After the success of ‘The One Armed Swordsman‘ i’m sure there were many film makers out there wondering how to top that. Most didn’t, instead going for one armed imitation movies. But in 1969 South Korea put out a movie that would be a game changer. That raised the bar for all other movies that would follow.
‘The Armless Swordsman’.
Instead of our hero having one arm, in this he has none. To understand how much of an impact this movie made you only need to check IMDB where it’s not even listed. The film can’t be bought. It’s so rare that the only way I was able to watch it was in french with English subtitles.
With all that said, and despite the very poor quality of the picture. The movie is not half bad. Despite the swordsman Chang Yang not having arms the film stays fairly grounded. I found the overall tone of the film to be darker than the likes of ‘The One Armed Swordsman’. The skilled swordsman here loses his arms during a dual with rival Chi Kung over a woman he is in love with. After losing both arms and the expertise he possessed with them he considers killing himself. He is barely brought back from the brink of his depression by a girl named Lanlan and her grandfather who find him and nurse him back to health. While Chi Kung makes a name for himself and forces Chang Yang’s lost love to marry him the armless swordsman takes up the task of learning to use swords without arms and we see some training scenes where he develops skills using his feet.
The action scenes themselves are nothing to get excited about. It’s not really WuXia, so while it tries to ground the armless swordsman’s fighting into reality it can’t be taken seriously especially when he is running around with a sword in his mouth. Action scenes such as this are cut quickly to cover up the fact that the Director had no idea how to make the concept work. If you’re gonna capitalize on ‘The One Armed Swordsman’ movies then at least try to execute it properly.
Visually I like the framing of scenes and the ending of the film is far more thoughtful than most movies of this genre. I have to say that the French dub actually adds depth to the characters and it seems to almost flawlessly fit the film. Despite it’s faults I’m glad I got to see this rare piece of Martial Arts cinema. If it had been made at another time and another place we may have something of better quality and notoriety to criticize but the fact that this is quite rare makes it all the more interesting to see.
Favorite Quote: “I couldn’t erase all those thoughts that haunt me. I must get revenge…I won’t rest until I do” – Chang Yang