Sword of Swords
Hong Kong 1968
Directed by Cheng Kang.

Everyone wants to get their hands on the Sword of Swords, except honest and hardworking disciple Jimmy Wang Yu, so naturally it falls to him. He hopes to pass it on to the unfortunately named hero, Wang Puke, but the Shang family villains, led by elder disciple Fang Shi-Shung (Tien Feng), will do anything to get their hands on it, including discrediting him to his master, kidnapping his wife (Li Ching), and murdering everyone he comes into contact with. By the end, Wang Yu switches back into "disabled swordsman" mode, which ever since ONE ARMED SWORDSMAN of the year prior has become something of a niche market.

Jimmy Wang Yu plays his usual angst-ridden teen role, a boy just trying to do good but being misunderstood and abused by his parents, his master, and just about everyone around him. But he persists in doing the honorable thing. He's a bit of a masochist, too, so even after getting spikes in his eyes and a bamboo pole driven through his chest, he wants to keep on fighting.

The fighting itself is quite fierce, choreographed by masters Tang Chia and Lau Kar-leung. Look for a classic moment in the final battle where Wang Yu lops the sword arm off of one assailant, then uses that sword, with arm still attached, to dispatch another assailant. The swordfights are well choreographed, though the wirework is weak and wobbly even for this time period. The action sequences are well considered, and it is satisfying to see the villains employing their henchmen with various strategies, some of them actually working (as opposed to most villainous plans, which are simply and repeatedly foiled).

Jimmy Wang Yu is famous for his role as THE ONE-ARMED SWORDSMAN. It is the iconic Hong Kong swordsman. His counterpart in Japan is ZATOICHI, the blind swordsman. The two disabled action heroes somehow compliment each other, so it is no surprise that eventually a film called ZATOICHI MEETS THE ONE-ARMED SWORDSMAN was created. What was more surprising to me was that here, in SWORD OF SWORDS, we have Jimmy Wang Yu getting blinded, and learning to fight blind, in an obvious homage/rip-off of ZATOICHI. Who knew? Wang Yu can play blind AND one-armed. I look forward to the movie in which the hero is both at the same time. Jimmy does a passable job as a blind swordsman, but his true strength is in showing how nearly overwhelming the grief and sorrow is that he keeps bottles up inside, until at last he explodes with a vengeance.

SWORD OF SWORDS actually becomes something of an exhausing movie by the end, with all the bloodshed and heroic mutilation that occurs. Director Cheng Kang tortures his hero with an enthusiam that not even Chang Cheh can compete against, and keeps torturing him right until the last moments of the film. This is an exciting, violent, energetic, blood-spattered sword fighting film, and fans of the genre will find much to satisfy them here.

Rating: Recommended (Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on July 31, 2005.

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