Pearl City's follow-up to their superb 10-VCD Buddha's
Palm box set is the '60s classic, the two-part Story Of
The Sword And The Sabre (better known as Heaven Sword And Dragon
Sabre). Wuxia fans would know that this Jin Yong story has been
made into several TV series and at least three features - the
current title under review, Kung Fu Cult Master with Jet Li
and a version from Shaw Brothers in the '70s.
black-and-white 1963 version is not without merit and worth
a look, if nothing else, at least for nostalgic reasons.
fifth disciple of the Wu-Tang clan, Cheung Ying and fellow disciple
See-ma Wah Loong are given the task of locating the Dragon Sabre
when it is reported missing in the wuxia world. (As usual, whoever
owns the Dragon Sabre will rule the wuxia world, but more importantly,
the sabre contains a powerful secret.) Meanwhile, Pak Yin, of
the White Eagle clan, is also searching for the missing sabre.
She befriends Cheung Ying and while separated from him, badly
wounds Third Disciple. From then on, it's one misunderstanding
being compounded by another and, by the end, everyone is out
for each other's blood. In a bit of respite (spanning 10 years
in the story), the couple is "kidnapped" by Golden-hair Lion
(Shek Kin), who not only plays matchmaker to the couple on a
deserted island, but imparts to the couple's son his kung-fu
of Cheung Ying (as the lead and co-director) and Pak Yin is
already an indication of the mood of the movie and it is no
surprise that the film's melodrama is milked to the fullest,
leading to an ending with the couple's son (Mo Kei, played by
a very young- looking Chan Bo Chu) vowing bloody vengeance.
After all, both the leads made their reputation playing star-crossed
lovers in numerous tearjerkers.
Cheung finds himself caught in a bind. He is torn between caring
for his wounded fellow disciple and the love of his life; or
caring for his son in spite of the fact that it was his wife
who inadvertently created so much misery. He is also caught
between honour (here, seen as a symbolic gesture that is eventually
quite empty) and sacrifice (which is, again, quite pointless).
Cheung is not necessarily the most expressive of heroes or actors
- some might even call him woodenly stoic - and he carries himself
like someone with a pebble underneath his foot. His grimace
alone is probably worth a thousand words.
on the other hand, comes across a little better - she loves
Cheung for his noble qualities but knows that deep down, she
is living a lie and will one day have to pay the price. She
is scheming to the extent that she wants to keep whatever happiness
she can find and for as long as possible and the quick and bloody
climax, though not totally unexpected, does seem rushed - not
so much because of the exegesis of the story but because the
filmmakers probably ran out of time!
to Buddha's Palm, the action sequences here are better choreographed.
Even if it is speeded up on film, there is still a fluidity
and elegance here that is missing in the other show. A highlight
is when Pak Yin single-handedly takes down an entire armed escort
service - that this sequence is repeated in Part Two as a flashback
only indicates its vibrancy.
Buddha's Palm, there are no Chinese subtitles. The print is
fine but not excellent; and the image isn't as sharp as it can
be. The colours seem slightly muted - the blacks aren't that
solid. The sound is passable. - Stephen Tan