HOME |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
 
Newest Reviews
Undergods
Betrayed
Fried Barry
Once Upon a River
Cowboys
Atlantis
We Still Say Grace
Enfant Terrible
Nomadland
Playboy of the Western World, The
Bike Thief, The
Threshold
Virtuoso, The
Here are the Young Men
Beast Beast
Labyrinth of Cinema
Justice Society: World War II
Artist's Wife, The
Truman & Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation
Pusher III
Palm Springs
Devil Commands, The
Oak Room, The
Pusher II
Forget Everything and Run
Secrets & Lies
Red Moon Tide
Man with Nine Lives, The
Pusher
Pot Carriers, The
Black Bear
Don't Cry, Pretty Girls!
Portal
Me You Madness
Reckoning, The
Laddie: The Man Behind the Movies
For the Sake of Vicious
Hell Bent
Straight Shooting
Jules Verne's Rocket to the Moon
   
 
Newest Articles
Before The Matrix, There was Johnny Mnemonic: on Digital
More Than Mad Science: Karloff at Columbia on Blu-ray
Indian Summer: The Darjeeling Limited on Blu-ray
3 from 1950s Hollyweird: Dr. T, Mankind and Plan 9
Meiko Kaji's Girl Gangs: Stray Cat Rock on Arrow
Having a Wild Weekend: Catch Us If You Can on Blu-ray
The Drifters: Star Lucie Bourdeu Interview
Meiko Kaji Behind Bars: Female Prisoner Scorpion on Arrow
The Horror of the Soviets: Viy on Blu-ray
Network Double Bills: Tarka the Otter and The Belstone Fox
Network Double Bills: All Night Long and Ballad in Blue
Chew Him Up and Spit Him Out: Romeo is Bleeding on Blu-ray
British Body Snatchers: They Came from Beyond Space on Blu-ray
Bzzzt: Pulse on Blu-ray
The Tombs Will Be Their Cities: Demons and Demons 2 on Arrow
Somebody Killed Her Husband: Charade on Blu-ray
Network Double Bills: Maroc 7 and Invasion
Network Double Bills: The Best of Benny Hill and The Likely Lads
Network Double Bills: Some Girls Do and Deadlier Than the Male
Absolutely Bananas: Link on Blu-ray
Network Double Bills: Hawk the Slayer and The Medusa Touch
The Price of Plague: The Masque of the Red Death on Blu-ray
Network Double Bills: Seance on a Wet Afternoon and Ring of Spies
Chaney Chillers: Inner Sanctum Mysteries - The Complete Film Series on Blu-ray
Adelphi Extras: Stars in Your Eyes on Blu-ray
   
 
  Hand of Death Fight! Fight! Fight!
Year: 1976
Director: John Woo
Stars: Tao-liang Tan, James Tien, Paul Chang, Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Lingfen Shangguan, Carter Wong, Yuen Biao, Wah Yuen
Genre: Martial Arts, HistoricalBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: The Qing Government are cracking down on Shaolin Temples across the land, and one of their chief operatives is Shih Shao-Feng (James Tien) who ten years ago betrayed one of the most important temples, leading to a massacre there. Now a group of Shaolin disciples have been in training for five years to fight back, and one of their number, Yun Fei (Tao-liang Tan) undergoes gruelling training to emerge as the prime candidate to strike out on his own and accept an important mission. His master tells him to seek out Shih Shao-Feng and see that a vital map detailing the Qing authorities' bases falls into the right hands. Yet as he bids farewell to Yun Fei, the master isn't sure that one man will be enough...

And he's right, so why didn't they send the whole bunch of fighters we saw in the training sequence under the credits along with him? I guess it's down to the fact that Yun Fei is essentially a spy, and has to work undercover, but he soon finds out he can't do everything by himself. Hand of Death, or Shao Lin Men as it was known originally, was a notable kung fu epic in some ways, although not because of its strictly by the numbers plotting. Look at the cast and you'll see the "Three Brothers" of Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung (also the choreographer here and boasting huge teeth into the bargain) and Yuen Biao were assembled before the cameras for the first time.

Although they are strictly in supporting roles, and not teaming up at any point either, the trio add colour to characters that border on the uninspired. Also notable is the man who wrote and directed the film, one John Woo, in his seventies phase of traditional martial arts stories, with the barest minimum of slow motion and not a dove in sight. One thing that marks it out as his work is the sense of camaraderie between the fighters Yun Fei eventually assembles, although the opening apart, there's no real betrayal theme, no plot involving two friends battling on different sides, nothing like that.

What happens is that Yun Fei walks all the way to Shih Shao-Feng's location, with a lift from Chan who he's helped along the way alleviating the strain of his journey and forming a bond between them. At first Chan's character comes across as simple comic relief, but he's hiding a secret and will encounter Yun Fei later on. As for the villain, our hero finds a way of bluffing his entry into his stronghold but once his cover is blown, he discovers he's not the fighter he thought he was after a lengthy period of combat (all the martial arts scenes tend towards the generous) with the henchmen. This means he has to rely on his new found friends, including a swordsman who has disgraced himself by accidentally killing a young woman - what's the betting he will redeem himself before the film ends? Addicts will find much to appreciate here, and Hand of Death has historical significance too. Music by Joseph Koo.

[Hong Kong Legends' Region 2 DVD has an audio commentary and trailers as extras; also worth noting is whoever named the chapters has a sense of humour.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

This review has been viewed 4123 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

 

John Woo  (1946 - )

One of the most influential directors working in the modern action genre. Hong Kong-born Woo (real name Yusen Wu) spent a decade making production-line martial arts movies for the Shaw Brothers before his melodramatic action thriller A Better Tomorrow (1987) introduced a new style of hyper-realistic, often balletic gun violence.

It also marked Woo's first collaboration with leading man Chow-Yun Fat, who went on to appear in a further three tremendous cop/gangster thrillers for Woo - A Better Tomorrow II, The Killer and Hard Boiled. The success of these films in Hong Kong inspired dozens of similar films, many pretty good, but few with Woo's artistry or emphasis on characters as well as blazing action.

In 1993, Woo moved over to Hollywood, with predictably disappointing results. Face/Off was fun, but the likes of Broken Arrow, Windtalkers and Mission: Impossible 2 too often come across as well-directed, but nevertheless generic, studio product. Needs to work with Chow-Yun Fat again, although his return to Hong Kong with Red Cliff proved there was life in the old dog yet.

 
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 probably has psychic powers?
Laurence Fishburne
Nicolas Cage
Anya Taylor-Joy
Patrick Stewart
Sissy Spacek
Michelle Yeoh
Aubrey Plaza
Tom Cruise
Beatrice Dalle
Michael Ironside
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
  Desbris M
Andrew Pragasam
Darren Jones
Enoch Sneed
  Paul Tuersley
  Chris Garbutt
  Sdfadf Rtfgsdf
   

 

Last Updated: