The Deadly Breaking Sword

Reviewed by: sukting

March 07, 2009

Rating: three-point-five

How long 1.5h


Do you wish to see Ti Lung and Fu Shing – the two powerhouses in Mou Hap movies from 70s to 80s? Are they able to continue to present us their chivalrous images here? This movie is able to satisfy your crave. Who will be the person standing out? Why do two unrelated men meet and why is the movie title on them? It all starts because of a courtesan – Yin Xu.

The script writer is famous novelist, Ni Kwang. But I don’t know why the movie looks very Gu Long to me. Did he use Gu Long’s style to come up with the plot?

The pugilistic world has many hidden swordsmen. They are like pearls which can shine in the dark. Duan Chang Qing(Ti Lung) always dresses nicely before a duel. He prepares a coffin for his opponent. After killing them, he will destroy an inch of his sword to bury with them as a souvenir! That is why he earns the name ‘feng lau broken sword’. He is considered to be conceited, weird and very unpredictable. People use two lines to describe him ‘losing an inch after killing one, his lustful sword doesn’t keep anyone.

Chang Qing claims to be magnamious but he is very petty. He dislikes people to speak ill of him. This time, his opponent is Lian San (Chan Wai Mun). He is an expert with the spear and had claimed to be a righteous man but he isn’t. Both have a fierce battle. (Literally and also physically – you will definitely enjoy the exchanges between them. Although both fight in the dark, we can see how their weapons shine and San is dressed in white.)

Lian San leaves a long cut on Chang Qing while Chang Qing leaves part of his sword blade in San’s body. San quickly gets away on horseback and Chang Qing can’t catch up with him. He is determined to seek him out at all costs after his recovery.

San goes to the ‘killer physician’ Guo Tian Sheng (Gu Fung) to seek treatment. Tian Sheng knows no martial arts but he is a vindictive man. He removes the blade and takes good care of him. Tian Sheng has many marital arts experts staying at his home to protect him from danger. (If I remember correctly, they include Koo Gun Chung and also Wai Tin Chi.) They spar with San but Tian Sheng stops them as the peacemaker. He wants to include San among them.

Chang Qing stays in Dong Sheng Inn in a small town. He learns that Li Xiang Brothel has a beautiful entertaining courtesan, Liu Yin Xu (See See) and becomes curious. Yin Xu sends out lots of invitations to the rich to support her act. Learning that Chang Qing doesn’t like to get close to women, she deliberately takes the invitation card back to provoke him. (All must not miss this scene – he looks as if he will burst any minute as he feels that he is being looked down!)

So Chang Qing still turns up without the card. When listening to her playing the zither, he senses someone in her room. He charges into it and spars with Xiao Dao (Fu Shing). Xiao Dao is a wanderer who is fond of making fun of others. He has no name or surname. This is the nickname he gives himself. His weakness is gambling to lose every game so he often steals from the rich. But he hasn’t lost the righteous side of him. He is undeterred when he also loses to Chang Qing.

Before any gambling, he will seize his chance to jump the queue to pray to the fortune god for luck. That sparkles complaints from the women at his act but he hardly bothers about them. Yet, Xiao Dao keeps on losing and has to send himself to the gambling den to redeem himself. He loves money more than women. He becomes the boxer there to check on gamblers who cheat. In reality, he is given the job because the gambling den owner, Luo Jin Hua (Lee Lai Lai) is interested in him.

The gambling den is right behind the brothel so he has plenty of chances to steal from the rich. Xiao Dao enjoys digging fun at the brothel owner when she bullies the courtesans. That is how he sets eyes on Yin Xu at first sight and wishes to win her heart.
Yin Xu tells Chang Qing about her parentage. Her brother, Chen Ying Gang (Yuen Bun) is framed into jail by Tian Sheng. Tian Sheng has killed her fiancé. She then becomes a courtesan in order to bail him out. Chang Qing feels sorry for her and decides to help her out. When Chang Qing is going to kill Tian Sheng, Tian Sheng looks innocent and Chang Qing starts to doubt Yin Xu. He returns, unsuccessful so Yin Xu pays Xiao Dao handsomely in order to kill Tian Sheng.

San recovers quickly under Tian Sheng’s care and he agrees to stay. See how he raises a load of things from a faraway table with his spear from where he sits is an eye-opener. Chang Qing prevents Xiao Dao from trusting Yin Xu as he doesn’t want him to court his own death. This forces her to tell them Ying Gang’s whereabouts. Chang Qing rescues Ying Gang out and brings him to Tian Sheng. Tian Sheng’s ugly nature is exposed as he admits fabricating a lie earlier. He commands his martial arts experts to attack Chang Qing after killing Ying Gang.

They are no match for him. San appears and his skills improve tremendously. Chang Qing can’t defend himself this time and is hurt. Although saddened by Ying Gang’s death, Yin Xu can’t contain her anxiety and comes to his side. Although it is not said who she likes among the two men, her action has given the answer. Xiao Dao appears to assist Chang Qing. Both manage to kill San and Tian Sheng. But Xiao Dao is killed in the process. His title ‘ The merry Xiao Dao’ is famous from then on and will never be forgotten all these years.

I must say that the themesong is very well sung – one of my top favourites. The lyrics are simple but in less than a 100 words, it tells the whole story of the movie. Mou Hap movies in that era talk about hatred and love. It certainly sets a good record.

The mandarin version is ‘spreading the good reputation across the ocean’ 五湖四海美名揚. The Cantonese version is chivalry ‘英雄本色’. It seems that Jenny Tseng loved this song so much that she sings it at almost every concert. I attended her concert once and her singing of it was fantastic. The song is from Mr Koo Kar Fai and lyrics written by Mr Suen Yee. This was the first time she sang the themsong and her husband, Fu Shing acted in it. They are definitely an unbeatable combination.


This movie is definitely very close to Gu Long’s style. The title also gives all the wrong impression that it is adapted from a Gu Long novel. The part on arranging coffins for the opponents is from「風流斷劍」. 風流斷劍小小刀」’s double sword and sabre combination is similar to《多情劍客無情劍 》’s Flying dagger Lee and Ah Fei. It is just that the ages are exchanged and their personalities are altered.

Yin Xu’s presence comes late but it is an important link. The men are always together because of her. See See has the maiden beauty in her to bring out her tenderness and to set male heads spin for her. Even under wraps, she is very appealing. Her look nearly surpasses Chiu Ngar Chi. See how she handles the zither and also the pipa – she is a stunning looking beauty. If that includes her smiles, all men will be willing to do anything for her.

As for Jin Hua, her whole attention is on Xiao Dao but unfortunately he isn’t affectionate towards her. Sometimes, I really feel like breaking his wrist. I simply cheer when Jin Hua turns fuming mad to burn his notes as he deserves it when he ignores her to want to sleep! Those who watch TVB dramas might be able to pick up Lee Lai Lai at first glance as she is very involved in motherly roles now.

Tian Sheng is also another critical role. Although he doesn’t know how to fight, he is the head of villains. He looks like a kind soul on the outside as a physician. But he loves to kill for his experiments. He will never keep people who are useless to him. One phrase to conclude is that he is a wolf under a sheep’s covering. This reminds me of《絕代雙驕》’s Jiang Bie He.

I enjoy how this Tian Sheng manipulates Chang Qing among his fingers. Chang Qing is never so unsure of his judgment but gives in to him. Tian Sheng is also capable to make the death come alive. Mr Ni definitely has a strong mind full of imagination.

One loophole is found, though. It is said that Chang Qing’s sword is shorter after every duel. There is a scene that he breaks a long part of his sword. But from what I see, the length maintains later. This is quite comical as I don’t see him changing his sword at all.

Acting wise, it is still a males’ movie. All attention is on the actors and they did an excellent job. You will not be let down by their acting as they slip into the roles effortlessly. Gu Fung and Chan Wai Mun are excellent as the villains.

No one will doubt Ti Lung’s swift moves in Mou Hap movies. However, somehow, I find that Ti Lung is stigmatised in every role as the arrogant swordsman. I don’t find him likeable as the swordsman in the movies that I have watched so far. It seems that he is always putting on airs. Or are the roles supposedly to be like this at all times?

The actors pull off the punches and strokes well that require little description. Although Fu Shing was cast in many Mou Hap movies, I heard that he wasn’t trained and was a natural born talent. But when the stunts director demonstrated once, he was able to pick up immediately to show the stances.

He knew that in order to stay long in the martial art business, he must know the skills. Thus he went to Lau Kar Leung to train under him. He injured his head when filming this movie in September, 1978. It was a pity that he passed away young.

Unlike Ti Lung, Fu Shing’s roles have a pleasant personality. I find that he works very well with all his co-stars – no matter young or old and regardless of gender. There is no exception for this one as it shows his cheery and playful nature at his best. That is why it becomes an instant hit and all fans will fondly remember this movie in their minds all these years.

When the two actors come together, they build up a rapid chemical reaction. Laugh at the scenes they try to win each other through every gambling game. Have pleasure to see how Chang Qing jumps when he learns that Yin Xu gives away the jade bracelet that he gives her to Xiao Dao. Just because she wants him to seek revenge for her – she has no hesitation to do whatever she can. And to spite him, he gets the bracelet back but she still puts in on the bamboo pole that Xiao Dao demands for him right in front of his eyes! What can be funnier than this part?!

In the end, Chang Qing is no longer the elegant swordsman but he becomes a nosey parker, a jealous lover and also a determined winner. Meanwhile, Xiao Dao remains the same to enjoy seeing the change in him like watching how a lion is angry in a circus ring. The exchanges in the talks between them can be so hilarious that you have wished that both work in more movies after this.

The fighting scenes can’t be compared to today’s standard. The steps are very basic. But it revolves on hatred and love which many fans are fond of – unlike other movies then which are based only on the men’s brotherhood. Even females will like this movie. True indeed, despite of its long title, many still recall this movie as one of the best works in Shaw movies history.

Sukting’s ratings :

On acting : ***1/2 (Scale of 5)

On story : ***1/2 (Scale of 5)

On songs : ***** (Scale of 5) (Definitely another must keep!)

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