Legendary Weapons of China (1982)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2007-01-12
“Legendary Weapons of China was made by Liu Chia-Liang with the same producing and writing team as the later masterpiece “Eight Diagram Pole Fighter”. Each featured Alexander Fu Sheng, Hsiao Ho, Gordon Liu and Kara Hui and other Shaw Brothers stalwarts of the early 1980s. Each of the films is a wonderful example of the genre and show the continuing vitality of Hong Kong action movies.

In “Legendary Weapons” Alexander Fu Sheng is hilarious as a local rascal always one step ahead of his creditors who takes on much more than he had bargained for when he impersonates reluctant hero Lei Kung thinking it is just another con for him and his bumbling gang. Fu Sheng is a very gifted physical comedian, especially when trying to fight while being controlled by magician Tien Hao who is forcing him to move by manipulating a straw doll. Things get really dicey for him (and very funny for the audience) when his partners in crime try to seize the doll, grabbing it and throwing it around while Fu Sheng has to follow all the contortions of the doll.

There are themes of modernity versus tradition, the role of outside forces—in this case, as is often the case in HK movies, the Japanese Army—as agents of change and the price one pays for loyalty to an ideal way of life that no longer exists. Liu Chia-Liang introduces and develops these themes effortlessly—there isn’t an obviously didactic moment in this movie. He also varies the tone without making it obvious, moving from the darkly insane hothouse atmosphere of the Earth Clan where young men rip out their own eyes on command to much more relaxed but still potentially deadly world of the fugitive Lei Kung. The performances range from good to outstanding. Gordon Liu shines in a featured role as does Kara Hui, while Hsaio Ho, Fu Sheng and Liu Chia-Liang himself are extraordinary. Jue Tit-Woh chews scenery admirably and Wong Ching-Ho is both evil and unctuous (and wears a ridiculous hat) as the chief eunuch.

The action is terrific—given the production staff and actors one assumes it would be but it is still thrilling to see it on the screen. The ultimate battle in which the Legendary Weapons are introduced one at a time looks brutal, exhausting and very convincing.

It is one of the movies that I would recommend to a person who wasn’t familiar with Hong Kong films and wanted a good introduction.
Reviewer Score: 9