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神經刀 (1969)
Mad, Mad Sword

Reviewed by: Stephe
Date: 01/27/2011

Mad, Mad, Mad Swords, starring Tin Ching at his goofiest
(moreso than in Beauty Parade, even) and least malevolent (in
contrast to his roles in The First Sword and The Boxer from
Shantung), was not all that great, but not as miserable as some
would have it. Sammo Hung plays two parts. Veteran character
actor Fung Ngai (who played the fat bespectacled karateka in
Bruce Lee's Fist of Fury) appears with a three-sectional staff
which the choreographer doesn't know what to do with. Infamous
Shaw villain Chiang Nan (most memorable as the traitor in The
Iron Bodyguard) has the funniest scene: he is forced to fight Tin
Ching with a full bladder after having eaten eight bowls of
congee. Rascally Tin Ching purposely delayed their competition to
make sure the congee would do what it did. The best fight scene
has Shaw actor Paul Chang in a Zatoichi homage. The One-armed
Swordsman homage is not nearly as successful.

Being a Cathay film, the women hold sway over the men, and it is
in ways that you wouldn't see in a Shaw Brothers or Golden Harvest
film. For example, Tin Ching's betrothed controls the purse strings
to his dead master's fortune, and a subplot with a courtesan is
played out mostly from the woman's perspective. In the end, it's
Tin Ching's pompous, almost-bowlegged strut that makes for the most
indelible image: It's John Wayne by way of Popeye.

Reviewer Score: 5

Reviewed by: dandan
Date: 02/27/2007
Summary: like father, like son...

a parody of sixties sword-play films, focussing on a cowardly fighter, ziyuan (tin ching), who becomes the head of a once prestigious martial arts school, when its founder, old zhang (cheung hei), dies. on his deathbed, old zhang also delcared that he wanted his daughter to marry ziyuan, but she isn't tooo keen on the idea. old zhang's daughter insists that ziyuan must go on a journey and establish his, and the school's, greatness, before she will marry him. armed with his wits, and some skills of questionable quality, ziyuan sets out on the quest for greatness...

wong tin-lam, father of prolific parody merchant wong jing, directs a messy, but fun take on the sword-play genre. sure it's silly, but it's entertaining enough to keep you interested. there's a few fun characters, including a blind swordsman, a one-armed swordsman, the white crane, mighty legs and a practitioner of "virgin kung-fu", who raise smiles. the actual sword-play is pretty weak, although there are a couple of great moments. there's also a tiny role for a very young sammo hung; who gets one line and not much more.

a bit of fun...

Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 07/04/2005

It's a fairly stupid, stupid, stupid movie with a bad, bad, bad remaster. Avoid, avoid, avoid if possible.


Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 11/22/2003

In the 50's and 60's there was no doubt that Shaw Brothers ruled Hong Kong Cinema, and the only real competition they had was from Cathay. When Celestial started releasing the remastered Shaws titles, Panorama evidently recognised a good idea and started their own line of Cathay releases. They've released far less titles in the past 12 months though, and mostly focussed on dramas and musicals, so I haven't picked any up... until they released the first swordplay film, MAD MAD MAD SWORD directed by Wong Tin Lam - once a prolific and high profile director, but best known to modern audiences as the fat guy in Johnnie To's THE MISSION and as the father of Wong Jing.

MAD MAD MAD SWORD is the first example I'm aware of of the "Martial Arts Comedy" genre, and is a gentle spoof of the swordplay movies that dominated Hong Kong Cinema at the time. The comedy is a far cry from the Cantonese comedy that his son would make his dubious own some decades later - it's quite a subtle comedy, if not quite "refined".

The hero of MAD MAD MAD SWORD is basically a coward, who becomes the head of a martial arts clan largely because he ran away from the big fight that killed his master and wounded most of the more likely successors to the title. Along with the leadership comes a command to marry the master's daughter, who is a mighty fine young lady and quite worth marrying. However, she is not terribly enamoured with the guy, and says that in order for the marriage to go ahead he must rebuild the name of the clan, and show himself to be a swordsman of note. Thus begins the hero's adventures. Not being a terribly skilled swordsman, he comes up with a number of amusing tricks and schemes to best his foes.

The film is definitely a comedy, and definitely a spoof - the character is a far cry from the righteous heroes of the Chang Cheh and King Hu films, but he's not a bad guy and you still want him to do well. The other members of the jiang hu are far more like the straight-laced swordsmen that are typically lead characters, and the film makes more fun of them. An early scene has the hero defeat a character clearly modelled on blind swordsman Zatoichi by sneaking up and fastening a set of firecrackers to his coat tails, causing him to swirl and lash out at unseen (and non-existant attackers) until he becomes dizzy and falls over... at which point the hero calmly walks up and claims victory. He's a kind of everyman hero that the audience can more readily see themselves becoming than a Golden Swallow, I guess.

Despite being a "spoof", the film also works quite well as a swordplay film - the comedy doesn't clash with the genre like in something like SAMURAI FICTION, but rather adds to it. Ignoring the comedy, it's still a very well made swordplay film. The acting is superb, costumes, sets and cinematography typically lucious and the action scenes... well, passable. In other words, it's a very entertaining film and one that fans of the swordplay genre should definitely pick up.

Although Panorama's DVD is described as "Digitally Remastered" (pretty hard to make a DVD from a non-digital master I'd have thought), they're not doing anything like the kind of restoration that Celestial are doing for the Shaw Brothers titles. Watching it makes it clear just how good a job Celestial are doing, as the quality is much lower. Colours are muted, there's quite a bit of noise and damage on the print and the brightness/saturation are a little unstable, flickering slightly between frames. Most significantly, the DVD is presented at a 4:3 aspect ratio - and this clearly wasn't how it was filmed. In some places, cropping is quite evident, but more often it seems that the picture has been horizontally squeezed, making people seem rather tall and thin. Why they would do this I have no idea, but it's quite likely that the disc is made from a video master made some time ago, probably for broadcast... and people did that sort of thing in those days. I was thankful for my Malata's XY scaling features, and stretched the picture out to something like a 14:9 aspect ratio, which seemed to work - more or less, most of the time (the amount of squash vs. crop is not constant). Definitely a substantial gripe, but I think the disc is worth purchasing anyway. On the bright side, the audio and subtitles are excellent.

Added bonus - Sammo Hung appears in the film in a very small role, as one of a gang of bandits. He doesn't look much different here than he would in many of the films he made 10 years later - in fact, due to some stubble (probably fake), he actually looks a bit older - I thought it might be his dad at first