Title: One-Armed SwordsmanDirector: Chang Cheh
Starring: Jimmy Wang, Lisa Chiao Chiao, Tien Feng, Angela Pan, Yeung Chi-hing, Tang Ti, Fan Mei-sheng, Wong Sai-git, Cheng Pooi-saan
Plot: Fang Kang (Jimmy Wang) a student at the Chi school of Golden Sword Kung Fu finds himself being driven away by a group of his fellow students in a confrontation that also cost him his arm. Developing a one armed style of swordplay he is soon called out of exile when he learns of a plot by the bandit Long Armed Devil (Yeung Chi-hing) to kill his master Qi Ru Feng (Tien Feng)
Review: Another legendry Chang Cheh film this first “One-Armed Swordsman” movie would go on to inspire several sequels, a cross over with Zatochi while also being remade by Tsui Hark as “The Blade” in 1995. The film is equally noteworthy for being the first in a new breed of Wuxia movies which saw more of a focus on violent and frequently bloody swordplay something which this film more than delivers on. This film was also the first film to make over one million at the Hong Kong Box office.
From the start its clear that things aren’t exactly going well for Fang Kang seeing how his fellow student resent him for his poor background with his master having token him on as a student to repay Fang Kang’s father for sacrificing himself to save him during the opening attack by the bandit Long Armed Devil and his followers. Fang Kang however is as honourable as his father and makes plans to leave the school to avoid any potential trouble to his master despite the fact that Qi Ru Feng seeming has no problem with having his as a student.
For some unknown reason Fang’s fellow student are not quite content with driving him out of the school as he runs into a trio of them while walking away from the school lead by his master’s daughter Pei Er (Angela Pan) who fail in their attempts to attack him but not before Pei Er cuts his arm off in a fit of rage. What is surprising about him losing his arm is that it’s not to the villain he will inevitably have to face in the finale but more of an accident seeing how the crucial blow is struck afer he refuses to first Pei Er.
Taken in by local peasant girl Xiao Man (Lisa Chiao Chiao) whose boat he falls into while staggering away from the fight which just cost him his arm and soon she will also proves to be the source of his redemption as he is forced into exile. Interestingly despite having every reason to set out on a quest for revenge against the student who cost him his arm Fang Kang instead chooses to focus on living a life of peace as he learns how to fish with one arm, while also with the help of a half burned manual develops a one armed swordfighting style to get him out his spiral of depression as he views himself as being a “useless cripple” which he no longer feels with this new and surprisingly stronger style while also making plans with Xiao Man to become a farmer.
Of course things don’t go to plan as Fang Kang finds himself having to rescue Pei Er from the bandits when they kidnap her, while he is ultimately set on course to return to his former school and save his master from Long Armed Devil. The twist here being that Long Armed Devil and his men have developed a sword which has a “Sword Lock” which cannot be beaten by the Golden Sword Kung Fu style. Of course Fang Kang now a left handed swordsman proves to be the one man who can defeat Long Armed Devil and his followers.
Chang Cheh once again really gives us something different with the fight scenes are these are far from frenzied hack em up’s with each fight scene being played like a violent game of chess with each competitor looking for their spots and the result gives them a much more intense feeling to them while looking stunning to watch, even if they don’t contain any of the artistic flair of a film like “Hero” while Cheh makes even the less skilled members of the cast somehow look good here.
While the plot could easily have turned this film into a simple tale of revenge, the journey which Fang Kang goes through here is really where the interesting aspects of the film lye. True the film does sag slightly in the middle and perhaps as a result it could have benefited from some trimming off the run time. Still this film’s status amongst the classics of the Shaw Bros. catalogue is well deserved and making it one certainly worth checking out.