The Iron Buddha is a 1970 Shaw Brothers wuxia film starring Ling Yun.
When Xiao Tian-zhun, a murderer and rapist, is caught red-handed in the act by Master Liu Peng, a benevolent martial arts school leader who knew Xiao's father, Xiao promised he will turn over a new leaf if Master Liu accepts him as a student and teach him new skills in kung fu, for him to serve the Imperial Court. Due to owing a favour to Xiao's father, Master Liu accepts Xiao Tian-zhun's request.
Turns out that he shouldn't. Three years later, Xiao Tian-zhun reveals his true colours as he intends to use his newly-attained skills in martial arts to rob, pillage, rape, and commit all sorts of atrocities, one of the first things he did which is to execute a complete massacre of Master Liu's school and family. And it's up to Master Liu's best disciple, Luo Han - a revered swordsman known as the Iron Buddha, returning from a quest of his own, to stop Xiao Tian-zhun.
Described by its director as Shaw Brothers' attempt to reconstruct the "Heroic Swordsman" wuxia archetype, for once with the spotlight on the opposing side, this film explores how attaining ultimate power in the jiang hu can bring out the true, dark nature in the blackest of hearts...
The Iron Buddha contains examples of:
- Barehanded Blade Block: Luo Han, who pulled this stunt using his thumb and forefinger.
- Carved Mark: At the start of the film, in order to remind Xiao Tian-zhun, an arrested rapist who promised he will change himself for the better, that he will be a better man, Master Liu then carves a cross-shaped mark on Xiao's shoulder. This ends up backfiring when Xiao, upon revealing his true nature, then kills Master Liu in an insanely brutal manner by hacking twenty cross-shaped scars all over Liu's body, torso, and face.
- Coup de Grâce: Luo Han's final killing blow on Xiao Tian-zhun, after winning the penultimate sword duel, where he gives the murderer a downward thrush to the gut of justice he so truly deserved.
- Death of a Thousand Cuts: Xiao Tian-zhun really enjoys doing this, hacking his defeated victims slowly rather than killing them outright, in order to "maximize" their suffering. Such as leaving at least 40 cuts on his former mentor and benefactor, Liu.
- Driven to Suicide: Overlapping with Spiteful Suicide, after Xiao Tian-zhun brutally injures all of Liu's students and gleefully tells then he intends to make them suffer a slow, agonizing death, one at a time, the students instead choose to Seppuku themselves on the spot in order to deprive Xiao the joy of killing them.
- Duel to the Death: Between Luo Han and Xiao Tian-zhun, at the climax of the film, after Luo had deduced Xiao's true identity as his mentor's slayer. Luo Han wins.
- The Farmer and the Viper: In the opening scene, Xiao Tian-zhun, the murderer and rapist, is granted a second chance by Master Liu-Peng, who accepts Xiao as his student and teaches him higher levels of martial arts skills. Upon graduation, Xiao then murders Master Liu and his daughters, hunts down and slays all his former classmates from the same school, and goes on a killing spree, having apparently learnt nothing from his tutelage in the martial arts school.
- Forced to Watch: Xiao Tian-zhun, after maiming Master Liu, have him tied up and forced Liu to look as he brutally rapes one of Liu's daughters.
- Foil: Luo Han and Xiao Tian-zhun are basically a mirror reflection of each other; both of them starts off as the best students of Master Liu's academy, are unparalleled and unbeatable at their skills with a sword, but while Luo Han upholds his master's teachings about honour and righteousness, Xiao Tian-zhun is evil right from the start and never heeds Master Liu's advice on turning over a new leaf, using his new skills to commit even further atrocities.
- Gorn: Owing to the movie's copious amounts of graphic death scenes, all of them which is accompanied by plenty of High-Pressure Blood.
- Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: If Xiao Tian-zhun ever shows any sign of remorse during any scene, he doesn't mean it. EVER.
- Kick the Dog: Xiao Tian-zhun, everywhere he goes. From killing his mentor and benefactor, to silencing a tavern keeper because He Knows Too Much, and manipulating Luo Han who is oblivious to Xiao's true identity, intending to ambush Luo and gloat about killing his mentor in front of him before killing him as well.
- I Lied: Basically, Xiao Tian-zhun's promise to turn over a new leaf after being caught alive by Master Liu. He kept his word for a few years training in Liu's school, but upon graduation and learning martial arts to a much higher level, Xiao reveals his true intentions to usurp Liu's position.
- Poisoned Weapons: Xiao Tian-zhun's preferred weapon, his sword is coated with a seemingly unending supply of venom which can prolong his victim's suffering.
- Professional Killer: Xiao Tian-zhun, who slays people for the sheer pleasure and joy of seeing blood being spilled.
- Red Baron: Luo Han is the titular Iron Buddha, named as such due to his skills with a sword, but also famed for his merciful nature towards his foes.
- Sadist: Xiao Tian-zhun, in spades. It's bad enough that he betrays his mentor, Master Liu, and have Liu's entire family massacred, but during the scene where he hunts down his former classmates, he deliberately maims each and every single one of them, leaving them horribly injured but alive, and gloats to their faces that he will enjoy watching them suffer as long as possible instead of killing them outright. Those classmates Took a Third Option however.
- Secondary Character Title: Luo Han is the titular Iron Buddha, but for all he's worth, he doesn't show up until the second act, when the movie is deep into Xiao Tian-zhun's story as the most evil man in the Ming Dynasty.
- Spotting the Thread: Luo Han uses this method to deduce Xiao Tian-zhun's true identity, via a line of dialogue uttered by the villain from an earlier scene, allowing him to defend himself when Xiao tries sneaking upon him.
- Sword Fight: Most of the action scenes are sword-to-sword battles, including the lengthy climax.
- Villain Protagonist: Ultimately, the majority of the film is centered on Xiao Tian-zhun, the murderous psychopath who pretends to be reformed, only to turn on his mentor and go on a killing spree. The film's beginning depicts his Start of Darkness and keeps going from there, chronicling the journey of an increasingly ruthless and demented man.