|Sword Stained with Royal Blood (1982)|
|Starring:||Philip Kwok, Chiang Sheng, Lu Feng, and Candy Wen|
|The Plot: Our story begins with the exile of a young boy named Yuan Chengzhi (Philip Kwok) who moves to the mountains in order to be trained by the great master of the Lung Yau school of martial arts. Growing up in this situation, the young man learns great courage and is truly one of the best martial artists in all of the land. Soon, Yuan sets out to find his own path in life. When he does this, he discovers a hidden cave that was once the hideout of a brilliant martial arts master named Golden Snake. While dodging numerous boobytraps, Yuan learns that the Golden Snake has passed away and has left his martial arts manual and sword for whoever manages to find them. With these awesome gifts, he also discovers a lost treasure map and instructions to deliver a portion of the treasure to a certain woman. Yuan, being the righteous man that he is, sets out to find the woman and in the process he meets a spoiled and not-so-cleverly disguised young woman posing as a man named Wen Qingqing (Candy Wen). This awful costume somehow fools Yuan, and he becomes fast friends with Wen after she takes a liking to him. She brings him home, and it soon turns out that her family may have been involved in a battle with Golden Snake in the past. Also, could it be that the woman who Golden Snake left the gold for is actually in this very home?|
Similar to some of Chang Cheh’s other more focused works, Sword Stained with Royal Blood tries to be a kung fu mystery of sorts. The movie begins by inspiring a really solid atmosphere of adventure and mystery. As we watch Philip Kwok set out on his journey to find a mysterious kung fu book, the story detours into some interesting areas by throwing a treasure map into his hands. Sure, a mysterious treasure might seem like a rather repetitive device, within the world of kung fu cinema such devices can lead to some very interesting developments. These early scenes play out with the same atmosphere that made titles like Five Deadly Venoms so successful. Chang Cheh genuinely grabs the attention of his audience, not by his use of violence or through expert fight choreography, but through simple plot devices and some nifty gimmicks. The treasure map, the booby traps found at the site of the map, and the clever twists within this introduction are all part of the innovative atmosphere found in the early half of this movie. Once you start, the movie is so creative that it becomes hard to sit it aside. The craftiness of the plot, I imagine, may not prove to be enough for some viewers. However, if you look for more than just awesome fight choreography in these movies, you may be left feeling quite pleased.
I must admit, there is a certifiable lack of action in Sword Stained with Royal Blood. For a movie that features blood in the title, one might actually expect to find more swords actually being stained with blood. However, the violence is served in minimal doses this time around. Indeed, it seems to take roughly twenty minutes before we actually have our first confrontation within the film. Even after the fight fight sequence, many of the following fight scenes are played for a fun or “cute” effect. Essentially, these fight scenes act as demonstrations rather than fierce life or death battles. These scenes are obviously attempts to satiate the action-loving audience while also servicing the plot, with little or no emphasis on racking up a bodycount until the very end of the movie. It takes all kinds, however, and I believe that this particular style services the film very well. The point here isn’t so much to craft a massive action spectacle, but instead to deliver a very wry and witty period film that intended to catapult Phillip Kwok into the spotlight unlike anything else I have ever seen from him before. For the first hour of this movie, he is entirely alone in his escapades. A leading man who often lead a team during the majority of his work with Chang Cheh, he does a great job in this role and it seems so unfortunate that he was never a huge face within the world of martial arts cinema.