Sunday, 13 November 2016

Return of the One-Armed Swordsman

Title: Return of the One-Armed Swordsman
Director: Chang Cheh
Released: 1969
Starring: Jimmy Wang Yu, Lisa Chiao Chiao, Chung Wa, Cheng Lui, Hoh Ban, Tien Feng, Ku Feng, Tung Li, Tong Gai, Lau Kar-wing, Lau Kar-leung, Yuen Cheung-Yan, Ti Lung, Wang Kuang-yu, Wu Ma, Fong Yau

Plot: Following on from the events of the first film Fang Gang (Wang Yu) the One Armed Swordsman has been living in peace with his wife, happily carving out a life for himself as a farmer. However its a short lived peace when the Eight Sword Kings a band of tyrannical sword masters arrive with plans to dominate the rival schools. Now recruited by the students of the local schools whose teachers have all been captured by the Eight Sword Kings, he must come out of retirement to stop them.

Review: Reuniting the original director and star of the Shaw Bros classic for this direct sequel to the original film which manages the rare accolade of being better than the original which spent most of its run time having Fang Gang trying to deal with losing his sword hand before mastering his left handed fighting style and ultimately defeating the long-armed devil.

With the setup handled by the first film director Chang Cheh wastes little time in throwing the audience into the action as we are quickly introduced to the members of the Eight Sword Kings who all come with their own unique weapon reflective of their name such as “Mighty Blade” who welds a giant to handed sword and “Thousand Blade” who is not only the only female member of the group but also welds numerous throwing knifes which she hides in the sleeves of her robe. The real strength of the villains of this film though is just how cunning they are with their planning, as they start by holding a tournament to capture and kill off the top fighters of the surrounding schools and essentially leaving them exposed. To further rub salt in the wounds of their enemies they demand that the students cut off their sword arms or risk their teachers being killed.

Of course despite all this happening Fang Gang is initially reluctant to pick up his sword again as he is content living a life of peace, only for the students to eventually convince him to take on the Sword Kings who soon come looking for him regardless as they dispatch the black and white swordsmen to take him out. From here though it seems that Sword Kings unleash a constant wave of henchmen at Fang Gang and the students as they make their way to the fort which the Sword Kings have captured for their base of operations as here Chang Cheh ramps up the energy of the film so that it feels that a fight scene is never far from happening at any given point in the film.

This increase in action and pacing really helps the film, especially when one of my main criticisms of the original film was just how plodding it felt throughout, which certainly isn’t an issue here, more so when the villains all have their own unique fight style making you wonder how Fang Gang will beat each one. At the same time many of these battles with the Sword Kings are mass brawls with numerous combatants fighting at the same time which somehow manages to still look clean without key characters being lost in the fray. For those who like their Kung fu bloody this film certainly has plenty to offer with the violence quota being cranked up from the first film and the heroes all dressing for some reason in white robes the violence is only accentuated where possible throughout the film and while you might think that you’d hot a point where seeing countless combatants being reduced to bloody heaps it surprisingly never comes.

While perhaps this might be far from the most subtle entry in the Shaw Bros. Catalogue its so much fun and packed with Chang Cheh’s usual style and energy that your hardly going to complain especially when it’s this much fun.

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