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Challenge of Death (1977)

Cast: Tommy Lee, Tommy Lee, Wang Tao, more...
Director: Lee Tso Nam, Lee Tso Nam
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Rating: Not Rated
Studio: Tai Seng
Genre: Adventure, Martial Arts
Running Time: 92 min.
Languages: English
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Lee Tso Nam's Challenge of Death features students of two different schools of martial arts, Snake Fist and Dragon Fist, teaming up in order to stop a drug smuggler who fights with the dreaded Spider Claws. The film stars Delung Tam, Chang Yi, and Wang Tao. ~ Perry Seibert, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

A Good Classic Kung Fu Film by aardvark November 10, 2003 - 3:20 PM PST
4 out of 4 members found this review helpful
Don't be misled by the generic-sounding title of this film; "Challenge of Death" manages to set itself apart from other kung fu films of its day in several ways. First, the film is directed by Lee Tso Nam, one of the best independent directors of the period. Secondly, it stars the amazing Delon Tan (aka Dorian Tan Tao Liang), and the charismatic Wong Tao (aka Don Wong Tao), who consistently shone in some of the best independent productions of the mid to late seventies. And thirdly, the film was written by Lee's frequent collaborator Cheong San Yee, which means that the film's storyline goes above and beyond the standard revenge formula.

The film opens promisingly with one of those hokey yet immensely fun scenes in which the films' stars are filmed performing different styles (exaggerated for the cinema) of kung fu against a black screen background, while a narrator informs us of the "history" (much cinematic license taken here) of these styles. Here we are introduced to one of the most entertaining elements of this film-- the villain has a Spiderman-like shtick; adorned in a flashy cape depicting a spider in its web, he shoots rope out from his sleeves, and rises upwards. Sure, at one point you can see the Muppet-like black wires holding him up, but it's still great fun nonetheless.

The film progresses along with a soundtrack lifted from a spaghetti western, a plot concerning a police official attempting to enlist a girl-crazy roguish gambler to break up a firearms trader's illegal dealings, and some romantic interest involving a crafty courtesan who lives in a lushly decorated yurt. There are cross-dressing scenes, gambling scenes, and of course, the amazing leg power of Wong Tao, one of the all-time best kickers in kung fu cinema.

Chang Yi, as the Spider Fist practioner, plays a sufficiently menacing villain, and the final fight scene is not a disappointment. Although this is not one of the greatest kung fu films ever, it's definitely worth watching if you're a fan of the "old school" sub-genre.

(note to fans of bad dubbing: filler expressions used to help sync up the English dialogue to the Chinese-speaking mouths are in heavy use here...particularly the famous "But still...", which is awkwardly inserted perhaps a dozen times during this film.)

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 6.50)
4 Votes
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