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4.4 out of 5 stars
The One-Armed Swordsman
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on October 15, 2001
Format: VHS Tape
Jimmy Wang Yu starred in many Shaw Bros. swordplay films in the 1960s, but it was THE ONE-ARMED SWORDSMAN (1967), directed by the prolific Chang Cheh, that put him on the map as the leading action star of Hong Kong cinema at the time and shifted the direction of HK sword films to a harder-edged, bloodier style with a greater emphasis on martial arts. It was the first film of its type to stress the training aspect of swordplay and gives the hero a half-burned manual which teaches him left-hand sword techniques after his right arm had been chopped off in a jealous pique by his master's beautiful but impetuous daughter. Having gone into hiding with a loyal farm girl (whose father had been a swordsman and was the original owner of the manual), Wang Yu goes back into action, after the requisite training period, to aid his former master when his school comes under attack from evil swordsmen led by Long-Armed Devil and Smiling Face.
The villains have a lethal device on their swords which locks on to the sword of their opponent and enables them to deliver the killing blow with a dagger held in their right hands as they fight. Only Wang Yu's broken sword (left to him by his dead father, who was killed when he was a boy) can counteract the effects of the sword-lock.
Wang Yu had the proper dark and brooding quality for such a role and he is well served by the violent, bleak tone of the film. He returned to the role in one official sequel, the nonstop slaughterfest, THE RETURN OF THE ONE-ARMED SWORDSMAN (1968), and later went to a rival studio to star in ONE-ARMED BOXER (1971). Shaw Bros. countered with THE NEW ONE-ARMED SWORDSMAN (1971), starring David Chiang in the title role, which had less intensity and more spectacle.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on July 2, 2007
Format: DVD
The Weinstein Company has to be commended for finally releasing "The One-Armed Swordsman" completely restored on DVD. The video and audio restoration that went into this release is truly amazing. This 1967 Martial Arts Classic is presented in it's 2.35:1 Widescreen format and is enhanced for 16x9 televisions. This is without a doubt the best version of "The One-Armed Swordsman" I've ever seen. The video transfer is just spectacular and the colors are sharp and vibrant. The sound is clean and crisp albeit in mono. The sound options include original Mandarin or English dubbed version and choice of Subtitles.

The special features I found most interesting were the Interview with Jimmy Wang Yu and the Stills Gallery and Trailer Gallery. Sadly the commentary of Quentin Tarantino listed on the rear cover under the special features section of the DVD is missing.

Martial Arts fans will be amazed by the incredible quality of this release and the non-stop blood filled action. The One-Armed Swordsman is filled with magnificent swordplay, incredible Kung Fu and it's a definite must see for any fan of the Kung Fu genre. Outstanding Martial Arts Movie, Highly Recommend !!

DVD Bonus Features:
* Feature commentary by film scholars David Chute and Andy Klein
* Interview with Star Jimmy Wang Yu
* Interview with film scholars David Chute and Andy Klein
* The Master: Chang Cheh
* Stills gallery
* Trailer gallery
* Commentator biographies
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on June 4, 1999
Format: VHS Tape
A long time ago in Asia before Bruce Lee, there was another superstar. His name was Wang Yu. The movie that started all the other martial arts movies was this one, the one armed swordsman. I saw it when it first hit the theaters in Asia in the year 1967. The movie griped me to my seat and I could never forget it. Even after 32 years it feels like I just saw it yesterday. This movie is a collectors item, and you'll be amazed at the incredible sword play. Its also very bloody but in an artistic way. The critics missed this one as one of the all time greatest martial arts movies. But what do they know, they have a short memory. If you wants to see how martial arts movies started in Asia, they were called Mandarin movies, this was the best of them all.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on May 28, 2010
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
Though the chambara (Japanese swordplay film) influence on Chang Cheh was already seen in his previous film The Magnificent Trio (1966), a remake of Hideo Gosha's Three Outlaw Samurai (1964) (and quite possibly the earlier Tiger Boy (1966): however this film is not available anywhere on DVD so it is hard to comment on it), it would be The One-Armed Swordsman that would help define Cheh as an auteur with his own blend of Japanese action aesthetics, American rebellious characters and Chinese wuxia heroes. This film would not only be the first film to break the 1 million HK dollars barrier 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 Come Drink With Me helped push in a new era of Mandarin language movies as well as push out the indigenous language Cantonese cinema for several years. But it would be the brutal style of Chang that would dominate the regional efforts and not the Peking Opera influenced King Hu (it also did not help Hu that he was a much slower at making films than Chang). This movie would also be the first in the subgenre of "one-armed" films that stereotyped the career of the star of this movie 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. Fang is an orphan whose father had perished saving the life of Qi Ru-feng (Tien Feng: King Boxer (1972)). Qi shows his gratefulness by taking on Fang as a student. Fang also obtains the broken sword that was used by his father, but it could not possibly be of any use. He quickly becomes an adept student that because of his success and austereness has earned the ire of not only a couple of rich students, but also with Qi Pei-er (Pan Ying-zi: The Magnificent Trio), the daughter of the sifu, when he rebukes her advances. It is usually a bad idea to turn down your teacher's daughter and in this film it is no exception.

Fang's skill level is so advanced that he toys with the other students and Pei-er when they intend on teaching him a lesson. He completely outclasses them with his masculine masterful display of martial arts. However, since he is only toying with them he lets his guard down not expecting that the petulant daughter will exact her revenge by cutting off his right arm. It is not difficult to see this as a castration allegory for not only embarrassing her in the fight, but also not returning her affections.

Blooded and broken, Fang stumbles off leaving a crimson trail (while not bloody by later Shaw Brothers standards, this was quite gory for its time) until he gets found and saved by orphan Xiao Man (Lisa Chiao Chiao: The Assassin (1967)) who hates the world of martial arts because it lead to the death of her father. Yet when Fang wakes from his shock induced slumber, later gets beat up by a couple of ruffians, falls into a deep doleful state she takes pity on him and gives him her father's manual of martial arts. While part of the manual is missing it luckily has the "left-arm" portions. A few days later he is an accomplished one-armed fighter. Obviously it is unrealistic that in a short time he could lose an arm and then become an accomplished fighter (and one scene of him displaying his power of chi should probably have been trimmed as it really does not seem to fit in with the rest of the film) this treatment is probably copasetic with the Jin Yong novel The Return of the Condor Heroes (1959) that the movie is influenced by.

Meanwhile Qi Ru-feng has decided that he is going to retire from the martial arts world at the age of 55. With all of his success as a swordsman he has created many enemies. Two brothers Smiling Tiger Cheng Tian Shou (Tang Ti) and Long-Armed Devil (called this because of his whip played effectively by the ubiquitous Yeung Chi-hing) have devised a way to destroy him and it involves a weapon that can render Qi's Dao sword that his entire school uses useless. The lesson behind this is to always teach your students to be proficient in more than one weapon and do not always cling to one approach to fighting. With Qi's best student missing (in more ways than one), and his other disciples being removed from this planet, his reign as head of the martial arts world seems to be at an end.

Wang Yu gives a good performance as the stoic brooding loner who is a combination of a wuxia hero and James Dean. He is not the most adept martial artist though. His Narcissist nature angered many actors and gave way to mediocre performances in the 1970s and beyond. Because of this and his later exploits in Taiwanese triads his reputation has suffered quite a bit among Hong Kong cinema fans. For the most part I tend to agree with the critics and fanboys on this except for his most famous One-Armed roles he seemed born to play (even if he does have two arms).

While the influences of such Japanese films as the Zatoichi series (these were shown in Hong Kong; later there would even be a Zatoichi Meets the One Armed Swordsman (1971)) are strong on this movie, it still has uniqueness to it that interests me. This would be a highly influential film to the Hong Kong audience not only on technical issues such as it is one of the earliest uses (and overuses) of hand-held camera in HK, but in thematic elements as well. It is enjoyable to see the whole martial art world questioned and Fang's subjugation to his principles are reminiscent of a Randolph Scott character in a Budd Boetticher western. This movie would spawn several sequels, remakes and retreads and certainly up the ante for use of blood packets, missing limbs and stomach slashes. While the action scenes might feel dated and might not be plentiful enough for some viewers, I still think it is one of the better Hong Kong films of the 1960s. It certainly is one of the most important.

I really enjoyed the extras on this release. The commentary by David Chute and Andy Klein is good, with David being the more knowledgeable of the two, with discussion on everything from biographies, homoerotic subtext and the meaning of the dao versus jian swords. I was happy to see Dragon Dynasty employ David Chute for this. However, the back cover has one little gaffe where it states Quentin Tarantino is on the commentary, which he is not. This has rightfully angered many reviewers. I just noticed another mistake, they have Chang Cheh spelled Chang Cheuh on the credits on the back cover. The Master Chang Cheh (17:30) is a good documentary, but this is the same documentary that is on Ten Tigers of Kwangtung (R1 Tokyo Shock) except it has a different translation (it seems better on that one). The other highpoint is the Interview with star Jimmy Wang Yu (10:55). I did wish that was longer though. A nice little bonus is that fact that the original Shaw Brothers trailer is on here as well as several other original trailers. Too many Shaw Brothers releases have eschewed the original trailer for the new Celestial trailer (that is on here too) which just never feels right to me. In addition there are a Stills Gallery, an Interview with film critic/scholars David Chute & Andy Klein (8:08) and Commentator Biographies.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on September 18, 2009
Format: DVD
C'mon this guy(Jimmy Wang Yu)Has 1 F-ing arm & is the best swordsman(in this movie)
WHAT ABOUT THAT IS NOT TIGHT!???Im not going to lie the movie starts off slow,but once
Jimmy Wang Yu discovers a sword manual,with the right handed side deteriorated, The movie
becomes a master peice!!!it includes some of the best fight scenes seen in a Kungfu flick,A
kool Enemy,New weapons,Dope storyline,& ofcourse Top Notch DvD quality(ITS DRAGON DYNASTY!)
A must Have Plus Jimmy Wang Yu never disapoints
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on June 14, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
It's a greatest film for martial arts fan. And first film of cripple but brave and skilled. This film is remaked 90's of which title is "Blade" but there's no tension and no comparison between good and evil. the continuation film "Return of one armed swordsman" is more skilled and cruel. But I can't seek it. I hope that I'll join it someday through Amazon.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 3, 2009
Format: DVD
I just watched the Dragon Dynasty DVD release of this movie that I'd last seen over 40 years ago as an impressionable pre-teen in Hong Kong. The restoration is quite stunning. The colors are vibrant and the print is mostly scratch-free. You also get to appreciate how director Chang Cheh in the late 60s/early 70s was a cut-above-the-rest storyteller with his camera placement and some fluid tracking shots, thereby transcending a lot of the hackneyed scripting, stilted acting and the studio-bound sets.
However, I also took exception to the fact that the DVD did not contain commentary by Quentin Tarantino as promised by the box notes, and the 2 "film students" who did provide commentary left a lot to be desired. Surely Tarantino would have remarked upon the fact that the most noticeable parts of the musical score (including the entire end title scene) was lifted lock, stock and barrel from the 1966 Ralph Nelson western DUEL AT DIABLO. (Composer Neal Hefti's estate should sue!)
And at another dramatic moment, a very familiar John Barry suspense motif from the Connery Bond films makes a 3-second appearance.
It's really pathetic that these "film scholars" completely missed these cultural touchstones that make Hong Kong movies from this era such crazy-quilt pleasures.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 2010
Format: DVD
We reviewed One Armed Swordsman for our podcast Flying DVDs Of Death. While both my co-host Jeff and I enjoyed this movie, we did disagree a bit on just how good it is. Jeff maintains that this is a classic martial arts movie with great fights, interesting characters and a real story. While I agree, I feel that the movie had a few pacing and storyline issues (albeit minor ones) and that Wang Yu is essentially doing an impersonation of Clint Eastwood's spaghetti western characters. This also may be the first of the "special weapon" films featuring odd devices created for the movies.

All in all, though, it is a worthy addition to any kung fu or action movie collection. The Dragon Dynasty edition is a beautiful version of the film, even if it is not HD, and features excellent English dubbing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 27, 2010
Format: DVD
I love this movie! This is the movie that turned me into a fan of martial arts movies years ago! Jimmy Wang Yu gives a bravura performance; he's so awesome you can't take your eyes off of him! The dude is so bad! (and I mean that in a good way!) This film is a classic and should be in everyone's martial arts collections! Do yourself a favor, go "old skool" and enjoy this wonderful classic.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 18, 2012
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
It came in a CD case not the original case. Movie showed great, presentation was not good. Overall My husband love this movie and had it on video cassette, i surprised him with the DVD. The movie arrived right on schedule, even arrived earlier than expected.
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