Issue #257a           HOME          E-mail:        BACK ISSUES            March 28th, 2005

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Roving Swordsman
(1980; Shaw Brothers)

Cantonese: Dai hup Shum Sing-yi
Mandarin: Da xia Shen Shengyi
English: Big Hero Shen Shengyi (Shum Sing-yi)


RATING: 5/10


After murdering a nobleman, assassin Dugu Ngan (Ku Kwun-chung) is saved from capture by a member of the enigmatic Murung Family, which once held great prominence in the jiang hu, but has all but vanished in recent years. With Dugu’s aid, the family plans to reassert itself by locating a manual that reveals how rifles and explosives are produced, and then use the arms to "unite the martial world" (translation: annihilate any who opposes them). The book is in the hands of the Bai family and their daughter, Bai Bing (Ching Li), is viewed by the Murung matriarch (Cheng Ke-wei) as a bargaining chip. The girl is kidnapped, but master swordsman Shen Shengyi (Ti Lung) subsequently foils the plot. The Murung family is determined to get the manual, however, and the Bai family is soon subjected to another attack.

Ti Lung Cheng Ke-wei (left), Ku Kwun-chung Ching Li

Based on a novel by Huang Ying, ROVING SWORDSMAN unfolds in a more straightforward fashion than director Chor Yuen’s Gu Long adaptations, but still has a few twists and turns to offer. Unfortunately, what it does not have is a compelling tone or original story, and the swordplay (choreographed by Tong Gai/Tang Chia) fails to make up the difference in this case. Much attention is spent on the final confrontation down in the bowels of the Murung lair (which includes an intricate maze of mirrors and other traps), but this sequence goes on so long, the novelty wears off and tedium sets in. There are also far too many instances where combatants stop fighting for a few seconds to spew bursts of exposition, a narrative device that comes across clumsy at best. Ti Lung does what he can to enhance a standard character and there are moments of visual invention, but overall, it is easy to see why HK audiences of the time were starting to lose interest in this sort of film. Supporting players include Kwan Hoi-san (as the Bai patriarch), Ku Feng (as a Murung elder known as "Chameleon"), and Ou Yang Pei-shan.

Ku Feng (left), Ku Kwun-chung Ti Lung (center), Kwan Hoi-san Ti Lung


While not as disruptive as many Celestial remixes, the overlapping old/new music and modern foley FX here certainly are a distraction and a wholly unnecessary one. The visuals are clean, hues are strong (many different color gels are utilized), and the overall presentation quite satisfactory. The regular extras are on hand.

This DVD is available at:

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. #103841
  • Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Post-synced Mandarin Language Subtitles (Optional): English, Traditional Chinese
  • 12 Chapters
  • 16:9 Enhanced (2.35:1)
  • 83 Minutes (25 frames-per-second)

Ratings & Consumer Information

  • Australia: M 15+
  • Great Britain: PG
  • Ontario: PG
  • Quebec: 13+
  • Singapore: PG
  • Contains mild 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