The One-Armed Swordsman

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Posted In: Action Movies, All Movies, Kung Fu Movie Reviews, Kung Fu Movies, Martial Arts Movies, Shaolin Kung Fu, Shaw Brothers
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Produced by the Shaw Brothers, The One-Armed Swordsman would help define Chang Cheh as a premier director with his own eclectic blend of Japanese-style action, western rebelliousness and Chinese wuxia heroes. This film would not only be the first film to break the 1 million dollar box office barrier in Hong Kong, but it would also be a watershed moment for the area’s cinema. The popularity of this film as well as King Hu’s hit the year before with “Come Drink With Me” christened a new era of Hong Kong martial arts films.

kung fu movies - one armed swordsmanBut it would be the brutal style of Chang Cheh that would come to dominate the regional efforts and not the Peking Opera influenced King Hu, despite the fact that King Hu’s films such as “Touch of Zen” and “Dragon Inn” would live on to be considered two of the best Hong Kong films of all time.

Chang Cheh’s classic Kung Fu movie would also be the first in the sub-genre of “one-armed” films that stereotyped the career of star Jimmy Wang Yu. Wang Yu had already acted in a couple of Chang Cheh films, but it is his performance here as Fang Gang that would make him a star in Hong Kong and beyond. Wang Yu gives a great performance as the stoic brooding loner who is a combination of a wuxia hero and James Dean.

The Plot: An evil gang attacks the Chi school of Golden Sword Kung Fu. One student sacrifices his life to save his teacher and his school, his dying wish is that his son be taken in as a student. Young Fang Kang grows up in the school and treasures his father’s broken sword and the memory of his father’s sacrifice. The other students (including the teacher’s daughter) resent him and try to drive him away. The teacher’s daughter challenges him to a fight and when he refuses she becomes enraged and recklessly chops off his arm! He retreats, broken and bloody, and is found by a young poor girl living alone who nurses him back to health. Meanwhile, the evil gang who originally attacked the Golden Sword school develops a weapon that renders the Golden Sword useless and starts killing off all of the schools students. Fang Kang eventually recovers with the girl’s help but must now face a life with only one arm. Will he be able to recover and live to defend the school as his father did? Or will he perish…?

This Kung Fu classic would spawn several sequels, remakes and retreads and certainly up the ante for use of blood packets, missing limbs, evisceration’s and vivisection’s. Please enjoy this most important Hong Kong film of the 1960s! Thomas DiSanto


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