Friday, August 3, 2018

FEATURE FRIDAY: DEATH DUEL OF KUNG FU (1979)

     Among Martial Arts films are several real gems that go unnoticed by the public at large. For some reason, this particular genre of action films seems to attract a number of internet trolls and dojo-crows who flood websites and forums with negative reviews. Only rarely do their reviews even make sense; but they discourage people from seeing some really good films.

      One such little-known film is Death Duel of Kung Fu, produced in Hong Kong and filmed in South Korea. The film lives up to its title, without doubt. It features three Kung Fu legends: John Liu, Don Wong, and Eagle Han in a three-way battle against a backdrop of mystery and intrigue. 

      The plot is a good one. In 17th Century China, the Emperor of the Ming Dynasty has abdicated and fled to Taiwan with a group of soldiers---hoping to recover his kingdom from the Ching. Shun Ching Kwei, (played by Don Wong) a Ming patriot and master of the Shaolin Southern Crane, assassinates the Ching's best Field Marshal. The Ching emperor commissions his top Kung Fu expert, Lord To Ko Lan (played by Eagle Han) to track down the assassin before he can escape to Taiwan and join the Ming. 

      Along the way, a bounty-hunter and boxing champion, Sun Sen (played by John Liu), gets involved. Sun appears at first to be hunting Shun Ching Kwei, but begins to believe that things aren't quite as they might seem on the surface. A beautiful Japanese spy (played by Fanny Wong) also gets involved, helping the Ming patriots. The question Sun must overcome is seeing that his choice of sides in the civil war depends on a moral principle higher than money. 

      As might be expected with three such heavy-hitting stars, the Kung Fu techniques get displayed early in the film and often thereafter. But one of the things that really gives this film character is that it's not a standard 'basher' film. It's Kung Fu fighters vs. Kung Fu fighters all the way. It's a shame that martial-arts films today don't go back to that old format. It's incredible enough watching highly-trained and skilled fighters without the fantasy/superhero special effects ruining everything. 

      Death Duel of Kung Fu won't disappoint. Some of the best fighters of the school with a great plot and a hot babe in the mix---how can that not be worth ⍟⍟⍟⍟ four stars?


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