill, fleet-footedness) by Fang Gang, though the wire work used was extremely elementary, and came across quite laughably. Back in those days, this sequence would have been da bomb though.

The story's nothing to shout about - it has almost every thematic element that you'd expect from a martial arts movie, and classic scene settings like forests and inns. But it sure is one heck of a fun ride - bigger, bolder, badder than the original, with a lot more disposable characters for the body count.

Code 3 DVD extras contains a pretty weak lineup of only the trailer (and trailers for other movies), colour stills, the poster, selected cast and crew biography and filmography, and a one screen production notes. The DVD for the original seemed better and more thorough.

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