The New One-Armed Swordsman


"...would of had a greater advantage if it were a stand-alone film, even by title".

- Mighty Peking Man

The New One-Armed Swordsman (1971)

Director: Chang Cheh

Writer: I Kuang

Producer: Runme Shaw

Cast: Li Ching (Cheng Lei), Ti Lung, David Chiang, Guk Fung (Ku Feng), Liu Kang, Chan Sing (Chen Hsing), Wang Ching Ho, Wong Chung (Wang Chung), Shen Lao, Wang Kuang Yu, Cheng Hong Yip (Cheng Kang Yeh), Yuen Shun-Yi, Sham Chin Bo

Running Time: 93 min.

Plot: When a bogus teacher dupes his student into accepting a duel he cannot win, he unfortunately accepts, and ends up losing an arm. After the duel, he retreats to a small village where he finds humble work as a waiter. However, when trouble comes to town and justice must be served, he realizes that he must be the one to act. The swordsman inside him springs back into action, and sets out on a bloody trail of revenge and justice.

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MIGHTY PEKING MAN'S REVIEW: Lei Li (David Cheung) is a young warrior who has made a name for himself in the martial world. Armed with his twin-sword technique, Lei Li is practically invincible. When Hero Lung (Ku Feng) - a crooked, but respected figure - hears of Lei Li's existence, he decides to frame him for a serious crime he didn't commit. When Lei Li crosses paths with Hero Lung, he disputes the accusation, by means of a one-on-one duel. Hero Lung, with his tricky three-section staff technique, wins the match. Disgraced upon losing, Lei Li slices off his own arm and decide to retire from the martial world.

While Hero Lung becomes more powerful, especially with one less top fighter out of the job, Lei Li hits rock bottom. Living the rest of his life depressed over his defeat, Lei Li is now a restaurant waiter. Often bullied mentally and physically by thugs, Lei Li has lost all dignity. Although he has lost an arm, he is still deadly. It is only when a warrior named Fung (Ti Lung) arrives, that things start to look up for Lei Li. It turns out that Fung has always respected him and sees him as a mentor figure. After all, Fung is also a master of the twin-sword technique, which was made famous by Lei Li, himself. The two become the best of friends and Lei Li slowly regains happiness. When word spreads about Fung's existence, Hero Lung sends out an invitation to challenge him. The match ends tragically and Lei Li is forced out of retirement to avenge his friend.

Right off the bat, I can tell you that this is the weaker of Chang Cheh's "One Armed Trilogy," but this isn't saying a lot, because the first two are masterpieces that are hard to beat. "The New One Armed Swordsman" also has nothing to do with its predecessors (which both starred Jimmy Wang Yu). The only similarity lies around the main character losing an arm; and of course, the film's title.

It doesn't take long to realize that the tone of "The New One Armed Swordsman" is a lot lighter than the previous two. The opening sequence plays like a tacky kung fu flick due mostly to the uplifting "superhero" music that plays over it (and not to mention the "borrowed" snippets of John Barry's 007 score for "On Her Majesties Secret Service;" a common practice for kung fu films). The film is a few years advanced from the last two, so the fight choreography is a little more swift and appealing. However, the film doesn't have the lavishness or the feel of an epic that was present in the others. The characterization is nothing to write about, either. The fact is, "The New One Armed Swordsman" would have had a greater advantage if it were a stand-alone film, even by its title.

Anyways, enough of this bullshit comparison. "New One-Armed Swordsman" is, without a doubt, an enjoyable film. It takes a while for the movie to pick up and show its true value, but when it does (around mid-point), be prepared for the usual Chang Cheh carnage. The film's action finale is probably the film's strongest feature. Oh and one more thing, Li Ching, who plays Lei Li's love interest, is one hell of a cutie. I thought I'd throw that in. Much, much better than Jimmy Wang Yu's farm girl.