DEADLY DUO (1971) is one of a group of historical near-epics from 1970-73 directed by Chang Cheh and starring Ti Lung and David Chiang. This one's considerably shorter than the others (THE HEROIC ONES, NEW ONE-ARMED SWORDSMAN, BLOOD BROTHERS), with less in the way of characterization and plotting and more in the way of fighting, action and adventure. All the fights involve various weapons, mostly spears and swords, but also some pretty exotic ones, such as a pair of lethal cymbals and a container that shoots out incendiary balls. The co-director of the action scenes is Lau Kar Leung (aka Liu Chia Liang) who had a special interest in spear and stick fighting and went on to direct some of the best kung fu films of the late 1970s and early '80s.
The plot involves patriots during the Sung Dynasty and their attempts to rescue a kidnapped prince from Ching troops who have invaded the north of China. The patriots are led by Ti Lung who recruits a mysterious but seemingly superhuman fighter played by David Chiang to find a way to cross a perilous bridge to enter an impregnable fortress to locate and rescue the imprisoned prince. The big confrontation at the end involves trickery on the part of the heroes and the self-sacrifice of one of their number as David, who is not known to the enemy, brings in Ti as his `prisoner' to turn over to the Chings, as a way of gaining entrance. Then he cuts Ti's bonds and all hell breaks loose.
The fight scenes are generally pretty fanciful but always fun to watch. The patriots' opponents have names like Fire Man, Tree Man, Mole Man, Gold Mongol and Water Dragon. One particularly clever scene finds the patriots on log rafts crossing a river when Water Dragon and his cohorts attack and cut the binding on the logs, causing the rafts to fall apart in the water. There are several underwater action shots here.
David Chiang and Ti Lung are both extremely agile and energetic and carry the action forward with great verve. Some good villains are on hand as well, including such dependable players as Ku Feng, Chen Sing, Bolo Yeung (as Water Dragon) and Liu Chia Yung. It's not a terribly deep film, but it's colorful and exciting and plays like a pumped-up swashbuckler. Although kung fu purists may prefer Chang Cheh's later Shaolin series, fans of sword- and weapons-play will enjoy this.
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