05 Mar David Chiang steals money and your heart in The Wandering Swordsman
“I don’t feel like messing around with you. Please excuse me!”
In this Robin Hood style early Chang Cheh wuxia, none of our heroes are who they seem to be. Lily Li’s Miss Jiang is not quite the damsel in distress she seems-despite her crying- Miss Jiang is part of a security team led by Master Huang. Huang’s unit are transporting gold through dangerous territory and their loot earns the attention of the Flying Robber gang. The Flying Robber leader sends his high-ranking members Foolproof Kung, Jin, and others (including Chen Sing’s enforcer Jung) to seek the whereabouts of the gold. They know the ploy Huang’s team are using but have been unsuccessful in their attempts to steal the loot.
Weaving in and out of this underworld plot, is David Chiang’s playful teen gallant. The wandering swordsman is not as cavalier as he pretends to be either. Amusingly, Chiang’s moral thief is also director Chang Cheh’s mouthpiece in matters of what makes a real knight errant including fearlessness, selflessness, humility, practicality and agility. The young man may lecture Miss Jiang on not crying because her now-dead peer would not want any mourning, not to mention she’s too pretty to be sad. He’ll admonish people on manners while mocking opponents, and our hero always does right by those in need. This youthful gallant learns from some of his mistakes too, yet his sense of duty can blind him to danger. From selling his short swords to Jung to constantly milking bag guys of their money, Chiang’s wanderer cannot help but slip into deeper trouble with each good deed he performs.
Already marked thanks to his heroic thievery, the wily teenagers’ enemies grow after he exposes Master Jiou’s gambling house as a fraud. The wandering swordsman’s acts do not go unnoticed by higher ups of the Flying Robber gang too. Soon Kung, Jin and the others create a trap to pull Chiang’s hero into their bad graces.
As David Chiang’s fate was always sealed in his work with Chang Cheh, I am sure viewers won’t be surprised as to where this story goes.
For me, David Chiang’s charming and agile performance in The Wandering Swordsman is among my favorites of his early work for Shaw Brothers. You see his talents as actor and acrobat. He has wonderful chemistry with Lily Li and enjoys playing a Robin Hood style role. This character is more whimsical and younger than Yi Lo from Have Sword Will Travel, and not as grim or stoic as Guan Xiao-Luo from Vengeance!
If you enjoy Chang Cheh’s early swordplay films with David Chiang and haven’t seen The Wandering Swordsman yet, you’re in for a very good time.
When not honing her pen fu for ShawBrothersUniverse.com or studying the precepts of film and media, Kim August can be found writing, drawing and thinking about Shaw Brothers movies at her blog. Kim’s short story based on Chang Cheh’s Vengeance! was recently published in NANG Magazine #3.