Issue #241        HOME          E-mail:        BACK ISSUES            December 6th, 2004

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Legendary Weapons of China
(1982; Shaw Brothers)

Cantonese: Sap baat boon mo ngai
Mandarin: Shi ba ban wu yi
English: Eighteen Styles of Martial Arts


RATING: 9/10


A serious problem plagues the Yi Ho Society: three years after he was sent to Yunnan to set up a new branch of the society, pugilism expert Lui Gung (Lau Kar-leung, who also directed) has instead dissolved the group. Master Li Lin-ying orders Lei's death and three assassins are chosen to carry out the deed: Maoshan clansman Lui Ying (Lau Kar-wing), resolute young fighter Tieh Hau (Hsiao Hou), and master pugilist Ti Tan (Gordon Lau Kar-fai). Each is sent out separately and is unaware of the others. In Guangdong, Tieh Hau encounters aged firewood salesman Yu, and the old man's strength and agility convince him that he may actually be the target. In order to lure Lui Gung out into the open, Lui Ying hires bumbling conman Wu (Alexander Fu Sheng) to impersonate the pugilism master but when a complete cache of the legendary "18 Weapons" is discovered in Yu's home, his ruse is compromised. However, Yi Ho clanswoman Fang Shau-ching (played by Kara Hui Ying-hung in male garb) supports the former leader's ideals and helps him to regain his martial abilities, in time for the inevitable challenges he will face.

Hsiao Hou Kara Hui Gordon Lau

A superb blend of intricate plotting and stunning fight choreography, this is rightfully regarded as one of Shaw Brothers' best latter day productions, and even those who only consider themselves to be casual fans of the genre should go out of their way to see it. Compared to more recent HK films, the martial arts on display here are presented with a minimum of FX trickery and the results are most impressive. Although he only has a secondary role, Alexander Fu is a standout, displaying his martial and comedic abilities to excellent effect. The most impressive bit of fighting comes during the climax, which features some of the best weapons work around and provides an outstanding showcase for the considerable talents of brothers Lau Kar-leung and Lau Kar-wing. About the only real weakness here is the stock score (taken from the DeWolfe music library, and including cues some viewers will remember from MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL), which does not always provide an adequate accompaniment for the visuals on display (a problem exacerbated by another of Celestial’s idiotic remixes). One could also say that it's unlikely the beautiful Kara Hui could pass herself off as a man but that is a standard part of the genre. This subtitled version offers a more faithful rendition of the original storyline than the dumbed-down English dub, and retains the onscreen identification of the various weapons.

Alexander Fu Kara Hui (left), Lau Kar-leung Lau Kar-wing


As mentioned, new foley and music have been layered on at several points. While not as inept as some of these re-mixes, the changes are poorly judged and the implementation is not much better. The restoration of the 2.35:1 image is certainly nice and the transfer clean, but the image is sometimes on the dim side. Aside from the welcome inclusion of the original theatrical trailer, no more than the standard supplements are offered. Often cited as one of the finest kung fu films ever, LEGENDARY WEAPONS OF CHINA deserved a more accurate and supplemented rendering than this, but the movie still greatly impresses and the DVD remains recommended until a better one comes along.

This DVD is available at:

Images in this review courtesy of Intercontinental Video Ltd. To read captions, hover mouse over image.

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DVD Specifications

  • Hong Kong Release
  • NTSC Region 3 Only
  • Intercontinental Video Ltd. #103476
  • Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Post-synced Cantonese and Mandarin Language
  • Subtitles (Optional): English, Traditional Chinese
  • 12 Chapters
  • 16:9 Enhanced (2.35:1)
  • 100 Minutes (at 25 frames-per-second)

Ratings & Consumer Information

  • Australia: PG
  • Great Britain: 15 (cut)
  • Ontario: PG
  • Quebec: 13+
  • Contains moderate violence and mild language


  • 10 A Masterpiece
  • 9 Excellent
  • 8 Highly Recommended
  • 7 Very Good
  • 6 Recommended
  • 5 Marginal Recommendation
  • 4 Not Recommended
  • 3 Poor
  • 2 Definitely Not Recommended
  • 1 Dreadful