The Magic Blade

1976 [CHINESE]

Action / Drama

Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 89%
IMDb Rating 7.0 10 812


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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by SamuraiNixon 9 / 10

In lust of power and wealth, hair turns gray.

The prolific Chor Yuen (Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan (1972)) whose work covers many genres was an important director with The Shaw Brothers, but today his oeuvre is known less than Chang Cheh and Lau Kar-leung. The genre that I am most familiar with from his films are the wuxia adaptations from the Gu Long novels including this one which was taken from (the Chinese title of the film is the same as the novel). While his direction was usually fine he had a habit to trying to fit in an overabundance of plot turns and characters that can be typical in adaptations of literature. I felt this was a hindrance to many of his directed films such as Bat Without Wings (1980), but in this movie it worked quite well. So far, and I have many more films that I would like to see of his with most not available on R1, this is easily my favorite movie directed by Yuen.

The Magic Blade is a consummate wuxia adaptation in the jianghu universe (literally means lakes and rivers but has come to mean the fictional world these fighters inhabit). The best wuxia films have hearty heroes, sundry and plentiful villains, diverse powerful weaponry and a complicated plot that I will eschew discussing too much about in this review. This film has all of that. We start with the solemn hero with an absolute code of ethics bemoaning a lost love because of his quest in becoming the number one martial artist. Who better to play this than the stoic Ti Lung as Fu Hung-hsueh? He resembles Client Eastwood in the Sergio Leone's The Man With No Name trilogy in attire while his character is much more chivalrous. Every wuxia warrior must have a sublime and deadly weapon and Fu has his unique titular sword in tow. It is a blade that can swivel like a tonfa and looks like it would work well in mowing down your lawn as well as your enemies.

To be number 1 in the jianghu universe it helps to have spent years dedicated to becoming the best swordsman possible. It also helps to obtain a weapon that is so incredibly powerful that it can be used against those swordsmen who have wasted years learning their art to be number 1. What is a sword compared to the powerful Peacock Dart which can kill everything in range except your own fighters? How the device knows that I am not sure but I liked it much more than the spider weapon in another Chor Yuen film The Web of Death (1976). It does have another issue where it can only be used a few times, but we will ignore that as well. The Peacock Dart has been safely hidden away for many years at Peacock Mansion but a rising antagonist the mysterious Master Yu wants to obtain this magnificent weapon. Fu is entrusted with this weapon as it is no longer safe at the Peacock Mansion, but that now makes him an even bigger target than before. Will Fu survive the onslaught to finally face Master Yu (whoever he/she is)?

There is so much to like in this film. Tang Chia's (Shaolin Intruders (1983)) and Wong Pau-gei's fight choreography is excellent. While each fight tends to be short (Dr. Craig D. Reid notes that there are 22 fights for a total of 14 minutes and 8 seconds of action in his fun compendium The Ultimate Guide to Martial Arts Movies of the 1970s) the variety of weapons and situations employed are awesome. One of my favorite fight scenes is the human Chinese chess game where Fu gets caught up in the schemes of mini-mastermind Ku Wu-chi. The characters, especially the bad guys, are diverse, plentiful and quite memorable. My favorite is Devil's Grandma (Teresa Ha Ping who has been in at least 243 films) a cackling elder, who has a penchant for human pork buns, can do complex martial arts and would probably poison her son. But there are many other characters from bad guys who would rather play chess, an effeminate swordsman, a sympathetic Lo Lieh character (or is he) and countless others who will be introduced and then dispatched with quick efficiency by the hero (for example: here's a bad guy who gets a Chinese title on the screen, you think he must figure prominent in the story, wait now he is dead, never mind). The story while somewhat complicated but not overly complex like Chor Yuen's The Duel of the Century (1981) is full of plot turns and interesting scenarios with my favorite being the town of the dead (Yuen would repeat this scene in Bat Without Wings).

I easily recommend this to fans of wuxia. I am not sure how well others take to this because there is a fantasy element to these films that some people have trouble connecting to (not sure why when there are so many sci-fi and comic book hero films that skew reality) and the plot is one you do have to pay attention to and a second viewing does help. But this is a brilliant and fun film. The cinematography by Wong Chit is beautiful (he had already been working 20 years), the sets are ethereal and beautifully crafted and the fights, scenes, characters mentioned earlier help form one of my favorite Shaw Brother's films. Now taste my thunder bullets.

The movie has a sequel named Pursuit of Vengeance (1977: Chor Yuen).

Reviewed by Scarecrow-88 8 / 10

The Magic Blade

Fu Hung-hsueh(Lung Ti) is a master swordsman who was once enamored with wealth and power, these lusts a major reason behind his training. In a search for his lover, Fu has made an adversary in another talented swordsman named Yen Nan-fei(Lieh Lo). Not allowing anyone else to kill Yen is Fu's goal since in his mind he is the one who will fulfill this task, but before this can happen, they will have to work together as a collaborative team in order to combat another foe, Mr. Yu(Ching Tang), a powerful warlord with an endless supply of ronin at his disposal. Mr Yu desires a deadly weapon called the "Peacock Dart" whose "explosive" feathers are a dangerous threat to anyone within 50 yards, with the power to wipe out anyone in the vicinity of where it lands. Mr Yu will send out five deadly assassins to accompany his innumerable host of swordsmen as a means to eliminate the Fu and Yen, but this mission will not be easy. Along with Fu and Yen is Miss Chiu(Li Ching), the daughter of the old protector of the Peacock Dart, which rested for sometime in the Peacock Mansion. Fu will gain control of the dart when the old protector is killed(through the use of a poisoned sword by a ronin who thought he had seized the dart), offering his apologies for inadvertently bringing death to the Peacock Mansion, blaming himself for a slaughter of the Tsao house. Separated after narrowly escaping a trap set up by another ronin, Fu and Chiu contend with that ronin's men while Yen heads on horseback to a familiar place called Tu Village. Fu is told by another assassin that Yen is dead, and is almost upended when his cut wound, being tended to by Chiu, becomes "infected" by a witch's curse and almost killed. When Chiu is kidnapped and held by Mr. Yu as ransom for the Dart, can our hero ever rescue her and make it out alive?

One thing's for certain, if you are a fan of swordplay and acrobatic fighters, appreciate the poetry of action and martial arts, then "The Magic Blade" will satisfy you I believe. Yes, the plot is bonkers and as a fantasy, Fu(among other fighters)are capable of extraordinary feats, able to accomplish amazing acts beyond the realm of possibility(such as leaping from the ground and immediately landing on the rooftops of buildings, fending off armies of men by yourself with ease). Lung Ti is the model of these kinds of movies, a strong, silent, clever, intense, smart warrior and, for someone who kills for a living, he's quite humane. The movie shows just how humane Fu is when he arrives in a desolate city and encounters a desperate, starving woman promising to provide sex for bowls of noodles. There are plenty of action set pieces to salivate over including the knockout "human chessboard" sequence, the battles at Tu Village, Tien Lung Temple, Tien Wai Mansion where Mr. Yu resides(along with Tien Wai Village), and Peacock Mansion. Of course, the movie is entertaining for it's colorful villains(including a grotesque character named "Devil Grandma" who practices witchcraft and cooks human meat!), ridiculous scenarios involving Fu's incredible abilities to resolve nearly impossible situations where he must stay two steps ahead of his enemies, wire-fu, bloody sword fights, and exhilarating uses of those typically wonderful Shaw Brothers sets. Other subplots include Fu's discovering the location of his lost lover, a betrayal unearthed, a secret defense against the sought after weapon of the movie, and the ultimate showdown between Fu and Yu. Also, Fu and Yen attend to some unfinished business. A show-stopping highlight involves Fu's splitting apart a foe using a mirror to protect herself and how he escapes the entrapment of a scarf and chain. Man, speaking of the scarf, there's some amazing work on display regarding Fu's battles with the villain who uses it to handicap him. Also a highlight, the "burning of the incense" sequence regarding a "sinus attack", involving a series of punches which are used to paralyze a victim, and how Fu, seemingly done for, manages to survive, is a doozy.

Reviewed by ChungMo 8 / 10

Well made fantastic Kung Fu story

Moody, well-lit kung fu saga as two mortal enemies are pursued by the legions of killers hired by the mysterious Mr. Yu. I saw this on television a long time ago and was not impressed. The new release, subtitled, is a joy to watch. The whole production is very unrealistic but that is not a distraction. We are in a fantasy world where swords can cut branches off of trees from a distance just by being spun in place really fast. The film is very unlike the usual Shaw Bros. films everyone is familiar with except during the fight scenes which are up to the Shaw Bros. high standards.

Recommended. It's a change of pace from your typical kung-fu film. Just remember, don't eat anything Devil Granny serves you.

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