Restored Shaw Bro. pic preems before DVD release

HONG KONG — Jimmy Wang Yu was a little rusty when it came to his swordplay, but as he raised the broken sword above his head, you knew the “One-Armed Swordsman” was back, even after 37 years.

The former kung fu star and Chiao Chiao, his love interest from the 1967 pic, were here for the recent premiere of the fully restored Shaw Bros. film and official launch of box set “The One-Armed Swordsman Trilogy.”

The pic, which has been called one of the most influential Hong Kong movies of all time, was the first H.K. martial arts movie to be marketed overseas and the first to exceed HK$1 million ($128,205) at the local box office.

Part of the success of the film “was due to its graphic realism and its use of blood, which hadn’t been seen before,” said William Pfeiffer, chief exec of Celestial Pictures, which owns the Shaw Bros. library. “It was cutting-edge for its time.”

The box set includes director Chang Cheh’s “One Armed Swordsman,” “Return of the One-Armed Swordsman” and “The New One-Armed Swordsman.”

The DVD set retails for $33 and the VCD set is priced at about $14.

Celestial has released the set in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.

Miramax will distribute the three films in the U.S., but it isn’t clear when, or whether it will be released as a box set or individual movies, says Patrick Chow, Celestial’s marketing manager.

At the premiere, Wang mused, “I’m amazed that I shot this film 37 years ago and now it’s inspiring 20-year-old kids,” referring to Celestial’s regional student animation competition with a “One-Armed Swordsman” theme.

The winning entry is included as an extra on the video.

The film and its director have inspired filmmakers such as John Woo, who worked as an assistant director to Chang Cheh, and Quentin Tarantino.

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