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Issue #164a HOME E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com BACK ISSUES June 16th, 2003

Iron Bodyguard
(1973; Shaw Brothers)

A Masterpiece
Highly Recommended
Very Good
Marginal Recommendation
Not Recommended
Definitely Not Recommended

Cantonese: Dai do Wong Ng
Mandarin: Da dao Wang Wu
English: "Big Blade" Wang Wu

Security company owner "Big Blade" Wang Wu (Chen Kuan-tai) garners unusual respect from Ching officials, thanks to his reputation as a formidable swordsman. While beating back an attack from a vengeance-seeking thug named "Iron Fist" Yan Feng, Wang is joined by Tan Sitong (Yueh Hua), a reform-minded official seeking to make his acquaintance. The pair become fast friends and share a mutual goal of ending Ching corruption but Tan's proposed changes anger the Empress Dowager, who overrules the Emperor on this matter. Tan engages Wang's help in rescuing his associates and the latter's privileged status with the authorities is quickly forfeited as a result. With many of the reformists being arrested and beheaded, Wang and his men (including Danny Lee Sau-yin) plan a seemingly suicidal assault on the country's main prison.

IRON BODYGUARD was one of four collaborations by Chang Cheh and Pao Hsueh-li (BLOODED TREASURY FIGHT) and, if the former had any significant input here, it is not conspicuously obvious (save for the fact that two of the characters take an incredibly long time to succumb to some really nasty knife and bullet wounds). Set amidst the political chaos that precipitated the fall of the Ching Dynasty, the film is interesting but largely routine until its final third. At this point, choreographers Lau Kar-leung and Tong Kai are given a chance to shine and successfully exploit Chen's strengths as a physical performer. The resulting sequence, featuring Chen slashing his way through scores of Ching soldiers, is an invigorating bit of combat and the final fight includes a clever spin on the old martial arts double team combination. While one expects Chen to dominate the screen during these bits, he is also charismatic and commanding during quieter moments; we have no trouble accepting the immense respect "Big Blade" has garnered amongst both camps. If this is one of the smaller Shaw spectacles of the time, it is also one of the lesser from a technical standpoint (several shots in one scene are very noticeably out-of-focus, which must have vexed Pao, himself a cinematographer). Regardless, it retains enough of that SB production polish to more than serve the material and the film is never lacking in the way that many independent pictures from this period are. Lily Li Li-li, Betty Ting Pei, Ricky Hui Koon-ying, Donald Kong To, Fung Hark-on, Yam Sai-kwoon, and Dean Shek Tien also appear. The soundtrack includes a snatch of Akira Ifukube's famous kaiju eiga music, as well as a track that will be very familiar to Andy Milligan fans!

Cover art courtesy Intercontinental.

Back cover art courtesy Intercontinental.
Intercontinental #612213 (Hong Kong label)

Dolby Digital 5.1

Post-synced Mandarin Language Track

Optional Subtitles in English, Traditional Chinese, Malaysian, and Indonesian

12 Chapters Illustrated in the Menu With Clips

Letterboxed (2.35:1)

Coded for Region 3 Only

NTSC Format

94 Minutes (at 25 frames-per-second)

Contains moderate violence

DVD menu courtesy Intercontinental.

Ontario: PG
Singapore: PG

This is another nice effort from Celestial, boasting bold colors and excellent detail. Some shots look a bit tightly framed, as if the telecine operator had enlarged the image to mask some irreparable damage on the source material. However, these instances are few and far between in a very nice presentation. The audio is marred by a faint electronic noise in the background, apparently a by-product of the re-mix and noise reduction performed on the original track. The English subtitles are good but a key piece of calligraphy is left untranslated. The original credits have been recreated and video burned on to the image. Extras are on the skimpy side, with only a video promo spot (plus three more for other features) and the usual contents of the "Movie Information" section (stills, poster, bios/filmographies) offered.

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