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October 9, 2007

DVD of the Week – Vengeance is a Golden Blade (1969)


Another week with no exciting new releases, another opportunity for me to promote Hong Kong cinema. I picked up Vengeance Is a Golden Blade (1969) on a whim because it has such a great title. Although it doesn’t quite live up to the dramatic promise of the title, it’s a fun movie with some exciting sword fighting action scenes, and a nice example of the heroic swordplay genre.

Vengeance is part of a series of classic Shaw Brothers studio films being released this year on DVD by Image Entertainment. Picture and sound quality are great on the four Image titles I’ve watched so far, and I haven’t caught a mistake yet on the excellent subtitles. Vengeance is light on extras, having only an extensive trailer gallery, but the other titles have some interesting features, including commentaries, image galleries and short feature documentaries, some with extensive interviews, about major directors and actors from the studio’s heyday.

Although by no means one of the best Shaw Brothers titles, Vengeance Is a Golden Blade is a considerably better film than the boring DVD cover art and simultaneously hokey and inaccurate back cover description would suggest. The cover foregrounds a screenshot of a rather vacant looking young man holding a bloodied sword. It’s not the titular blade – the Golden Blade is much more impressive – and he’s not the main character.

The main character is a young swordswoman seeking revenge against the bandits who crippled her father and drove them from their home. She is not a master with the sword (as her father reminds her with annoying frequency), but she is more than proficient and takes out scores of bandits over the course of the story. She’s also intelligent, a good strategist, honorable and courageous. Her family, as well as her enemies, consistently underestimates her. Her struggle to prove herself to her father (and defeat the bandits!) is emotionally compelling and creates an unusual and interesting storyline.

New releases this week: 28 Weeks Later, Evan Almighty, Reign Over Me, Rise: Blood Hunter, Surf’s Up, You Kill Me