sDⰫj (1978)
Challenge of Death


Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 09/25/2010
Summary: Missed opportunity

Dueling schools of kung fu, a bit of gambling, some double crosses, a warlord or two: "Challenge of Death" has many aspects of a typical Hong Kong action movie. Both Captain Lu and Chen Sao Wan are very skilled in kung fu with the policeman using the dragon style and the criminal (or at least miscreant) following the snake school. They are natural enemies but must come together in a short term alliance to defeat the bad guy who uses the dreaded spider technique that can only be performed, we are told during a prolog that shows the protagonists doing forms, by someone who can withstand great pain.

That it employed three remarkable martial artists is the only real currency that "Challenge of Death" possessed and it squandered much of that with the inelegant depiction of the spider school by having Chang Yi dangle from ropes (webs) in stunts that wouldn't pass muster in a 1950s television serial for children. Other than that ("Besides that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play") the fights were every bit as good as one would expect given this line-up with Korean kicking machine Dorian Tan having pride of place. The individual duel between Tan and Don Wong Tao were well executed and shot, taking advantage of the strengths of each of them. The fights pit the two of them against a crowd--casino thugs in one case, minions of the warlord in another were well staged, highlighting the two protagonists and not, as is often the case, pulling back to show just a general melee of stuntmen and extras jumping around.

The acting in the rivals but buddies scenes between Tan and Wong was not surprisingly labored and dull be certainly acceptable for a martial arts movie. Their disguise as an old married couple (the shorter Tan playing the wife) at the casino was snappy enough not to drag. The hair, make-up and costuming departments didn't do Lau Ming any favors, tricking her out like a nightmare doll. Chang Yi, when not pretending to be a spider, did a good job as the ultra-evil villain.

Reviewer Score: 5

Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 03/15/2004

I enjoyed the action. Don and Dorian are great as usual. The spider style, though, is mostly a distraction, because it adds a distinctive cheesiness to the film.

[6/10]


Reviewed by: MasterArts
Date: 05/18/2002
Summary: Chang Yi....Spiderman??????

Another classic with Wang Dao playing opposite villain Chang Yi. Except this time they throw in Tan Tao to spice things up. And that he did, easily being the better fighter in this episode. You gotta love those old school openings that introduces the styles. Right off the bat, you know its going to be good. Well, atleast for me it was satisfying. Martial arts wise, about the same as any other flick the three stars been in. The neatest thing in this film is how Chang Yi uses his spider like rope web that shoots out from his hands like the real spiderman. He also can fly with these ropes. I actually like this kind of crazy stunts. Although not a genuine classic, a classic non-the-less. It does have a western sense mostly due to the music.


Reviewed by: STSH
Date: 03/24/2000
Summary: Okay Eastern Western

The director of this film must have watched spaghetti westerns by the truckload ! Example : the front credits sequence features a hog-tied petty crim being dragged behind a horse through desolate valleys with music probably pinched from Sergio Leone.
Anyway, this is really two films in one. The first is a story of a cop and a crim who sort-of eventually cooperate against a common enemy. The second is an instructional film about three styles of kung fu.The film actually opens with demonstrations and explanations of the styles - dragon fist, snake fist, and the "most difficult, most painful and most deadly" spider fist. In many of the fights, each fighter announces his next move and brags about his skill. For instance, "watch my dragon fist", "Snake shedding his skin", "Falling dragon". In a real-life fight, this would be very unwise !
Anyway, there's plenty of stop-motion choreography, which gradually gives way to smoother and more realistic fighting, and the climactic fight, pitting our two heroes and their styles against the one villain with his deadly spider fist.

Reviewer Score: 6