Director Chin-ku Lu followed up his 1983 film, Bastard Swordsman, a year later with this 1984 picture, Return Of The Bastard Swordsman, a direct follow up that catches up with Yun Fei Yang (Norman Chu reprising his part from the first movie). Now having completely mastered the Silkworm Style he was taught in the first movie, he's taken a leave of absence from the school he fought so hard to protect and basically gone into self imposed exile so that he can devote all of his time and attention to his foxy lady friend, Lun Wan Er. Unfortunately, as it tends to go in movies like this, Yun will soon find he has no choice but to return to his old stomping grounds when his former arch nemesis, Dugu Wu Di, shows up and basically butchers all of the students that Yun called friends.
See, while Yun was perfecting his Silkworm Style, Dugu Wu Di was mastering his aptly titled Fatal Skill, a fighting talent that somehow allows him to fire laser beams out of the palms of his hands. While Yun's Silkworm style lets him shoot Spider-Man-esque webs at people, it's nowhere near as cool or as deadly as having laser beam palms, and when Dugu decides he wants to show Yun who's boss, things start to look pretty grim for our hero. If that weren't bad enough, things become even more complicated when the Japanese Ega Clan move in on Chinese turf and decide to wipe out not just Yun's crew, but Dugu's crew as well - and anyone else who happens to want to get in their way! The clan leader has also somehow managed to learn how to shoot lasers out of his body, but not form his palms, but rather, his breasts. Seriously. It's pretty cool. He can also somehow control the heartbeats of his enemies once he grabs them from behind, cuddles up to them, and inflates his chest like a balloon.
By the time the movie comes to its conclusion, a strange fortune teller has blinded and maimed opponents by throwing toothpicks into their eyeballs, people have puked up their own organs, and poorly placed and completely random bits of comedy have tried (and generally failed, but in a good way!) to make you laugh. Utilizing an everything but the kitchen sink mentality, Chin-ku Lu's film is, to its credit, never dull not even for a second but man alive is it an odd one. The main characters all use their specialized moves whenever possible and as such, some of the admittedly impressively choreographed fight scenes wind up looking like something out of Mortal Kombat while the dialogue is as ham-fisted and stoic as you could hope for. The result? A bizarre mish-mash of strong, bloody violence, completely out of place comedy, remarkable (if not entirely believable) wirework and a noble hero who we can root for even if his power isn't nearly as cool as those wielded by the bad guys.
This second film does take a little bit longer than its predecessor to get moving at the right pace, but the buildup is actually handled quite well, establishing out hero's desire for solitude and alone time with his gal-pal and giving us just enough time to get to know and appreciate him before bringing the insanity to the screen in rather large doses. Subplots involving a mystic and mysterious doctor don't really add a whole lot to the main plot but they do at least provide some interesting diversions that were probably added to pad the film out to feature length. It works - don't question it. In fact, don't question anything about this film, it'll make your head hurt if you think about it too long or too hard. Just accept it for the masterpiece of flamboyant fight scenes and ass kicking action that it is and be done with it.
Return Of The Bastard Swordsman arrives on DVD in a progressive scan anamorphic 2.35.1 widescreen transfer and this is another of Funimation's typically decent transfers - in fact, held side by side against the first film, it looks pretty much identical in terms of quality. A little bit of print damage shows up here and there but otherwise the source material used for this disc has been very nicely restored. Colors are bright and bold and garish, just as they should be, and they really bring out the splendor of the various costumes and studio sets used throughout the film. What looks to be some mild edge enhancement pops up here and there, but aliasing and compression artifacts are never much of a problem. Some DNR looks to have been applied sporadically but it's minor and if you're not specifically looking for it, you probably won't notice it.
The Mandarin language Dolby Digital mono mix is well balanced and easy to follow since the optional English subtitles are easy to read and free of any typographical errors, though there are spots where the sound effects are a bit higher in the mix then they probably needed to be. The score sounds good, never overpowering the performers, while the sound effects are presented at the proper volume as well. It's not a track that will amaze you, but it definitely sounds as good as it needs to. An optional English language Dolby Digital Mono dub is also provided.
Extras are disappointingly light, limited to a few trailers for unrelated Funimation releases and a forced promo spot for their Shaw Brothers line that plays before you can get to the main menu screen (which also offers chapter selection).
Return Of The Bastard Swordsman is a blast from start to finish. Gleefully violent and delightfully over the top, it's got action to spare and a zany sense of anything goes that ensures, as screwy as it might be, it's never boring. Funimation's disc looks and sounds just fine and despite the fact that, like all of their Hong Kong Connection releases, it doesn't offer much in the way of substantial extras, this disc still comes recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.