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DVD review: Supreme Swordsman (Funimation)
DVD Review Page 1
Info
Author(s) : Sylvia Rorem
Date : 18/4/2011
Type(s) : DVD Review
 
 Intext Links  
People :
Ku Feng
Kwan Feng
Lee Hoi San
Margaret Lee Din Long
Keith Li Baak Ling
Lung Tien Hsiang
Jason Pai Piao
Ringo Wong Chi Ming
Derek Yee Tung Sing
Yuen Bun
Yuen Wah
Movies :
Holy Flame Of The Martial World
The Supreme Swordsman
 
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During the 1980’s, the Shaw Brothers studio was in a slump. Old-school Wuxiapian were passé and Shaw needed to reinvigorate the genre, as well as their bank account. Giving Supreme Swordsman to green director Keith Li Baak Ling in 1983 did not help. This is his second and last work. Li might have done better, however, had he been given more than just half a budget and a flawed script. Half anti-hero drama, half supernatural comedy, the film fails to transport the audience to either world. Still, while Supreme Swordsman is far from a success, a stellar cast and some fun fight scenes save it from abject failure.

 
The Movie

A tagline from IVL/Celestial Pictures triumphantly states that the entire Shaw's script-writing section created the screenplay. Read: hastily patched together from scraps. Jason Pai Piao plays villain swordsman Qin Wu Xin, whose desire for respect drives him to obtain by any means the best swords in the land. To acquire the famous Cold Eagle Sword, he is determined to eradicate a mysterious sword maker (Ku Feng) and his youthful son Yan Bei (Derek Yee). As their connections to the deadly martial arts school, the Black Magic Clan, unfold, Qin Wu Xin and Yan Bei must prepare for the final duel that decides who will become the Supreme Swordsman. Boiled down, it sounds pretty good.

Onscreen, the story suffers from a serious mood disorder. The first hour follows the harmful consequences of a decently-developed Jianghu anti-hero’s quest for power. The remaining forty minutes suddenly, inexplicably shift focus onto the wacky, supernatural hero transformation of Yan Bei. His comedic training sequence, complete with three semi-holy fools, comical underworld characters, and an immature message about confidence, may alienate those who favor darker stories that explore moral corruption. Conversely, fans of fun fantasy wuxiapian like Holy Flame of the Martial World may not be interested in the moral downfall of Qin Wu Xin. Although the two disparate tales finally unite, this mood split irreparably damages Supreme Swordsman. The clumsiness is only exacerbated by a criminally cheap production. Formulaic, repetitive photography does nothing to hide flimsy, sparsely decorated sets and recycled costumes. Like crime, half a budget just doesn’t pay.

The paucity of resources is, however, almost overcome by a charismatic cast. Dynamic martial actor Jason Pai Piao and fresh-faced Derek Yee contrast well as stormy villain and glowing hero. A mature Ku Feng and the ever-royal Wong Yung (as swordsman Xuan Yuan) nicely compliment the more tightly wound energy of Pai and Yee. Bounteous Margaret Lee Din Long appears as Yan Bei’s girlfriend, and Yuen Wah’s supporting role as Qin Wu Xin’s long-suffering servant Wu Ya is a nice treat. Despite the disjointed story, these actors heroically continue to dish up Shaw-style drama.

 
 

They also know how to deliver the action. Although the choreography by Yuen Wah, Yuen Bun and Wong Chi Ming is limited by a serious lack of bodies, each and every performer is golden. Pai Piao and Wong Yung make an excellent onscreen team, whether dueling with swords or calligraphy supplies, and Pai can burn it up with Derek Yee (and Yee’s very active stunt double). There are many fun, fast-paced fights that feature top-tier stuntmen like Lee Hoi San, Kwan Feng, Lung Tien Hsiang and Yuen Bun. However, the action falls victim to a serious crime: at least half of the scenes are spoiled by enthusiastic undercranking. This technique of speeding up the film can positively ruin even the best fight scene. Undercranking highly capable action performers like Lee Hoi San and Pai Piao is not only unnecessary, it's downright tawdry. Shame on the editor. Only about half of the action is left intact and is therefore truly enjoyable.

Somewhat entertaining for a short while, there is nothing about this late Shaw wuxiapian that is outstanding, except for a cast that excels in dramatic action. Snippets of goodness only evoke the excellence of legendary Shaw swordplay films. With only half-good action and a half-good story, Supreme Swordsman just doesn’t add up to much of anything.

 

 
dvd specifications

Distributor: Funimation.com/Hong Kong Connection

Region: 1

Languages: Mandarin Stereo
Subtitles: English

Format: 2.35.1
Run Time: 100 minutes

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

Release Date: February 2010

Price: $19.98

 

 

conclusion

The Funimation DVD is the Celestial Pictures anamorphic 2.35.1 widescreen transfer. Restoration makes a very decent picture quality with good color and action flow. Please note that the audio track is in Mandarin. There is no English dubtrack on this DVD. However, the English subtitles are very good. They stay close to the Mandarin meanings and are 99% free of error.

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.

Supreme Swordsman is currently only available through Funimation.

 
 
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