The Last Duel (HK 1979)

Rating: *
Review Date: 12/2/00
Cast: Nora Miao(?)

Huh?!? This is easily one of the most incomprehensible films I've ever seen - so much so that I can't even write a coherent synopsis of it. To be honest, the only reason I picked this up was because Nora Miao's name was on the box, but I didn't even recognize her in the film. Either she's not in it, or she has aged considerably since the early 1970's.

Okay, let's see what we can put together... A man (let's call him Li) is accused of sleeping with the wife of legendary swordsman See Man Chelsey, so they have a duel. Li barely manages to escape with his life, only to get lost in the woods. There, he meets another fugitive along with a See Man Chelsey imposter, who kills himself in shame after being defeated by Li. Still looking for a place to hide, the other fugitive leads Li to Death Villa - a strange smoke filled village where everyone is dead(?) and speaks with an echo in their voice. Li manages to escape death by winning a human meat eating contest and beating up the general of Death Villa, but the inhabitants of Death Villa want to kill Li who they suspect of murdering the See Man Chelsey imposter in the forest. Fortunately he's saved by Mrs. Wah, the "bitch who kills men", but then they are both kidnapped by the leader of Death Villa. It turns out that Li is just being tested by the leader of Death Villa, and having passed all the tests he's now part of a mission to assassinate the leader of Wu Tang. But first, they must kill all of the unnecessary (dead?) people in Death Villa. (are you following all of this?!?) So Li and the Death Villa death squad go to Wu Tang, ambush the leader of the clan, and kill all of his guests. Or so it seems... Then comes the twist ending where everyone turns on the leader of Death Villa and the great mysterious plot gets reveals - sort of. The film ends on a freeze frame of Li and See Man Chelsey picking up their fight from the beginning of the film.

What a complete mess. The kung fu is fair to good, with lots of strange wire-work and bizarre sound effects. The story is inconceivably confusing and convoluted. I gave up trying to even understand what the characters were saying about ten minutes into the film - it might as well have been in a different language. And then there's the great opening sequence of See Man Chelsey and some other guy fighting in an unbelievably poor desert setting while the theme music from "Battlestar Galactica" (1978) is playing in the background. (you can even see the actors' shadows on the sky backdrops) And let's not forget the kung fu dwarf of Death Villa...