HOME |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
Newest Reviews
Western Stars
League of Gentlemen, The
Higher Power
Shinsengumi
IT Chapter Two
Rich Kids
Arena
Glory Guys, The
Serial Killer's Guide to Life, A
Lovers and Other Strangers
Shiny Shrimps, The
Good Woman is Hard to Find, A
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
Doctor at Sea
Spear
Death Cheaters
Wild Rose
Streetwalkin'
Mystify: Michael Hutchence
Devil's Playground, The
Cleanin' Up the Town: Remembering Ghostbusters
Hustlers
Mega Time Squad
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Souvenir, The
Birds of Passage
Ma
Woman at War
Happy as Lazzaro
Mickey's Christmas Carol
Marriage Story
Santa Claus is a Bastard
Star, The
Tom & Jerry: A Nutcracker Tale
Shadow
Christmas Carol, A
Legend of the Demon Cat
Adventures of Sinbad, The
Wounds
Love & Peace
   
 
Newest Articles
Bash Street Kid: Cosh Boy on Blu-ray
Seeing is Believing: Being There on Blu-ray
Top Thirty Best (and Ten Worst) Films of the 2010s by Andrew Pragasam
Top of the Tens: The Best Films of the Decade by Graeme Clark
Terrorvision: A Ghost Story for Christmas in the 1970s
Memories Are Made of This: La Jetee and Sans Soleil on Blu-ray
Step Back in Time: The Amazing Mr. Blunden on Blu-ray
Crazy Cats and Kittens: What's New Pussycat on Blu-ray
No Place Like Home Guard: Dad's Army - The Lost Episodes on Blu-ray
A Real-Life Pixie: A Tribute to Michael J. Pollard in Four Roles
We're All In This Together: The Halfway House on Blu-ray
Please Yourselves: Frankie Howerd and The House in Nightmare Park on Blu-ray
Cleesed Off: Clockwise on Blu-ray
Sorry I Missed You: Les Demoiselles de Rochefort on Blu-ray
Silliest of the Silly: Monty Python's Flying Circus Series 1 on Blu-ray
Protest Songs: Hair on Blu-ray
Peak 80s Schwarzenegger: The Running Man and Red Heat
Rock On: That'll Be the Day and Stardust on Blu-ray
Growing Up in Public: 7-63 Up on Blu-ray
Learn Your Craft: Legend of the Witches and Secret Rites on Blu-ray
70s Psycho-Thrillers! And Soon the Darkness and Fright on Blu-ray
Split: Stephen King and George A. Romero's The Dark Half on Blu-ray
Disney Post-Walt: Three Gamechangers
But Doctor, I Am Pagliacci: Tony Hancock's The Rebel and The Punch and Judy Man on Blu-ray
Once Upon a Time in Deadwood: Interview with Director Rene Perez
   
 
  Death Duel, The There can be only oneBuy this film here.
Year: 1977
Director: Chu Yuan
Stars: Derek Yee, Ling Yun, Candice Yu, Ku Feng, Ou-Yang Sha-Fei, Chen Ping, David Chiang, Fan Mei-Sheng, Teresa Ha Ping, Lo Lieh, Ti Lung, Yueh Hua, Norman Tsui Siu-Keung, Goo Goon-Chung, Ngaai Fei, Gam Lau, Yeung Chi-Hing
Genre: Martial Arts, Weirdo, Fantasy, Adventure
Rating:  8 (from 1 vote)
Review: Grim swordsman Yen Shih-San (Ling Yun) aims to be number one in the Martial World. To that end he agrees to eliminate Third Master, supposedly the finest swordsman in the world, on the orders of the evil Mu-Yung clan led by sultry siren Mu-Yung Chiu-Ti (Chen Ping). But when Yen Shih-San reaches the fabled Supreme Sword Mansion, he discovers Third Master has died from natural causes.

Meanwhile, a starving beggar named Ah Chi (Derek Yee) earns some food performing odd jobs at a high class brothel. Other courtesans tease him about his ragged clothes, but the sweet and lovely Hsiao Li (Candice Yu) leaps to his defence. After Ah Chi has his arms slashed protecting Hsiao Li from an abusive client, kindly street vendor Miao Tzu (Ku Feng) and his dear old mum give him shelter and heal his wounds. He soon discovers they are none other than Hsiao Li’s family, who are unaware she has been turning tricks to support them. Triad bully boys from the White Tiger Society try to kidnap Hsiao Li to serve as their boss’ personal plaything, killing her mum in the process, prompting Ah Chi to explode into a whirlwind of death-dealing fury. Soon his secret is out: Ah Chi is the Third Master. Now everyone wants him dead.

Not to be confused with Joseph Kuo’s 1971 chop-socky effort of the same name, Death Duel is another Shaw Brothers Gu Long adaptation from Chu Yuan, and one of his very best. Red is the predominent colour onscreen (red leaves, red lanterns, backlit mist), perhaps signifying lives steeped in bloodshed, although in Chinese culture it traditionally symbolises heroism and happiness. “It’s not easy even to be a nobody”, muses Ah Chi as the unfolding tragedy echoes themes prevalent in an array of more mainstream movies, from Cold Sweat (1971) to A History of Violence (2005) wherein heroes seeking a peaceful life are driven to kill in order to maintain their precious anonymity, even as this increases their notoriety. This sense of inescapable tragedy harks back to the classic Gregory Peck western: The Gunfighter (1950) as suddenly all sorts of wacky, would-be assassins crawl out of the woodwork itching to pit their skills against Third Master, who just wants a quiet life. Inevitably, fate does bring Ah Chi together with Yen Shih-San but in most surprising and unexpectedly poignant circumstances.

While some Chu Yuan films tend towards the esoteric, Death Duel weaves a powerful, compellingly human story, distinguished by its gut-wrenching nihilism and exhibiting real empathy for the disenfranchised and downtrodden. The film marked the screen debut of Derek Yee, who went on to headline some of the wildest martial arts fantasies produced by the Shaw Brothers studio - e.g. Buddha’s Palm (1982) - before he switched careers to serve as the writer-director of an array of groundbreaking, critically-acclaimed dramas: e.g. The Lunatics (1986), People’s Hero (1988), One Night in Mongkok (2004), Protégé (2007) and his romantic masterpiece C’est la vie, mon chéri (1994). Truth be told Derek Yee is a far better director than he was an actor, however his performance here ranks among his most impassioned and affecting. The Shaw Brothers surrounded their burgeoning matinee idol with an impressive array of special guest stars: Yueh Hua plays a duplicitious herbalist whose evil actions result in an unexpected plot twist. Lo Lieh pops up as a righteous hero who hides an enormous circular saw under his hat! An unshaven, poncho-clad Ti Lung briefly reprises his role from The Magic Blade (1976) as a master swordsman-turned-humble-woodcutter who saves Ah Chi’s life and gives him some handy advice. Most surprising of all, Derek Yee’s real-life older brother, Shaw superstar David Chiang makes an insane in-joke cameo, cast way against type as a crazed, cackling kung fu master held in a golden cage, who abruptly slaughters two thirds of the cast!

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

This review has been viewed 2061 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

 
Review Comments (0)


Untitled 1

Login
  Username:
 
  Password:
 
   
 
Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.
   

Latest Poll
Which star is the best at shouting?
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Brian Blessed
Tiffany Haddish
Steve Carell
Olivia Colman
Captain Caveman
Sylvester Stallone
Gerard Butler
Samuel L. Jackson
Bipasha Basu
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Andrew Pragasam
Darren Jones
  Rachel Franke
Enoch Sneed
Paul Smith
Paul Shrimpton
  Desbris M
   

 

Last Updated: