(aka 'Dubei dao' or 'The One-Armed Swordsman')
Hong Kong 1967
One-Armed Swordsman is a prime choice for The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s "Heroic Grace: The Chinese Martial Arts Film" series. The movie is one of the essential classics of Hong Kong cinema, and its director Chang Cheh (Super Ninjas, Five Deadly Venoms) lorded over Chinese martial arts movies in the 60s and 70s. At the time, his films were only matched in acclaim by those of King Hu (Come Drink with Me, A Touch of Zen) and in popularity by those of Bruce Lee (Return of the Dragon, Enter the Dragon).
One-Armed Swordsman opens in dramatic fashion with an assault on a martial arts school and after that, it never lets the viewer go. The kindly Qi Ru-Feng runs the school under attack, but he is saved by his student, Fang Cheng, at the cost of Fang’s own life. To repay his debt, Qi raises Fang’s orphaned son, Fang Gang (Jimmy Wang Yu in the role that made his career) and trains him into a masterful disciple. Qi’s spoiled and flirtatious daughter, Pei (Chiao Chiao), taunts Fang because he will not play her games, and in a half-accident, half-intentional incident, Pei slices off Fang’s right arm. Bleeding profusely, Fang plummets off a bridge, and Master Qi, believing Fang has drowned, laments his death. But Fang actually fell into the boat of Hsiao Man, a farm girl who herself was orphaned long ago. She restores Fang to health while falling in love with him. Seeing martial arts as responsible for the death of her father, she loathes that world, but because Fang is so dispirited at being a cripple, she gives him her father’s martial arts manual which just happens to emphasize left-handed techniques (all the more odd since left-handedness in Chinese culture is seen as highly undesirable).
Theatrical Release: July 26th, 1967
DVD Review: Weinstein Company - Region 1 - NTSC
|DVD Box Cover||
CLICK to order from:
|Distribution||Weinstein Company - Region 1 - NTSC|
Average Bitrate: 5.44 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s
NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.
|Audio||Mandarin (Dolby Digital 2.0), DUB: English (Dolby Digital 2.0)|
|Subtitles||English, Spanish, English (Hoh) None|
• Feature commentary with David Chute and film critic Andy Klein
I really appreciate the Weinstein Company for giving these Shaw Brothers releases the digital attention they deserve in region 1. Add to that they are stacked with supplements and selling at a very reasonable price. This is another great example of the type of engaging genre film that gave this unique cinema such a devout niche following. This is a VERY enjoyable little film - quintessential in terms of the Shaw's output of the late 60's - early 70's.
The image quality is very good - possibly a notch below The 36th Chamber of Shaolin. Judging by the logo used in the opening - the source is Celestial Films and the 2.35:1 Shawscope looks genuinely impressive - anamorphic and progressive. I have no viable complaints at all with the image. Although made in Hong Kong the original audio is Mandarin (not Cantonese) and it is presented in stereo - very clear and consistent.
Off the mark is a feature commentary with David Chute and film critic Andy Klein. High marks - both impart interesting information in a fairly free-and-easy manner. They certainly know there stuff! There is also a subtitled Interview with Jimmy Wang Yu who plays the lead, Fang gang, in the film. It is a lot of glad-handing as is the 20 minute featurette: The Master Chang Cheh (also subtitled) which praises the director for his strong contribution to the genre. There is also an interview with Andy Klein and David Chute (about 8 minutes worth) where they fill in some further information not fully covered in the commentary. There is also a bit of filler i.e. Stills Gallery, Trailer Gallery and Commentator Bios.
Films like "The One-Armed Swordsman" are partly responsible for the vast following of martial arts genre films and much it is blossoming through the 1970's. It spawned a few sequels - One-Armed Swordsman Returns and similarly themed One Armed Boxer. I am surely preaching to the converted in most cases but for those uninitiated I can whole-heartedly recommend this as a great choice for your first Shaw Bros. experience. It has an appeal all its own and the DVD has great value for the price!
Recommended Reading in Chinese/Hong Kong/Taiwanese Cinema (CLICK COVERS or TITLES for more information)
Memoirs from the
Beijing Film Academy
by Zhen Ni, Chris Berry, Ni Zhen
Chinese Films in Focus: 25
by Chris Berry
China into Film: Frames of
Reference in Contemporary Chinese Cinema
by Jerome Silbergeld
New Chinese Cinemas
by Nick Browne
Once Upon a Time in China
: A Guide to Hong Kong, Taiwanese, and Mainland
by Jeff Yang
Chinese Film Theory
by George S. Semsel
Women Through the Lens:
Gender and Nation in a Century of Chinese Cinema
by Shuqin Cui