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The Spirit of the Sword

Hong Kong 1982
produced by
Shaw Brothers
directed by Chu Yuan (= Chor Yuen)
starring Liu Yung (= Lau Wing), Yueh Hua, Lo Lieh, Wang Jung, Cecilia Wong Hang-Sau (= Huang Hsing-Hsiu), Goo Goon-Chung, Sun Chien
screenplay by Sang Yu, based on a story by Ku Lung

Chu Yuan's Ku Lung-adaptations

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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One thing up front: This film does take place in Ku Lung's dilligently created martial arts world, a world with a logic and laws (including laws of nature) often quite different from the real world. Some things will not make too much sense in my writing, but they do make sense in the film ...

 

Some time long ago: The five big clans - the Gold River Clan, the Green Wood Clan, the Spirit Fire Clan, the White Water Clan and the Black Earth Clan are fighting for supremacy in the martial arts world, which was ruled for the past 5 years by the Purple Robe Duke (Yueh Hua) of the White Water Clan. But at his birthday party, the Duke is poisoned by the mysterious Samurai Killer, but since he has given him a very slow poison, the Duke decides to hide from his enemies in a diving bell and send his brother Baoyu (Liu Yung) out to get him the antidote from the Green Wood Clan, residing at the elusive Huanha Palace.

Baoyu is accompanied by the mysterious Little Princess (Cecilia Wong Hang-Sau), whom he has fallen in love with at first sight, but their path is perilous, since the Enemies of the White Water Clan want to find out where the Purple Robe Duke is hiding at any cost, while Baoyu doesn't even know who the enemies are or where his brother is hiding. Soon enough, the enemies have poisoned Little Princess and lure both of them off to Heaven Scent Forest for the antidote ... where Baoyu is attacked and drugged with a truth serum - but since he won't (can't) talk, he and Little Princess are eventually released.

On the path to Huanha Palace, Baoyu and Little Princess are sidetracked more often, and upon reaching the Palace, Baoyu even has to fight the Green Wood Clan's master Leng Bingru (Goo Goong-chung), because Leng Bingru makes the White Water Clan responsible for his sister's death, who was once married to the Purple Robe Duke. But ultimately, Leng Bingru doesn't only give Baoyu the sacred water tht would cure his brother but also teaches him a few techniques to fight villains like the Samurai Killer.

Only upon their journey home is Baoyu again lured to the Heaven Scent Forest, where he is again drugged, and he learns that Little Princess and her father, the Lord of the Black Earth Clan and an old drunkard, are in the employ of the enemies of the White Water Clan, who turn out to be the Gold River Clan and the Spirit Fire Clan, who figure without the sacred water, Black Robe Duke would be done for and their supremacy over the martial arts world would be undisputed.

At the next gathering of the leaders of the martial arts world, the leaders of these two clans, the Gold River Queen and the Fire Demon God, claim supremacy, to find to their greatest surprise that Purple Robe Duke is still alive (since meditating in the diving bell for days has significantly prolongued his life) and even puts up a fight ...

In the meantime, the old drunkard from the Black Earth Clan and the Little Princess have found their conscience and set Baoyu free while even the Leng Bingru of the Green Wood Clan, who has sworn to turn his back on the martial arts world, has decided to intervene on the side of right and justice ... and need I say, after a giant martial arts battle that also involved some magic tricks (including flamethrowing and instant-freezing), evil is defeated and good prevails.

 

As pretty much all of Chu Yuan's Ku Lung adaptations, this is a great piece of otherworldly martial arts cinema, made in a time before unusual storylines, weird  gadgets and over-the-top effects became genre staple. Also, the film (like most of the series) pays remarkably little heed to genre conventions, instead tells an outrageous tale that incorporates elements of the mystery-, the espionage- and the adventure genre with the greatest of ease. That Chu Yuan's direction is as usual flawless and he once again manages to use the artificial studio sets to the film's advantage of course doesn't hurt either.

Simply put, watch it, it will leave your mouth agape.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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