Review #7: THE TRAIL OF THE BROKEN BLADE (1967)
Released March 4, 1967, THE TRAIL OF THE BROKEN BLADE was produced by Sir Run Run Shaw. The prolific Chang Cheh directed, scripted and wrote the lyrics to the songs. Based on the title, I would say this production was influenced by the popular westerns of the day in the movies and on television. As far as I can tell, this is the first "eastern / western". The skilled team of Liu Chia-Liang and Tang Chia did the fight choreography. Let’s get busy.
|Kiu Chong as Fung Jun Zhao|
|Planning the caper|
Fang Jun Zhao is one of the top, up and coming students of Wu Dang Mountain. While on his way back to Wu Dang, he stops at a very small in Guandong Province for a rest. From the room next door he overhears a planned robbery of the household of retired Commander-in-Chief, Liu Xian. The bandits planning the robbery are persuading the younger son of the Flying Fish Island Clan Chief named Tu Hu, to help them because of the superior martial arts of the Liu family. The head bandit entices Tu Hu, not only with the promise of plenty of money but with a description of Liu Xian’s daughter, Liu Zhen’Er as the village beauty and how he could enjoy her thoroughly as she is “a perfect match for someone as bright as you.”
Later that same night, the bandits attempt the robbery but Fang Junzhao assists Liu Xian and his daughter the end result being all of the bandits dead and Tu Hu severely wounded by Fang’s dart and escaping back to Flying Fish Island.
After the crisis, Liu Xian asks Fang Junzhao to stay a few days and instruct his daughter in the way of the sword. What Zhen’Er’s father really hopes is that Junzhao and Zhen’Er form a bond and then fall in love so that his daughter can forget her childhood love: Li Yue.
Li Yue is the son of the former Commander-In-chief of Zhejiang, the great hero, Li Tian Cong. Tragically; this great hero was falsely convicted and imprisoned all for the benefit of a crooked Imperial Minister. After his father died in prison, Li Yue murdered the Imperial Minister and has been on the run ever since.
When Fang Jun Zhao hears this heartbreaking story from Zhen’ Er's lips his chivalry takes over and he swears a platonic friendship with her and vows to find Li Yue and unite the two lovers to prove his honor and their friendship.
|"I must find Li Yue of Jiangnan"|
Meanwhile, Tu Hu has made it back to Flying Fish Island but his injury has taken the ultimate toll as he offers up the fatal dart to answer his family’s question of “who has done this to you?” His father orders his eldest son to take his four henchmen with him to find this Fang Jun Zhao.
So we have the two sets of travelers headed to their destinations fated to meet each other and provide us with this early tale of the Jiang Hu and the chivalry of heroic bloodshed.
|Jimmy Wang Yu as Li Yue of Jiangnan|
the good: Jimmy Wang Yu as Li Yue / Jiang Qi. Kiu Chong as Fung Jun Zhao. Chin Ping as Liu Chen Erh. Lisa Chiao Chiao as Shi Xiao Mei. Wei Pin-Ao as Shi Gan. Fan Mei-Sheng as Hu Zi.
the bad: Tien Feng as Chief Tu Qian Qiu. Chen Hung-Lieh as Tu Long. Wang Kuang-Yu as Tu Hu, Leopard Skin.
SPOTTED: Liu Chia Liang, Tang Chia, Liu Chia Yung, Wu Ma, Cheng Lui, Cliff Lok and Pang Pang.
HONORABLE MENTION: According to HKMDB and the release date of THE TRAIL OF THE BROKEN BLADE (1967) this is Yuen Shun Yi’s (of the Yuen Clan) first movie appearance.
FIGHT TIME: THE TRAIL OF THE BROKEN BLADE (1967) features the fight choreography of Liu Chia Liang and Tang Chia. I counted 6 (six) fight scenes including its very long finale in the one hour and forty-four minute movie, which to be honest, is not quite as much as in past movies. With the genre being only 7 projects old in the span of two years, I am mindful to not be too harsh in my analysis of the techniques. Using a system of “pass” or “fail” this movie’s fights are definitely a “pass”.
HONORABLE MENTION: Jimmy Wang Yu looks excellent in his fight scenes and director Chang Cheh wisely gives him the majority of the screen time and stunts.
RECOMMENDATION: THE TRAIL OF THE BROKEN BLADE (1967) has enough characterization, plot and action to entertain you and hold your interest. As the first “eastern / western”, and an early Shaw Brothers classic it is also certainly collectible. Therefore it should come as no surprise that I call for you to take out your cards or cash and pick this one up as a “must have”! On a personal note I would love to discuss as a film group just what is it that motivates a writer / director to resolve a story in the controversial way that Chang Cheh does in this movie. That’s it for now, see you next time.
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THE SWORD AND THE LUTE (1967)