Sunday, June 11, 2006

[DVD] The New One-Armed Swordsman (1971)

This is Not Computer Generated

I can't remember the details behind the reason why Wang Yu left the franchise, but Chang Cheh replaced him with David Chiang in the titular role, and of course it's a totally new character, having his own motivations and background, as compared to Yu's Fang Gang.

Written by Ni Kuang (author of HK's popular Wesley science fiction series), the new one-armed swordsman is now Lei Li (Chiang), an arrogant young swordsman whose specialty is his "yuan-yang" double swords. A hotheaded, up and coming hero, a diabolical plot was hatched by Lung I Ching, a veteran swordsman in the martial arts world, to keep these young upstarts at bay. With his three-joint-poles, which always seem to defy gravity, he schemes and manages to duel with Lei Li, defeating him and caused Li's arm to be chopped off.

Herein lies the difference between this One Armed Swordsman, and the original Fang Gang. Fang Gang had lost his arm because someone else hacked it off in a fit of rage. Here, Lei Li actually gambled with his arm - the loser of the duel would have to remove it, and retire from "society". While Fang Gang had to learn his martial arts all over again, Lei Li was already skilled with his left hand, because he was originally ambidextrous. Also, Fang Gang's weapon of choice is his father's iconic broken sword, Lei Li doesn't seem to have any preference, and could fight with any.

While there is a token romance with the daughter of a village blacksmith, the introduction of a special sword didn't seem to auger well, and it didn't last - it lacked something special, be it emotions or prowess, and seemed too generic. Anyway, I can't help but to chuckle at Ti Lung's character Feng Chun-Chieh, also a young upcoming swordsman who uses two swords. Chun-Chieh and Lei Li formed a sense of brotherhood when the former protected the latter from bullies, only because the latter doesn't wish to use his martial arts skills anymore. They become fast friends, but from the way their scenes were shot - the numerous hugs, back-slapping, arm holding, eyes longing, you might be expecting one of them to say that if only he knew how to quit the other.

That aside, you'd come to expect the usual ketchup blood laden violence which have become the hallmarks of Chang Cheh's swordfighting movies. Here, it doesn't get any less bloody, and scenes can be quite graphic with the numerous decapitations of limbs, and one really interesting decapitation of half a human body, across the waist.

There are plenty of set action pieces, like that iconic fight on the bridge with many footsoldiers simultaneously. Scenes like these are what Tarantino adopted in his homage Kill Bill double feature, where the hero goes on an unstoppable roaring rampage. Though I must admit the introductory fights don't contribute much to the plot - just there for the sake of showing off what Lei Li can achieve.

All in all, it's great fun, just to watch what our parents were watching as they grew up, and comparing these films to the standards of today. While cheesy, the good old classics stand out for their groundbreaking effort in those days, to bring us what has evolved till now.

Code 3 DVD contains minimal extras, just one trailer, a photo gallery, the original poster, one general paragraph passing off as production notes, a biography and selected filmography of the cast and crew.

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