The Magic Blade (1976)

Genres - Action  |   Sub-Genres - Martial Arts  |   Release Date - May 31, 1976 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 101 min.  |   Countries - Hong Kong  |  
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Director Chu Yuan is well known for his adaptations of Gu Long's complex swordplay novels, and this film earns its reputation as one of his finest treatments of this author's work. It's a safe bet that fans of Asian action cinema will be delighted by The Magic Blade because it never lets go of the viewer: in the space of 97 minutes, it delivers a dizzying array of colorful warriors (both good and evil), exotic weaponry, and one impressively choreographed sword fight after another. However, what is truly impressive about The Magic Blade is the level of artistry deployed in its storytelling. Yuan films the exotic sets in a stylized fashion that lends credibility to the fantastic nature of the storyline, often achieving an almost Gothic atmosphere during the moody, shadowy night scenes. He also paces the film's frequent outbursts of swordplay with some surprisingly lyrical dramatic moments: the best is a scene where a lonely Fu Hung-Hsueh Ti Lung shows kindness to an ailing prostitute by buying her dinner. It's worth noting that both Lung and fellow Shaw Brothers stalwart Lo Lieh further enhance The Magic Blade with great performances: Lung is intense as the brooding, Clint Eastwood-styled loner while Lieh delivers a spry turn as a devil-may-care playboy who is nonetheless quite good with a sword. All in all, this is one of the gems of the Shaw Brothers catalog and a must for fans of martial arts and swordplay fare from the '70s.