Death Duel (1977)

Directed by
Much better than I remembered
Reviewed by Simon on 2023-05-21

Staying on the theme of The Swordsman Of All Swordsmen tonight, this time dressed in the opulent sets and costumes of late 1970's Chu Yuen.

I did have DEATH DUEL down as mid-tier Chu Yuan, pretty but too much plot and not enough focused, but on rewatch I find it is actually one of his better films - dense, but laser-focused on its themes.

It's quite a nihilistic film about the price of success - envious competitors, the fear of losing your fame, the loss of things that we normally take for granted.

It's also quite funny on a meta-level though, as Shaw Brothers martial arts legends pop up one after another to get killed, culminating in a most atypical appearance by David Chiang - there to wish his young brother Derek Yee luck in his first starring role, presumably.

Action is rarely a strong point in Chu Yuan's films, and that's more or less true here. It's fine and there's plenty of it, but it's not especially interestingly staged or filmed.

The film is drop-dead gorgeous though, with those abstract spaces filled to the brim with elaborate set direction and lit with rich mood lighting that are Chu Yuan's trademark.

Not quite up there with Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan or Clans Of Intrigue, but definitely amongst the better Chu Yuan/Gu Long collaborations.