The Legend of Broken Sword (1979)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2007-10-23
As “The Legend of the Broken Sword” begins Hu Te Wah is walking through the forest and encounters a group of arms and hands apparently growing out of the ground. A voice which seems to be linked to the beckoning hands, asks him to join them. Not surprisingly he refuses and prepares to continue his journey when a hand pops up immediately beneath him and tries to pull him underground, but he escapes. As supernatural beings who try to lure unwary travelers to their death these disembodied arms and hands aren’t quite in the league of the Sirens that Odysseus outsmarted in “The Iliad”. They don’t seem to offer much and aren’t very good at enticing passersby. Their next target is Hung, played by the gorgeous Doris Lung Chun-Erh. She is in a sedan chair carried by four servants who, when the come upon the clearing full of waving forearms, drop the chair and run.

Then things get a bit wild. It goes from a simple “Boy meets girl, boy saves girl from underground marauders, girl tries to kill boy with poison shoe-dagger” to an increasingly complex tale of ghosts, twins that may not exist, a coffin—without a body—in the middle of a field—a flying sedan chair and a bad guy who keeps getting stuck at the top of trees. The more things are explained the less coherent they become until trying to figure them out becomes more effort than it is worth. The plot is too slender a reed to support the weight of twisted relationships and hidden identities that are revealed as the movie progresses. The audience doesn't know any more than the hero who tries to unravel who is who and, more importantly, who is trying to kill him.

The most charitable view is that the version of this movie that I watched, at 83 minutes, was badly cut, probably to fit a commercial television time slot, and the parts excised happen to be what holds everything together. The central question—one that is asked of Hu Te Wah a couple of times—is why everyone is trying to kill him. It is never really answered, either for him or for the audience.

There are a couple of excellent fight scenes (plus quite a few mediocre ones) and the final battle is very bloody and brutal with hero attacked by a platoon of skilled swordsmen who he is able to dispatch only with the greatest difficulty. Earlier there was one that one that began in a booby-trapped house. A hand and forearm are seen reaching through a window—the hero thinks that the hand belongs to his beloved but when he grasps it he finds it is only part of a bloody stump, cut off at the elbow and rigged to trigger spring loaded knives set in the walls. Ingenious, unexpected and in keeping with the rest of the weirdness on display.

Not recommended.
Reviewer Score: 2