HOME |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
 
Newest Reviews
Halloween Kills
Cicada
Sun Shines Bright, The
Last Thing Mary Saw, The
Comets
Herself
Mon Oncle d'Amerique
Wild Strawberries
Runner, The
Don't Look Up
Ghostbusters: Afterlife
Eternals
Forever Purge, The
Memoria
Venom: Let There Be Carnage
Legend of La Llorona, The
Japon
Glasshouse
Perdita Durango
Commando, The
Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror
Boiling Point
Malignant
Deadly Games
Ailey
Voyeurs, The
Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes
In the Earth
Hiroshima Mon Amour
Hotel Poseidon
Zola
No Time to Die
Klaus
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey
Candyman
Power of the Dog, The
StageFright
Voyage of Time: An IMAX Documentary
Suicide Squad, The
One Night in Miami...
   
 
Newest Articles
Super Sammo: Warriors Two and The Prodigal Son on Blu-ray
Sex vs Violence: In the Realm of the Senses on Blu-ray
What's So Funny About Brit Horror? Vampira and Bloodbath at the House of Death on Arrow
Keeping the Beatles Alive: Get Back
The Punk Rock Movie: Out of the Blue on Blu-ray
Yeah, Too Quiet: The Great Silence on Blu-ray
Vestron Double Bill: Dementia 13 and The Wraith
Farewell Dean Stockwell: His Years of Weirdness
Kung Fu Craft: Cinematic Vengeance! on Blu-ray
999 Letsbe Avenue: Gideon's Way on Blu-ray
Hungary for Cartoons: Hungarian Animations on MUBI
You Have No Choice: Invasion of the Body Snatchers on Blu-ray
You Can't Tame What's Meant to Be Wild: The Howling on Blu-ray
Commendably Brief: Short Sharp Shocks Vol. 2 on Blu-ray
Super Silents: Early Universal Vol. 2 on Blu-ray
Fable Fear: The Singing Ringing Tree on Blu-ray
Gunsight Eyes: The Sabata Trilogy on Blu-ray
Bloody Bastard Baby: The Monster/I Don't Want to Be Born on Blu-ray
Night of the Animated Dead: Director Jason Axinn Interview
The ParaPod: A Very British Ghost Hunt - Interview with Director/Star Ian Boldsworth
On the Right Track: Best of British Transport Films Vol. 2
The Guns of Nutty Joan: Johnny Guitar on Blu-ray
Intercourse Between Two Worlds: Twin Peaks Fire Walk with Me/The Missing Pieces on Blu-ray
Enjoy the Silents: Early Universal Vol. 1 on Blu-ray
Masterful: The Servant on Blu-ray
   
 
  Death Duel, The There can be only one
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, AdventureBuy from Amazon
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 3032 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 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
Andrew Pragasam
Darren Jones
Jason Cook
Enoch Sneed
  Desbris M
  Paul Tuersley
  Chris Garbutt
   

 

Last Updated: