The Magic Blade (1976)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Upton is an American (non-werewolf) writer/editor in London. She currently works as a ghostwriter of personal memoirs for Story Terrace London and writes for several blogs on topics as diverse as film history, punk rock, women’s issues, and international politics. For links to her work, please visit https://www.jennuptonwriter.com or send her a Tweet @Jennxldn

The Magic Blade is a Wuxia tale starring Ti Lung as Fu Hung Hsueh and Lo Lieh as Yen Nan-Fei. Fu is a stoic and extremely skilled wandering swordsman. The story (based on the novel by Gu Lung) opens with Fu engaged in a showdown with Yen over a previously unresolved dispute. The two men put their rivalry aside when an unseen evil sorcerer named Yu sends warriors to attack Yen. Fu saves Yen’s life and the two join forces against Master Yu in a race to find the ultimate weapon – the exploding peacock dart! If Yu gets it first, he will rule the underworld. 

After fighting more henchmen in a wonderful scene set up like a game of Chess, Fu and Yen procure the peacock dart from its keeper. Along with the beautiful pure-hearted Chiu Yu-Cheng (Cheng Lee) the two men set off to find the elusive Yu. Eventually Fu and Chiu are separated from Yen, leaving Fu to carry the rest of the film on his broad shoulders.

Fu and Chiu fall in love and meet many people along their journey to find Yu – all of whom also want the dart. The story is filled with as many plot twists as wire-flips, and Fu gets through it all by his wits as much as his swordsman prowess.

The end battle with the as-yet-unseen Yu in Tien Wai mansion is a real showstopper. Ti Lung proves once and for all that although they were a great on-screen pair, he never really needed David Chiang as a co-lead. His physicality and acting are in top form here.

Director Chor Yuen wisely made sure there was something for everyone in this film. Compared to other Shaw Bros. classics, The Magic Blade contains more splatter and nudity than its predecessors, and there’s even a quick lesbian scene at Yu’s mansion.

While this production isn’t as grand as some of the older Shaw Bros. pictures, it appears to have had a somewhat significant budget. The sets, costumes, choreography and supporting actors are top notch. As with many Shaw titles, the filmmakers lifted much of the music from other sources, including several famous cues from the original Planet of the Apes. The result is very enjoyable regardless. The weapons are some of the most creative in the genre, with the best being Ti Lung’s sword – a very effective combination of a nightstick plus spinning machete. In our hero’s hands, it is definitely a “magic blade.”

Check out this great scene on the Shaw Brothers Paradise Facebook Page.

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