Review: Jimmy Wang Yu's 'One-Armed Boxer' Punches Hard on Blu-ray from Arrow

by Sam Cohen

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday May 24, 2022

Review: Jimmy Wang Yu's 'One-Armed Boxer' Punches Hard on Blu-ray from Arrow

Few martial artists were as influential on the Chinese film industry as Jimmy Wang Yu was. When Wang left Shaw Brothers studio to work for Golden Harvest, the onus was on his growing star power to draw international attention. It was producers Raymond Chow and Leonard Ho who fostered the idea to work with independent producers and give filmmakers more creative freedom. This led to major success, including an exclusive deal struck with Bruce Lee in 1971. But where Wang differed from Lee was that he offered a unique charisma and was a lot more invested behind the camera, often producing and directing the films he starred in. One of his best works is the 1971 martial arts actioner "One-Armed Boxer."

Arrow Video presents Jimmy Wang Yu's "One-Armed Boxer" on Blu-ray for the first time in the U.S. with a well-rounded release that provides terrific context into this age in martial arts filmmaking. The 1080p presentation is sourced from a 2K restoration of the original film elements by Fortune Star. Even though Arrow didn't perform the restoration themselves, what's provided here looks great overall, save for the rough-looking title sequence and some other damage marks popping up here and there. Colors and film grain are nicely resolved, with contrast looking true as well.

"One-Armed Boxer" tells the story of Yu Tian Long (Wang), the best fighter in the local Ching Te martial arts school. One day, he decides to stand up to the thugs of the Hook Gang as they terrorize the locals at a restaurant. This leads to a turf war between the school and the Hook Gang, culminating in a fight where Yu loses his arm. But when he's given an elixir that will improve his ability to fight with one arm, he plans his revenge.

My favorite facet of "One-Armed Boxer" is just how unassuming it begins, carefully introducing characters who would fully expose their destructive powers later on in the film. Although this begins as your classic revenge tale, it quickly takes off in the second act when it's revealed that Yu must fight a cavalcade of colorful villains, including an actual karate vampire.

As for special features, Arrow has included a commentary by Frank Djeng of the NY Asian Film Festival. This commentary is essential if you want a crash course in the Chinese film industry and Jimmy Wang Yu. The track is chock-full of anecdotal information that will only add to your appreciation of the film. And, speaking of appreciation, there's a terrific booklet essay by film critic Simon Abrams included as well. If you're a fan of kung-fu movies, you won't find many that are as zany and action-packed as "One-Armed Boxer."

Other special features include:

• Original lossless Mandarin mono audio, alternate Mandarin soundtrack and original English dubbed audio

• Career retrospective interview with Wang Yu, filmed in Nantes in 2001 and never released before, courtesy of the Frederic Ambroisine Video Archive

• Trailer gallery, featuring the original Hong Kong theatrical trailer, a US TV spot (as "The Chinese Professionals") and over half an hour of trailers for other Wang Yu classics including "One-Armed Swordsman" and "Master of the Flying Guillotine"

• Image gallery

• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Ilan Sheady

• FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by Simon Abrams

"One-Armed Boxer" is now available on Blu-ray from Arrow Video.