Thrilling Sword (Review)
It is a Taiwanese take on Snow White, which needed giant monsters, guys turned into bears, demon worship, and crystal swords. Take that, Disney! The film is filled with fantastic elements, just when you think the film has exhausted its supply of weird wonderness, it shows that Thrilling Sword has barely scratched the surface. Parts of the film remind me of He-Man, to the point where I suddenly became interested in He-Man again after years of not being interested and now know all sorts of new stuff about He-Man.
Thrilling Sword is one of many awesome fantasy films that came out of the Taiwanese film industry. At the time, they were competing with the Shaw Brothers and their elaborate and expensive productions. No Taiwanese company could compete in making their films look just as good, but that didn’t stop them from trying or from going over the top with the fantasy aspects. And that makes the films that came out of Taiwan from the 1970s and 80s some of the weirdest and most fun films. It is a shame that so many of the films are hard to find or even lost. Many of the surviving films are only found on fullscreen VHS tapes that are running on thirty years old (luckily, most have been archived digitally, so even if the film never is released again it won’t disappear.) This particular rip is taken from a TV broadcast, which is supposed to be more widescreen than the fullscreen VHS releases of Thrilling Sword, but then I saw a VCD case while looking up cast info on the film, so there is at least VCD copies around, which means there might be a DVD somewhere, but who knows how good that copy is. But this is one film I would put extra time into hunting down an upgrade for.
Thrilling Sword has also been released under the titles Heaven Sword and Thrilling Bloody Sword. So now you know. Director Cheung San Yee also directed a few classics such as Lady Constables and Snaky Knight Fights Against Mantis. He also wrote Island Warriors and came up with the story for Challenge of the Lady Ninja.
Raising the roof!
We got some psychedelic credits set to cool music as scenes from later in the film play under various camera filters.
The story begins as the queen is giving birth and the king waits outside. A meteor crashes into the castle and lands right on her pregnant belly! This causes her to give birth to a big lump of flesh and die. That wasn’t in Armageddon! The king freaks out at the pulsating mass that is his child, and gives it a Moses-style departure down the river, with his wise advisor giving the lump a pendent, just in case the child returns in 18 years to save the kingdom or something…
In the forest, seven dudes are marching…the seven dwarves! One of them is Hui Bat-Liu from Fantasy Mission Force! There is also a talking rooster who they call Cock. I am not making this up. Of the dwarves, we have an archer who somehow hits fish with arrows he shoots in the sky, we got a vain guy, a drunk guy, a sleepy guy, FMF guy is Farty (which stinks enough the talking bird runs off), a mohawk guy (who is dumb), and another guy we’re calling Screechy.
Leela’s gone feral!
Mohawk and Screechy are in the river and find the baby ball of flesh. They freak out a bit, then take it inside to figure out how to cook the flesh. Raw, they decide, after much debate. Only cutting it open causes the flesh lump to steam up and scare them all again until they hear the cries of the baby they just freed.
Yaur-gi is what they will call her as they decide to raise her. Coming to ABC this fall…My Seven Dwarf Dads!
17 years later…
Some guy is attacked by a Cyclops Mummy Grover or something. More people in an inn get attacked one by one. We get a clear shot finally and see it is a cyclops armadillo monster demon and it attacks everyone, with only two brave souls willing to fight it, they die, of course.
Put your hands in the Air-yer!
Yaur-gi is by some glowing crystal. She has grown up into Fong Fong-Fong, showing how lucky she is. Remember – if your pregnant wife is hit by a meteor on her stomach and gives birth to a lump of flesh, the flesh lump will grow up to be hot. Yaur-gi is warned to stay away from the glowing crystal or everyone will get captured by demons (you read that right) The dwarf warning her is a hologram for some reason, it wasn’t until an hour later I realized he was supposed to be a dwarf and thus small and thus they projected him into the shot to make him look smaller, but it is far too distracting and made me think he was like a holographic Princess Leia asking for Obi-Wan’s help.
Yaur-gi gets water and sees some flowers and almost falls, until a handsome dude with clothes like Elvis saves her. He is Prince Yur-juhn in the Yur Chin Kingdom/Yur Min Nation (Hey, it changes in the subtitles! Don’t blame me if no one can spell his home country!) He walks her home, where he is spied by the seven fathers. They become nice to him when they find out he saved her. Prince Yur-juhn is on the way to the capital, so he must be going.
The King is asking his advisors about how to deal with the demon. Gi-err from Wu Shien Kingdom
is said to be a powerful exorcist. The king orders her brought there, but she is already there, arriving via tiny teleportation steps. One of the ministers expresses concern over civilian casualties, so Gi-err twists his head around three times. That’s compassionate conservatism! The head twisting angers the guard captain Commander Chen, who looks amazingly like Lt. Worf from Star Trek: The Next Generation! But she tosses his sword around and even fake stabs him. Ah, civilized discord.
Sir I protest! I am not a merry man!
Gi-err has a friend called Shiah-ker with magic powers, and he arrives to disco music fanfare while the camera repeatedly zooms in on him and on a poster of death riding a horse. The cyclops Grover demon is still stomping around, so the two wizards show up and start to kick its butt. Gi-err is dressed like Cleopatra now, because, why the heck not? They blow up the demon (and it totally burns up. That costume isn’t coming back for reshoots!)
King Gau-shien rewards them, they want to stay and serve him so he makes them generals of Ku Shien over the objections of his advisor. The two immediately discuss amongst themselves how they orchestrated the whole thing and are sending more monsters that they will destroy so the king will trust them more. Then they pray to their demon god, Spirit Ah-Ua. You know Spirit Ah-Ua, so I won’t have to waste time explaining the whole cult of Spirit Ah-Ua and their war with A-Ha over the rights to the song Take On Me. Gi-err and Shaih-ker request the 9-headed siren from Spirit Ah-Ua, and some monster attacks some women, but we don’t see much which is a shame. We shall soon…
The seven dorks try to cure Yaur-gi of her lovesickness by doing humorous stuff like imitating the cock and pretending to be monkeys, but it is no use, she is too much in love. Damn love, ruining everything. King Gau-shien wants to send the exorcists to deal with the new monster, but the ministers want them to protect the castle, so they will send Prince Yur-Juhn to fight the monster instead – he arrives to music stolen from a score I should know but can’t remember. Prince Yur-Juhn is more than happy to do it!
Shaih-ker is upset, and goes to the demon lair to conjure up a TV to watch the battle and control the monster. We see a 9-headed monster shooting flames from all 9 immobile heads. The only heads that move are the puppet heads shown in closeups biting people, which means they made two models of this monster, the immobile flamethrower and the puppet closeups. There are flames all over as soldiers die. Prince Yur-Juhn fights and he stabs a few heads. The stabbings also injures Shaih-ker. He ends up jumping on the back of the neck of one of the heads and stabbing it, it looks goofy but that kills it and injures Shaih-ker enough he declares he and Prince Yur-Juhn are on hostile position! Oh, no! Not hostile position! It’s like being On Deadly Ground except no Steven Seagal so it is automatically better.
Yaur-gi pets a rabbit that turns into a tiny fairy and offers to grant her a wish. All Yaur-gi wants in the prince, so the fairy goes to look for him. The seven fathers learn the prince has killed the 9-headed monster and there will be a party at the castle. It also means the prince probably won’t have time for Yaur-gi anymore, so they must get her into the palace to the party to keep Prince Yur-Juhn interested. The big problem is they don’t know how to get her in or have a dress for her to wear. The little fairy of the forest solves the dress part, because I guess she realized they had to borrow parts of Cinderella for their Snow White story.
Wave ’em like you just don’t care!
Mohawk knows the guard captain who looks like Worf, so they get Yaur-gi in that way. She is disguised as a servant, but Prince Yur-Juhn recognizes her immediately. King Gau-shien also sees her and thinks she is his dead wife, but his advisor sees the medallion she wears and recognizes it, remembering he gave it to the baby and figuring out she is the missing child.
Gi-err is ticked off as usual and goes down to the demon room to yell at her devil lord that another girl is more charming than her. Gi-err is the Tyra Banks of Thrilling Sword. The demon tells her the story of Yaur-gi, and how the king doesn’t know yet. Yaur-gi gets to talk with Prince Yur-Juhn for a few seconds but then leaves, and then Gi-err and Shaih-ker turn the prince into a bear and send him to the forest. For once, you can forget the film for having a guy in a bear suit playing a bear, because he is playing a guy turned into a bear.
The dwarves knew the two wizards, they were generals of the San Miaur kingdom and are the ones who turned the seven generals into the seven dwarves. That glowing rock Yaur-gi was by near the beginning of the movie is a magic ward that hides them from view of the two wizards. Prince Bear shows up and scares everyone, until the little fairy of the forest realises he is the prince and tells the dwarves. The dwarves all bicker while another stolen soundtrack that I can’t identify plays.
To cure the prince, they must put the bear in a barrel filled with chemicals for seven days. If they open the barrel too early, Prince Yur-Juhn will die. Seven days later, but with still two hours to go, Shaih-ker arrives to cause trouble. And make it double. Or not. Shaih-ker knocks over the lid of the barrel, the prince is human but will now be crippled, and Shaih-ker takes Yaur-gi away as he teleports off. What a jerk!
The little fairy of the forest has medicine for Prince Yur-Juhn and is going to try to rescue Yaur-gi. But she is too late, as Yaur-gi is offered up to the demon lord, to deaden her soul. Some floating fake head and flashy light effects later, Yaur-gi is soul deadened. They tell her to forget the prince and the generals, and to marry Shiah-ker. They then show her to the king, reveal she is his daughter, and in her hypnotized state she declares she wants marry Shiah-ker.
Prince Yur-Juhn recovers, and the little fairy of the forest tells the prince that Yaur-gi is a princess and hypnotized by the baddies. Fairy knows of someone trapped in a box by the two baddies that they could rescue who will help them, but the box is hidden away in a dangerous place. So she sends Prince Yur-Juhn to get magic treasures first. He finds a skeleton with armor and the Thunder Sword in a cave, it starts talking to him and explains about a magic pearl on the armor. Then Prince Yur-Juhn is wearing the armor, and he looks straight out of He-Man! Someone get Battlecat!
The dwarves go to warn the king. Meanwhile, devil god Spirit Ah-Ua yells as Shiah-ker for not killing the prince or princess. Spirit Ah-Ua attacks Shiah-ker for a bit when he gets sassy, then tells him the prince is on the move. So they send the demon envoy to meet him.
Prince Yur-Juhn goes in a cave looking for water and is attacked. By Rodan! And Batman! And a frog guy! He fights them, but doesn’t win unti he does a magic pearl/power sword combo on them! The King is told the princess has been brainwashed, so they plan to sneak her out of the capital, until Shiah-ker appears and traps everyone in a circle net demanding the king give up his crown. Commander Chen is killed when he touches the wall. Noo! Worf!
Rodan, Batman, and the Frogmen go on a magical cameo journey…
Prince Yur-Juhn meets three other guys from his town on the way to the magic palace where the box is. But at the palace, it is just a wasteland with four guys standing as statues. Of course, they come alive and quickly kill the three extra guys, so the prince must fight them alone. The fairy uses her powers to find out their weak spots, because they are invulnerable otherwise. Three of them are killed this way, but the last guy doesn’t seem to have a weak spot. But he does…his butt! So the prince stabs him in the butt so hard he lifts him into the air. Now that is some good butt-stabbin’!
The prince is then brought into a rock by a demon face. Inside, he sees the magic box, but there are also sticky walls, vanishing eyes, and hands coming up through the steps after him. One of the ghosts from Pac-man flies by and slashes Prince Yur-Juhn, then hands grab him. He is also chased by monster teeth, but the teeth crash into the wall and get damaged, telling the prince the monster can be hurt. Then he must contend with some monster feet, who prove the most difficult by far, but getting them stuck in the sticky walls solves that matter. He gets a leg up on those legs, HA! Then some hands attack, and soon the whole monster puts itself together. The monster flies around a bit until the prince blows it up with an explosive jewel on his belt.
The monster turns into a glass key, while the magic box starts moving and the guy inside demand to be let out. The guy is freed, and says he will grant the prince three wishes. But the prince just has one wish, to kill Shiah-ker and Gi-err. The giant genie guy (who the Prince calls Magic Master, and so shall we) says he will do it for free because he hates those guys. So Magic Master grabs the prince, sucks him back into the box, and the box flies to the castle, with the fairy flying after it.
At the castle, the minister who cares about civilian casualties has been killed and next is Minister Gan. But then the box flies in and blasts the magic net trapping everyone. The box smokes open and out pops Magic Master and the prince, so Magic Master and Shiah-ker start magic fighting.
Shiah-ker and Gi-err comebine powers to do Touch of Death, which destroys all of Magic Master’s attacks. It is now Prince Yur-Juhn’s turn, and after some blasts and parts of his own armor flying around, Shiah-ker retaliates with an even bigger crystal sword. This is the hugest crystal sword you ever did see! Gi-err has her own black sword, so we got tons of crazy swords, which I guess is thrilling, thus the movie’s title.
They all swordfight for a while, a long while, but the prince is defeated because evil always wins. Or not, as Magic Master tells Prince Yur-Juhn to power his sword with the magic box. He does, and it takes the swords away from the baddies, freezes them in place, and as he attacks, it destroys the demon room where Spirit Ah-Ua hangs with each strike. Princess Yaur-gi is also freed from hypnosis. That’s a powerful sword. The heroes trap the two evil wizards in the box, and Magic Master takes the box and leaves.
The seven dwarves are back to normal size! That’s great, but where were you during the final battle? Yellow-bellied cowards!
Happy ending for everyone! Except for Shiah-ker and Gi-err. Those poor people…
Rated 10/10 (Fake Head, Demon dude, I Have The Power!, Z-zap!, It’s one of those guys who pretend to be statues for money!, sneaky hands, Thrilling Sword prop…or stolen from The Goonies?, Box trapped, So that’s what happened to Skeletor…)
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