The Magic Blade (1976)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Upton is an American (non-werewolf) writer/editor in London. She currently works as a freelance ghostwriter of personal memoirs 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 or send her a Tweet @Jennxldn

Much has been written about the achievements of Shaw’s star director Chang Cheh. Here, I will give some love to their equally talented Chor Yuen who passed away in February of 2022. The Magic Blade is among his finest work, filled with plenty of wonderfully framed shots, expertly choreographed fight scenes and great acting. 

A Wuxia tale starring Ti Lung and Lo Lieh who must find a powerful weapon called the peacock dart before an evil swordsman can claim it for himself to to rule the underworld. 

Fu Hung Hsueh (Ti Lung) 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 Nan-Fei (Lo Lieh) over a previously unresolved duel. Soon, their rivalry is put aside as the warriors of an unseen evil sorcerer named Yu 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!

After fighting more killers in a wonderful scene set up like a cinematic 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 deliciously broad shoulders.  

Fu and Chiu fall in love and meet many people along the way who all want the dart. Their journey is filled with as many plot twists, traps and poisoning as wire-flips and Fu gets through it all by his wits as much as his skill as a swordsman. No one played intelligent like Ti Lung. Well… maybe Tony Leung. 

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 he didn’t need David Chiang as a co-lead. His physicality and acting are in top form here. 

Compared to other Shaw Bros. classics, The Magic Blade contains more splatter and nudity. There’s even a quick lesbian scene at Yu’s mansion. Director Chor Yuen very wisely made sure there was something for everyone and it’s a very enjoyable movie overall. 

The production isn’t as grand as some of the older Shaw Bros. pictures, but it does appear to have had a significant budget with the sets, costumes, choreography and supporting actors all being top notch. As was often the case, the music contains cues from the original Planet of the Apes edited together with original themes and to great effect. The weapons are some of the most creative in the genre with the best being Ti Lung’s sword. It’s a very effective combination of a nightstick and spinning machete. In the hero’s hands (and director Chor Yuen’s) it is definitely a Magic Blade.

A Chinese series based on the same novel came out in 2012 and in 2015 and 2018 reports surfaced that Celestial Pictures was slated to partner with Tencent Pictures to produce a remake titled Moonlight Blade, but it doesn’t appear to have happened. In 2019 director Xu Haofeng, creator of several modern Kung Fu classics, announced he would be directing, but as of 2022 there’s no breaking news on that front. 

It’s perhaps for the best, as The Magic Blade is one of my favorite of the Shaw classics and more than worthy of repeated screenings. Best of all, it’s available for rent in pristine form on YouTube! 

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