One Armed Swordsman Against Nine Killers (1976)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2006-05-31
Jimmy Wang Yu struts through this movie like James Cagney in a gangster role—completely sure of himself, knowing exactly what he needs to do, just a bit unhinged and always deadly. “One Armed Swordsman vs. Nine Killers” has the most straightforward plot imaginable: Wang Yu, as Liu Ching Wu is searching for the nine men who killed his family. As he encounters one he kills him and then continues his quest. While there are a few distractions along the way—he twice encounters the same woman and each time she is bound with ropes; four comically inept “killers” get in his way for a few minutes; most importantly he runs across a chess game played by a local warlord using men for pieces. The warlord takes an immediate dislike to Liu Ching Wu and offers to play a game with the loser killing himself. Liu, as single-minded as Ulysses on his way back from Troy, tells the warlord that he had more important things to do—he has only killed two of the nine men he is after.

There are a few additional surprises along the way. Liu meets yet another person whose entire family was killed on the orders of Mr. Chu but refuses to join forces with him in attacking their common enemy, this setting up the (almost) final battle. In keeping with the ethos of Hong Kong martial arts movies, Liu is merciless with his enemies, in one instance holding one of the killers on the edge of a cliff until the killer tells him where to find Mr. Chu, then tossing him into the gorge below. There are surprises galore in the last few minutes of the film, all but one of which were well set up by the action that came beforehand. The one that makes no sense, Wang Yu’s “other-armedness” simply happens.

The bad guys never really learn from the mistakes of those who perished before them. In each case the killer who confronts Liu knows that he has already killed one or more (by the end many more) trained assassins but in each case still utters some variation of the statement, “You can’t kill me—you only have one arm and no sword”. Each of them dies soon after showing his contempt for the Liu. Some lovely touches including a prostitute/assassin who shuffles off her mortal coil via a wooden serving platter imbedded in her throat and a retired killer with a major domo whose function is to shout what his master wants while standing next to him.

The copy we watched, apparently the only one around, is from a video tape that was pretty sharp but with inconsistent color and lots of speckles. No opening or closing credits, no subtitles although the drubbing was not really intrusive and served to accompany the action pretty well.

There is a terrific cast of Shaw Brothers regulars and excellent action choreography with little of the undercranked sped-up footage that became common. Recommended for fans of Wang Yu and Lo Lieh.
Reviewer Score: 6