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By the Sword (1991)

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Reviews: 32 user | 2 critic

A mysterious man, Suba, gets himself a job at a fencing academy, and as he learns the way of the students, the school, and its maestro, they learn that there's more to him than meets the ... See full summary »


(as Jeremy Paul Kagan)
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Title: By the Sword (1991)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Christopher Rydell ...
Sherry Hursey ...
Peter Cohl ...
Ennalls Berl ...
Dharvi Darrell ...
Eve Kagan ...


A mysterious man, Suba, gets himself a job at a fencing academy, and as he learns the way of the students, the school, and its maestro, they learn that there's more to him than meets the eye. He gains (or regains?) his fencing skills and his philosophy of teaching clashes with the maestro's. As they are thrown into conflict, Suba and the maestro's past appear to be linked. And the resolution of their mysterious relationship may be a duel to the death. Written by Kathy Li

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

fencing | duel | past | rival | rapier | See more »


They come from everywhere to challenge their fate...


Adventure | Drama | Sport

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language | See all certifications »




Release Date:

7 October 1992 (France)  »

Also Known As:

By the Sword  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


Alexander Villard: Your blade is neither in quarte nor in sixte, and your hand is in some vague no man's land around your navel, which leaves you completely vulnerable on both sides. Now, if by sheer coincidence you happen to engage the blade in one line, you will most certainly
[malparry/touche, malparry/touche, malparry/touche]
Alexander Villard: miss it in another.
See more »

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User Reviews

Were it not for the blood ...
29 March 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

There is not blood in this movie. The title of my comment has to do with the fact that, were it not for the blood, any contemporary Olympic style fencer could beat the tar out of a 16th or 17th Century duellist. The skills of a contemporary fencer are unmatchable; but the will to kill is something you cannot pick up in a fencing salle.

This difference plays a role in the story, as characters come to grips with their personal traumas and inner demons. The original movie One-Sheet is informative for the Spartan purity of its text:

.......By The Sword......

Live by it ..... Die by it .....

The folks who pule and whine about the "safety" issues in this film are as confoundingly ignorant of the definition of "metaphor" as are the historical purists who insist on mewling about the Russian roulette sequence in "Deer Hunter." This is not a documentary, so it simply beggars the imagination why anyone would be so ruthlessly misguided as to hold it up to documentary standards of factual accuracy.

This movie is a classic morality tale -- and a nicely crafted one at that -- told within the strictures of a fencing salle. Abrams and Roberts give fine performances, while Mia Sara, Chris Rydell, Elaine Kagan and others provide good support. The movie, for all of its obvious mythological framework, offers some nice insights into the reality of fencing. For example, when was the last time you saw an Errol Flynn movie devote so much attention to the *footwork* of sword play? (And for you non-fencers out there, here is a clue: fencing is *ALL* in the footwork; the sword is just there to let the other person know that they lost the bout.) At the level of world-class competition, the differences between life/death and win/lose engagements blur; personal trauma can blur them even more. It is only in confronting our demons that the distinctions return to us, and the genuinely meaningful things in life can be regained. That is why this film is a morality tale.

Filmatically, the cinematography bears some attention: so many subtle hues of brown that pop out rather than disappear under the surface. Bill Conti's score, particularly as it emphasizes classical guitar, is a joy all by itself. The images of stair-cases and the allegory of Jacob's Ladder appear throughout.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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