Every 15 minutes there's a flabbergasting sword fight. All the warriors can fly over, or dismember, their opponents with a flick of the wrist. (The action was staged by Ching Siu-tung, the director of A Chinese Ghost Story... more ».) Eyeballs are extracted, wrists snap, heads explode. The caffeine-rush editing style and its tendency to scream and throw things (usually right at our heads) is almost alienating; it distracts us from a story line that would be difficult to parse even at normal speeds. A scroll known as the Sacred Volume, offering the secret to a powerful martial arts technique, has been filched from the imperial library in Beijing, and the snippy eunuchs assigned to guard it are waxing wroth. An amiable wandering swashbuckler known as Fox, Ling Hu-ching (Sam Hui), from the Wah Mountain School of Swordsmen, gets tagged with the hopeless assignment of retrieving the lost scroll. Wu Ma and Lin Zheng-ying, as noble old martial artists, sing a song together and then die staunchly. Various other factions of fighters, including the glorious women of the rebel Sun and Moon Society of broad-hatted "Highlanders" (who make their living smuggling salt) also express an interest in the scroll--and their principle modes of expression are all fiercely martial. Adapted from the novel The Laughing Swordsman, by Louis Cha (a.k.a. Jin Yong), the H. Rider Haggard of Asia. Cha's story about the character's youth, Fox Volant of the Snowy Mountain, is available in English. --David Chute« less
Kang-Min Chang | San Francisco, CA USA | 03/02/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"First of all, this is a TV series that was made in mainland China in 2001 (or 2000). It has 40 episodes. Each DVD release here only contains 5 episodes. So, we have a few releases to go to see all 40 of them.
The main spoken language is Mandarine, not Cantonese, since it wasn't made in Hong Kong. When I watched it on the TV channel, it has Chinese subtitles, but this version only contains English. It goes so fast that I don't know how non-Chinese viewers are going to read it.
The movies "Swordsman" and "Swordsman 2" were adapted from the same source material, but strayed from the book plot quite a bit (I guess for movie adaptation purpose). But this TV series follows the book quite closely. At least I am very happy with it.
The plot from the book is extremely convoluted and complex. If Chinese culture is foreign to you, grab a Chinese friend with you while watching this. He/she can help explain things better. The first 10 episodes are laying foundations for the great story to come. So, be patient and you will be greatly rewarded. There are a few good fights coming after episode 10 that are totally jaw-dropping. Hope they will release them soon.
The production value is quite high, with stunning cinematography. Acting is pretty quite good, at least compared to the older versions I have seen. If you have read the book, you will be happy about this adaptation."
Why all the negative opinions?
skytwo | Boston | 03/06/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"For some reason, this movie has always seemed to polarize opinion (when people could actually find a copy-- it's been notoriously hard to find until now). People either love it or hate it. After recently viewing the DVD, I'm leaning toward the former camp.The plot revolves around various parties attempting to recover a scroll that contains a powerful martial arts technique. It's as simple as that, really, and the complexity of the plot stems from the fact that there isn't always a clear line between the good guys and the bad guys-- with the exception of the aptly-named "Laughing Swordsman," the central character of a series of novels upon which this film was based. And I always considered depth of character to be a GOOD thing in a movie.All told, there really isn't a lot to distinguish this from a typical (typically solid, that is) Hong Kong actioner. However, the notable feature is that it involved no fewer than four directors. Getting top billing is the legendary King Hu, although the better-known Tsui Hark has made an obvious mark. While too many cooks usually spell disaster for a movie, this feels like a genuinely cooperative effort. Hu's eye for atmosphere, color and photography is apparent, while Hark keeps the action sequences looking dynamic and tense. It adds up, amazingly, to an admirable directorial job.Another asset of the film is its willingness to be dark. Some of the most memorable Hong Kong films feature villains that are really worthy of the viewer's hatred (The Heroic Trio, for one), and there are some vicious scenes in this film. To me, that added to the overall effect.No, it's not a slapdash story. No, it isn't the mess it could have been, and no, it isn't non-stop wirework and fake action. Swordsman might not earn itself a place as a genuine classic of Hong Kong cinema, but it's a strong effort that's well worth a look-- not only for its historical pairing of several famous directors (let's not forget Ching Siu Tung), but because it's genuinely entertaining."
Complete confusion on this page....
Andy Klein | Santa Monica, CA USA | 12/17/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"My rating is completely arbitrary and included only so I can post this remark, for reasons explained below: in short, that this page is hopelessly combining two different works.
Okay, there was a 1990 Hong Kong movie with the title "Xiao ao jiang hu"; the English title was Swordsman; it was based on a Louis Cha novel; it spawned two sequels. There appears to have been a 2000 TV series also called "Xiao ao jiang hu," based on the same novel. If the IMDB is to be trusted, the English title (in Singapore, at least) is "The Legendary Swordsman." Okay: Two different adaptations of the same book.
The cover picture, price, and date in the title suggest that this is the TV series; but the list of directors and stars suggests that this is the 1990 film. The various comments and reviews are mostly about the 1990 film. Something has gone terribly wrong here."
Good background for Swordsman II
Bradford Daniels | Redmond, WA | 09/20/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This is the first in a series of at least 3 movies about warrior clans in China, based on the novels of Jin Yong. This film has the most coherent plot of the three (which is not saying much), and gives a lot of useful background information for Swordsman II.The second film, however, is by far the best in the series, with Jet Li taking on the lead role. If you want to understand what's going on in Swordsman II, watch this one first (or read Jin Yong's novels). If you just want to get straight to the "essence absorbing stance" and Brigitte Lin blowing people up using sewing needles, you can safely skip this one. It's still an enjoyable movie in its own right, falling somewhere between 3 and 4 stars from my perspective."
Historical soap opera
Balthaasar | New York USA | 11/06/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I found this by accident but decided to watch it because it sounded good and i am always looking for something to watch. it is a great story and has memorable characters. for anyone who is a fan of historical chinese dramas this is a great one. and because it is a series there is more character development than in most other movies. definatly worth checking out"