One Armed Swordsman (Dubei dao) (1967)

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Released 14-Aug-2007

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Martial Arts Audio Commentary-Film Scholars David Chute and Andy Klein
Interviews-Cast-Jimmy Wang Yu
More…-Interview with film scholars David Chute & Andy Klein
Featurette-The Master: Chang Cheh
Gallery-Photo
Trailer-Trailer Gallery
More…-Commentator Biographies
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1967
Running Time 111:22
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Chang Cheh
Studio
Distributor
Shaw Bros
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Jimmy Wang Yu
Chiao Chiao
Huang Chung-hsin
Pan Yin-tze
Tien Feng
Yang Chih-ching
Tang Ti
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI $24.95 Music Wang Foo-ling


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown Chinese Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Spanish
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    In the late 1960s and 1970s the Shaw Brothers studio and director Chang Cheh re-defined the wuxia genre in a suite of films of outstanding inventiveness and quality. The One-Armed Swordsman is one of the earliest and one of the best. The film includes the Chang Cheh staple themes of loyalty, duty, honour and sacrifice with martial arts sequences that still impress after 40 years. Set pieces, such as a fight in a tea house, may later have become as much a cliché as the western bar-room brawl, but here it is fresh and alive. The One-Armed Swordsman was so successful it spawned two direct sequels as well as other films. The One-Armed Swordsman is a classic piece of martial arts cinema from the master Chang Cheh; an influential must see film for anyone interested in martial arts cinema.

    When his servant father is killed protecting Qi Rufeng, the master of a martial arts school, Fang Gang (Jimmy Wang Yu) is raised as one of the master's disciples. However, his lowly status is exploited by other jealous disciples and especially Qi's spoiled daughter Pei-er (Pan Yin-tze). Deciding he must leave the school, Gang is intercepted by Pei-er who, in anger, cuts off his right arm. Stricken and alone, Gang wanders off into the snow and is saved by the humble farm girl Xiaoman (Chaio Chaio) who nurses him back to physical and mental health. She offers him undemanding love, and a simple life away from the destructiveness of the martial arts world. Gang trains to use his left arm, but promises to use his skills only to protect themselves. But the martial arts world will not let Gang go, and when the master's life is threatened by a rival martial arts teacher with a special weapon, Gang must decide between a simple farming life with a woman who loves him or a return to the violence and bloodshed of the martial arts world.

    Chang Cheh directed almost 100 films, and wrote over 70 in a career spanning 40 years. In many of his later films Chang painted on an epic canvass with a cast of thousands and myriad heroes. In films such as The Water Margin (1972), All Men are Brothers (1975) or The Heroic Ones (1970), Chang investigated themes of honour, loyalty, sacrifice and duty on a massive scale. The One-Armed Swordsman is an earlier film which covers the same themes on a more intimate scale and is more accessible, and moving, for this. Here is a flawed hero we can understand, and to whom we can relate. His choice is a real one, and no less moving because there is never really any doubt about the choice he will make.

    At the heart of The One-Armed Swordsman is the performance of Jimmy Wang Yu and he is simply superb as the tortured hero. He is believable in everything he does and although he was originally a swimmer, not a martial artist, he manages to handle his fight sequences pretty well. While the fights in The One-Armed Swordsman may not be up to the standard of later Hong Kong kung fu films, they are inventive and interesting. Sequences that would later become a cliché, such as a fight in a tea house (used still to good effect in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) are well staged and remain fresh. The final confrontation between good and evil, secret weapon and old fashioned blade, brings a resolution to the film that is both satisfying and appropriate. The One-Armed Swordsman was the highest grossing Hong Kong film to that date and was so successful it spawned two direct sequels: The Return of the One-Armed Swordsman (1969) and The New One-Armed Swordsman (1971) as well as related "maimed hero" films such as The One-Armed Boxer (1971), Zatoichi Meets the One-Armed Swordsman (1971) and remakes such as Tsui Hark's The Blade (1995). But The One-Armed Swordsman is the best; a classic, influential piece of martial arts cinema from the master Chang Cheh.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in its original ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced for widescreen TVs.

    This is a good, clean restored print with no obvious blemishes or artefacts. It was filmed almost entirely indoors and is gorgeous to look at. Indeed the primary colours seem so vibrant and so boosted that they give the film a heightened, artificial reality. This means that some sequences, especially those set in the countryside, have a fantasy feel about them. I cannot say whether this is faithful to the original or not. Some colours, especially red, seem to bleed (for example Per-er's dress at 8.10-14.00), but it is not overly distracting and the skin tones are natural.

    While there is some softness in detail, especially where the hand-held camera pans, the clarity in most scenes is excellent. Shadow detail is fine and blacks solid. As was usual with Hong Kong films of the period, no dialogue was recorded on the set and the lip synchronisation is very approximate indeed, and quite noticeable.

    The English subtitles are clear and easy to read. They do contain an occasional missing word, such as "Its and a half feet with a thin blade" (42.26 min) or "there are moves in total" (43.11 min) but they are generally fine and do not go past too quickly. American English is used thus, for example, "honor" not "honour".

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Audio Audio tracks available are Mandarin 2.0 and English mono. I listened to the Mandarin track, where all audio was directed to the centre speaker.

    Obviously there is no sub woofer use. The dialogue and effects are clear, so the audio does an effective job. The film was released in mono, so we have the original audio on this DVD. The English dub is as bad as usual.

    The score is a combination of the usual stock music. While strident in places, overall it does enhance the film experience.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Audio Commentary by Film Scholars David Chute and Andy Klein

    Recorded together, David Chute & Andy Klein are informative and entertaining. They discuss Chang Cheh, the influence of The One-Armed Swordsman and give information about the various actors and about martial arts cinema generally. Well worth a listen.

Interview with Star Jimmy Wang Yu (Chinese with English subtitles - 10.29)

    The star of The One-Armed Swordsman speaks about his background as a swimmer, working at Shaw Bros. studio in the 1960s and making The One-Armed Swordsman (with numerous film clips). He reveals that he was paid the equivalent of $US25 a month (he lived with his parents) and how someone else dubbed his voice into Mandarin for the film as his accent was so bad!

Interview with Film Scholars David Chute and Andy Klein (7.48)

    Interviewed separately, David Chute & Andy Klein discuss the character of the one-armed swordsman, the influence of the film on Hong Kong cinema and provide some general information about the Shaw Bros. studio. Worth a listen at least once.

Featurette: The Master: Chang Cheh (Chinese with English subtitles - 17.30)

    The legacy of the prolific writer & director Chang Cheh is remembered in this informative documentary. One can normally calculate a persons importance & influence by the quality of those who are prepared to be interviewed about him, and there are plenty of influential names in this documentary, including directors Tsui Hark, John Woo & Simon Chin and actors Jimmy Wang Yu, David Chiang, Wu Ma, Ti Lung and Andy Lau. The documentary is illustrated by clips from 10 of Chang's films including his first film for Shaw Brothers The Butterfly Chalice (1963), plus Golden Swallow (1968), The Deadly Duo (1971) and of course The One-Armed Swordsman. Some of these clips are in very poor condition, with scratches, artefacts and faded colours, but in some cases this is the only opportunity we have to see clips from some of Chang's films that don't have a DVD release in this country. A must see for anyone interested in Chang Cheh, Hong Kong cinema or martial arts films.

Stills Gallery

    A total of 82 stills made up of 4 colour posters, 76 film and on set black & white stills plus 2 colour cast stills. The on set pictures are interesting for showing Chang Cheh at work.

Trailer Gallery

    One-Armed Swordsman Trailers:

    Other Films from these Filmmakers. The Chinese Professionals: full screen, mono, faded colour and numerous artefacts, 0.59 minutes; rare film. The New One-Armed Swordsman: only in reasonable condition but with scratches and artefacts, 2.35:1, Dolby Digital 2.0, 3.14 minutes.

    Shaw Bros. Films Currently available. Includes The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (fair condition only, 2.35:1, Dolby Digital 2.0, 3.43 minutes), My Young Auntie (again only fair condition, 2.35:1, Dolby Digital 2.0, 4.11 minutes), plus a montage lasting 1.29 minutes of other Shaw Bros. films in good condition; The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, King Boxer, My Young Auntie & The One-Armed Swordsman.

Commentator Biographies

    One page of silent text for each commentator.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This Dragon Dynasty release is identical in both regions aside from the NTSC / PAL formatting.

Summary

    In the late 1960s and 1970s the Shaw Brothers studio and director Chang Cheh re-defined the wuxia genre in a suite of films of outstanding inventiveness and quality. The The One-Armed Swordsman is one of the first, and one of the best. The film includes such Chang Cheh staples such as loyalty, duty, honour and sacrifice with martial arts sequences that still impress after 40 years. The One-Armed Swordsman is presented on a DVD with decent video and audio and a useful collection of extras. It is a must see film for anyone interested in martial arts cinema.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 42inch Hi-Def LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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