The proper title is "The First Sword". At IMDB adding "The" takes you to a different movie. Just clearing things up.
I am on a mission to watch every martial arts movie from the golden age 1967 to 1984. My copy of this movie is in DVD format but the packaging might be a bootleg copy. The video appears as widescreen but there is some loss of picture as it was manipulated to fit televisions and the English subtitles were added later as a file. Nevertheless, above typical Ocean Shores VHS quality.
The movie takes place in the imaginary martial arts world where schools and clans fight and plot to gain superiority. Poison is also an option. Here our villain wants to be the king of poison and the good guys must copy him to defeat him. To be a criminal mastermind in this movie requires the villain only to wear someone else's coat to pull off a perfect frame job.
The villain is Tin Ching and he is the familiar face here for fans of martial arts movies. He went on to Shaw Brothers to appear in some of their best such as "Spiritual Boxer" and "Executioners from Shaolin".
The martial arts is minimal in this movie. True, this was before when an actor was expected to know martial arts. But if the fighters are masked a stunt man can be substituted with awesome results. Unfortunately, nobody thought of that here. Production values are as good as Shaw Brothers. Cinematography is excellent. Why mention that? So many of these old movies were made on the cheap and worn out through time that it is a pleasure to find one that is easy on the eyes to make up for other lacks.
I would rate this only as average after adjusting for the year and the genre. Average only for fans of this genre, perhaps like me wanting to see them all before they are gone forever.