Bastard Swordsman (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:John Rose
Review Date: Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Release Date: Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Secret skills lead to many hidden agendas in the world of the martial arts.

What They Say
Starring Norman Chui (Hong Kong Godfather, 36th Chamber) as the most lethal bastard this side of Shaolin, this twisted tale of betrayal and bloodshed showcases a revolutionary style of wire-work and action choreography that inspired today's most revered filmmakers. So sit back, dim the lights, and prepare to be schooled in the art of the kill as you experience the bastard's signature move: the mind-meltingly lethal Silkworm Technique!

The Review!

Audio
The feature contains two audio tracks-English  and Mandarin and both are mono tracks. For the purpose of this review the Mandarin track was selected. It is a standard mono track that was encoded in 2.0. There were no dropouts or distortions noted and the track took care to make sure that even in mono format dialogue and sound effects complimented each other without drowning the other out.

Video:
Created in 1983 the feature is presented in 16:9 ratio. The feature presents some noise, screen jitters, grain, and a little blur with light effects but it handles bright colors well beyond that. The video does a good job handling the fluid motions that come with a martial arts film as well.

Packaging:
The front cover features the main character Yun Fei Yang in an almost photonegative white image as he stands in a martial arts pose with bright blue strands emanating from his hands. These colors combine with some light effects surrounding him and some bright red kanji to really stand out against the black on the far right edge of the cover. As with other FUNimation Shaw releases there is a white banner just lower than center of the cover that contains the film title. The back continues the look as the same color scheme is present and the character Fu Yu Xue is present with sword outstretched. The white banner also continues as it contains an image of the original theatrical poster and the year produced as well as director and stars under that. Next to that image is the films copy and five stills from the feature are located under the banner. The reverse side of the cover has the Shaw Brothers wall paper in bright red while the disc itself uses part of the image of Yun Fei from the DVD cover slip for the label.

Menus:
The main menu uses the image of Yun Fei from the front and the Scene Select menu does as well though in greater close up. The Language Selection menu uses the Shaw Brothers logo paper from the back of the DVD slipcover. The menus are quick to respond to selections and the little Shaw Brothers logo behind the selection changes colors to signify what was chosen.

Extras:
This feature contains no extras.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Life in the Shaolin temple devoted to the study of the martial art of Wudang is not easy. The temple has been at odds for the past twenty years with the Invincible Clan and their chief Qing Song has faced two successive defeats ten years apart at the hands of the Invincible Clan’s leader Dugu Wu Di. Now is the time for the third showdown and Qing fears that his skill will not match Dugu’s Fatal Skill technique. While the string of losses would seem to signal the end of the Wudang there is a secret art that can spell the difference-if only someone in Wudang can learn it. It is an ancient skill known and feared and Wudang has had to fend off problems in the past from those attempting to learn it-including a spy who got into the temple and came close to stealing the secret twenty years ago.
 
In this environment is inserted a young man-Yun Fei Yang who was born to a servant at the temple and whose father is unknown. Yun Fei is the target of much hostility at the temple as he appears to be in the role of scapegoat for the others to bully. The bullying in this case has him doing tasks such as carrying targets for knife throwing practice for the students and dealing with the additional bullying the elders’ heap on him in their pronouncements of “justice” for his actions. Yun Fei has but two solaces in his life-the young woman Lun Wan Er who tries to stick up for him and on whom he has a crush and that in secret he is learning the art of Wudang which has been forbidden him because of his status from a master who hides his identity.
Events are thrown into fast forward as Qing enters battle against Dugu only to lose again and have Dugu proclaim that in two years he will complete his skill and finally take Qing’s life. As Qing’s party heads home they are ambushed by a group carrying Invincible Clan banners out for their lives and are only saved by the appearance of a man named Fu Yu Xue. Qing decides that this apparent act of treachery has changed the rules and so he decides the clan will spend the next two years training its six best disciples-of which Fu Yu will be included-in a specific part of the discipline to decide who will be the one to gain the secret book describing the Silkworm skill.
 
In a world where treachery is a constant companion machinations will come to bear and Yun Fei will find himself framed for murder and on the run from his home. When events lead him to find shelter in the heart of what should be enemy territory Yun Fei will find that the secrets of the past of Qing and Dugu will be laid bare. He will find himself for the first time in his life with knowledge of who he really is but also may find someone who can help unlock the secret of the Silkworm. But will he live long enough to learn it in time to save the school that mocked him from being destroyed from within?
Bastard Swordsman is a martial arts film that decides that while the martial arts displays and wire work effects are important it isn’t going to skip out on story. To this effect there seems to be at times enough different schemes and motivations going on to fill two movies. There is plenty here and the revels of motivations and past histories are nice touches. Unfortunately some of the characters get lost in those motivations and occasionally seem to exist to fulfill them rather than the other way around. Also when the Silkworm Skill is unleashed it may strain the levelsof  suspension of disbelief  of a number of fans as the Shaw Brothers decide to go in a different direction than many of their films and the technique is less martial arts skill or wire work than special effects skill. Still for the majority of the film it is a wild ride.

In Summary:
Bastard Swordsman is a title that is bursting at the seams with hidden agendas and machinations. While its simple man turned hero main theme at times is rather easy to see coming the depth of the story and plot lines woven will make sure that there will be parts that allow for hidden revelations to be made throughout the film. Though with the depth of agendas the final finish seems to be almost a special effects cop out the film is still an enjoyable trip to that point and the end doesn’t destroy the journey.
 
Features
Mandarin 1.0 Language, English 1.0 Language, English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Samsung 50" Plasma HDTV, Denon AVR-790 Receiver with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080.




Mania Grade: B-
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: C
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
MSRP: 14.98
Running time: 90
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: