RAPE OF THE SWORD (1967)
RAPE OF THE SWORD (1967) is produced by Run Me Shaw, directed by Yueh Feng and the script writing is credited to Wong Po I. It seems to me to be a take on Water Margin or Outlaws of the Marsh: a wuxia novel that takes place during the Song Dynasty and is based on the adventures of an outlaw, Song Jiang and his companions that band together and become an outlaw clan. In this world where all men (and women for that matter ) are corrupt and evil, a group of bandits decide they will somehow elude some sense of honor and protect the weak, innocent and the common people from the even more corrupt officials. Once again, this film is "retro-produced" and so looks and feels very similar to the black and white, Peking Opera type movies of the 1950's rather than the Chang Cheh state of the art style of the late 60's. Even the lyrics of the songs are usedto advance the plot and characterization of the actors. So once again I am going to show the movie some love and let that sly. Also the use of music from a non-Chinese source is well known to us Americans since the Quincy Jones Ironside theme was used for Five Fingers Of Death (1973). So, let's see what we have.
|behind the scenes photographs I found on the internet|
The Qing Shuang Sword of the Han Dynasty called the "Sword of the Universe" and is one of the few "treasured swords" left in the Jiang Hu. A treasured sword is one not only of the greatest quality but also spiritually endowed with the essence of a virtue or principle. The owner of the Qing Shuang Sword, a clan master, has died leaving his students with his desire they remain a "righteous and honorable" clan. One of his senior students (Han) however, is having none of that. He murders his younger classmate who was in possession of the sword and offered it to Ming Prince Wu Yi in exchange for an official position as Chief Instructor of the palace guards. The murdered younger classmate's wife who was also his SENIOR classmate (Geng Liu Niang) goes "undercover" to retrieve the Qing Shuang Sword for the sake of her clan, sifu and revenge for her murdered husband.
This movie's subplot is the origin of the Jiu Hua Shan Outlaws. Judging by the clothing it takes place during the Ming Dynasty. It tells how a mission to return a treasured sword to its rightful clan formed a union between two clans that evolves into a quest for justice as outlaw bandits and two righteous clans become one for the sake of the common people during a corrupt dynasty.
Li Lihua as Geng Liu Niang is the star of the show and to her credit does a passable job in a thankless role as a woman that must do a "man's job" but remain undercover as a "woman". I think, if she had been just a little more sneaky with it, or had more of a dual performance I would have been sold. But as I said it was an okay performance as the strong persona was convincing --the weak persona, not so much. Now, Li Ching on the other hand, just ate up the screen. We last saw her in KNIGHT OF KNIGHTS (1966) where she was already billed as the "Asia Movie Queen" and in this movie, she shows why she earned that title. There is no one in the entire movie with more swagger than she. I think back then they called it "moxie". Everything she does is in a style out of place in a period movie, so she comes across as Bruce Lee did in THE CHINESE CONNECTION (1972) as someone too hip for the room but here she does it five years earlier than Mr. Lee!
More than half way through the movie two more heroes show up: Kiu Chong as Lo Yi Hu the leader of a group of bandits and Yeung Chi-Hing as Master Liu of Liu Manor to help face-off with the only true villain of the movie Tang Ti (Tong Dik) as Chief Instructor Han. While Lee Wan Chung as Prince Wu Yi and Chen Hung-Lieh as Lord Lu Tian Xia are cast in a negative light they really do no wrong in this movie. Prince Wu was given the sword in exchange for an official post and Lord Lu was just being hot for the general's daughter.
FUTURE STAR GAZING: You will recognize the recently late Tien Feng as General Zhong Ki, and Ku Feng, Fan Mei Sheng and Wu Ma have small roles as well.
FIGHT TIME!: Well, once again there is no action choreographer credited forRAPE OF THE SWORD (1967) but this time it is clear someone did that job for this movie. Especially for Li Ching's fight scenes, including a stunt double for her series of back flips during her challenge of the bandit chief. I counted 8 (eight) fight scenes which is plenty for any movie of less than two hours and, as I said, the fight scenes show some work and are pretty good especially when compared to other movies produced at the time that also have no action choreographer credited. They were entertaining enough for my taste so I certainly approve of the performances. Li Ching's fight performances also stood out matching her modern swagger.
RAPE OF THE SWORD (1967) was a very ambitious project for Shaw Studios with the potential to be a multi-part series with all-stars casts in every project.
Unfortunately this potential never saw the light of day as, after this movie, no sequels were ever filmed that I know of. Thanks to reader Steven Feldman I have learned that there is, in fact, a sequel to RAPE OF THE SWORD (1967) it is called A TASTE OF COLD STEEL (1970) and features the same antagonists. So, of course it is the next review. Thanks for the heads up Steve! Even with its few flaws (like its title) it is a very enjoyable movie and I certainly recommend it just for that reason. See you next time!
UP NEXT: A TASTE OF COLD STEEL (1970)