HK cinema (and I'm lumping the independents of the time in there to) tends toward melodrama. Not that there's anything wrong with that! But keep in mind it's a style of film making from a different, simpler time, and one that owes a lot to a rich stage tradition.
So that's why the protagonist of the film grows a monobrow. In the single-minded pursuit of his goal, Wang Yu's character doesn't care who he hurts or what he has to give up, and this is, of course, best represented by him growing a monobrow. But I kid the monobrow. It's a good, effective shorthand for his internal change (not so much a change, just the worst parts of his nature coming to the fore), but one that will no doubt generate some snickers among those too cool for kung-fu school.
A favorite moment - Wang Yu is gettin' it AWN with one of his servant girls, and she asks "Do you love me, or The Sword?" Jimmy looks completely torn for a moment, then stares at the sword he has hanging at the head of the bed. Suddenly, he jumps up, runs outside, and begins splashing cold water on himself from the fountain, almost as though he's thinking "Holy crap! That was close! I almost cheated on The Sword!"
Okay, the painting is done in broad strokes, and MELODRAMA! but if you accept Wang Yu's very literal, visual transformation into an utter brute (for example, breaking the heart of the girl who loves him is part of his freaking PLAN. That's more monobrow than an actual monobrow!), you have an entertaining, engaging, mythic wuxia well worth watching. Mythic, especially - when you get where the film is coming from, it feels like you're seeing events that later became a fable, a legend, of a warrior's spiritual journey. It's definitely one of the better Wang Yu movies, on a level with ONE ARMED SWORDSMAN. Downbeat, yes, but there is redemption and some great character development. The ending is pretty Zen, but you'll get it if you think about it for a minute. More artistic than accessible (but still accessible - don't be alarmed), THE SWORD shows the creativity possible among the independent companies in the greatest decade of HK cinema.
Now the presentation itself. This DVD was made from a print with burned-in subtitles, and is the first film I've seen this way. Considering its age and the worn condition of the print used, a few subs were difficult or impossible to read; however, this didn't interfere with understanding the events of the film or the plot. It's not a good choice for your first subtitled film, but if you're used to subtitles, you'll be fine. The scratches, etc, just lend to the authenticity - if you enjoy the historical aspect of HK cinema, you should get a kick out of its rustic presentation.
All in all, it's quite a worthy addition to your collection, especially for Wang Yu fans.