Duels In The Desert (HK 1977)

Rating: **
Alternate Title: Proud Horse In The Flying Sand
Review Date: 11/27/09
Cast: Pai Ying, Angela Mao, Wong Tao

An incomprehensible tale of double-cross and deceit set against the beautiful backdrop of Mongolia. In fact, it may have been shot back to back with "The Himalayan" (1976). A famous horse race takes place either every year or every five years, depending on who you're listening to. The town that hosts the race attracts a bunch of shady characters who all have agendas that don't include racing. In fact, the race never actually takes place. Don't bother trying to keep track of who is out to get who, because everyone's motives and allegiances change multiple times through the course of the film. Angela Mao stars as the daughter of an inn keeper, and takes on an atypical bad girl role. Sadly, she only has two fight scenes, and they only happen at the end. The real star of the show is Pai Ying, who brings a suave coolness as well as a ruthless intensity to the proceedings. He seems to be both the best actor and the best fighter of the bunch. The location work is very pretty and the fights are pretty good, but they suffer from an overuse of drop-frame editing. The video transfer is a horrific pan-and-scan mess, and quite often two characters will be talking to each other and you can't see either of them. What a shame. As films like this go, the majority of it consists of conspiring double-talk and shifty glances, and only in the last half hour does any action take place. But by then, you're so bored and confused that it doesn't really matter. How unfortunate.