Every ten years, the best swordsmen from China and Japan meet at the House of the HolySword for a duel to the death. This time around, the champions are Ching Wan (Damian Lau)and Hashimoto (Tsui Siu Keung). The circumstances around the duel are as deadly as the duelitself, however, because the Japanese have sent an army of ninjas. Their mission: kidnap all ofChina’s best fighters and steal China’s kung fu secrets, thus paving the way for conquest.
Though init…ally promising to become a duel film in the vein of Master of the FlyingGuillotine, Duel to the Death becomes considerably more convoluted with thepolitical intrigues and multiple betrayals. The duel itself is saved for the spectacular finish, set onprecipitous cliffs by the pounding sea. Along the way, barely five minutes go by without anothermarvellous set piece. The wire fighting is highly imaginative, literally giving the flick wings. Themovie is all the more fascinating for showing from where Crouching Tiger, HiddenDragon traces its roots.
DTS and 5.1 aren’t entirely necessary (or used to their full potential) by a 21-year-old movie.Still, the remix is better than that on, say In the Line of Duty 4. The environmental effectsare quite solid, with lots of night insects, echoes, and flapping of cloth as the combatants sailthrough the air. The music has some surround presence (though it also suffers from somedistortion), and the clanging of swords in crowded combat scenes works very well. All in all,better than the age of the film would suggest.
The age of the film is apparent in the sound, but is even more so with the picture. Mostnoticeable is the grain. The blacks could be stronger too, and the colours are simply not asbrilliant as they would be on a newer film. Age also shows up in some flicker and fading aroundthe edges. The reds are nice, though, and the aspect ratio is a satisfying 2.35:1 anamorphicwidescreen.
Nothing here except trailers: the original and new trailers for Duel to the Death, andthe trailers for the other Hong Kong films in this series. The menu’s main and special featurespages are animated and scored, and the other pages are scored.
Impressive swordplay and exciting wire fighting make this one a winner, well worth seekingout, bare-bones nature of the disc notwithstanding.
Special Features List