Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Deadly Duo (1978) (aka The Two Great Cavaliers)


Ah Cheng (John Liu) has decided to get out of this silly kung-fu business and retire with his new girlfriend. Unfortunately, everyone is out to kill him, and one of the killers has been using his trademark knives to frame him! D'oh! Meanwhile his friends (who have turned on him because of his unwillingness to help a poisoned ally with his acupuncture skill) meet up with a mysterious swordsmen who is not what he seems. Lots of people die and switch sides, and things wrap up with the ailing Ka Yan (Leung Kar-Yan) being cured and all of his allies attacking the big baddy, who has a powerful (blue) fist.


First things first. Despite the plot description on the DVD, and a lot of the information out there, this is not Chang Cheh's classic Shaw Brothers film from 1971. The Deadly Duo is more well known as The Two Great Cavaliers and, though worthwhile in its own right, shouldn't be confused with Cheh's film.

Instead, we have a very confusing plot that is kept afloat by the able abilities of the cast. John Liu shows some amazing kicking abilities in the lead, and he's given many opportunities to demonstrate his impressive speed and accuracy. The great Angela Mao (Enter The Dragon) is the female lead, and she shows off her impressive kung-fu skills in between bouts of pouting and being turned on by allies. The third male lead I didn't recognize, though his sword skills are impressive and add a bit of variety to the fighting on display.

And though he doesn't get to show off many of his skills, it's always nice to see
Leung Kar-Yan (The Victim) show off his beard.

Aside from the fighting, the plot doesn't provide many interesting moments or surprises. At least until we get to the final twenty minutes and find a group of bad guys attempt to sneak into the trapped location where Ka Yan is being held. Not having been taught the different phoenix stances that work as a key, the baddies are dispatched in various grisly ways. The most impressive being an explosive charge that blows a dummy all to hell, and provided me with my most enjoyable moment while watching.

Once again we have to deal with a lousy, full-screen, dubbed print of a film that would greatly benefit from being shown in its original form. In fact, this film has been released in a letterboxed version that is commonly available through Crash Cinema and might be worthwhile to pick up for fans of Angela Mao. The image here is fuzzy but watchable, but the dubbing is wretched and only helps to confuse an already muddled plot.

While the plot is mostly incomprehensible, the film itself is never boring and the fights are inventive, acrobatic and very fast paced. One of the better kung-fu films in this collection, and features some amazing fighting from John Liu and Angela Mao.

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