The influences of western films were very much in evidence by this point at the Shaw fantasy film division. This particular film is full of explosions, ray battles and even a set out of a Star Wars film even though this all takes place in ancient China. Plexiglas swords, shameless wire-work and endless fighting complete the extravaganza. It could be fun like other Shaw films from the same era but here there seems to be no sense of humor about the absurdities.
The story concerns the efforts of the emperor to obtain the Dragon Sabre and it's companion magic sword so the "martial world" will be forced to respect him. He enlists a bad guy who plots a massacre of the Mongolians to blamed on the "Ming cult" so that the Mongolian hero played by Ti Lung will attack and steal the sabre from the cult and then give it to the bad guy who has in the meantime stolen a powerful magic sutra from Budhhist nuns, kidnapped a Mongolian Princess and is trying to become a Yin/Yang fighter which looks like ... wait, none of this makes much sense, but that's the film. Derek Yee plays the hero of the Ming cult who is trying to find out who is framing the cult for the massacre.
It could all be fun. "Holy Flame of the Martial World" is an example of a senseless magic sword film that is entertaining by it's good sense of humor about itself. This film however gets lost in the endless special effects (which are not very special at times) that make it dull and eventually boring. This one has the largest number of stage explosions I've seen in any Shaw production. It also might have the most animated ray effects as well. Unfortunately Yuen Chor makes no attempt to pace the use of the effects or ramp up the excitement for the end of the film. The plentiful wire work is at one point some of the worst I've seen in a Shaw production. The actors just swing back and forth.
You might enjoy this if you are in the mood for gaudy excess with little else to recommend. A better film in this genre is Tsui Hark's "Zu: Warriors of the Magic Mountain" from a year earlier (which was probably an inspiration for Dragon Sabre). It's even more nuts but at least it's fun.
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