Soul of the Sword -

DVD Review

Mania Grade: B-

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  • Audio Rating: C+
  • Video Rating: B-
  • Packaging Rating: C
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: NA
  • Age Rating: 13 and Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
  • MSRP: 14.98
  • Running time: 85
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series:

Soul of the Sword

Soul of the Sword DVD Review

By John Rose     January 04, 2011
Release Date: November 09, 2010

Soul of the Sword
© FUNimation
How far will a man go to live out his dream to be called the best?
What They Say
This Shaw Brothers classic, masterfully directed by Hua Shan (The 14 Amazons), is a harrowing lesson in achieving the coveted Number One sword-wielding status. Ti Lung (Opium and the Kung- Fu Master, A Better Tomorrow) is the Nameless Swordsman bent on defeating the faceless King of Swords to claim the title, and the glory, for himself. Hordes of fighters lunge from the shadows to cut down the mysterious challenger. Even a cunning seductress takes a stab at him in a revealing bath house assassination. It is said that a man's weapon reflects his utmost dreams, desires and fears. A warrior with no name and one motive has a soul as merciless as cold steel.
The Review!
There are two tracks available on this release. One is an English Stereo track and the other is a Mandarin mono track. For the purpose of the review the Mandarin track was used and no dropouts or distortions were noticed. It is a mono track so it isn’t all that great but it is a fair track and gets the job done of communicating dialogue and sound without covering each other up.

Originally produced in 1978 the film is presented in 16:9 ratio. Overall the film print is a fairly decent one given its age. A little noise not quite covered up by the grain, print damage (including a bit of distortion), shimmering, and little problem with very bright red are noticeable during the feature but the problems are usually only momentary and do not occur with any frequency. Most other colors and blacks come out clear and motions are smooth which is important in an action film.

The cover features a montage of pictures on the top half of the front including the main character Nameless and his would be love interest in color as well as a black, green and yellowish hued shot of three other characters that appear in the film. Behind them are yellow and orange concentric circles against a purple background. The middle of the cover has a large banner space with the title in it and the bottom quarter of the front has a shot of Nameless facing a group of opponents from the feature. The back has another shot of some of the characters from the film in a similar presentation as the front complete with the orange and yellow circles against the purple background with some kanji thrown in. After the banner which on the back contains the copy and a picture of the original theatrical trailer the bottom quarter contains six shots from the feature. While the cover more or less fits with the features open it comes off with a rather late 60s early 70s vibe. It doesn’t really help sell the feature as the contained work doesn’t really reflect that covers look and style. The DVD label uses part of the cover as its image. The reverse of the cover features the Shaw Brothers symbol wallpaper that is a standard with these releases in a yellow-orange color. This release did not come with the slip cover that has accompanied previous Shaw film releases from FUNimation.

The main menu uses the picture from the top part of the front cover. The scene select cover uses a close up of the character on the left side of the cover and the rest of the screen is the circle background with little squares with a picture for the selectable chapters. The audio screen uses yellow-orange colored Shaw Brothers symbol wallpaper like image and the trailer screen uses the swirl back ground from the top of the front.

This release contains no extras.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
The film opens with a Technicolor extravaganza of colors as a variety of colors and images are thrust at the viewer and a series of figures and fights are presented in such a way as to make it look like a paper doll show with an upbeat and fast pieced musical piece punctuated by brass sounds. The film opens with a man who wears a large round hat that has a mesh screen that hangs from it that obscures his face as he shows his skills with his sword. The man’s name is Lu Tien Kang and he is known as the King of Swords, a title that brings challengers who desire the spotlight of his title out of the darkness. During one such challenge the fight is watched by a young boy who decides he will challenge for the title as he sees both the challenger defeated and his lover commit suicide.
Time passes in a flash and the young boy has become a young man who has dedicated his life to his task. The young man travels and challenges various dojos and other challengers who seek to stand in his path. The young man has decided that he will only go by the title “Nameless” until he has obtained his goal and does not share his real name with anyone. On his path he will discover that he is haunted by the image of the young woman he saw kill herself as a youth and also make the acquaintance of a doctor named Chiu I. The doctor turns out to work under the local ruler who employees Lu Tien Kang so the two wind up in a role where they spend time together.
Nameless manages to impress the local lord and is offered a job as his number two swordsman but all Nameless wants is a shot at the title King of Swords. Since he is told that Kang is not present at the time Nameless winds up spending time with Chiu I. During this he discovers a young woman in the local village who looks exactly like the woman whose visage haunts him. Now Nameless will be in a situation completely unfamiliar to him as he seems to have found some happiness in a goal beyond that which he has dedicated himself to thus far. A word with the local lord however has him questioning whether his happiness will keep him from obtaining his goal. What choice will Nameless make and will he be able to call himself satisfied with the path he chooses?
Soul of the Sword is the story of ambition crossed with decisions as to what is important to one man in his life. Whether a lifetime goal is worth the cost that will be paid to obtain it or whether the flexibility to change may turn out to grant more satisfaction than the completion of a lifelong obsession. Soul of the Sword does a decent job of setting up a man focused on a single goal and confronting obstacles in his way until he is placed at a crossroads and feels he needs to make a decision that there will be no turning back from. Will love or ambition triumph and will his final decision lead to triumph or tragedy? This is a strong film in regards to the main character but beyond that there is much left undefined in terms of other characters which sort of fit a film that is about a man driven by a goal who focuses on that to the extent of almost everything else around him.

In Summary:
Soul of the Sword presents the journey of a man as he embarks on his goal to fight the man currently holding the title of King of Swords and wrench that title from his grasp. The feature skips over the training of the young man who only refers to himself as Nameless and launches the viewer right into the early steps he takes along the bloody path that leads to the title. Will Needless succeed in his goal of capturing the title or will he discover that life offers him different opportunities than just the one his ambition desires. Will he discover triumph or tragedy or are the two inseparable when it comes to obsession?
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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MrOptimusPrime 1/4/2011 6:41:09 PM

Another classic.  Will also add to my collection.

jnager 3/13/2012 9:12:04 PM

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