The Sword Stained with Royal Blood

It has been a while since I watched one of those wild and crazy wuxia films from the early 1990’s that happily thumb their nose at all the laws of logic and gravity. It felt good. With more characters and plot lines thrown at you than underwear at a Tom Jones concert, it was a little difficult keeping it all straight – but eventually you realize that it doesn’t really matter and that one should just indulge themselves in the fast moving visuals, frantic action, beautiful women and flashy high flying wire work. Sure there is a semblance of a plot in there if you have the time to dig for it, but the jolts of pleasure come from carriages flying through the air, men burrowing underground, an aerial duel that begins inside a cavern and explodes through the mountainside and a near non-stop sense of movement. It’s like a night with a troupe of drunken whirling dervishes. By the next morning you may have forgotten what happened, but you know you had some fun.
Based on a novel from Jin Yong, it has the elements of many wuxia films – revenge, sacrifice, male bonding, good and evil, hidden agendas, fate and heroism – to create a bit of a head spinning experience. At the same time the film has more charm than depth and it never really captures your emotions as the great wuxia films do. This is almost wuxia in short hand and the characterizations are never fleshed out enough to make you care beyond knowing that the good guys should win and the bad guys should die. There is also a recurring bit of so-called comic relief that derails the film every 20-minutes or so and deflates the tone of the film like a leaky balloon. For these reasons this film has never really gained a reputation as more than a splash of imaginative frantic fun – but sometimes that’s more than enough.
Before the opening credits even make an appearance, more men lie dead than a night at a Jim Jones Kool-aid party. Wu Ma and the other disciples of Marshall Yuan are paying the dead Marshall their respects when they are attacked by a horde of men from the Wan Family led by Melvin Wong. When the tide of events seems to be going poorly for the Yuan clan, a blur from nowhere slashes though the myriad of exposed throats of the Wan men and soon all are dead  - and only Wu and the blur – revealed to be the Golden Snake Man are still alive. Wu pleads for his life by telling the rather grumpy Golden Snake Man that he has to find the long lost son of Marshall Yuan and give him his father’s sword  - and immediately plunges daggers into his eyes so that he will never recognize the Golden Snake Man again.
Taking a rare break from his typically surly cop characters, Danny Lee as the GSM – plays a surly swordsman thirsting for revenge – a bit of a throwback to his Shaw Brothers days. He has reason to be surly though – some ten years before his entire village was wiped out by the Wan’s - headed by Elvis Tsui – and the love of his life, the scrumptious Elizabeth Lee, was forced to marry Elvis. He spent those years storing up his bitterness and becoming a master martial artist with the help of his magical Golden Snake Sword. Elvis for his part wants to obtain the magical sword so that he can become all-powerful and even develop his evil laugh more. Not only do the Wan’s want the Snake Sword  - but so does the Five Poison Sect headed by the cute but very naughty Anita Yuen who is adorned with a hook instead of a hand. But you know that sweet Anita can’t be all bad and that all she really needs is a man who doesn’t mind being stabbed silly during love making sessions.
Most of the film though actually revolves around an honorable constable played by the always righteous Yuen Biao who gets involved in all these plot turns. He comes across Cheung Man trying to do her best as a highway robber – but who is in fact a Princess in disguise who just wants to have some fun and get out of the stuffy palace for a while. He arrests her and takes her to Wan’s castle where he meets his sweetheart, Ching Ching (Yeh Chuan-chen) who first tries to kill him when she sees Cheung Man and then pouts when he defeats her. She is also Wan’s daughter. There is also Ng Man-tat (i.e. comic relief) who is a master at kung fu and his crazy wife played by Helen Ma. Soon all these forces come together and in the end it is the sword that is stained by loyal blood that saves the day.
Director Cheung Hoi-ching (Devil’s Vendetta) doesn’t seem to have much in his filmography to lead one to think he could make a good wuxia film – but with the help of his action choreographer - he has created a don’t blink fun ride here. Oddly, according to the HKMDB he never directed another film after this one.

My rating for this film: 7.5