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An evil gang attacks the Chi school of Golden Sword Kung Fu. One student sacrifices his life to save his teacher and his school, his dying wish is that his son be taken in as a student. Young Fang Kang grows up in the school and treasures his father's broken sword and the memory of his father's sacrifice. The other students (including the teacher's daughter) resent him and try to drive him away. The teacher's daughter challenges him to a fight and when he refuses she becomes enraged and recklessly chops off his arm! He retreats, broken and bloody, and is found by a young poor girl living alone who nurses him back to health. Meanwhile, the evil gang who originally attacked the Golden Sword school develops a weapon that renders the Golden Sword useless and starts killing off all of the schools students. Fang Kang eventually recovers with the girl's help but must now face a life with only one arm. Will he be able to recover and live to defend the school as his father did? Written by
Fred Cabral <email@example.com>
ONE-ARMED SWORDSMAN - the seminal HK martial arts film
THE ONE-ARMED SWORDSMAN (1967) is often cited as Hong Kong's first real martial arts film, i.e. with emphasis on martial techniques, styles and training rather than on clan politics, corrupt officials, and court intrigue. Star Jimmy Wang Yu is much more intense here than in most of his previous starring roles (e.g. TWIN SWORDS and TRAIL OF THE BROKEN BLADE) and his fighting is much more ferocious. Overall, this is a bleak, somber film, with occasional tearjerking and melodramatic moments. The darkly handsome Wang Yu brings the right tone of brooding and melancholy and makes the climactic moments of violent outburst quite satisfying.
Wang Yu plays Fang Kang, a martial arts student whose right arm is chopped off in a sudden confrontation with his master's impetuous daughter and then must learn how to fight with his left. He runs off and finds a simple farm girl, Hsiao Man (Chiao Chiao), to take him in and care for him. She has a half-burned old swordfighting manual which she gives to Fang to teach himself left-hand sword techniques. Her father had died after a sword fight (over the book) and her mother had started to burn it. Her mother had warned her to never fall for a sword fighter and she urges Fang never to fight. However, after he is humiliated by some martial arts students when they try to flirt with Hsiao Man, Fang resolves to fight again.
Fang is forced into action when his former master, Teacher Chi, and his students are attacked by Long-Armed Devil who has called on evil swordsmen, including Smiling Face and his two loutish students, to raid Teacher Chi's school during Chi's retirement party. Long Arm gets things rolling by sending his two henchmen to kill any students they can waylay. The henchmen have a sword-lock on their swords with which they can trap the opponents' swords and slay the opponent with a right hand dagger to the belly. Ultimately, only Wang Yu's short, broken sword is capable of counteracting the sword-lock.
Wang Yu returned to the role of Fang in THE RETURN OF THE ONE-ARMED SWORDSMAN (1968), which is even more focused on swordfights and bloodshed (and is also reviewed on this site). He later left Shaw Bros. to star in ONE-ARMED BOXER (1971), which, along with his last Shaw Bros. film, THE CHINESE BOXER (1970), was a seminal film in the budding kung fu genre.
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