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DVD Review : Soul of the Sword
DVD Review Page 1
Info
Author(s) : Sylvia Rorem
Date : 9/12/2010
Type(s) : DVD Review
 
 Intext Links  
People :
Chan Shen
Hua Shan
Ku Feng
Lam Fai Wong
Lau Wai Ling
Lee Hoi San
Lily Li Li Li
Lin Chen Chi
Ti Lung
Tong Gaai
Yuen Wah
Movies :
Soul Of The Sword
Companies :
Shaw Brothers
 
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Soul of the Sword (1978) is more than just another Shaw Brothers wuxia film. Director Hua Shan (Superinframan, Usurpers of Emperor's Power) is known for his hyperkinetic action but here proves himself an excellent storyteller. Several emotionally satisfying twists on a complex, well-written revisionist Jianghu plot by Chiu Kang Chien and Lin Chan Wei pierce the veil of martial arts glory and punctuate the burning question: What price fame? All that, and a bunch of Tong Gaai action too.

 
The Movie

Ti Lung plays Wu Ming (literally “nameless”), a turbulent and conflicted young wuxia hero. Although he is poor and without status, his life ambition is to beat the not-very-mysterious King of Swords, Lu Tien Kang. As Wu Ming battles his way to the top of the martial world in a series of entertaining fights, he is befriended by healer Chiu I (Ku Feng), who becomes his mentor. Plagued by the ghost of a woman who committed suicide after her lover was killed by the King of Swords, Wu Ming falls for her spitting image, He Lien (Lin Chen Chi). Although he is torn by conflicting desires, he believes he will not repeat history, and that he will not have to choose between martial fame and the woman he loves. Ah, folly.

Soul of the Sword is a dark film filled with irony. Much of the story takes place at night, and the life-consuming force of female power is in the thematic forefront. Exceptionally beautiful women (Lau Wai Ling, Lily Li Li Li) compete for dominance using swords and sex, and it takes an exceptional man to keep a clear head and an eye on the prize. But is that prize worth the price? Despite its darkness, Soul of the Sword is also illuminated by a happier lust for life. The presence of the poor, in as much filthy, bawdy street glory as pristine Shaw Studios could muster, brings compassion to Wu Ming’s violent but natural desires. Doctor Chiu Yi’s philosophical wisdom balances reckless ambition and adds depth to his ironic friendship with the young swordsman.

 
 

For all of Wu Ming’s turbulent love of the sword, the film is not particularly violent. Tong Gaai’s action choreography is fast, Hua Shan’s hyperkinesis is faster, and blood is offered up without lingering pain. The fight scenes constantly change pace, style and mood, and there is a host of eccentric wuxia opponents played by fine Shaw support like Chan Shen, Yuen Wah, Lam Fai Wong and Lee Hoi San. This prevents the constant action, all of which is entirely integral to the story, from becoming repetitive or tedious. Ti Lung is not at the very top of his action game here and some of the action editing is a tad too choppy, but director Hua does quite a commendable job with what appears to be a quick, low budget film.

Soul of the Sword is a fairly heavy wuxia tale with plenty of swordplay, beautiful women, passion, death, sadness, and fury. The combination of action, romance and meaningful story should please just about everybody just about all of the time. It is highly recommended for fans of Ti Lung and Ku Feng, and a welcome addition to the libraries of Shaw collectors.

Warning: Boobs, blood, and a couple brief, non-graphic sex scenes

 

 
dvd specifications

Distributor: Funimation.com/Hong Kong Connection

Region: 1

Languages: Mandarin Mono, English Dolby Digital Stereo
Subtitles: English

Format: 2:35.1
Run Time: 85 minutes

1 DVD with unfortunately no bonus features other than a handful of mixed-bag trailers.

Release Date: October 2010

Price: $19.98

 

 

conclusion

The Funimation DVD is the Celestial Pictures 2.35.1 widescreen transfer. Restoration ensures a clean, good picture quality. The enhanced Mandarin Mono version nicely balances music, dialogue and effects, and the English subtitles are easily readable and error-free. The English dubbed version features very dramatic American actors reading the subtitle script. Voices do not match mouth movements, which creates sensible dialogue that stays close to the original Mandarin except for the removal of some sexual references. An interesting addition to the dubbed track is heavily remixed and brand new music. For a more authentic Shaw Brothers experience, view in Mandarin Mono with subtitles.

The preliminary Funimation promotional reel cannot be skipped but can be fast-forwarded. The chapter selection pictures are numerous and small, making selection somewhat difficult but the main menu is simple and easily navigable.

This is currently the only film version available in the West. Buy it before it goes away.

 
 
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