Director Sammo Hung must have been channeling his inner Shaw Brother when he made Blade of Fury, a throwback to the martial arts movies of the 1970s.
The year is 1898, and Big Sword Wong (Fan Yeung), a former guerrilla fighter opposed to Japanese aggression on the mainland, is working as a blacksmith when he helps saves a high ranking Imperial official from bandits. Encouraged to get back in the game, Wong opens a martial arts school, and then gets involved in an ill-fated movement to reform the government.
That's just about all there is to it, though there are enough subplots here to pad the movie out to 100 minutes. Ti Lung has a major supporting role, and Sammo has a cameo as a prison guard.
But the reason you want to watch this film is martial arts, and they're quite good. Fights take place using a number of traditional weapons, including short swords, long swords, spears, and yo-yos. There is a lot wirework here, perhaps too much, especially at the beginning when Wong's men hop like kangaroos to face the Japanese, and there's some violence that would be more at home in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. But in general, this is a satisfying entry into the historical kung-fu genre.
This DVD from Thakral and China Star Group is actually enough to make you pine for Media Asia's discs. While the movie is watchable, it is a veritable encyclopedia of the flaws a movie print can have. The colors are dull, the night scenes are too dark, there is a lot of dirt all the way through. There are scratches, blunt splices, missing frames, and at one point the image rolls!
The sound is another kettle of fish. I'm not an expert on these things, but I am pretty sure the disc defaults to the Mandarin soundtrack. The second soundtrack is probably the original Cantonese soundtrack, and has much more natural sounding voices. The Mandarin soundtrack is recorded very loud, and the Cantonese one is somewhat distorted. English and Chinese subtitles are burned onto the film itself, and they are small and occasionally unreadable.
The one saving grace of this DVD is that its dirt-cheap. At $24.99, it's hard to pass up if you like this kind of film.
There are no extras. I should also mention that the menus are in Chinese only, but considering that there are only three options (play movie, scene selection, and language selection), this really isn't a problem.
Scott Hamilton, 5/23/00