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One-Armed Swordsman
Das Goldene Schwert des Königstigers

Hong Kong 1967
produced by
Shaw Brothers
directed by Chang Cheh
starring Jimmy Wang Yu, Chiao Chiao, Pan Yin-tzu, Chen Yen-yen, Wang Chih Ching, Tien Feng, Chen Lei, Chang Pei Shang, Huang Chung Shun, Ku Feng, Hsieh Huan, Wu Kang, Tsai Ng, Hung Liu, Chao Hsiung, Wang Shih Chien, Fan Mei Sheng
written by Chang Cheh, Ni Kuang, music by Wang Foo-Ling

One-Armed Swordsman

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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After his father was killed by the treacherous Long-Armed Tiger in a fight, Fang Gang (Jimmy Wang Yu) was brought up by  Master Ru Feng (Tien feng), an expert in martial arts & swordfighting who trained Fang Gang to be a swordmaster. & Fang Gang always carries the broken sword of his father with him, to remember where he came from ...

However, Ru Feng's daughter Pei-er (Pan Ying-tzu) & his disciples, all spoilt brats, think little about the dead serious Fang Gang & constantly tease him - teasing that eventually leads so far that Pei-er, rather accidently, chops off his right arm. In shock, Fang Gang runs away& she isn't woman enough to go after the man who is probably bleeding to death ...

... fortunately though, Fang Gang falls into the boat of Xiao Wan (Chiao Chiao), a farmgirl who saves his life & nurses him back to health, & she offers him to stay with her, which seems a good idea since the 2 have fallen in love ...

But when 2 disciples of Master Cheng, a local martial artist, try to rape Xiao Wan & he can do little to help her, Fang Gang realizes how useless he is without a right arm. (Xiao Wan by the way was saved by Master Cheng himself, who called his disciples to order.)

Soon after that, Fang Gang trains himself to be a left-handed swordfighter, & need I say it, before long he is quite good ...

Meanwhile Master Ru Feng plans to step down from being Master of the martial arts world on his 55th birthday & announce his successor in a big celebration where all his disciples are to be present ... but someone has heard of that & has hired Master Cheng  to kill off Ru Feng's disciples. Soon several of them die mysterious deaths, & Master Cheng takes Ru Feng's daughter Pei-er prisoner.

When Fang Gang hears of that, he sets out for Master Cheng's & frees her after a bloody fight, even though she has chopped off his arm. For some reason, Pei-er thinks he did it out of love for her, but he only detests her & tells her he only did it out of respect for her father ...

Xiao Wan has overheard part of his conversation with Pei-er & gets jealous, but he promises her there is nothing between him & Pei-er, & to prove it he wants to quit the martial arts world & together with Xiao Wan leave the region & start anew somewhere else.

It's only when Fang Gang & Xiao Wan are already on their way that he learns of a plot to kill Master Ru Feng & his disciples at his 55th birthday celebration ... & he has to break his promise to leave the martial arts world behind, & rush to save Ru Feng, out of undieing loyalty.

It seems, Fang Gang is already too late, since Master Cheng & his disciples have killed most of Ru Feng's disciples, & Cheng's employer - the Long-Armed Tiger himself of course, who has killed Fang Gang's father of course - has defeated Ru Feng in a fight. But all is not lost yet, since Fang Gang almost effortlessly fights down all of Long-Armed Tigers disciples, then takes on Long-Armed Tiger himself ... & ultimately stabs him to death with his fathers broken sword ...

Out of gratitude, Ru Feng offers him to become Master of the martial arts world in his stead, but Fang Gang refuses, ore eager to become a farmer with Xiao Wan, the woman he loves, & leave the martial arts world behind for good ... but for how long, one wonders.

 

Upon its release, One-Armed Swordsman was an enormous success at the box office, as it combined dynamic martial arts direction (as opposed to the static martial arts of most other films of its time), violent fights & a macho storyline  in a way that few other films did back then (but many would do after this one) & it paved the way to stardom for Jimmy Wang Yu.

Seen from today's poitn of view however, the film hasn't stood the test of time too well: Especially the over-emphasis on Jimmy Wang Yu's loyalty towards his master, putting it over his own good without it ever been questioned is ... well, questionable at best & does actually hurt the narration of the movie (as a matter of fact, especially in Chang Cheh's early films the overemphasis on honour, loyalty & responsibility - invariably unquestioned -, is a bit annoying). What remains are a few fine fight scenes, a few hacked off limbs & a one-armed hero - which of course is better than nothing.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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