9 September 2001 | BrianDanaCamp
David Chiang takes over in lavish Shaw Bros. follow-up
THE NEW ONE-ARMED SWORDSMAN (aka TRIPLE IRONS, 1971) follows director Chang Cheh's earlier one-armed swordsman films (ONE-ARMED SWORDSMAN, RETURN OF THE ONE-ARMED SWORDSMAN) but replaces departing star Jimmy Wang Yu with the director's newer find, David Chiang, who is joined by frequent co-star Ti Lung. It's a colorful, occasionally moody historical adventure shot on Shaw Bros.' sprawling Hong Kong backlot and features a climactic battle in which the titular hero takes on an army of bad guys single-handed.
David plays a swordsman tricked into a duel to defend his honor with a corrupt swordfighting teacher (Ku Feng) who causes him to cut off his own arm. He leaves the `gallant fraternity' and broods in isolation, making a living as a waiter at a roadside tavern. When a wandering swordsman, played by Ti Lung, learns who he is and gives him a pep talk, David is stirred, but refuses to take action. When Ti is killed by the same corrupt teacher, who uses a lethal three-section staff, David is finally spurred to action and, armed with a dead warrior's sword given to him by the tavern owner's sympathetic daughter (Li Ching), he goes after the offending gang of fighters and figures out a 3-sword move designed to beat the 3-section staff. Before he's through, he leaves a trail of corpses littering a massive bridge leading to the gang's fortress.
David Chiang may not have been the best martial artist, but he had a wiry, energetic quality that served him well in this type of slashing and swirling fighting style. He also exuded a brooding intensity that came in handy in his portrayal of the onetime swordsman, who is crippled both physically and psychologically and has turned his back on his calling. Chiang and Ti Lung worked well together in violent tales of male bonding in turbulent eras. The villains here, Ku Feng and Chen Sing, both excelled at playing devious and crafty characters capable of unctuous charm one minute and great cruelty the next.
Famed martial arts director Lau Kar Leung worked on the fight scenes, in which kung fu takes a back seat to swashbuckler-style sword- and weapons play. (Lau was an expert in both styles of fighting.) This was one of a group of costume epics made by Chang Cheh prior to his series of Shaolin-themed martial arts films, dating from 1973-76, which put kung fu in the foreground and were made initially in collaboration with Lau, who broke off in 1975 to direct his own films.