Saturday, September 28, 2002

My delightful and very kind guest Jessica.

So I decided the theme of this guest entry would be to help Sulizano pass the time she would otherwise spend blogging, and to provide her with some uplifting messages. Namely, the message that you can be limited to one arm and still kick ass, as best demonstrated in a series of Hong Kong films.

The granddaddy of all one-armed ass-kicking films is 1967's One-Armed Swordsman, in which the title character is played by former champion water polo player Jimmy Wang Yu. He loses his arm not in a deadly match against evil Australians, but in a confrontation with his master's daughter. Will the help of a simple farm girl get him back on his feet? Will that half-burned fighting manual she happens to have lying around be crucial to his quest for revenge? If the answers to those two questions hadn't been "yes" and "yes," One-Armed Swordsman would probably be neither as fondly remembered nor as influential as it is now.

Jimmy Wang Yu went on to star in four more one-armed films: Return of the One-Armed Swordsman (1968), One-Armed Boxer (1971), and the latter's sequel, Master of the Flying Guillotine (1975), which he also directed. By the time Master was released, Hong Kong audiences were so familiar with the one-armed idea that Jimmy Wang Yu didn't have to worry about establishing a backstory for the one-armed boxer, now with a school of his own; he could devote more time to, say, blind villains who leap through the ceiling of their own houses, "Thai" boxers whose bare feet are their greatest weakness, and an
extended final battle that makes judicious use of firecrackers and coffins. (I saw Master in the theater in New York; here's my more extended review.

As iconic as Jimmy Wang Yu became -- more recently he seems to have had some domestic problems, unfortunately -- he does not have a lock on arm-impaired roles. Crippled Avengers, also known as Return of the Five Deadly Venoms and directed by the director of One-Armed Swordsman, features one no-armed Venom teaming up with one guy who's blind, one who's deaf, one who's lost his legs, and one who's an idiot. Also, before Brigitte Lin made the films she's
best known for (namely Peking Opera Blues, Swordsman II, and Chungking Express) she starred in 1982's Pink Force Commando, in which she went Jimmy Wang Yu one better by de-arming herself. If you ever wanted to see Brigitte Lin with a Gatling gun where her left arm would
normally be, or The Killer's Sally Yeh as a dynamite expert blowing up a Bruce Lee lookalike, now you know where to go.

When you're feeling sorry for yourself, the flick to see is The Crippled Masters, which may or may not also be known as Fighting Life and may be the prequel to another film, Two Crippled Heroes (this article explains the confusion). It's about two kung-fu fighters, one with no arms and one with no legs, who -- you guessed it -- kick ass. The twist in this particular case was that the actors in question were actually armless and legless, thanks to birth defects. The quality of the film itself is somewhat beside the point; more likely you'll just be amazed that two guys facing such terrible circumstances responded by becoming on-screen ass-kickers.

"But wait," you say, "what if I don't want chop-socky goodness? What if I'm looking for, you know, an actual movie, by Western film snob standards?" Even there the one-armed genre has something to offer. It's 1995's The Blade, directed by legendary Hong Kong director Tsui Hark (of the Once Upon a Time in China and Swordsman series). The Blade is a remake of One-Armed Swordsman, right down to the half-burned book, but instead of flying limbs to laugh at, there's blood, flying swords, big ugly traps, dirty sweaty barn sex, and an overwhelming wire-free fight at the end between Zhao Wen-zhou as the (very buff) one-armed avenger and Xiong Xin-xin as the lunatic who killed his father. It's only available on VCD right now, but even as a VCD it's worth watching.

If any of these movies provoke your interest, the good folks at Mobius Home Video Forum will be able to tell you more, as will Hong Kong Movie Database as soon as it moves to new servers on October 1st. Otherwise, there's always the Evil Dead series. I'm not sure putting a chainsaw on our Suli is a bad idea.

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