Ching Siu-Tun (director)
20 September 2021 (released)
20 September 2021
Bold, daring and outrageous doesn’t even begin to describe this Hong Kong martial arts extravaganza from 1983: Ninjas strapped onto flying kites, a talking cockatiel, sedan chairs gliding through the air, Chinese warriors dissolving into smoke… and that’s just the tame bits! Director Ching Siu-Tung skilfully blends magic with high octane action in his debut that already displays signs of things to come in his later career, most notably the 1987 smash ‘A Chinese Ghost Story’.
DUEL TO THE DEATH is an adventure like no other set during the Ming Dynasty and revolves around a contest held every ten years in China in which Japan’s greatest swordsman is invited to take on China’s greatest swordsman in an uncompromising ‘duel to the death’. On this occasion the chosen ones are Chinese champion Ching Wan (Damian Lau), who is forced to leave his secluded and peaceful life in a Shaolin monastery, and the considerably more aggressive Japanese sword fighter champion Hashimoto (Norman Chui) who travels all the way to China on orders of the almighty Shogun to keep the honour of Japan alive. However, when both champions arrive at the Holy Sword House – presided over by Master Han (Paul Chang Chung) and his fierce daughter Sing Lam (Flora Cheong-Leen) - it soon becomes apparent that something smells rotten… and it’s not pickled cabbage leaves! In order to ensure each country’s champions wins, the Shogun dispatches flying Japanese Ninjas led by their own master (Casanova Wong – I’m not kidding!) to the monastery so they may steal some scriptures containing secrets about fighting techniques – cue for mind-boggling stunt sequences!
Unfortunately both Ching Wan and Hashimoto want nothing more than to enter a honourable competition to establish the best swordplay fighter but intrigue and countless acts of sabotage left, right and centre soon make them realize that this years’ competition is rigged in favour of more sinister plans. This leads to a confrontation not only between the two champions but also a battle (both verbal and physical) with their respective masters. While Hashimoto is spurned on by Kenji (Eddy Ko) to cause trouble at any opportunity, Master Han expects Ching Wan to play along with his own scheming plans. The stage is set for an almighty showdown during which ‘honour’ loses all its meaning and the battle between Shaolins and Ninjas takes on ever more insane proportions – occasionally bordering on the preposterous so outlandish are the stunts! Who will come up trumps? There can be only one – or can there be?
DUEL TO THE DEATH is presented newly restored in 2K on Blu-ray. As often with Eureka, the first print run (2000 copies) will be offered in a Limited O-Card Slipcase and with a Collector’s booklet. Further bonus material includes trailers, interviews, audio commentary and various audio options. In Cantonese with English subtitles.