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Issue #189a HOME E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com BACK ISSUES December 8th, 2003

Soul of the Sword
(1978; Shaw Brothers)

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

Cantonese: Saat juet
Mandarin: Sha jue
English: Ruthless Killing

Known as "The King of Swords," Lu Tien-kang easily defeats all comers and can be readily identified by his all-black grab and a large hat that shields his identity. A young boy witnesses Lu's latest duel and determines to get a look at the swordsman's face. His attempt is unsuccessful and Lu warns him that his hat cannot be removed by mere hands. The story resumes several years later, with the boy having grown into adulthood and trained extensively. A formidable swordsman in his own right, the nameless lad (now played by Ti Lung) wanders the countryside, challenging and defeating worthy opponents. Word of this most unorthodox warrior soon reaches Lu but he is unconcerned, feeling that the young lack the necessary emotional detachment and ruthlessness to be true masters of the blade. After killing a female attacker who ambushed him at a most vulnerable moment, "Nameless" befriends Chiu (Ku Feng), a doctor who has treated Lu in the past. The two become fast friends and enjoy each other's company over drinks and at a local brothel. Nameless has been troubled by visions of a woman (DANGEROUS ENCOUNTER -- 1ST KIND's Lin Chen-chi) who committed suicide after her lover was killed by Lu, the duel that Nameless glimpsed as a child. When he encounters a young woman named Ho Lien (also Lin), who is her spitting image, Nameless is instantly smitten. Little does he realize, however, that his own personal circumstances are becoming more and more like that swordsman he saw perish years earlier.

Elements of this Wah San (THE SUPER INFRAMAN) picture will be familiar to those who enjoy vintage westerns but Ti Lung's anti-hero protagonist is also in-keeping with productions from the film's era. Nameless fits the "young upstart" mould to a tee, and his stubbornness and mistreatment of Lien initially makes him a difficult protagonist to root for. The only way an individual can ascend to the very pinnacle of such a ruthless existence is to sacrifice most everything that makes one human but further events and Ti's compelling performance gradually shift the balance of audience sympathy. We come to realize that Nameless is not a single-minded scoundrel but a hopelessly misguided man obsessed with a goal that will not bring him anything more than fleeting happiness. To reveal much more would compromise some of the storyline's twists but this sort of complex and troubled protagonist provides rich opportunities for drama and the film is largely successful at exploiting them. Tong Gai choreographed the abundant swordplay (which is impressive but appropriately secondary to the drama), and Norman Tsui Siu-keung (as a lesser swordsman who suffers repeated humiliations trying to gain Lien's hand), Lily Li Li-li, Yuen Wah, Lee Hoi-sang, Chan Shen, and The Yuen Brothers also put in appearances.

Cover art courtesy Intercontinental.

Ti Lung. Image courtesy Intercontinental.

Ku Feng and Ti Lung. Image courtesy Intercontinental.
Intercontinental #100932 (Hong Kong label)

Dolby Digital 5.1

Post-synced Mandarin Language

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

12 Chapters Illustrated in the Menu With Clips

Enhanced for 16:9 Displays

Letterboxed (2.35:1)

Coded for Region 3 Only

NTSC Format

85 Minutes

Contains moderate violence, brief nudity, and mild sexual content

DVD menu courtesy Intercontinental.

Ontario: R
Singapore: PG [Passed With Cuts]


The image looks clean and colorful, and the remixed audio is largely in its original state, with only some unobtrusive background voices and FX added. A bathhouse sequence in the second half features some prominent artifacting patterns in the clouds of steam but the compression is otherwise competently handled. Extras are skimpy, with just video promo spots and the Movie Information section included. Do not view the stills gallery beforehand as it contains an image that ruins a major surprise.

SOUL OF THE SWORD is available at Poker Industries.

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