Funimation // 1984 // 100 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Roy Hrab (Retired) // February 3rd, 2011
99 Have Fallen. One Remains.
The Supreme Swordsman is the latest addition to the rapidly growing catalogue of Shaw Brothers (Come Drink With Me) films available on DVD. This release is from 1984 and is far from the Shaw Brothers' best work, as diminishing returns had set in by that time. However, it still has its moments.
A dastardly swordsman, Qin (Pai Piao, Shaolin Rescuers), is marauding the countryside, cutting down every elite swordsman he can find. His goal is to defeat 100 sword masters, take their blades as trophies, and display the weapons in monument to himself called the "100 Sword House." The film opens with Qin racking up victories 97, 98, and 99; leaving him only one win short of his goal. He goes for his final victory by challenging the "Supreme Swordsman," but ends up losing. As a result, Qin sets off to acquire a sword strong enough to withstand the attacks of the master. During his search, Qin learns of the legendary Cold Eagle Sword, belonging to the Black Magic Clan. Qin pursues the mysterious blade with extreme ruthlessness. Many duels, wire stunts, cheap effects, fake facial hair (i.e., beards, moustaches, and eye brows), and sped-up film ensue.
There is not really much to recommend The Supreme Swordsman. The action scenes are everything that you would expect and have been seen before in previous Shaw Brothers' productions. Every scene merely serves as a bridge to the next fight.
However, the real weakness is a story that is neither original nor enough to sustain the film, requiring an abrupt and confusing tangent to stretch it into a slim 100 minute run time. Things get bumpy when Qin beats up on Yan Bei (Derek Lee), the son of the sword maker Qin kills when acquiring the Cold Eagle Sword. Qin takes the sword and battles the "Supreme Swordsman" again, but the fight ends with the "Supreme Swordsman" vanishing. The film then suddenly switches gears to Bei waking up somewhere in a forest and entering into some training regime involving three old men and their granddaughter. Some other weird things go on; involving magic, swordsman with skull masks, and some old dude who wears a coffin on his back. The story eventually concludes with the compulsory showdown between Qin and Bei, but audience interest will have flagged long before this point.
The video presentation is of the quality of other recent Funimation Hong Kong Connection line releases. The colors are strong and bright. The picture is detailed and amazingly clean. The mono soundtrack in Mandarin is nothing special, but it is clean and clear, delivering all the sword clanging, punching, kicking, costume flapping one desires. The only disappointment is the lack of a campy English track. There are no extras.
The Supreme Swordsman is neither the best nor the worst of the Shaw Bros. However, it will be of limited appeal beyond those who revel in the silliness of schlocky martial arts entertainment (i.e. Shaw Brothers completists).
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Mandarin)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 1984
MPAA Rating: Not Rated