The Deadly Duo

<i>The Deadly Duo</i>
This 1971 Shaw Brothers martial-arts flick is definitely full of action — energetic camerawork, gallons of stage blood, and a widescreen frame full of gracefully choreographed movement on the part of dozens of performers wielding an impressive variety of weapons all contribute to the film’s sense of urgent forward motion.

Watch a video clip from The Deadly Duo:

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The story takes place during the Sung Dynasty, as Ti Lung hooks up with David Chiang (making the “duo” of the title relatively late in the film) to lead a team of warriors in the rescue of a kidnapped prince. Implements of destruction include a pair of sharpened cymbals, rope dart for hooking into an opponent’s chest, pinball-sized fire bombs, and the usual assortment of spears, axes and swords. (I was fond of one point-of-view shot from the perspective of a prisoner who had just been run through with four spears chucked at him from 20 feet away.)

The film revels in macho heroics, culminating in the kind of ode to self-sacrifice that’s always in vogue in Chinese historical cinema, and maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised to notice that not a single woman appears on screen for the duration. One highlight is a fight scene set on a large log raft that’s eventually dismantled from underwater, leaving our heroes adrift amongst just a bunch of big logs. Aficionados will no doubt appreciate director Chang Cheh’s decidedly old-school approach — including the once-characteristic overuse of fast zooms to signify danger and urgency — but more casual viewers will likely find The Deadly Duo to be a time-capsule sample of competent but unexceptional kung fu.

The Blu-ray Disc release from Tokyo Shock/Media Blasters is decent enough. Although the picture seems to have had an overly aggressive combination of grain reduction and dust-busting applied, fine detail doesn’t seem to have been compromised too badly. However, the picture has clearly been digitally sharpened, and although the tell-tale halos around high-contrast edges weren’t apparent from my normal viewing distance (although they’re visible on closer examination), the image has a somewhat harsh, processed look that better Blu-rays successfully avoid.

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