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Musings from the Edge of Forever

Note: This blog expresses only the opinions of the blog owner,
and does not represent the opinion of any organization or blog
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Archive for January, 2011


Return of the One-Armed Swordsman

Jimmy Wang Yu returns as “Lefty.”

Released in 1967, The One Armed Swordsman made an incredible impact on Hong Kong cinema, establishing a whole new style for wuxia movies and catapulting young Shaw Brothers actor Jimmy Wang Yu into martial arts superstardom. With the film raking in the cash at the local box office, it was perhaps a foregone conclusion that Wang Yu’s iconic hero would return. And just two years later, Return of the One Armed Swordsman made its way to theaters.

Chang Cheh, the director at the helm of this rollicking follow-up, clearly subscribed to the “more is more” philosophy of sequel-making. This film boasts more villains, more weapons, more fighting, and more over-the-top action than its predecessor. The storyline isn’t quite as compelling nor as personal as the one depicted in the original, but thanks to a solid performance from Jimmy Wang Yu and a surprisingly explicit critique of Jiang Hu, Return of the One-Armed Swordsman avoids the trap of simply being just another empty, overblown action extravaganza, and results in an impressive work in its own right.

If you’re interested in learning more about this highly entertaining film, my full review can be found here.

Gwailo Corner: ROCKY III (1982)

Rocky III

From left to right: Carl Weathers, Burt Young, Sylvester Stallone, & Talia Shire

Year: 1982

Director: Sylvester Stallone

Writer: Sylvester Stallone


Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers, Burgess Meredith, Mr. T, Hulk Hogan

The Plot:

After narrowly beating Apollo Creed for the heavyweight championship of the world, Rocky has gone on to successfully defend the the belt against a whole slew of challengers for three years. In the process, he’s become both megapopular and ridiculously wealthy. However, as successful as he’s been, there’s one fighter that Rocky hasn’t faced — the vicious number one contender, Clubber Lang (Mr. T). On the day of his own announced retirement, Rocky is challenged publicly by Clubber. Against Mickey’s wishes, Rocky agrees to the fight, but the media circus surrounding his own celebrity during his training becomes a distraction, as does Mickey’s heart attack just moments before the match is to begin. In quite possibly the worst day of Rocky’s life, he is beaten handilyby Clubber Lang in two rounds, and Mickey dies. Some time after the match, Apollo approaches Rocky with an offer to train him for a rematch. Rocky accepts, but has ends up battling his own doubts and fears before truly embracing Apollo’s “back-to-basics” fitness regimen. Will Rocky beat Clubber Lang? And just what the hell is this “favor” that Apollo demands for his services?



HeroA few years ago, I bought this snazzy-looking Hua Ying-Hung action figure available to US customers via DrMaster Publications, Inc. I happened to have packed it up when I moved to Ann Arbor, so I figured I’d use it to help kick off a column I’m calling “LoveHKToys,” which will spotlight a different Hong Kong cinema-related toy each time it appears.

Dubbed “Chinese Hero: Tales of the Blood Sword,” this line of particularly figures based on the popular comic book also includes Invincible (played by Francis Ng in A Man Called Hero) and Ghost Servant (a masked Jordan Chan). I don’t know the particulars, but they seem to be either re-issue or simply old stock of a previously existing line. I know because I bought Ghost Servant in Singapore several years earlier, and he came in an identical box as the one pictured here.

When the figure arrived, I got quite a shock when I discovered it was SPLIT IN TWO PIECES! Luckily, it wasn’t broken, but I did have quite a time trying to force the two parts back together. Thanks to a handy pair of pliers and some good old fashioned elbow grease, I was able to make the Man Called Hero whole once more, and all without breaking the figure in the process.

That shock was almost as bad as when I discovered that Ghost Servant didn’t have any arms. For those of you who don’t know, the character actually is armless in the comic and the movie, a small fact that somehow eluded my attention prior to purchase. There’s not much “action” to be had from a figure with missing appendages, but hey, that’s the character.

Hero (aka Hua Ying-Hung/aka Ekin Cheng) isn’t a bad figure. Meant to resemble the comic character, the face is well-sculpted, if a little roughly painted. There’s not much “action” to him either, although he is poseable. Hero comes with the Blood Sword, a scabbard, and a hat he can wear at a rakish angle whenever he feels like crooning a Sinatra tune.

I never got around to buying Invincible to complete the set, but if I do, you’ll be the first to know. In the coming year, stay tuned to this space for more Hong Kong cinema-related action figures.

If you want a closer look at the figure, click on the thumbnails below to enlarge the pictures. Obviously, I’m a terrible toy photographer, but I promise I’ll improve as this irregularly updated column develops.


To Order:

Chinese Hero: Tales of the Blood Sword Figures at DrMaster Publications, Inc


One Armed Swordsman

Hong Kong cinema is replete with iconic figures. Whether it’s the high-flying swordsmen in numerous wuxia films, the stylish urban killers that populate the bullet-riddled filmographies of John Woo and his heirs, or the various cinematic incarnations of Chinese folk heroes like Wong Fei-Hung and Fong Sai-Yuk, it’s become abundantly clear that Hong Kong filmmakers know a thing or two about creating unforgettable on-screen heroes.


THE BLADE (No, not Wesley Snipes)


Vincent Zhao Wen-Zhou gets bloody in Tsui Hark’s The Blade

If you can get your hands on The Blade (1995), Tsui Hark’s bleak-as-hell re-imagining of the Shaw Brothers classic, The One Armed Swordsman, do yourself a favor and check it out. My pal Kozo at had this to say about the film, so be sure to check out his review. Watching The Blade all these years later, I have to say I tend to agree with his evaluation, although in retrospect, I really question Tsui Hark’s filmmaking choices at times. To put it simply, this film can be messy as hell at times, a quality that would unfortunately be present in his 2005 return to wuxia pian, Seven Swords.

And really, why do we need to cut away from our hero On (Vincent Zhao) to see what’s happening with the characters played by Moses Chan and Sang Ni? I didn’t care about them, and I think the original Shaw Bros film handled those characters (or at least their equivalents, anyway) in a much better fashion. Really, the point the film is trying to put forth about “Living La Vida Jiang Hu” amounting to nothing more than largely empty, meaningless, and totally non-heroic existence was already made quite well in the first act when the heroic monk got totally f-ed up and nobody cared. It ain’t all fun and games in The Blade. It’s a harsh world, baby. Harsh. For those looking for a story with happy-go-lucky swordsmen, do go elsewhere.



 Not IMAX Glasses

My recent blog post and upcoming full review of The Green Hornet is based on the 3D IMAX version. Whether or not you need to see The Green Hornet in 3-D is highly debatable, as it was post-converted from 2-D. Unlike the disastrous 3-D version of Clash of the Titans, this film turned out to be a fairly successful conversion. By successful, I mean that the 3-D didn’t distort people’s heads or features as it was said to do in that 2010 remake of the 1980 Harry Hamlin-led flick.


In all honesty, however, only certain sequences really benefit from the 3-D overhaul — the “Kato Vision” stuff, specific action scenes, and the end credits. If you absolutely must see it in 3D, then IMAX is the way to go if there’s a theater with that capability nearby. Although IMAX is definitely a bit pricier than regular 3-D, I found the 3-D effect in IMAX to be much improved from the 3-D movies I’ve seen recently. The glasses are definitely much more comfortable, fitting over my own Clark Kent spectacles with the greatest of ease.

You want to name the movie WHAT?

Pom Pom

Stephen Tung and Jacky Cheung in the improbably named Pom Pom and Hot Hot

Jacky Cheung and Stephen Tung partner up in Joe Cheung’s weirdly titled Pom Pom and Hot Hot (1992), a somewhat typical buddy cop/action comedy that boasts — seemingly out of nowhere — an impressive guns ablazin’ finale that could stand next to some of the best action sequences Hong Kong cinema has to offer. Kudos have to go to star Stephen Tung who served double-duty as the film’s action director.

In addition to the two main stars, Alfred Cheung, Loletta Lee, and Bonnie Fu provide entertaining, if uneven laughs in supporting roles, but really, it’s Lam Ching-Ying who steals the show as the duo’s superior officer, a ridiculously entertaining gunplay savant who wouldn’t be out of place in a classic John Woo film. His brief confrontation with a villainous hitman prior to the big climax ranks as a major highlight of the movie.

(more…) Copyright © 2002-2018 Ross Chen