Blu-ray Review: One Armed Boxer

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When Jimmy Wang Yu passed away recently (April 5, 2022), there were a lot of obituaries that pointed out how essential the actor was in the Hong Kong film industry. Jimmy Wang Yu was one of the first major stars when The Shaw Brothers got into producing Wuxia films in the mid-60s. He took on an army with his army tied behind his back in The One-Armed Swordsman. He teamed up with Cheng Pei-pei in Golden Swallow, the sequel to Come Drink With Me. He went bare fisted in the martial arts epic The Chinese Boxer (which he also wrote and directed). He was a major star for Shaw Brothers when he wanted more control over his career. He teamed up with producer Raymond Chow’s Golden Harvest Films to write, direct and star in a film that merged his two biggest roles. One Armed Boxer brought together the lethal punches of The Chinese Boxer with the single limb exploits of The One-Armed Swordsman.

The Hook Gang isn’t happy when they show up at a restaurant and find people sitting at their table. When the people offer to move, the head punk of the Hook Gang demands their caged bird and more for trespassing. As things get violent, Tien Lung (Jimmy Wang Yu) and his fellow members of the Ching Te martial arts school attempt to calm down the room. They’ve have had it with the Hook Gang and their hooks on handles. Lung and his crew make quick work of the Hook Gang. But there is no peace since The Hook Gang members run back to their headquarters and claim they were the real victims to Chao (Yeh Tien). He is not happy that his men lost since they’re an outlaw gang dealing in opium and prostitution. This doesn’t look good for their image. He leads his crew on an attack at Ching Te school. Even though they seem tougher and have hooks, the disciplined students have no problem beating down the Hooks. Instead of admitting defeat, Chao imports the worst of the worst to join his gang. He has evil masters of Muay Thai, Judo, karate, taekwondo along with lamas and a yogi. They go on a murderous spree against the members of Ching Te. Not only do they tear apart the martial arts students, but Tien Lung gets his arm lopped off. This officially makes him the One Armed Boxer. But can he get revenge for his students and teachers that were killed with only one good arm?

Jimmy Wang Yu takes on an army of men with one arm tied behind his back. Who else did that during these glory years of martial arts flicks? He’s so dynamic on the screen whether it be fighting with two or one arms, you can’t bet against his mad skills. He gets intense during the sequence where he toughens up his left hand with extreme measures that you will wince. There’s not too much character or story development on the screen. What would be the point since it would get in the way of the nearly non-stop action with 90 minutes of fighting and three minutes of dealing with a bloody arm stump. The introduction of the masters of various disciplines of martial arts sets up the future video games. They get a brief backstory of their specialty moves and then it’s straight to kicking butt. All that matters is whose fighting style will reign supreme. The big question is if Tien Lung really have a chance against such heavyweights after having to learn away to fight as only a left-hander?

If you haven’t deep dived into martial arts films from the ’70s, One Armed Boxer is worth seeing early in your exploration of the genre. So many martial arts films used elements of this film including films starring Jimmy Wang Yu. The actor kept playing the one-armed character including the legendary Master of the Flying Guillotine where Jimmy Wang Yu battled the most dangerous weapon in all of Asia.

One Armed Boxer shows Jimmy Wang Yu understood what audiences wanted on the big screen. As a writer-director, he didn’t force the audience to sit through a bunch of passive dialogue in dull scenes. He made sure people were excited to see fists and feet were flying even if his character was a fist short. One Armed Boxer solidified Jimmy Wang Yu as a master of cinematic martial arts as a writer/director/star. It’s a fine that his cinematic legacy is being upgraded and enjoyed by a new audience.

The Video is 2.35:1 anamorphic. The 2K restoration brings out the details including how the arm gets ripped off. The audio features the original Mandarin soundtrack in mono DTS-HD MA along with an alternate Mandarin track. The big difference is the original feature the theme to Shaft as the opening theme. There’s also an English dub that’s DTS-HD MA mono. The movie is subtitled in English.

Audio Commentary by Frank Djeng from the NY Asian Film Festival. He lets us in on various cultural moments in the film. He explains how the theme to Shaft ended up in the film’s opening credits. He gives the history of how the film ended up in Mandarin and not Cantonese.

Interview with Wang Yu (41:16) has the actor talk about how he went from a water polo player to an action film superstar. Jimmy Wang Yu speaks in English. He describes his life at Shaw Brothers studio where he worked and lived. He mentions he made The Chinese Boxer at Shaw Brothers with Raymond Chow as his producer. They made One Armed Boxer together when Chow left to start Golden Harvest. The interview was conducted back in 2001 by Frédéric Ambroisine. His archival interview is split screened with vintage photos and clips to illustrate Jimmy Wang Yu’s life story. There are a few audio issues from the old tape, but it nothing too irritating.

Alternate English Credits (1:58) lets you see what the credits really read.

Image gallery over 70 press photos, lobby cards, posters, press kits, distribution art, booklet, The Chinese Professionals poster,

Hong Kong Theatrical Trailer (4:13) points out how Jimmy Wang Yu is back with one arm.

US TV Spot (1:04) has the film called The Chinese Professionals with all the fighters.

US Radio Spot (1:00) calls the film a mix of The Dirty Dozen and The Magnificent Seven.

Trailer Reels (34:29) includes the previews for One-Armed Swordsman, Golden Swallow, Return of the One-Armed Swordsman, The Chinese Boxer, Zatoichi Meets the One-Armed Swordsman, The Screaming Tiger, The Man From Hong Kong, Blood Of The Dragon, Master of the Flying Guillotine and Point Of The Finger of Death. Be nice if they all come out on Blu-ray soon.

Arrow Video presents One Armed Boxer. Directed by Jimmy Wang Yu. Screenplay by Jimmy Wang Yu. Starring Jimmy Wang Yu, Ma Kei, Yeh Tien, You-Min Ko, Hsin Tang, Wong Fei-lung, Yi-Kuei Chang & Su Chen Ping. Running Time: 93 minutes. Rated: Unrated. Release Date: May 24, 2022.

Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.