Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sword of Swords with Jimmy Wang-Yu and Li Ching

I may have to turn-in my fanboy card for saying it, but I am getting bored with Jimmy Wang-Yu.

Yeah, Master of The Flying Guillotine was pretty cool in a silly way, but I can recall now how, when I was watching a marathon of Cheng Pei-Pei wuxia films, I simply couldn't enjoy the bizarrely bloody The Golden Swallow. Yes, it had been directed by the great Chang Cheh, but where the other films felt a tiny bit light -- thanks to Pei-Pei's nimble ballet-infused prowess -- this film suddenly felt very heavy and oppressive.

The difference for me as a viewer was as stark as that between John Ford's She Wore A Yellow Ribbon and Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch; both Westerns with minor thematic similarities but both worlds apart in tone and delivery.

Which brings me to the 1968 production of Sword of Swords. The one good thing I can say about this film is that it stars quite a few familiar faces from other Shaw wuxia epics: Tian Feng, from Cheng Pei-Pei's Raw Courage, and Huang Chung Hsin, from Cheng Pei-Pei's Dragon Swamp, play villains here; look for Yeung Chi Hing, from Jenny Hu's River of Tears and Ouyang Sha Fei, from Li Ching's Sweet and Wild, both wasted here.

As for Li Ching's role: she's simply here to get beaten -- more than once -- and thus spur Jimmy's character to revenge.

Additionally, the film was directed by Cheng Kang, who is the father of legendary action choreographer and director Ching Siu-Tung.

Jimmy Wang-Yu plays the nearly stoic member of a brotherhood at odds over possession of the mysitical Sword of Swords which seems to have the power of wind if wielded correctly (as shown in an early, silly scene).

The film is a set of scenes of Jimmy refusing to fight, or hiding the titular Sword from the baddies, only to be beaten, have his family beaten, his house burned, and get blinded in the process.

Of course, he's the hero so even though he's got blades in his eyeballs (!) and he's stabbed and it's snowing, he doesn't die but simply freezes for a spell before being revived by a kindly poor woman.

The film wasn't playful or witty enough to be interesting (like a Tsui Hark wuxia film), or have an interesting story to tell (like a King Hu film).

Even though this film was not directed by Chang Cheh, it felt like a Chang Cheh film so, if you're a fan of the guy's ultra-violent and uber-male films, I'd say you'd like this.

As for me, maybe I should rewatch those Cheng Pei-Pei films again?

You can order the DVD here.