Duel of the 7 Tigers
"...a good film even if it may not reach people's expectations of what they would have envisioned if there was to be a Kung Fu Magnificent Seven made in the late 70s."
- Joseph Kuby
Duel of the 7 Tigers (1979)
AKA: Duel Of The Seven Tigers, Duel Of The 7 Tigers, Return Of Scorpion, Return Of The Scorpion, Terminal Impact, Shadow of the Tiger
Director: Yeung Kuen
Cast: Casanova Wong, Chu Chi Ling, Lam Man Wai, Sharon Yeung (Pan Pan), Charlie Chan (Yiu Lam), Pomson Shi, Phillip Ko Fei, Han Ying Chieh, Chan Siu Pang, Chiang Kam, Chan Lau, San Kuai, Chan Sau Chung, Yue Tau Wan, Hon Yee Sang, Cheung Chok Chow, Tony Leung
Running Time: 92 min.
Plot: When two shaolin priests contest the vacant leadership of the temple, the loser of a close combat match leaves to set up his own school. Problems arise when a villainous fighter usurps the school and a new champion must be found to defeat him!
Availability: This title is available at HKflix.com
JOSEPH KUBY'S REVIEW: A valiant effort to put a Chinese spin on Seven Samurai if not coming quite as close as Seven Swords.
This film is the third remake of Kurosawa's most famous concept that I've heard of, though it was the second to be made, the third remake being Roger Corman's Battle Beyond the Stars - whose soundtrack had been lifted for the Kung Fu classic Hitman in the Hand of Buddha (starring "boot master" Hwang Jang Lee).
This film was financed by the Hong Kong Kung Fu Council so authenticity is assured but that doesn't mean to say the excitement is diminished because time and time again it's been shown constantly through the passages of time that authenticity doesn't mean entertainment because you can have someone who's a real martial arts master who won't look as good as someone who's not a real martial arts practitioner (Leung Kar Yan a.k.a. Beardy, John Liang, Brian Leung and Liang Chia Ren). Likewise with historical movies, you can get a film which is historically accurate that can prove to be a total bore but you can get a film which can be historically inaccurate that ends up being wildly entertaining.
The film opens with the obligatory sequence of having someone demonstrate their martial arts skills in front of the camera, though at least this sequence (alongside the opening sequence for Sammo Hung's Warriors Two) seems to show some purpose in regards to our understanding of what we're seeing on screen. The score for this sequence makes up for any déjà vu experienced by a seasoned viewer of martial arts flicks.
On that strand of thought, Duel of the 7 Tigers (a.k.a. Terminal Impact) has one of the best scores I've ever heard in a HK film - I was quite surprised by some of the music cues chosen, despite only a few of them being derived from Drunken Master, but, hey, it's common for HK movies - especially ones that was made during this period of film-making. The music had a very poignant feel and significantly added that sense of epic grandeur which helps to compensate for the fact that this isn't exactly a Chinese version of a David Lean movie (that honor goes to Jet Li's debut film The Shaolin Temple). Speaking of epic grandeur, the film's production values are at the forefront during a scene which takes place at the docks/junks (fairly reminiscent of the sequence from Enter the Dragon).
The film features some unintentional humor in a fight between two monks during a pivotal moment in the film where it's decided that the winner can be the new abbot (but the loser has to leave the Shaolin temple hence the reason why Karate is invented thus introducing the racist antagonist). The humor involves this funny walk which the loser does as he's fighting the winner (a real-life Monkey Kung Fu stylist), it doesn't reach the same heights as John Cleese's funny walk routine yet the way the monk does it suggests that Wong Jing must have been prompted to follow suit as Stephen Chow does a similarly funny walk in the Wong Jing scripted/produced Sixty Million Dollar Man.
But back to the walk, it involves criss-crossing one's legs over the other as one moves forward. Another piece of humor in this scene with the two monks is when the loser monk is on the ground with his feet in the air while the other monk steps on his feet in a comical fashion (though there's no music or facial acting to indicate that this was intentional humor). The winning monk is impressive martial arts wise as he only seems to be 4 feet high! Also, there's a drunken boxer in this movie who is only 4 years old!! These two should have formed some kind of comedic pairing in a Karl Maka movie.
By far the most impressive performer in this is Sharon Yeung Pan Pan who accompanies our leading men and she has impressive skills with her legs (her opening segment during the beginning title sequence is a show-starter to say the least), she may not exactly be a female Hwang Jang Lee like the way Angela Mao almost was in the film The Two Great Cavaliers (which starred Chen Sing, John Liu and LKY) but she comes pretty close.
Sharon's scene in the film (which is also not only the most impressive scene in the whole film but also one of the most impressive in cinema history) where she spins two metallic bowls whilst fighting is simply poetry in motion - if her earlier segment could be described as a show-starter then this segment is a show-stopper. I'm telling ya once you see this scene you'll wonder why she's been reduced to being the producer for William Hung's Where is Mama's Boy?
Ah well, at least she has an efficient amount of classics under her belt. Just watching the girls-with-guns trilogy of Princess Madam, Angel Enforcers and Angel Terminators is enough to wipe out clean any dementia induced from her lame producer credit.
The lead actor, Cliff Lok, seems very familiar. I think it's because he looks a lot like Jimmy Wang Yu - the Clint Eastwood of Hong Kong cinema. I'd say Cliff is the Chinese John Wayne. There's something about his assured demeanor.
The only flaw with this film is one that is not associated with the people who made it. There's a cut in the film in which one of the main characters gets his eyes gouged (this shot however remains in one of the flashbacks featured in the film's finale) so when it's shown that he's lost his vision it doesn't make sense until we see the finale where we witness the aforementioned flashbacks.
The opening credits are flawed in that whilst it was a good idea to pause the screen to accommodate the credentials of the martial artists on display, it's badly timed in the English print of the film (which is called Shadow of the Tiger) so we miss something as we try to focus on either the action and the credits.
Come to think of it, if there was one particular flaw to be associated with the filmmakers it would be the fight scene with Casanova Wong which sets such a high standard that the subsequent fight scenes can only match, at best, rather than surpass. It almost seems like it came from another movie. It feels like as if they said "Okay guys, let's hire Yuen Woo Ping & his boys for a day and shoot this killer fight scene!" but then again, regardless of who the choreographers were, there simply aren't that many martial artists who have that astounding prowess that Casanova displays here (in the confines of one shot he does twelve spinning kicks with one leg) thus that could explain the very few shortcomings the action has later on. His scene (or that one shot rather) gave him the name Human Tornado.
The film's look is presented in semi-widescreen so we don't quite get to see perfect coverage for the fight scenes (specifically towards the end of the film as we some of the training sequences).
This film has an all star cast in that there are famous martial arts professionals and famous character actors who you may recognize if you've seen a lot of Kung Fu films. One can't help but ponder how successful a Chinese Seven Samurai would be if the "magnificent seven" were Carter Wong, Dorian Tan Tao Liang, John Liu, Jackie, Sammo, Biao and LKY. I think the film would have been a smash hit.
If Duel of the 7 Tigers had been directed by someone like Lee Tso Nam, there'd be not only more action but a reasonably substantial storyline since Lee had been well known for his in-depth characterizations. Of course, there's a good chance that the film would have shared similar success if it had been directed by either Sammo or Ping (or even both as can be seen in The Magnificent Butcher).
If this had been made by the Shaw Bros. film company we would have seen Alexander Fu Sheng and The Venoms actors (Lu Feng, Kuo Chui, Chiang Sheng, Sun Chien, Lo Mang as well as Wei Pei) as the seven, with either Sun Chong, Liu Chia Liang, Chor Yuen or Chang Cheh as the director.
The company who made the film (Goldig - who are still making films today) were, alongside Seasonal, one of the most successful independent companies of the era of Kung Fu film-making. Their other and more famous efforts are Snake in the Monkey's Shadow (which has two actors from this film - Charlie Chan and Pomson Chi) and Two on the Road a.k.a. Fearless Dragons which starred LKY, Johnny Wang Lung Wei and Philip Ko. The latter plays the main villain in Duel of the 7 Tigers, quite a contrast to his role in the similarly themed Legend of a Fighter which was also about Chinese vs. Japanese sentiments.
The director is noteworthy for having directed Leslie Cheung in The Drummer, Moon Lee in The Revenge of Angel, Bruce Li in Storming Attacks and Carrie Ng in Candlelight's Woman. Richard Yeung Kuen was also one of the many directors who appeared in the film Twin Dragons. The Revenge of Angel. He did a film called Chinese Kung Fu in 1973 which featured Simon Yuen Siu Tien and Billy Chan Wui Ngai.
Back to Duel of the 7 Tigers, it's a good film even if it may not reach people's expectations of what they would have envisioned if there was to be a Kung Fu Magnificent Seven made in the late 70s.
PHD Kung Fu movie buff Ralph Allen (owner of the Beijing Video site) seems to like this movie so much that he listed it as one of his personal favourites, which is saying something since he's seen thousands of Hong Kong films as his semi-defunct site indicated.
The film grossed HK$ 397,558.50 (this would be US$ 51,246.95) at the local box office.
JOSEPH KUBY'S RATING: 7/10