The titular weapon is
reputed to be the most powerful in the martial world, easily besting
all other swords, and many have died in their quest to possess it.
The learned, one-armed master of the Yuan Mountain school (Tien Feng)
instructs students Yu Chien-wan (Chang Yi, in his first lead role)
and Chiang Kwun-yuan (Lo Lieh) to locate The Thundering Sword so that
he may destroy it. The pair decide to split up, and Kwun-yuan discovers
The Sword (which has a jet black blade) inside a booby-trapped tomb.
However, just after he succeeds in liberating it, haughty swordswoman
So Jiau-jiau (Cheng Pei-pei) snatches the weapon from him. A member
of the Wu Du clan (an apparent mistranslation of Wu Tang), Jiau-jiau
is attracted to Chien-wan, who is unaware of her fiery nature and
willingness to kill with little provocation. Regardless, her love
for this rival clansman is so great that she decides to help him return
The Sword to Yuan Mountain, despite the fact that two Wu Du leaders
(Chan Hung-lit and Wu Ma) seek to claim the weapon themselves. Further
complications arise when another master (Ku Wen-chung) insists that
the Yuan elder duel with him to determine who should rightfully possess
The Sword. Jiau-jiaus past indiscretions also threaten to destroy
her proposed marriage to Chien-wan.
Time has not been kind to this martial
melodrama, which features exaggerated interpretations and circumstances
right out of the ripest Peking Opera. Director Hsu Cheng-hung even
incorporates three songs and that, plus the near complete reliance
on "interior exteriors," makes the whole thing seem even
more like an offshoot from the stage. Chang Yis innocuous performance
makes it clear that his later switch to villainous roles was the right
career choice, and there is so much tragedy, one half expects the
surviving cast members to complete the cycle by falling on their swords.
During the incredibly drawn out climax, one character is driven to
exclaim, "What a coincidence!," a thought that more than
a few of the audience members were no doubt experiencing by that point.
The music is constantly overwrought; those who love American horror
movies may find the choice of library cues (including music originally
composed for THE BLOB and a track used in many of Andy Milligans
cheapo historical horrors) either amusing or gratingly inappropriate.
There are some scant good points,
however. Cheng Pei-peis performance is as affected as her fellow
cast members, but the actress characteristic radiance makes
the viewer care about her character, even as the contrivances mount.
Lau Kar-leung choreographed the martial arts (which feature some very
dated wirework, but one impressively staged massacre) and can also
be seen briefly as a would-be assassin wielding a bow and arrow. The
supporting cast (including Ku Feng, Ching Li, and Shu Pei-pei) is
also stocked with quality actors. Ultimately, those who collect Huangmei
Opera films will probably be the most receptive audience for this
title and they may wish to adjust the rating up a star or two.