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The Swordsman Of All Swordsmen is an early Joseph Kuo's production and made shortly after debut of the Shaw Brothers ONE ARMED SWORDMAN put Swordplay movies into the international spotlight. After the artistic and commercial success of that film, both independent and big studios churned out hundreds and hundreds of swordplay movies throughout Asia. The Swordsman Of All Swordsmen was actually filmed in Taiwan and features that countries top swordplay stars like Tien Ping and Nan Chiang. Chinese actress Polly Kwan is the female martial arts star in the film. The Swordsman Of All Swordsmen was released in 1968 and was eventually released in the west after the success of Bruce Lee's entrance onto the movie scene in the 1970s. The Swordsman Of All Swordsmen was released in the west with an English dubbed form on drive in movies theaters, but like most Taiwan produced films, quickly was faded into obscurity and was rarely talked about even in collector circles. The movie's plot is basically the story of one man's quest for revenge. Tsai Ying-Chieh (Tien Ping) is on a 20 year long mission of revenge name of against the man who killed his parents. And any one who gets in his way must be punished by his swordplay skills. Another important character in the movie is the mysterious Black Dragon (Nan Chang) the only other character around who swordplay is one a par with Tien Ping's character. Polly Kuan's character Swallow befriends both characters, and it is later revealed that Tsai is after Swallow's father. She begs Tsai to give up his mission, but after 20 years of hunting gone to waste? I was really amazed by the beauty of this movie, the gorgeous visuals of the swordplay action, the period set designs, and especially the exterior landscapes. Most Shaw Brothers production are shot on soundstages. Joe Kuo filmed this completely on location in beautiful, colorful Taiwan, a county whose landscapes resemble a mix the junglish Thailand and mountainous Japan. The breathtaking final confrontation between the last two swordmen is shot on the beautiful beaches of Taiwan. This is an extremely violent film for the time, but really beautiful photography approach to the production.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
THE SWORDSMAN OF ALL SWORDSMEN is another Taiwanese wuxia story
influenced by the likes of DRAGON INN. This is one of the earlier films
directed by Joseph Kuo who would come to dominate the kung fu genre in
later years with films such as 18 BRONZEMEN and the like. As ever, the
story is strong although let down by a so-so execution clearly
struggling with budgetary constraints.
Popular star Tien Peng plays the titular character, an expert swordsman who wanders the countryside on a mission of revenge. As is so often the way in these movies, his parents were slaughtered while he was still a child, which means he now has a vendetta against the killer or killers responsible. At one point, Peng forms a close relationship with female fighter Polly Shang Kwan who plays a character called Swallow, but it transpires that the two may be set on a collision course by further twists of the plot.
As is usual with Taiwanese productions, THE SWORDSMAN OF ALL SWORDSMEN utilises real-life locations as Shaw-style sets would have been too expensive to produce on their limited budgets. However, the outdoor locations are frequently beautiful to behold and give the film a fresh feel. The action is plentiful and relatively bloody for its time, although the choreography is lacking a bit. Things culminate in a fantastically-shot final duel on a beach which is the highlight of the production and indeed of Kuo's entire career - it's a masterful scene.
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