Cult Movies: One Armed Boxer 'a wild excursion into 1970s martial arts movie-making'

Ralph McLean

Jimmy Wang Yu as Yu Tien Lung, who will shortly be seeking revenge for the loss of a limb

One Armed Boxer

AS MASTERPIECES of martial arts cinema go they don't get much madder or more manic than One Armed Boxer.

Jimmy Wang Yu's 1972 epic, available now on Blu-ray through Eureka Home Entertainment, is an insanely enjoyable romp that's crammed with wildly inventive fight scenes, outrageously violent set pieces and hilarious dialogue exchanges. As such, it's a solid gold classic of its kind.

Jimmy Wang Yu is Yu Tien Lung, a master martial arts exponent who upsets a shady underground opium dealer and is subsequently attacked by a team of ruthless mercenaries who promptly hack his right arm off.

Undeterred by this considerable blow to his fighting prowess Yu Tien sets about making his remaining arm super strong before he sets out on his hugely predictable but undeniably entertaining path to bloody revenge.

As with any early-70s Asian action adventure worth its salt, One Armed Boxer keeps the plot to a bare minimum and zooms in mainly on the action – and what action. The sheer energy of everything Wang Yu captures on screen is incredible. The legendary fight scenes set up opponents ranging from Japanese karate kings to Thai kickboxers and Tibetan monks.

Everything is delivered with a wild, kinetic energy that instantly pulls you into Yu Tien's mad, bad and dangerous world. It almost goes without saying that it's utterly silly, but hugely entertaining all the same. As writer, director and star, Jimmy Wang Yu delivers a true masterpiece here.

Eureka have done an admirable job restoring this rough and ready classic, although it does look a little ragged round the edges at times. The likelihood of finding pristine film stock of movies like this which ran and ran in thousands of cinemas at the time of their release and for many subsequent years has got to be pretty slim after all.

One Armed Boxer's legendary fight scenes feature Japanese karate kings, Thai kickboxers and Tibetan monks

Colours and depth are true though and there's something about a 1972 martial arts movie that needs to be a little bit ragged and cheap looking.

The soundtrack cracks long at a mighty pace with crunching punch effects and cracking metal sounds jumping out of the speakers for every manic fight sequence. At times the music echoes the soundtrack to Shaft or the Bond movies a little too closely, but that's just another reason to love these old Asian epics.

For this Blu-ray release there's a revealing commentary track from genre expert Frank Djeng that gives historical context to the film, plus the usual array of trailers and tasty morsels to entice the curious into purchasing, along with a fine booklet packed with information and stills to enjoy when the action is over. There's even a two-sided reversible film poster included to sweeten the deal even further.

A wild and wonderful excursion into the mad world of 1970s martial arts movie-making, One Armed Boxer is a fabulous film that stands up well to repeat viewing after repeat viewing. It would spur on dozens of cheap rip-offs in subsequent years.

Now that's always a sign of a successful film, if you ask me.

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