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怪俠 (1968)
The Magnificent Swordsman

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 07/24/2007

Surprisingly mediocre rip-off of FISTFUL OF DOLLARS coming from Yueh Fung and Ching Gong, with a poorly thought out script, bad acting and bad action. Some interesting camera work provides moments of interest, and some of its faults must be forgiven considering when it was made.

Reviewer Score: 4

Reviewed by: cal42
Date: 07/24/2007

Lone swordsman Jiang Dan-Feng (Wong Chung-Shun) is ambushed by a pair of bandits and quickly despatches them. One of them, as he is dying, asks Jiang to take his personal effects to his sister. This being a Wuxia film, our hero is bound by a strict code of honour, and he agrees. The bandit’s sister, Xiu Xiu (Shu Pei-Pei), is surprisingly forgiving and tells him that he got mixed up in a bad crowd of robbers before he died. As it happens, these self-same bandits are threatening to tear up the village at any moment, and Jiang prepares to defend it despite being despised by the town folk for killing Xiu Xiu’s brother.

Wong Chung-Shun’s place in cinematic history is secured. Although you might not know the name, even the most casual of Hong Kong movie fans has seen him and he will forever be remembered as the guy who betrays Bruce Lee – not once, but twice!

But before he had relatively small roles in FIST OF FURY and WAY OF THE DRAGON, Wong Chung-Shun was a stage actor who also appeared in many films, and I couldn’t resist seeing him play the lead in this Wuxia film from the 60’s.

THE MAGNIFICENT SWORDSMAN tries very hard on every level. There’s a definite attempt to copy the cinematic style of King Hu in almost every outdoor shot, with tonnes of mist and smoke flying about and some wide-shots that would have made the Master proud. It’s also strikingly like a Japanese film at times particularly the way the lead dresses, acts and the style of the combat scenes. There are also some good sets to look at, with the bandits’ lair being particularly noteworthy. Strangely, though, some of the camera work is pretty dodgy, with shaky shots here and there that occasionally hamper the atmosphere.

One definite highlight is the musical score, which is so “influenced” by Morricone that you’ve got to smile. If you take a sample from any part of the score and play it to anybody and ask what genre film it came from, they will undoubtedly say it was from a Spaghetti Western. Even the theme song evokes comparisons to the genre despite being sung in Mandarin.

The story is the spanner in the works, though. There is a tendency towards melodramatics and overacting, particularly by Xiu Xiu’s finance (played by Yau Lung). Even without this, there’s nothing terribly compelling about the story, which often promises to go down the Seven Samurai route but frustratingly never does.

THE MAGNIFICENT SWORDSMAN is an A-Grade Shaw Brothers production with oodles of atmosphere, style and some nice touches to the action sequences. But the dull storyline ensures this never rises above mediocrity, unfortunately.

Reviewer Score: 6