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Film / The Wandering Swordsman

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The Wandering Swordsman is a 1970 Shaw Brothers Wuxia movie directed by Chang Cheh, starring David Chiang, then fresh off Have Sword, Will Travel and now cast in his first starring role as a titular main character.

In a plot that's lifted mostly from Yojimbo, David Chiang plays You Xia-er, a Wandering Swordsman who enters a small town occupied by two feuding bandit gangs fighting each other for territorial control. When one of the gangs intend to rob a government convoy carrying treasure passing through the village, You Xia-er decides to infiltrate the gang to seek a chance to destroy both gangs from within.

David Chiang will eventually become a household name in martial arts cinema with his next major release, Vengeance! (1970) just a few months later.


This film provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Jiang-ning, despite a brief Damsel in Distress moment, isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty and kill a bunch of bandits during the (small) handful of fight scenes she’s involved in.
  • Blood Is the New Black: In the climatic final battle, due to having an Agonizing Stomach Wound that is mostly exposed, You Xia-er ends up having most of his body covered in his own blood that continuously flows as he fights.
  • Bounty Hunter: You Xia-er claims himself to be one to gain Kung-wu’s trust and infiltrate the bandits’ hideout.
  • Comfort the Dying: Jiang-ning, in the last moments of You Xia-er’s life.
  • Conveniently Placed Sharp Thing: Jiang-ning gets captured alive by the bandits and thrown into a cell with her hands tied behind her back, but there just happens to be a half-broken bowl tucked in the bales of hay in her cell which she used to cut her ropes.
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  • Drama-Preserving Handicap: Prior to the final showdown against Kung-wu, You Xia-er receives a deadly blow when a Mook Lieutenant managed to impale him through the back with his sword. Rather than retreating, You Xia-er instead decides to soldier on despite his injury, knowing full well he most likely wouldn’t make it for resuming his pursuit of his main enemy.
  • The Drifter: You Xia-er, the titular Wandering Swordsman. In fact, his name in Mandarin literally means "Wandering Hero".
  • Dual Wield: You Xia-er uses dual short swords in combat, using them to great effect in taking names.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: Kung-wu, the moment You Xia-er reveals himself to be manipulating the two bandit legions into tearing each other apart and his intention to usurp Kung-wu when the right time arrives.
  • Evil vs. Evil: The plot of the movie revolves around two bandit gangs wrestling each other over territory control, with You Xia-er pretending to join one of their ranks in a Yojimbo-esque storyline.
  • Expy: You Xia-er is Robin Hood in the Ming Dynasty, what with his first scene being mugging a group of bandits over their ill-gotten gains and distributing them to the poor.
  • Happy Flashback: Jiang-ning, remembering You Xia-er as a free-spirited drifter and wandering warrior riding his horse across plains.
  • I Have a Family: After a massive fight scene where You Xia-er kills all but one bandit mook, the last mook pleads that he have an 80-year-old mother waiting for him at home. You Xia-er replies that the last few men he interrogates before killing all said that, and their mothers are always 80 years of age, never 79 or 81. Before killing the mook with a smirk.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice:
    • During a big fight scene, several bandits climb atop of bamboo trees trying to attack You Xia-er from above. You Xia-er responds by hacking away the bamboo stalks, causing every single bandit to fall down and get skewered.
    • Unfortunately, You Xia-er was on the receiving end of this when one Mook Lieutenant managed to shove his sword through You Xia-er’s back. See the next line for how it eventually turns out.
  • Lodged-Blade Recycling: When You Xia-er gets stabbed through the back, his response is to twist the blade now sticking out of his stomach and push it into the abdomen of the Mook Lieutenant who stabbed him. It somehow works.
  • Made of Iron: You Xia-er himself, despite being impaled with a sword prior to the final battle, somehow manage to live long enough to kill his was past Kung-wu’s last legion of mooks before fighting Kung-wu one-on-one. And win, although shortly after the wound in his guts eventually gives way and causes You Xia-er to succumb.
  • Mortal Wound Reveal: You Xia-er, after defeating Kung-wu, his last opponent. Only to realize he will not live to see the day.
  • No Honor Among Thieves: Ultimately, You Xia-er himself isn’t that honorable as a hero, and remarks that if bandit leader Kung-wu trusts him that much, he deserves to be betrayed.
  • One-Man Army: You Xia-er, the moment shit gets real he then begins taking names and leave behind dozens of dead bandits everywhere he goes.
  • Playing Both Sides: You Xia-er spends much of the movie plotting for two bandit gangs against each other, hoping to topple both gangs from within.
  • Power Fist: One of the Mook Lieutenant dons a golden clawed gauntlet in battle, which allows him to grab You Xia-er’s sword with his hands. He still ends up getting killed though.
  • Protagonist Title
  • Strolling Through the Chaos: You Xia-er doing an Unflinching Walk through a massive battle sequence between two separate group of bandits fighting each other for their loot.
  • Wire Fu