Remember all that stuff from the first film? We’ll help by giving you a quick montage then barely touch on any of it again the rest of the film. Which is fair as many of those characters will feel like they are in supporting roles and barely around anyway-including the titular character.
What They Say Just when you think you've had enough, the Shaw Brothers turn the brutality up another notch in Return of Bastard Swordsman. Hsu Sha-chiang (Bastard Swordsman, Hong Kong Godfather) is back as Yun Fei-yang, the master of the lethal Silkworm technique. Cultures clash as Chinese warriors band together to face the treachery of Japan's Ega Clan, who wait in ambush around every corner. Directed by Lu Chun-ku, this sequel to his original Bastard Swordsman reaches new levels of violent intensity. You'll grip your chest and check your pulse when you witness one of the most over-the-top Kung Fu moves ever caught on film: the Phantom technique, a harrowing attack with the power to burst the human heart. Make no mistake-the Bastard is back.
The Review! Audio:
The feature contains two audio tracks-an English stereo track and a Mandarin mono track. 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.
Created in 1984 the feature is presented in 16:9 ratio. The feature presents some noise, 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.
The DVD slipcover features Dugu Wu Di of the Invincible Clan right up front in colorful garb with Li Bu Yi who is introduced in this sequel just to the left behind Dugu with his sign and throwing fortunes. They stand against a grey tartan pattern that also has some silhouettes in yellow, red and black of people in martial arts poses. 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 with Li Bu standing in front of a statue of Buddha in varying shades of grey and black. 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 yellow-gold. The DVD label uses a close up of the front of the slipcover.
The main menu uses the image of Dugu and Li Bu from the front and the Scene Select menu uses the grey tartan pattern from the back with some kanji thrown on as well. 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.
This feature contains no extras.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
The film opens showing scenes from the first film including Dugu Wu Di of the Invincible Clan in his fight against Yun Fei Yang where Dugu believes he has killed Yun Fei and decides to go into a two year period of extreme isolation to train for his final mastery of the Fatal Skill. Yun Fei has actually found the hidden step to mastering Wudang’s Silkworm skill in defeat and saved the Wudang from a hidden poison within before leaving them and going into seclusion with his lover. During the period where both are absent a new threat emerges as the Ega Clan-a group of martial arts practitioners of the Phantom Skill from Japan- have invaded China to prove their skills are the best in the world lead by Mochitsuki Soryu Han.
At this point Dugu returns from his training to discover the events that befell Wudang since he secluded himself to attain the tenth level of his skill. When he hears that Yun Fei still lives and has mastered the Silkworm skill he leaves to challenge him as he already had presented a challenge for that year in the previous film though when he arrives in force at the Wudang temple he finds Yun Fei is gone. The other practitioners at the Wudang temple persuade Dugu to wait seven days while they get Yun Fei back and Dugu agrees though he stipulates if Yun Fei does not return he will kill all in the temple instead and forbids anyone to leave. The Wudang then dispatch Yao Feng to track down Yun Fei so that he might avert disaster despite the edict.
Yao Feng leaves with his task but immediately runs into a wall of having no idea where to even start looking for Yun Fei. A chance encounter of mistaken identity sends him in the direction Li Bu Yi who is said to be an incredibly powerful and accurate fortune teller. The task of finding the real Li Bu will not be the easiest since there is no shortage of men trying to make their living scamming others off Li Bu’s reputation. Though Yao Feng eventually lucks into finding him when he meets a man matching the description he was given but who carries none of the pretenses of the others who claim to be that he met. Whether this will be a good or bad omen for Yao Yeng will be left open as Li Bu predicts that Yao Feng’s luck will run out and that if he runs around he will court danger.
As fate would have it Yao Feng is discovered by some of Dugu’s men just after the prediction is given. Since Dugu forbade anyone to leave Wudang he is instantly set upon but finds that Li Bu is a very capricious man and had followed him. Even better for Yao Feng is that Li Bu is a skilled martial artist in his own right who saves Yao Feng from Dugu’s men. Yao Feng discovers that that Li Bu has met Yun Fei and can take him to him. That is where Yao Feng and the Wudang’s luck runs out though as when pressed for a prediction on the temples fate Li Bu states they will be wiped out. True to that prediction shortly afterward the Ega clan wipes out the Wudang and their allies who have gathered to fight Dugu.
Ega tries to frame Dugu for the slaughter at Wudang and also commits atrocities against the Invincible Clan and tries to blame Yun Fei so as to have the two men at each other’s throats. Not that they needed to do that as the ploy is easily seen through but the two men lock in combat anyway. Dugu emerges victorious as Yun Fei’s skills are slipping. While Yun Fei’s friends keep Dugu from killing him and take him on a journey to try to revive his skill Dugu will face Han of the Ega clan alone. Will the Invincible Clan’s skill live up to its name or will Yun Fei need to find a miracle to cure him so he can avenge his fellow students and repel the invaders?
Return of Bastard Swordsman feels a bit lacking as a sequel. The original film worked to build up Silkworm skill and Fatal skill as major powers though neither feels as much so in this film. Worse, characters that had major roles in the first are relegated to almost supporting roles as precious little is done to advance them and those entering into this franchise with this film first will find precious little to cling to with them. The martial arts displays are still well done for the most part but the special effects also show up in the end to undercut the previous spectaculars a bit.
In Summary: Return of Bastard Swordsman is less a film that stands on its own then one that only works because of the framework the first movie established. And even at that it is a poor follow up. Characters are shoved to the side or discarded and the careful building of plots and schemes in the original are sadly mundane or just glossed over completely here. The fights are still good and there is a new character that actually gets some screen time development but this film is only for those who really liked the first. And even many of them will likely find this a poor follow up to the first.
Features Mandarin 1.0 Language, English 2.0 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.
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