Seven… that’s a lot of blows. Before your imagination runs away with you, “Seven Blows” refers to seven something else’s. Unfortunately, the plot is so convoluted and the dubbing so poor it’s impossible to tell exactly what. Thankfully nobody watches kung fu movies for the subtext and dialogue.

Produced by the legendary Shaw Brothers Studio, Seven Blows tells the tale of 108 rebels who defended 12th Century China from Sung invaders. In the opening scene, the evil Sung General Golden Spear slays rebel leader Heavenly King using his funky martial arts styles. The rebels quickly embark on an epic journey to recruit Young Dragon Yen Ching, the only man with the mad skillz to best Golden Spear in personal combat.

Set on a mountaintop in mainland China, director Chang Cheh focuses as much camera time on the lush scenery and panoramic views as he does on the actors. This gives the film an epic feel and pioneered a style that’s been copied ever since, most notably in films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.  The poor quality of the film stock degrades the experience, but the scenery remains breath taking.  The often gory violence almost takes a backseat to the beauty of the background.

As in most martial arts flicks, the real star is the action. You can be guaran-damn-teed that with 108 main characters, there’s a fair amount of fisticuffs. Cheh refuses to stick to the usual “fists and numchucks” standard and incorporates every martial arts weapon imaginable. Even casual fans of the genre would be well served to track down the recently re-mastered version.

This film encapsulates everything that kung fu films are maligned for – incomprehensible dubbing, inexplicable plot twists and sublimely ridiculous dialogue.  Yet, it’s somehow endearing and wonderful.

Other titles in the Shaw Brother’s lexicon include Return of the Five Deadly Venoms: Crippled Avengers, The Sex Life of Bruce Lee, Mad Monkey Kung Fu and Drunk Shaolin vs. Chinese Super Ninja.


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