Duel With The Devils (Taiwan 1977)

Rating: *
Review Date: 11/26/09
Cast: Tan Tao Liang, Angela Mao, Lung Jun-Er

Baffling. It's hard to tell if this film is really that bad, or if it's just edited that way. Being a pan-and-scan disaster and having a bad English dub certainly doesn't help. The film wastes no time getting started, and in the first five minutes Tan Tao Liang's family is murdered and his wife is kidnapped by a group of ugly and unpleasant Japanese soldiers. He swears revenge and goes after them. Somewhere along the line, Angelo Mao comes out of nowhere as the daughter of a Chinese policeman. Literally. One moment a bunch of Japanese are beating up some poor peasant, and then in the next shot Angela Mao is beating up the Japanese. Who is this girl who's dressed as a boy and where did she come from? It's never explained. But then again, pretty much the entire movie is that way, as if a quarter of it was randomly cut out and thrown in the garbage. Talk about a continuity nightmare! About thirty minutes into this nonsense, Liang gets his revenge, but then it just keeps going on for another hour. The climax of the film borrows liberally from Bruce Lee's iconic "Game Of Death" (1977) as the Japanese order the Chinese to bring Liang to "The Pagoda." Angela Mao's father gasps in horror, "No, not The Pagoda!" So Liang shows up at The Pagoda and proceeds to climb to the top, facing a collection of ever more dangerous opponents including a European fencer, a couple of Mongolian wrestlers, an Indian whip master, a Japanese samurai, presumably some ninja (we don't actually see them), and finally a Karate expert. Inexplicably, there are a bunch of white guys watching from the crowd.

Even with some nice fight scenes from the gracefully fluid Liang and Mao, the film is nearly unwatchable. It's littered with all sorts of bizarre and incomprehensible moments, and peppered with hilariously bad dialog. One of the weirdest moments is when Liang is fighting the master samurai, and out of nowhere he produces a yo-yo. That's right, a yo-yo. He's been getting his ass kicked for the entire film and then finally pulls out his secret weapon, the yo-yo. The yo-yo proves to be too much for the master swordsman to handle, and the tide of battle turns in Liang's favor. And then the yo-yo disappears for the rest of the film. It's absurd to begin with, and the execution is extremely awkward which makes it even harder to follow and believe. Adorable Lung Jun-Er plays two unrelated girls who look identical, for no apparent reason. Is this important to the plot? No. It's only an excuse to make an extremely unconvincing split-screen shot of them both in the same scene. The film is just a complete mess, from top to bottom, which is unfortunate. For die-hard fans only.