Swift Sword (1980)

Directed by
Bad, but perhaps enjoyable anyway
Reviewed by Simon on 2005-08-19

I like swordplay films because they're pretty and melodramatic, and have lots of fighting in them. As such, I can't bring myself *not* to like SWIFT SWORD even though it's clearly crap, because it's a pretty swordplay film with melodrama and fighting - and hence guarantees a certain amount of entertainment :)

It certainly isn't "good" in the technical sense though, and the fault lies almost entirely with Ho Meng-Hua's direction, which is almost comically inept in so many ways that you almost wish the film were dubbed into English so you could laugh at it without feeling a twinge of regret that it wasn't meant to be funny.

The story is not inherently bad, but the treatment certainly is. I'm not sure if Ho actually got worse at directing as he aged, or simply never improved whilst the rest of the world moved on. If SWIFT SWORD had been released in 1964, say, I would certainly be saying what a fantastic film it was and how visionary the director was. If it had come out even four years later, I'd have said it was quite good though not on a par with the great works of King Hu and Chang Cheh. Coming out in 1980 though, it definitely doesn't stand up to its contemporaries. Ho took a 12 year break from directing shortly after this came out, so he may have had an excuse like ill health to explain the film's shortcoming... or he may have just seen the finished film and realised it was time to call it a day!

And yet, even after accepting that it is a crap film, I can't deny that I enjoyed it! It is very pretty, and there's some quite good fights... and some moments were so dumb or poorly shot that I couldn't help giggle a little! At worst, it's less than 90 minutes of your life gone anyway :p


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