Thursday, 7 June 2007

The One-Armed Swordsman (1967)

獨臂刀 (1967)

This movie is the 1st among many that earned Chang Cheh many wuxia fans, worldwide.

As a kid, I thought Wang Yu ONLY played one role in his acting career - that of one armed swordsman. Kids think the darndest thing.

The One-Armed Swordsman (1967)This wuxia would give rise to numerous incarnations of the One-Armed Swordsman, and Wang Yu played a number of them. In other words, he created the One-Armed Swordsman/Boxer cult single handedly (if you know what I mean).

This story has too many similarities to the central character of 2nd part of the Condors Trilogy, Return of the Condor Heroes, to be coincidental. The Return of the Condor Heroes was serialised in Ming Pao newspaper between 1959 to 1961. Draw your own conclusion.

This is 1 of Chang Cheh's early work, and right off the bat, he had established his style of wuxia to be brutal, and realistic in the sense that he was very generous with blood (had a very close business relationship with the tomato importer) .

His wuxia flicks were very macho. It's about the tough guys. And so the grisly and lurid scenes reinforce that strength of a rock-hard, indestructible heroism. In fact, the swordplay genre got darker from this point onwards. This is what Chang Cheh called  yang gang (剛), or “steely masculinity” ('Yang' as in Taoist Yin Yang).

One can't really accuse SB for not giving women enough leading roles to play or give them low profiles, or indeed not giving the feminist cause a shot in the arm. In fact, since the founding of SB, especially movies in the 1950s and 60s, many high profiled movies had female leading roles from historical dramas like The Magnificent Concubine, Empress Wu, 14 Amazons, etc, to Huangmeixi like Diau Charn, General Hua Mulan, The Female Prince, The Last Woman of Shang, etc, to nuxia (of course, all of these are in this list, and many many aren't). It's not wrong to say that SB actresses are more well known than its male counterparts, at least before the 1970s.

One could say that SB was getting too 'sissy'. Well, Chang Cheh was going to bring that bias of too much Yin, and too little Yang to the balance. To this end, Chang was going to add more Yang, more manliness, more blood and gore, etc to the screen. No more nice female played male scholars who talk softly, but more topless muscular swordsmen who cuts off people body parts.

It's no secret that Quentin Tarantino is a great admirer of Asian cinema, and is greatly influenced by it till this day. And it's likely that Chang Cheh is 1 of the Asian directors in his list of admired directors (maybe he has such a list in IMDB?). I remembered while watching Reservoir Dogs in an art-house cinema in Sydney Australia, audience left the cinema after the bloody scenes. Western audience wasn't accustomed to such blood dripping delights, especially those going to art-house cinemas. Tarantino obviously like the Asian tomato-riched recipe and brought it to the Hollywood for the West to sample. Clearly, that rich tomato sauce isn't for everyone.

This is a milestone swordplay flick.

This film is included in my IMDB movie list.

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