Rape of the Sword (1967)

Rape of the Sword [盗剑] (1967)

Starring Li Li-Hua, Li Ching, Kiu Chong, Chen Hung Lieh, Tien Feng, Tang Ti, Lee Wan Chung, Yeung Chi Hing, Ku Feng, Fan Mei-Sheng, Kok Lee Yan, Tsang Choh-Lam

Directed by Griffin Yueh Feng

Expectations: Low… I don’t expect much from the non-Chang Cheh movies now.


Rape of the Sword is the first post One-Armed Swordsman Shaw Brothers movie to take full advantage of its success. While this is still within the martial opera film genre most of these early Shaws fall under, there’s tons of inspiration torn from Chang Cheh’s playbook, resulting in a much more satisfying film overall. It doesn’t always work, but when it does, it’s golden.

The film’s story revolves around the invincible Qing Shuang sword. The sword was stolen from its rightful owner by Tang Ti in a murderous mountain duel in order to give it to an official, thus securing himself a nice, cushy job. The murdered man’s wife doesn’t take kindly to this injustice though, going undercover and plotting to retrieve the sword at the first opportunity, beginning a fun tale of revenge and betrayal.

Continue reading Rape of the Sword (1967) →

The Thundering Sword (1967)

The Thundering Sword [神剑震江湖] (1967)

Starring Cheng Pei Pei, Chang Yi, Shu Pei-Pei, Lo Lieh, Wu Ma, Fang Mian, Chen Hung Lieh, Tien Feng, Goo Man-Chung, Tang Ti, Ku Feng, Ching Li, Shum Lo

Directed by Hsu Cheng Hung


Released just a couple of months after Trail of the Broken Blade, The Thundering Sword exhibits similar flaws but ultimately manages to be a much more enjoyable film. Director Hsu Cheng Hung previously directed the mediocre Temple of the Red Lotus trilogy with the fun, trap-filled middle entry The Twin Swords shining far above the rest. The Thundering Sword brings back a lot of what I liked about The Twin Swords, namely some killer traps and a lot of fun kung fu fantasy, but instead of an engrossing storyline we’re left with a moderate Chinese retelling of the Shakespeare classic Romeo and Juliet.

Continue reading The Thundering Sword (1967) →

Mini-Review: Trail of the Broken Blade (1967)

Trail of the Broken Blade [斷腸劍] (1967)

Starring Jimmy Wang Yu, Kiu Chong, Chin Ping, Lisa Chiao Chiao, Paul Wei Ping-Ao, Fan Mei-Sheng, Tien Feng, Chen Hung Lieh, Wang Kuang-Yu, Wu Ma, Lee Wan Chung, Lam Chung, Pang Pang

Directed by Chang Cheh


I hate to do this to Chang Cheh, but damn this is one hell of a flawed, transitional film for him and for the Shaw Brothers studio. In a way, this film illustrates to me exactly why I set out to watch their martial arts film in order of release. The idea was the same as any other chronological jaunt through a catalog of work: to chart progress of style and substance of the artist (or in this case, the studio) as they go from the years of infancy to greatness. Trail of the Broken Blade is the perfect example of a film that straddles the line between what Shaw Brothers was and what Shaw Brothers was trying to become.

Prior to their commitment to the martial arts film, they mostly made opera films with female leads and lots of songs and costumes. Looking at their first martial arts film, Temple of the Red Lotus, it’s clear the film was made as an opera picture with some rudimentary fighting thrown in. Trail of the Broken Blade still exhibits elements of these musical pictures such as song montages that move the story along and ridiculous amounts of makeup on everyone’s faces, but it also features elements that would later become Chang Cheh’s trademarks. You can feel him wanting to break free of the opera framework, but as interesting as this is to martial arts film historians, it doesn’t make for a very pleasing entertainment experience.

When there is action, it’s pretty good for this era of Shaw Brothers but nothing spectacular. Both The Twin Swords and Come Drink With Me are more pleasing in their action, but as I mentioned above, the fights here signal the changing of the guard. The choreography is still slow and somewhat uninteresting, but Jimmy Wang Yu moves quicker than in previous films and without the aid of under-cranked film. Cheh uses many touches of blood to punctuate major moments of the battle, never as copious as in later films but definitely a sign of things to come. There’s also quite a few swords violently stuck into dudes, or my favorite, a henchmen skewered from three sides in a spike trap.

I tried my best to enjoy this one as much as possible, but it was a hard fight. It’s interesting to see Chang Cheh finding his style amidst the opera house bullshit Shaw Brothers had previously been known for, but it’s not something I would recommend to someone just getting into the genre. In fact, it’s a hard film to recommend under any circumstance, except to stalwart martial arts film fans that want to personally chart the hallowed director’s growth, especially since Cheh’s next film after this was the infamous and influential One Armed Swordsman!

Mini-Review: The Magnificent Trio (1966)

The Magnificent Trio [邊城三俠] (1966)

Starring Jimmy Wang Yu, Lo Lieh, Cheng Lui, Chin Ping, Margaret Tu Chuan, Fanny Fan Lai, Violet Pan Ying-Zi, Lui Ming, Chen Hung Lieh, Tien Feng, Lee Wan Chung

Directed by Chang Cheh

Expectations: Moderate.


Only the second martial arts film directed by Chang Cheh (the first being the lost black and white film Tiger Boy), The Magnificent Trio delivers glimpses of many traits that would carry Chang directly to the top within the Shaw Brothers studio. Don’t go in expecting copious bloodletting though, as what’s here is all fairly minor compared to what came later. Even still, The Magnificent Trio is a mostly engaging martial drama about a group of oppressed farmers that kidnap the daughter of the county magistrate. They are aided by a hero returning home from war (Jimmy Wang Yu) and eventually by two more (Lo Lieh & Cheng Lui) in their struggle for equality among the fields.

Together with The Knight of Knights, The Magnificent Trio explores the heroic bloodshed and brotherly bonds of combat that would become staples of Cheng Cheh’s later, more popular works. The Magnificent Trio is one of the better of these early Shaw efforts thanks to this and Chang’s solid direction. Even with only a couple of previous films under his belt, Chang shows that he has a firm grasp on how to shoot action sequences, letting the choreography play out in front of a well-placed moving camera. The editing works hand-in-hand with the camera, highlighting the action in all the right places. The first forty minutes are a little dry, but it gets a lot more fun after that, as Jimmy Wang Yu surrenders himself which allows for some fun rescue action.

Genre fans will definitely want to check this one out, but newcomers will be better served by a later, more exciting Chang Cheh film.

Mini-Review: The Knight of Knights (1966)

The Knight of Knights [文素臣] (1966)

Starring Lily Ho Li Li, Kiu Chong, Cheng Lui, Cliff Lok Kam Tung, Lily Li Li-Li, Chen Hung Lieh, Lee Ying, Tang Ti, Feng Yi, Lee Wan Chung

Written by Chang Cheh

Directed by Hsih Chun

Expectations: Low.


The Knight of Knights features an early take on martial arts chivalry with its multi-layered story of evildoers masquerading as monks capturing women and raping them and the men that do what they can to stop them. It’s no surprise to see that the script comes from legendary director Chang Cheh, who worked and re-worked the martial chivalry plot throughout his career. Unfortunately Chang Cheh does not direct here, the duties falling instead to Hsih Chun. Hsih Chun’s work is capable but does nothing to excite or intrigue the viewer. Enjoyment of The Knight of Knights comes strictly from your love and tireless desire for old Shaw Brothers movies and their reused sets and gory dismemberments.

Yes, within the first three minutes there are two severed limbs and a sword slicing a guy’s face down the middle, so at least the film delivers on that promise. Kiu Chong is good as our main hero, but the real star of the show is Tang Ti who plays the Abbot of the temple and the leader of the raping villains. His on-screen presence is full of vigor and charm, made even more exciting by his final duel with Kiu Chong. The fight is short, and it may be kind of sloppy, but when Tang Ti controls his breathing to enlarge himself and starts leaving handprints in the bricks, you can rest assured that there’s a smile on this reviewer’s face. In the end that’s what really matters, no? Recommended to kung fu junkies looking for an origin movie to all those other chivalrous kung fu tales.

Mini-Review: Come Drink With Me (1966)

Come Drink With Me [大醉俠] (1966)

Starring Cheng Pei Pei, Yueh Hua, Chen Hung Lieh, Yam Ho, Yeung Chi Hing, Simon Yuen Siu Tien, Ku Feng, Lee Wan Chung, Kok Lee Yan, Han Ying Chieh

Directed by King Hu

Expectations: High.


There’s a reason why Come Drink With Me is more readily remembered as the first Shaw Brothers color martial arts film and not Temple of the Red Lotus. Quite simply, it is leaps and bounds better, in addition to being a unique film unlike any other Shaw Brothers film I’ve seen up to this point. Credit must be given to director King Hu, as the differences and clever touches are predominantly found in the distinct style of camerawork and the excellent lighting, utilizing shadows to great effect.

The plot involves a group of bandits kidnapping a noble in hopes that they can exchange him for the release of their leader from prison. Instead, the Gold Swallow (Cheng Pei Pei) is sent to claim the kidnapped man. If these bandits only knew the shit they were about to be in when the Gold Swallow takes action! Her introduction scene in the barroom when the bandits challenge and test her is excellent, electric cinema; reaching similar heights of taut intensity that Leone achieved in Once Upon a Time in the West.

The fights are fairly well done, with spots of brilliance throughout, but it’s the end fight that is especially great. There is also a surprising amount of blood and gore and it all plays out realistically and effectively, heightening the mood of the picture. The combination of slow, precise sword strikes with the quick motions of Chinese martial arts beautifully couples the feel of a Japanese samurai film with the contained chaos of Hong Kong action cinema. Come Drink With Me is stunning to watch, thanks in part to King Hu’s inspired camerawork and solid acting from Cheng Pei-Pei, Yuen Hua and the wonderful supporting cast of bandits, most notably Chen Hung Lieh as the pasty-faced featured villain. Highly recommended to junkies and new fans alike, as it is well worth your time.

The Twin Swords (1965)

The Twin Swords [鴛鴦劍俠] (1965)

Starring Chin Ping, Jimmy Wang Yu, Ivy Ling Po, Petrina Fung Bo Bo, Lo Lieh, Tien Feng, Cheng Miu, Wu Ma, Ku Feng, Lau Leung Wa, Chen Hung Lieh, Chiu Ming, Feng Yi, Kao Pao Shu, Lam Jing, Lee Wan Chung, Wong Ching Ho, Wong Yeuk Ping

Directed by Hsu Cheng Hung

Expectations: Low. The first film was OK, I don’t expect this will be too much different. I have heard it is better though.


This is more like it. I hope you like martial arts fantasy movies, because The Twin Swords packs lots of imaginative fun into its compact runtime. Starting off with the final scene from Temple of the Red Lotus, our heroes Jimmy Wang Yu and Chin Ping battle through the villainous scoundrels of the Red Lotus clan. They are once again saved by the quick darts of the Scarlet Maid, but the forces of evil are not known for resting on their laurels. They quickly concoct a plan to lure our heroes and their twin swords straight into the Red Lotus temple, which has been newly retrofitted with tons of lethal traps!

Continue reading The Twin Swords (1965) →

Subscribe via Email!

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,593 other subscribers

Ongoing Series

Top Posts & Pages

The Films of Jackie Chan
Shaw Brothers Martial Arts Films
Best Of/Worst Of Lists
Four Riders (1972)
Stephen reviews: Wicked City (1987)
The New One-Armed Swordsman (1971)
Hex After Hex (1982)
City Hunter (1993)