While enjoying his personal festival, swordsman Yen Nan-fei (Lo Leih) is greeted by an old rival. His party is crashed when another swordsman by the name of Fu Hung-hsueh (Ti Ling) enters through the shadows. They intend to battle each other to settle an old score. Yen lost to Fu in a previous duel a year earlier, therefore, they engage once again in sword on sword mortal combat. Their fight is interrupted when assassins enter to kill Yen. The two rivals piece things together and learn that a man named Master Yu sent the killers. They put aside their rivalry and decide to join forces to find Yu. -summary
The Magic Blade is a 1976 Shaw Brothers, Chinese wuxia production directed by Chor Yuen. It's a heavily action driven kung fu film, with lots of sword play and fantasy elements. It tries to squeeze in a little bit for everyone; evil characters, romance, small amount of nudity, and even light lesbian action. At its core, the film is a straight up action flick, but the ending attempts to make sense of all the chaos with its main theme that isn't fully realized until the epic showdown by the end.
The action scenes are pretty much what is going to hook most viewers and they are plenty. They occur almost after every single character interaction. The choreography is splendid during the one against many showdowns and some of the battles consist of your basic wire-fu, with people performing super human feet such as jumping up to 30 feet or so. There is also some variety in the weapons, so not all of the characters are using swords. Some of them attack by using throwing darts, and there's even a little hand to hand action.
At times, the combatants are also women who are wielding daggers, and one uses a long scarf to ensnare the heroes. There are also some good moments of acrobatics and decent stunts here and there. Although it isn't really over the top, the gore is plenty and it mainly consists of blood running from someone's mouth or very bad slashes.
Production values are pretty high, even though I do think some older Shaw Brothers films are quite better. The special effects are primitive by todays standards but I guess they get the job done. I think the set pieces are pretty good, and some of the battles take place in small buildings, as well as restaurants with the right amount of lighting being used, and this also goes for the darker segments.
I don't recall any type of background music for the action scenes, but the lack of music made them no less entertaining I think. The sound effects are the over-exaggerated, yet hilarious blows that we all know and love. Despite the small misses in translations, the English dub really isn't that bad. In addition, the sub is very good, because the words hang around a little while even for the slowest reader to catch, to include, they're in big white words that are very easy to see. The picture on this particular 2008 release is very good with no grain to it. Outside of the somewhat bad editing once in awhile, there's really nothing to complain about.
Fu is pretty much the only one who is developed, while a majority of the cast are present to fill their roles. The viewer gets to know the calm and deadly Fu, who is constantly aware of his surroundings. He begins as a stoic wanderer who is only focused on his goal. However, through at least one character interaction he shows a different side of himself. But the biggest attraction happens to be his sword, which appears to be a blend of a thick machete and a night stick, that he sometimes twirls around during his quick paced battles.
The plot begins to develop when the mysterious Master Yu's motive is made clear. Both sides are after a deadly weapon called the Peacock Dart, which is said to be very powerful, and the viewer is treated to displays of its power. Even though the story is very straight forward, there are plot twist added to enhance the story. Most of them are very easy to predict, but I don't think they damage the overall story.
The acting is very good but I can't really think of any stand outs. This also rings the same for the characters, as they all prove to be competent martial artist. They move with grace and very good form. The women also seemed to hold their own as well, and I don't remember any of them looking sloppy while performing their attacks. Also, the women provide the necessary eye candy and they were quite beautiful in their traditional chinese outfits.
The Magic Blade is a film that won't appeal to everyone that's for sure. Even though I enjoyed the action scenes, I found it to become quite repetitive, as the character ran into plot related elements only to engage in more action scenes. Some of the non action segments were a little boring. It was a good thing they didn't last very long though.
At the end of the day, The Magic Blade is for the die hard action fan, who will more than likely come away feeling his or her time was well spent. Don't come into this searching for anything real deep because you won't find it. The film has a 97 minute run time.
Pros: -Lots of action -Nice set pieces -Good choreography
Cons: -Drags and becomes repetitive -Some tedious moments