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三少爺的劍 (1977)
Death Duel

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 04/30/2018
Summary: Fame can be a problem

The paths of glory lead but to the grave or once Third Master of Sword Mansion, always Third Master. Skilled swordsmen are going to come from all over China, some sent by warlords others as freelancers, to win fame by defeating (and killing) the Third Master. Even if, like Ah Chi, you no longer desire the title it is yours forever as is the responsibility of defending it. Even if you have only three days to live someone sitting at the next table at the tavern is there with his blade sharpened and his moves perfected, just waiting for the right moment to move against you.

After spending most the movie defending others Ah Chi must be saved by anonymous benefactors. One is played by Ti Lung who was formerly a famous swordsman but now, as he says, “carries wood instead of swords”, working as a woodcutter but who still has the skill to dispatch four killers sent against Ah Chi. Another is even more laconic, telling a group of killers that since Ah Chi bought him a drink hey must ask him before killing Ah Chi. He is played by Lo Lieh--his workman’s staff becomes a short sword and his hat becomes a very effective round blade.

The butcher’s bill is very high--just about all the featured players (but one) and several boatloads of extras are dead by the end of the movie, which is not at all surprising. Most of them are run through or disemboweled during typical wuxia sword fights that pop up every few minutes. The only really noble people are the poorest of the poor, coolies carrying bags of rice who have to pay the representative of the local warlord to be allowed to work and who are taxed for each bag they carry. It is here that Ah Chi finds men and women who don’t ask questions but take him for what he seems to be, a wandering beggar with nowhere to go, not knowing where his next meal is coming from. They take him in at a crucial time to allow him to both see that he can’t escape the fate that made him Third Master and also to show him (and the audience) that some of the finest people are among the lowest classes.

A compact story, easy to follow although the price of fame theme is belabored--it could have done with a couple fewer fights with Spirit Catchers or clan members. Recommended for Wuxia fans. A very young Yuen Biao appears briefly as a fight extra.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 10/15/2004
Summary: The price of being famous.......

I recently saw a show about papparazzi, and i guess the main character is going through that too. Once famous, always famous!!

The movie itself was a little slow to start off. As the story went on, the more predictable it became. Is Derek Yee suppose to play his character as a zombie?He looked like one!!

The cameos was a nice suprise, Ti lung seemed to wear the same clothes as his character in "Magic blade" and Lo Lieh character could be from "killer clans" A even bigger suprise was David Chiang.

The action is average, normally in these older shaw movies its the story that carries to movie (as the swordfighting action looks the same) and unfortunately there is not enough in this movie to make it better than average


Reviewed by: balstino
Date: 09/01/2003
Summary: Intricate and Absorbing, very, very good.

A cracking Shaws swordplay flick. The story is wonderful and the way things develop are very natural. I don't want to give anything away, but I'd rate Death Duel right at the top of the Shaws swordplay genre. I was totally absorbed into the characters and situations, it really is just a fantastic film.

Reviewed by: MasterArts
Date: 04/18/2003
Summary: Very Slick characters...........

Makes this one a favorite to an Old School Martial arts fan like myself. It seems to be all about characters and theme music at one point. Shaw brothers always had that slick look with there characters, that made their films stand above the rest. Even though, in some cases lacked the choreography, but not in this one. Loved it from start to finish. Yee did a good job. Movies like this compete with swordplay films today, and to think it was made over 20 years ago. Go figure. Chor Yuen has some great swordplay films, and I think this is one of the better ones.

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 03/29/2003
Summary: Lesser Chor Yuen/Gu Long work

For some reason I thought this movie was made in 1970 whilst I was watching it, and was impressed that Chor Yuen's movies were already so accomplished by that time. It turns out it was actually made in 1977 though, some time after The Magic Blade and Clans Of Intrigue, compared to which it feels rather less accomplished.

Yet again, Chor Yuen adapts a novel by Gu Long for this movie, and it follows the typical Gu Long mould. The wu xia world is once more the scene of much intrigue and power play, as one clan seeks dominance over the others. One wonders why it seems so attractive, as those who are considered to be the master swordsmen of their time all seem to have tired of the killing and want to live a normal, peaceful life. Once one has made a name for himself in the Jiang Hu, however, it is very difficult to escape from it.

Derek Yee makes his movie debut here, as one such swordsman who wishes to live a peaceful life. He accepts a job doing menial work in a brothel for food and board, and tries hard to blend into the background. His past inevitably catches up with him, of course.

Movies based on Gu Long novels can have a tendency to be hard to follow... Gu Long is very fond of his conspiracies and intrigue, and also likes to introduce hundreds of characters. Chor Yuen is usually very good at extracting the essence in a form suitable for the screen, but here he seems to fall victim to the wish to tell everything that's in the book. New characters are introduced every couple of minutes, though for the most part there's no time to get to know them as they fight for a while then die. The movie moves from fight to fight with barely a pause for breath, and manages to rack up an absolutely enormous body count. This constant parade of characters and fights makes it a little difficult to follow what's going on for more than 5 minutes at a time, and obscures rather than expands what is basically quite a simple central story line.

The movie still shows Chor Yuen's style as a director though. It's filmed almost entirely on indoor sets, but lusciously constructed sets that give the movie that unique Shaw Brothers touch. Chor Yuen's art direction and eye for camera positioning means that he always makes these sets look a lot better than Chang Che ever managed though. Coupled with the gorgeous costumes, there's no doubt that Death Duel is a visual feast.

With so much fighting, the success of the film naturally depends largely on the choreography. Tong Gaai directs the action here, without regular partner Lau Kar Leung (who had become a fully fledged director by this point I guess). Although Lau Kar Leung is the most respected and appreciated of the pair, Tong Gaai shows that he's no slouch of a choreographer here, with some great fight scenes. He's primarily known for his weapons work, but there's a lot of hand to hand fighting too - actually mostly hand to weapon, as Derek Yee tends to take on swordsman bare handed quite a lot. In 1977 the world of martial arts choreography was about to change dramatically as Sammo Hung, Jackie Chan and Yuen Wo Ping became directors and started creating their own more fluid fight styles. The fights in DEATH DUEL look a little dated in comparison to the new generation's work, but they are still quite impressive and enjoyable to watch - and noticably better than Tong Gaai and Lau Kar Leung's work in The Blood Brothers (1973), for example.

Derek Yee makes a great debut with the film, impressing with his good looks and acting and to a lesser degree with his kung fu. It's hard to imagine the same guy going on to direct movies such as The Lunatics, C'est La Vie Mon Cheri and Viva Erotica! I've enjoyed his directorial work a lot though, and look forward to seeing more of his work as an actor.

Of the Chor Yuen wu xia movies that I've seen, Death Duel is the weakest because it simply tries to squeeze in too many characters. It still has that beautiful artistic style of his, though, and the moments of poetry and philosophy that make his films more thoughtful than those of Chang Che.

This week, however, Chor Yuen went up against a tough opponent with Chang Che's THE BLOOD BROTHERS (probably his best work, of those I've seen), and Death Duel just wasn't a good enough effort to take the prize this time around.

It still gets a mild recommendation, but seek out other Chor Yuen films such as CLANS OF INTRIGUE first.

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: mpongpun
Date: 02/04/2003

Great Ku Lung flick marking the debut of Derek Yee as some swordsman who is just trying to hang up his sword for the life of a commoner. He even goes so far to fake his death! Nevertheless, the “Third Master” gets his cover blown and is eventually “provoked” into using his sword once again into settling some injustices and finally partaking in showdown with a man who happened to save him from death earlier.