Monday, May 25, 2015

The Sentimental Swordsman (1977)

Wikipedia mentions that this is one of Shaw Brothers' highest grossing films in the studio's history. I did enjoy watching this. It's one of good movies concerning long lost love, friendship and clearing good name.

I really hoped I had watched the 1978 TV series - with Chu Kong as Li Sun-hoan, but that time we didn't have any Beta video player [TVB series were only available at rental video store.], so only in long school holidays when I could stay at my aunt's family's house - they had a player - I could watched whatever they were renting. When my father could afford a player years later, Little Li's Flying Dagger series was nowhere to find. I knew this series had a beautiful theme song because I had a cassette with it, sung by Robin.

Compared to the book, the story for its movie version had been simplified. I think the result was very good, considering that the movie's running time was only appr. 97 minutes. I feel the movie was fast paced - when I read the book the story was not as fast paced, because I often turned back to read whatever I needed to make sure, I took as long time as I needed.

The movie had a lot of snow, like the book. Li Sun-hoan was one of the most interesting heroes existed. He was  not as strong as a horse like a hero should be: he coughed a lot - only later near the end when his spirit was stronger, he rarely coughed anymore. He coughed because he was depressed and broken hearted. He was called Little Li because his father had three sons and he was the youngest. His father and two older brothers had been dead, so all hope concerning the family lied on Little Li's shoulder.

The movie began with Li Sun-hoan and his friend Thi Toan-kah met A Fei, a lonely young man - on their way to Hin-hun-ceng, Li Sun-hoan's old house. [Bwe-hoa-cat (the Plum Blossom Bandit) had emerged and Li Sun-hoan was afraid the bandit might go to his old house and hurt the woman he loved.] Li Sun-hoan made A Fei promise to buy him wine when he had the money, and at this point they became good friends and would protect each other. When trying to obtain a gold vest - an armour which could protect against Bwe-hoa-cat - Li Sun-hoan got poisoned. He met a physician who could heal him. At the physician's, several swordsmen came to ask the physician to come to Hin-hun-ceng to heal a wounded swordsman. Li Sun-hoan went along with them.

Ti Lung did it again! He carries a fan to hide his little daggers.
In the book, Li Sun-hoan does not carry a fan.
Li Sun-hoan once owned the place and the beautiful woman who lived there. Ten years ago, he almost died in a fight and Liong Siau-hun saved him. He took his saviour home and when his saviour saw his fiancee, his savious fell in love with her. Li Sun-hoan did everything he could to make her give him up (incl. frequenting brothels) and finally he went away after giving Hin-hun-ceng to them as a wedding present.

First time A Fei (Erl Tung-sen) treats Li Sun-hoan with wine.
He always thought about her. Whenever he could, he tried to carve her image on a wood with his dagger, but never finished any.

Returned to Hin-hun-ceng, Li Sun-hoan found that his sworn brother, Liong Siau-hun had invited the most beautiful woman in the martial arts world, Lim Sian-ji, to stay. Many swordsmen wanted her. Lim Sian-ji had promised that she would marry whoever could catch the Bwe-hoa-cat. Only Li Sun-hoan knew that the woman was not as pure as she looked.

I think casting Yueh Hua as Liong Siau-hun means
they have given away the plot.
Everytime I see him he's always playing the bad guy.
In a short time, Li Sun-hoan was accused as the Bwe-hoa-cat and he was taken to the Shaolin Temple for questioning. On the way, his escorts were poisoned, so in the last kms of the way, it was him instead who delivered the last person alive but gravely wounded : a Shaolin priest. He had promised the dying priest to find the thief who had stolen Shaolin books.

The accusations against Li Sun-hoan were not as bad as in the book. He could clear his good name in appr. an hour and the swordsmen believe him. The identity of the real Bwe-hoa-cat was also different. In the movie, when Li Sun-hoan found out the real identity of Bwe-hoa-cat, I thought that he had been really a fool, an idiot and that he had wasted the last 10 years of his life. I like the book much better.

But in the movie, A Fei was not as stupid as in the book. Quickly he realized that Lim Sian-ji was an evil woman. Lim Sian-ji in the movie was also not as dirty as in the book. Khu Lung (the writer of the book) always made women as the source of men's sufferings, that it was stupid to try to debate women, that it was wise to shut up when women were angry etc etc (not that I don't enjoy reading them). In his books, men would die for each other in the name of friendship, but to love a woman was not so important.

In the movie, Liong Siau-hun was the Bwe-hoa-cat. Ten years ago, Li Sun-hoan tried to capture him, but instead he ended up giving his fiancee and his house to the bandit. Wasn't he the most idiot man? There was a scene where he had a discussion with  A Fei that the bandit could be a woman. In the book, the bandit was Lim Sian-ji.

No comments: