Thursday, August 6, 2015


Wuxia can get pretty graphic at times, and when it does it paints a scene with blood. This can serve as a surprising reminder of the world the characters inhabit but can also conveys the importance of martial principles like perseverance and adaptability. These scenes are sometimes shocking and occasionally beautiful. The following is a list of sequences I find memorable. They are not necessarily iconic (though some are), but they all left a lasting impression on me. My key criteria for inclusion on the list were whether they shocked me, moved me or embodied something greater than the scene itself. 

Spoiler Alert: There are major spoilers in this list. I mention how major characters die. 

The Arm-Cutting Scene

When the main character Fang Kang tries to leave Qi Rufeng's Golden Sword School, the master's daughter tries to stop him. She secretly admires Kang, but chooses to express her affection through playful hostility. In this sequence their relationship reaches a crescendo as she cuts off his arm after he strikes her with his hand (he agreed to fight her without weapons when she challenged him). Everything about this scene is incredible, but in particular, it's the look that works. It works visually and director Chang Cheh does a masterful job: it feels like a painting.

Spear Trap

This is on the list for its shock quality. I found it jarring when I first saw the scene, and it made me angry because I was interested in the character, Jing'er. Just when it looks like things may be turning into  love story between Detective Dee and Jing'er, she is suddenly impaled by a spear trap while carrying Dee to safety through a forest. It is totally unexpected, unfolds quickly, and shocks the viewer with its swift violence. 

Full Body-Impalement

This is one of the more bizarre entries. In Butterfly and Sword one of the villains is on the receiving end of a rather elaborate charge. The hero uses Lady Ko's sleeve as a kind of bow to launch his body and sword toward Lord Suen Yuk Pa. This allows him to stab through Lord Suen's body. He literally passes his entire body through Suen's belly and out the other side in a case of full body impalement.

Maiming at the Pavilion

I consider this a defining moment in Lady Hermit, when she is bent of vengeance and strikes her foes in a garden pavilion. What follows encapsulates so much about the spirit of the genre. Lady Hermit tracks down the men responsible for killing her ally Mr. Wang, when she finds three of the killers she says "I want your head. I want your shoulder. I want your leg" then proceeds to make good on her threat severing each limb in turn. Part of the reason this works is Cheng Pei-pei's intensity. It is also perfectly conceived. The scene occurs below at the 1:15 mark. 

Twin Strike

Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan
Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan as a whole is actually pretty lean on the combat, but this final climactic battle brings violence in spades. In the climax of the film, after a dramatic shift in alliances, Lady Chun impales her right hand man with her right arm only to have him slice it off. It captures so much so much about her character, about the situation and is brutal beyond belief. It makes Ai Nu's declaration that she never actually loved Lady Chun all the more powerful.  

Devouring Blade

In New Dragon Gate Inn, the seemingly invincible villain, Tsao Siu-yan, charges at the hero only to be surprised by an attacker hidden in the sand. The assailant attacks with a flurry of short blades, peeling the skin from Tsao's leg. He looks down and the bone is entirely exposed. It is unexpected, vaguely humorous and memorable. 

The Sacrifice

Golden Swallow
This is a staggeringly violent death scene, where Silver Roc makes his last stand against the forces of poison dragon. Silver Roc fights wave after wave of attackers, getting stabbed, whipped, imbedded with arrow and worse. At one point he has fights with four sword hilts sticking from his body. This could have come off as silly but thanks to Jimmy Wang's great performance it shows his character's nearly indestructible will. At the end he stands victorious over the carnage, as the supreme swordsman and embodiment of indomitable spirit.

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