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May 24, 2022

One-Armed Boxer

one armed boxer.jpg

Dú bì quánwáng / The Chinese Professionals
Wang Yu - 1972
Arrow Video BD Region A

The new blu-ray edition of One-Armed Boxer comes with two different Mandarin soundtracks plus an English language soundtrack. Perhaps I should see the film again with the English track. The film was written, produced and directed by its star, known also as Jimmy Wang Yu. And while it may not have been intended as such, the film is what people with casual or no familiarity with Chinese martial arts films would imagine is similar to the most generic productions. This is not the only film where various forms of fighting are showcased, but the connective tissue of a plot virtually evaporates before the film's end. One could argue that that narrative concerns were besides the point, that Wang understood that his audience was their to see their hero in action, so the film is essentially a string of martial arts set pieces.

Taking place during an unspecified past era, the film starts of with Wang coming to the defense of a man bullied by the leader of the Hook Gang. The argument in the tea house escalates to a rumble between members of two martial arts schools. A face off between two rival martial arts masters and their best students leads to a rematch with the Hook Gang, who use hooks for fighting, come back with several foreign fighters. Among these villains is a karate master from Okinawa who inexplicably has vampire fangs. The karate master fights Wang and with one hand chop cleanly amputates Wang's right arm. Dragging himself away from the action, Wang is rescued by a herbalist and his beautiful daughter. The rehabilitation process includes Wang sticking his remaining good hand into a fire to destroy his nerves, followed by pounding his hand with large and heavy brick. With his powerful left hand, Wang goes in pursuit of the remaining Hook Gang members and the foreign fighters.

Frank Djeng provides an enthusiastic commentary track. Djeng reviews the historical context in which the film takes place, as well as why Hong Kong star Wang would make Mandarin language films in Taiwan. Booklet notes by Simon Abrams provide helpful information regarding Wang's work as a martial arts star and how Wang led the genre-shift from sword fighting wuxia to hand-to-hand combat.

The main video supplement is from French film documentarian Fred Ambroisine, and interview with Wang Yu from November 2001. Wang talks about his childhood as well as his entry as a contract player for Shaw Brothers Studios. He also explains his choice to follow producer Raymond Chow to the newly formed Golden Harvest Studios. A split screen is employed with Wang on the right side of the screen, and excerpts from films on the left. There is also over half an hour's worth of trailers from several of the films starring Wang, the highlight, at least for me, being the trailer for The Man from Hong Kong. This blu-ray release is also timely as it out just a little more than a month after the death of Wang Yu this past April.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at May 24, 2022 07:50 AM