The White-Bone Sword (Part 4)
aka 白骨陰陽劍(四集) aka Bai gu yin yang jian, si ji aka Ingenious swords, part four
Written by Sze-To On
Directed by Ling Yun
American elections in gif form!
This is it, the final chapter of the saga of The White-Boned Sword, the thrilling tale of some powerful swords that everyone wants so of course it attracts a bunch of jerks! Don’t leave yet, we still got one more brand new monster showing up later in the film, but first we have the amazing battle of the undead happening! When last we left, Wong Tin-ho had been poisoned, so Wu Sheung-fung was in search of the rare White-bone Grass to save him, but there was a pack of dancing skeletons in the way! Luckily, Luk Fong-fei and Vampire Lady were also around so Vampire Lady could send her pack of hopping vampires to fight the dancing skeletons. Thus the battle is joined…
Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern has been optioned (again!) for the silver screen, this time by Warner Brothers, who are in a desperate search for a new megafranchise to make money off of in the wake of Harry Potter being long gone (and the new Potter-less Rowling films a gamble), and with The Hobbit wrapping up with no Similarion in sight. Thus, options are getting thrown about like wild pitches at a drunken softball game! Warners optioned all 22 books, which (as those of us who read the books because we were dorks know) covers 2500 years of time on planet Pern, meaning they can potentially restart the franchise every three movies or so with whole new casts! Brilliant!
Some Dragonriders of Pern info for the few of you who don’t know and are too lazy to highlight the title and rightclick for the Google search: Dragonriders of Pern takes place on the planet Pern, which is occasionally threatened by a rogue planet called the Red Star, whose irregular orbit causes it to drag destructive creatures known as Thread with it that fall on Pern and devour all organic matter it touches until they die. The Thread threatens all living creatures with destructing, but luckily they are easily destroyed by fire. Pern also has natural tiny flying lizards that breath flames (called dragonets) and bang, zoom, genetic manipulation later, suddenly we got huge dragons that people ride and burn the Thread up with.
Of course, the dragons have psychic bonds, there are different colors of dragons, occasionally the Thread doesn’t fall when it’s supposed to and people begin resenting the dragonriders, and other planet intrigue happens. The series has a lot of trilogies and other work that could be set all over Pern history.
Thanks to movies and big budgets and Game of Thrones, this is probably the best time for Dragonriders of Pern to get optioned, and the best time for it to get turned into an actual film. Here’s hoping for some awesome dragonriding and fighting and cool things being cool. Because that would be cool! If you’ve paid attention over the years, you’ve heard this franchise get optioned numerous times. But I have a feeling about this option…
Never fear, Warners is still hedging their bets on old school franchises, including forming a Harry Potter Global Franchise Development team that’s based in both London and Burbank. It’s called HPGFD, because, of course it is! It’s all about studios and brands leveraging every dollar out of your bank account and into theirs!
47 Ronin becomes the final financial disaster of 2013, schizophrenic mess of a picture that manages to be offensive on several levels while not having the simple decency to be entertaining (either good or bad) and sits mired in the muck of mediocrity. An untested director was suddenly given stacks of cash to make a big budget effects movie, and quickly things fell apart. After the studio stepped in, things somehow got more confusing. In the end, the only people happy are people who get happy when dumb things happen.
The 47 Ronin is a classic tale of true Japanese history that has enough events going on that a straight adaptation would easily work as a mainstream film, and has before. In fact, the 47 Ronin has be adapted so often there is even a term for genre that is the various adaptations of the work – Chushingura. Due to censorship laws, the original plays featured altered names and events, and some retellings are stylized adaptations that mix myth and history. A 300-style adaptation is not out of the bounds of accepted reality, and I do not fault the film for trying that angle, it could have been interesting had it been applied correctly. Dragons, strange beasts, golems, witches, bird people, ogres, and magic swords are elements of many successful films. But it is not to be.
Reeves plays a half-Japanese half-British character who is raised by the Lord Asano, Kai is entirely made up and shoehorned into the story. From the narrative it’s clear Reeves wasn’t the original star and has had scenes added on, while Hiroyuki Sanada’s character Oishi is either ignored or suddenly the focus during random scenes. That disrupts an already cluttered tale simplified down for mainstream audiences, gives no characters enough development to give them dramatic weight, and many things simply happen for reasons never explained. The official story is new director Carl Rinsch originally had even less of Keanu Reeves, and was forced to do reshoots to beef of the role. The hints of studio interference are obvious – Reeves’ Kai suddenly had a love interest (the Princess Mika), was inserted into the final battle fighting a dragon (more on this in a bit), and spends a lot of the running time looking at other events.
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!