Swift Sword
Hong Kong 1980
Directed by Ho Meng-Hua.

An adaptation of Jin Yong's Sword Stained with Royal Blood, crammed into a scant 85 minute running time. Bai Yiping (Ling Yun) is on a mission to kill as many of the Leng family as he can, in revenge for the rape and murder of his sister. He kidnaps Qiuxia (Lily Li), a girl of the clan, to lure her father (Lo Lieh) and the rest of the "cold-blooded five" out to kill them, but her sympathy to his cause makes him renounce his plans for revenge. They fall in love, but her family doesn't forgive so easily, and soon Bai Yiping winds up at the bottom of a gorge and presumed dead.

Of course, it isn't that easy to keep a good swordsman down. Meanwhile the plot leaps forward in complexity because of an old treasure map Bai Yiping happened to have. He hoped to find the gold so that it could be used to support the Chinese people to fight off barbarian invaders. And of course, the cold-blooded five want the gold as well, for their own nefarious purposes. But it isn't until loyal general Xiaotong (Wang Yu), persecuted by the central government unjustly, stumbles onto Bai Yiping's cliff-bottom hideout ten years later that the quest for the gold is on, with Xiaotong forging ahead under the belief that "complete sincerity can conquer anything," while a new member of the Leng clan, young Leng Ningzhi (Esther Niu Niu), disguises as a man and follows along with Xiaotong, in the hopes of stealing the gold for her wicked clan.

There are some good action swordfighting sequences in the film, and the titular Swift Sword is sheathed in an interesting snake-like scabbard and has a cobra head for a hilt. Ling Yun is especially adept in his action scenes with the weapon. Less successful are the five cold-blooded killer's weapons, which are used in combination to produce a sort of deadly Merry-Go-Round effect which for the most part just seems silly. The plot is over-packed with too many plot elements from the novel, requiring long, expository pauses in the action. When the story does commence, it is replete with impossible coincidences and chance encounters. But, trying to square the Martial World with reality is a foolish endeavor, so by the time the flying wheelchair appears, well, you just can't be too surprised.

Rating: Marginally Recommended (Marginally Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on August 29, 2005.

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