Issue #246a         HOME          E-mail:        BACK ISSUES           January 10th, 2005

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The Spirit of the Sword
(1982; Shaw Brothers)

Cantonese: Yuen fa sai gim
Mandarin: Wan hua xi jian
English: Rinsing Flowers Washing Swords


RATING: 7/10


A superb cast highlights this characteristically picturesque Chor Yuen adaptation of yet another Gu Long martial chivalry novel. Each year, representatives from the various martial clans gather at the floating home of the Purple Robe Duke (Yueh Hua) for a test of skills to determine who shall rule the jiang hu for the next twelve months. However, right before the start of this year’s competition, the Duke’s father is murdered by assassin Samurai Killer (Yuen Wah), who declares his intention to bring about the end of the White Water Clan. The Duke is hit with Poisonous Dust in the ensuing duel, so his brother, Bai Baoyu (Liu Yung), and Bai Zhong (Sun Chien) are dispatched to Yitian Cliff with a letter. There, they encounter a lovely wanderer who calls herself The Little Princess (Cecilia Wong Hang-sau), who is soon captured and poisoned by some masked swordsmen. In order to save her, Baoyu must travel to Heaven’s Scent Plum Blossoms Forest, which leads him to discover the reason for the attempt on the Duke’s life and what must be done to procure the antidote needed to counteract the toxins that will take his life within 49 days time.

Liu Yung Cecilia Wong Yueh Hua

While a bit more straightforward than some of these adaptations, the storyline still incorporates all of the elements that makes these films so infectious: glowing magic swords, mystical kung fu stances, convoluted betrayals, and love shattered by clan in-fighting. Some of the FX are weak, the ending is overly abrupt, and considering that three choreographers handled the action, the martial arts and swordplay are largely routine. However, the costumes and gorgeously stylized sets are a pleasure to watch and the screenplay includes some nice touches (Baoyu thinks he has outsmarted one of the villains by not drinking the poisoned wine offered to him, only to learn too late that the outside of the cup has been smeared with poison instead). The supporting cast includes Lo Lieh (as the red-haired Fire Demon God) and the marvelous Yeung Ching-ching.

Lo Lieh Sun Chien Yuen Wah


Thanks to impeccable production and an attentive transfer, THE SPIRIT OF THE SWORD is one of the loveliest Shaw Brothers titles to arrive on the market thus far. The anamorphic presentation looks wonderful, with exceedingly deep and ravishing hues and highly detailed contrasts. Wear is non-existent and the re-mix only adds some minor foley enhancement. There are some minor clipping problems on portions of the dialogue track, but they are only mildly distracting. The standard Celestial extras are included.

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Images in this review courtesy of Intercontinental Video Ltd. To read captions, hover mouse over image.

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DVD Specifications

  • Hong Kong Release
  • NTSC Region 3 Only
  • Intercontinental Video Ltd. #103308
  • Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Post-synced Mandarin Language
  • Subtitles (Optional): English, Traditional Chinese
  • 12 Chapters
  • 16:9 Enhanced (2.35:1)
  • 85 Minutes (at 25 frames-per-second)

Ratings & Consumer Information

  • Australia: PG
  • Ontario: AA
  • Quebec: 13+
  • Singapore: PG
  • Contains moderate violence


  • 10 A Masterpiece
  • 9 Excellent
  • 8 Highly Recommended
  • 7 Very Good
  • 6 Recommended
  • 5 Marginal Recommendation
  • 4 Not Recommended
  • 3 Poor
  • 2 Definitely Not Recommended
  • 1 Dreadful