Vile rapist Xiao Tian-Zun (Huang Chung-Hsin) is caught in the act by righteous sword master Liu Peng (Lee Sau-Kei). As punishment Liu scars his face but, since Xiao’s master is an old friend, spares his life. Big mistake. Three years later a revitalized Xiao ambushes an ailing Liu Peng with his superior Evil Poisonous Blade. He kills the old man but not before cruelly raping his own two daughters before his eyes. As if that were not enough Xiao goes on to single-handedly massacre almost all of Liu Peng's students.
All except unstoppable badass Luo Han (Ling Yun) whose stoic demeanour earns him the nickname "Iron Buddha." He swiftly wipes out Xiao’s acolytes. When Luo Han learns the one way to best Xiao's Evil Poisonous Blade is with the fabled Hu Long Precious Knife. He learns this from Xiao himself, posing as an innocent bystander. Unfortunately Luo Han has no idea what his sworn enemy looks like. Anyway he sets out to find the lethal weapon, unwittingly trailed by Xiao who plans on grabbing it for himself.
A typically blood-splattered offering from Hong Kong's legendary Shaw Brothers studio, The Iron Buddha features an early action choreography credit for superstar actor-director and chunky badass Sammo Hung. Towards the finale the great man himself appears on screen in a bit-part as one of Xiao’s many disposable thugs. Hung's choreography has a visceral edge lacking in the ornate swordplay other Shaw Brothers wu xia favoured at the time. If it's blood-spurting violence you are after, Iron Buddha has you covered though it is otherwise a generic martial arts film. One thing the film can count in its favour is the cinematography by Wang Chien-Han. Most Shaw Brothers films from this period confined themselves to ornate studio sets but Iron Buddha soaks in some sumptuous sun-drenched scenery, adding welcome naturalism and scope to an otherwise simple story.
Director Yan Jun, whose credits as an actor were even more prolific, was best known for weepies like his celebrated debut Love Eternal (1953) and Mandarin operas like Bride Napping (1962) and the award-winning The Grand Substitution (1965). He brings a similar lack of subtlety to this bombastic, albeit simplistic actioner which amps up the sadism visited upon innocent bystanders to a melodramatic degree. Huang Chung-Hsin's Xiao is a truly despicable villain, utterly malicious and cruel. The plot leaves the viewer aching to see his smug face on the receiving end of a righteous smackdown. Co-star Ling Yun, while not a bad actor by any means, is a tad too generic a brooding hero. He lacks the quirky charisma that makes a Shaw Brothers martial arts leading man like David Chiang or Jimmy Wang Yu stand out. Meanwhile the plot is equally one-dimensional albeit serviceable as a means of stringing together a range of dynamic and gory set-pieces. Music ripped from John Barry's James Bond scores.