Swordsman
Hong Kong Legends
 
Starring:
Sam Hui, Cecilia Yip, Yuen Wah, Jackie Cheung, Lam Ching-Ying
Directed By:
King Hu
Year:
1990
Run Time:
113 mins
Producer: Hong Kong Legends
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Languages:
CANTONESE 5.1, English 5.1
Subtitles:
English, English for the hard of hearing
W/S Subtitles:
Yes
Ratio:
1.85:1
Region:
PAL 0
Genre:
Swordplay - 15 (UK)
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MOVIE
9/10

Possibly the lesser known (and viewed) first part of the trilogy, Swordsman lays the foundations for Ching Siu-Tungs' much praised sequel.

Sam Hui plays Ling Wu-Chung, a student of the Hua Mountain sect, sent to deliver a gift and message from his Sifu to that of another sect.
However, as with many a swordplay film, this task is complicated by a powerful enemy, hell-bent on taking back the Sunflower Scriptures stolen from his possession.
The scripture, a hugely powerful training manual, is the envy of all that come into its possession, and as loyalties are broken, blood is shed...

Featuring a far more coherent narrative than its sequel, Swordsman manages to out-do that production in many departments.
The action, whilst containing a large amount of ground-based combat, still contains an energy and clarity which lights up every frame.
Wire-work is also used sparingly compared to many films of the genre, with scenes relying more on camera-work and special effects to deliver their thrust.

A number of cameos also warm the heart - none more so than Lam Ching-Ying's as the Qin-playing, folk-song singing friend of Wu Ma.
Jackie Cheung also does a good job as the villains coniving lap-dog.

Unfortunately, my feelings towards the supporting cast do not extend to Sam hui - an actor who irritates me by his mere presence on-screen. Here, he's at his gurning worst, over-playing a number of scenes.
The charisma and boyish charm Jet Lee exudes as the same character in Swordsman 2 is light years ahead of Hui's uncomfortable mugging.
This, more so than any other aspect of this superbly directed film, drags the production down.
However, thanks to the rest of the movies excellence, this doesn't impact too greatly on its ability to entertain.

PICTURE
9/10

For some time now, HKL's transfers seemed to be slipping into the merely "good", rather han "great", category.
Swordsman brings about a reassuring change, in which a spotless print is married to a very detialed, beautifully coloured image.

Due to the source material, blacks lack detail, and softness creeps into a number of frames. However, everything else about this transfer impresses.

At certain points I even had to remind myself of the print's 13 year vintage, as the crisp image qaltiy breathed life into this excellent film.

SOUND
7/10

A reasonably mixed soundtrack, which contains a few ambient effects spread across the surrounds, which is perfectly adequate.

Distortion is absent and dialogue largely clear, leaving the film's rousing soundtrack to take centre stage without drowning out the actors.

SUBTITLES
10/10

A truly superb set of subtitles find their way onto this DVD.

Fully subtitled songs, even during the closing credits, and Chinese character translation are only the bare minimum you'd expect from HKL.
By far the most impressive aspect is the usage of Chinese terms in the tranlsations - referring to internal energy and the like.
The slight downside to this is the lack of an explanation of these terms.
A few Hong Kong DVDs have worked around this by giving a translation iin brackets.
Even so, these subtiles deserve a round of applause.

Far and away HKL's most accomplished subtitles, which retain the style of the film without any of the Westernization I lothe.

MENUS
7/10

Apart from the slightly indistinct image of Sam Hui on the opening menu, the design and scoring of each of the screens is very good indeed.

EXTRAS
7/10

Trailer Gallery
UK Promo Trailer
Original Theatrical Trailer

Lady Whirlwind (10 mins)
Although one of the film's weakest performers, Cecilia Yip makes for a worthwhile interviewee.
Whilst not exactly riveting viewing, her enthusiasm, adn the odd piece of intersting behind-the-scenes information, make this a decent extra.

Prince Of Darkness (20 mins)

A superb interview with a genuine legend of Hong Kong action cinema, this interview with Yuen Wah is a delight.
Recollections of his training, collaborations with other luminaries of the genre, as well as details of teh film itself are recollected with warmth and humour.
Certainly one of the finest interviews to have made its way onto the HKL label for some time.

Commentary
Another fine piece of work by Logan, but surely you can have too much of a good thing?!
Whilst I still appreciate Bey's work for the label, it's becoming a chore to sit through some of his commentaries due to his frequent repetition of facts and anecdotes.

Further Attractions

Premier Asia
• Musa (No Trailer) • Bang-Rajan • Bichumnoo •

Hong Kong Legends
• Twinkle, Twinkle Lucky Stars • Flaming Brothers • First Option •

CONCLUSION
9/10

A superb return to form for HKL, with a DVD presentation that puts them back at the forefront of Hong Kong DVD restoration.
Whilst the extras don't compare as favourably as some of their other 2-disc sets, their decision to concentrate their DVD-authoring powers on such an excellent film has paid dividends.

MOVIE 9/10
PICTURE
9/10
SOUND
7/10
SUBTITLES
10/10
EXTRAS
7/10
MENUS
8/10
PACKAGING
7/10
OVERALL 9/10