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Silver Spear

Crash Cinema // Unrated // November 4, 2003
List Price: $14.97 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by J. Doyle Wallis | posted October 20, 2003 | E-mail the Author
Silver Spear (1979, aka. Silver Hermit from the Shaolin Temple) is a kung fu fantasy, the kind with a fairly murky plot, foggy woodland stage sets like Legend, and a huge a cast of characters with names like Silver Hair, Petite Jade, and The Romantic Warrior, as well as a Persian vampire. Also, the titling is odd since Silver Spear is actually the name of the films villain. The hero goes by the moniker of Fast Steed, though we only see him on a horse once.

Madam Green Plum is the worlds foremost martial artist and lives in Jade Palace which is hidden deep in Snow Valley. The time has come to marry off her daughter so she sends an invitation to the worlds four best martial artists, Silver Spear, Green Lotus, Red Leaf, and Fast Steed. They meet at the designated place where they will be escorted to the secret palace. Red Leaf and Green Lotus are anxious for the opportunity to prove their skills, Fast Steed is reclusive and standoffish, while Silver Spear seems utterly despondent, digging his own grave because he is in love with another and, unable to refuse a challenge, vows suicide if he should win the contest. As the three chatty fighters share a drink- Fast Steed refuses- the wine ends up being poisoned, killing Green Lotus and Red Leaf, and when the Jade Palace entourage finally show up, the finger of blame is pointed squarely at Fast Steed.

On the run and desperate to clear his name, Fast Steed finds that he real culprit is Silver Spear, who is in league with some mysterious figure out to steal Madam Green Plum's daughter. Fast Steed finds allies in a similarly framed martial artist named Iron Ax (Chen Sing) and a woman with masquerading skills named Chalice. As he evades the authorities out to arrest and execute him, Fast Steed begins to uncover the plot by an infamous Persian Vampire named No 13 (because all that is known about him are 13 "no's", like "No Wife"), who was defeated twenty years ago by Madam Green Plum.

The double-sided coin of HK fantasy plotting is that often when they jam these mythic stories into an hour and a half it can get confusing keeping up with the twists and the characters that seem to pop up every minute. On the other hand, it also moves very briskly and it doesn't really drag because you are too busy going "Now, wait-a-minute, is that drunkemaster a good guy, a bystander, or did he just wander in from some other kung fu film set?" When it is really good is when you get someone like King Hu and Touch of Zen or Chor Yuen and Magic Blade. And when it is clunky and less assured, you get something like this or Kung Fu Colt Master. Silver Spear was directed by its star Tien Peng, who got his real break in martial films from King Hu who directed him in Dragon Gate Inn and Touch of Zen. He then went on to several more films like Joseph Kou's 18 Bronzemen, Shaolin Kids, and Pearl Cheung's Dark Lady of Kung Fu before teetering out in the mid 80's like so many 70's chop socky stars.

So, a lot happens. I can say that Silver Spear is a villain because that fact is revealed a mere 30 mins into the film, after the four fighters have met, the poisoning, the confrontation by the monks and a constable, Fast Steed being sent on the run, his rescuing a one-eyed hag, and so forth. The film just kind of keeps piling stuff on, the Persian vampire, Iron Ax and Fast Steed meet and after about three minutes in a cave hideout already declare their undying friendship and willingness to sacrifice their lives for each other, not to mention Fast Steed going undercover as a lowly shopkeeper, complete with hypnotized wife.

It is all completely ridiculous but full of enough manic entertainment that it is a bit like having a cold and opting for that extra spoonful or two of Robistusson to send your head reeling. You could watch a more streamlined HK fantasy with better plotting and budget, but sometimes you want that cheap, goofy thrill and that is what Silver Spear delivers.

The DVD: Crash Cinema

Picture: Full-screen. Well, another in the long line of pan and scan tape transfers. Unfortunately for fans, it seems that spending the time and effort to track down good letterboxed copies of older martial fare just must not be very cost effective, so we get stuck with VHS on a DVD. Worn out. Washed out. Faded. Spotty. Watchable but really a die hard fan only affair.

Sound: Dolby Digital Mono, English dub. Same as above, merely vhs quality and a laughable dub to boot. But it is what fans come to expect. Not terrible but not great either.

Extras: Chapter and Fight Scene Selections--- Gallery of screen caps.

Conclusion: This one is off the wall enough that it even had a jaded kung fu fan like me a bit awestruck. The vhs full-screen quality makes it something for fans only, but its not like anyone is out there digging up a good print of this kind of film. Take it for what it is. Or not. I had fun, and it is budget priced.

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