I Saw A Film!
This is one of those Hong Kong action films that entirely fulfills the style and format of many popular anime works, the editing and storytelling are abrupt and the many characterizations are drop forged. This would be stretched out to be about a dozen episodes in any modern anime series. As a 105 minute film you don’t get much time to reflect on anything before you’re back into the action. The screen, during these sword fights, is full of activity with far more characters than you can keep straight in a single viewing. It’s OK because you know which ones you’re actually supposed to be worried about, a banner is raised for each of the important baddies, and you only need to follow the guy with one arm as your hero.
So what’s so special about this film? Look at what you get! You get eight king swordspersons. You get “Buried Blade” who hides underground springing out on his enemies, you get “Hidden Blade” who seems to fight barehanded but, it’s hard to tell, as his bodyguards create distractions and illusions to hide his next move. You also get “Hooking Blade” who swings a scythe on a chain, “Whirling Blade” and “Wheeling Blade” (at least once referred to as “Winging Blade” in the dub, but then the dubbing voices at one point read the word “Scourge” as “Scrounge”) one of whom, I forget which, wields unique hubcap-like weapons, you also get “Mighty Blade”, “Poison Blade” (sort of self explanatory) and finally “Thousand Blade” the only female of the rotten crew, and she’s not only deadly with her many blades, she’s a devious beauty who seldom has to do much fighting.
The handsome Jimmy Wang Yu plays the stoic handi-capable warrior with the heavy demeanor of a captain of a sinking ship. I’m not saying that the production is sinking, just that the lead is all serious, even his adorable wife can barely crack a smile out of him, and of course, he’s got nothing to do but deal with threats from start to finish. When the baddies demand that the opposing swordsmen cut off their arms so that they can get their kidnapped elders returned to them, well, you know that that’s a perfect set up for our one-armed hero to use his singular arm to the best advantage. I sort of wished this film was more like a Jodorowski adventure in which our one-armed hero had to seek out the bizarre masters to defeat them.
Having just watched Human Lanterns I’m a bit disappointed in some of the sets. A bamboo forest set ends up looking pretty wonky, especially when all the canes seem to just drop on our enemies. And a particular forest path where the helpfully black-clad baddies drop out of trees seems a spot best avoided for its popularity with fighters. But these complaints are really no big deal, we’re here to watch the hero fight the mysteriously motivated king swordspeople and that’s what we get, though there is a lot of side-dueling and melee that has to be waded through before we get to the clashes that make a difference. And as usual, the heroes celebrate too soon, and we find out some family drama before the finale can be achieved.
The hard part of watching many of these older Hong Kong action plays is that subtlety is not a technique they care to employ, and all the acting is very stagy, meaning, it’s very big, expressions are huge, motions are exaggerated. Nothing can be left to interpretation or inference, at least, however, no one sings!
For free on Prime!