Duel in the Tiger Den (1972)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2007-06-17
There might be a decent enough movie buried under the horrible transfer-- most likely from an nth generation tape--and the slash and burn editing (to use the term incorrectly) that “Duel in the Tiger Den” endured between its release and being burned onto this CD but it is difficult to tell. There is a plot of sorts: the royal seal has been stolen by a Chinese master criminal who plans to sell it to the Japanese. One of his underlings is a man he has no reason to trust since the confederate did time in prison because of the master criminal and he is a lot smarter than his boss. They have the seal in a redoubt in the mountains and have a gang of tough guys who beat up or kill anyone who approaches. There is also a town nearby where travelers are given a more cordial welcome.

Among the travelers is Bruce Li and a young woman who is searching for her father, a man who went after the stolen seal, telling her that if he didn’t return in a month it was because he was dead. Six months have passed since then so she is very concerned. One way she deals with her anxiety is through kung fu. She is quite adept at it and throws punches and kicks whenever provoked and it doesn’t take much to provoke her. Among the people in the town is the owner of a restaurant and his daughter who is played a beautiful actress with large, lovely eyes—Emmanuelle Beart type of eyes. They are almost a special effect in themselves. Both of the younger actresses were coiffed with martial arts traditional pigtails and the daughter of the restaurant owner even outfitted with a wicker basket over her arm.

There are some terrific fights and some others that are amateurish and poorly planned. Two fights between Poon Chuen-Ling and Ng Tung-Kiu, both of whom are credited as action directors, are very exciting. Each of them is fast, fit, highly skilled and looked great on film. It looked as if while most punches were pulled and most kicks missed by millimeters, enough blows landed, if only on arms, to make these battles very realistic. One of these fights was followed by a melee between Bruce Li and several thugs that was a good showcase for his skills with plenty of action and not too many cuts. Earlier he had been ambushed on a hillside by the same guys and what followed was a dreadful mess with more tumbling and standing around than anything else.

The evil confederate played, I believe, by Poon Chuen-Ling, is the real star of “Duel in the Tiger Den”. He is full of duplicity, deceit and treachery and stays busy by betraying everyone. He wants the royal seal plus all the money (a small trunk full of silver coins) the Japanese pay for it and wants revenge for the time he spent in prison. He also wants to tie up any loose ends by killing everyone who knows anything about the deal. Since the viewer has an all but omniscient point of view his double and triple dealing is apparent to us but not to the other characters in the movie. He is a very good bad guy—from what I was able to tell from the chopped up images on this DVD he can act and is a skilled martial artist.

Not recommended for anything but the fights mentioned in this review.
Reviewer Score: 2