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Death Duel Of Kung Fu
cast: John Liu, Eagle Han, and Wong Tao

director: Sum Cheung

85 minutes (15) 2005
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
55th Chamber DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by J.C. Hartley
Another hysterical, sorry that should be, historical epic, with South Korea starring as ancient China. Briefly, the Ching dynasty to be has pretty much defeated the outgoing Ming dynasty but one of their assassins mercilessly (they're coming thick and fast now) kills the leader of the Ching troops. It is decided that the Ching forces will be so demoralised at losing their commander that the only way to get them back up to fighting mood is to hunt down the assassin. Wong Tao is the assassin and John Liu his nemesis both having appeared in the earlier Secret Rivals and there is a certain amount of buddying up in this of the mixed loyalties - they're enemies/ they're - allies type.

The action takes place over vast tracts of countryside mostly traversed on foot to a sub-spaghetti western soundtrack pinched, my researches tell me, from Hang 'Em High. The cowboy feel (in all senses) is reinforced by some of the 'gosh-darn' dubbing which pretty much destroyed the film for me and convinced me to start reviewing something else for a change. The final straw was the early scene in which Lord To Ko Lan (Eagle Han Ying) gives a kung fu demonstration while admiring aides call out the moves, 'The Cuttlefish' they call, 'The Somersault'; 'The Ministry of Silly Walks', I joined in. Another side effect of the lousy dubbing is that the 'whoosh-thwack' of the kung fu attacks serves to highlight that the blows clearly aren't landing.

I've read this described as an unsung classic but I fear that it only serves to highlight that if aficionados of the genre wish to be taken seriously then they must boycott for better production values for DVD releases; then perhaps with subtitles replacing jarring phoney accents the lousy acting and stilted action can sneak under the wire as oriental art house.
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