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RETURN OF THE DEADLY BLADE - subpar kung fu tale with good cast
Some good performers and creative fight scenes are the bright spots in RETURN OF THE DEADLY BLADE (1981), a murkily plotted and sloppily edited tale of two fighters seeking out the mysterious wheelchair-bound kung fu master, Master Li, for answers to questions about their identity. The two are on the same quest but they don't appear to be taking the same route and their paths keep crossing at odd times. The climactic reunion, in the mystical Lunar World with a character called the Moon Goddess presiding, is particularly confusing.
The imaginative fight scenes were directed by Ching Siu-Tung (DUEL TO THE DEATH, SWORDSMAN II, CHINESE GHOST STORY) and feature lots of wire work and special effects. David Chiang turns in one of his better late kung fu performances (ten years after his stardom peaked at Shaw Bros.), while the real surprise here is the great Yasuaki Kurata (SHAOLIN CHALLENGES NINJA), who often played grim-faced Japanese antagonists, but is allowed to let loose here as the charming, womanizing rogue, Lonely Winner, who fights one group of opponents in a public bath (a cave spring) with nothing but towels! Sharon Yeung Pan Pan has a good part as a fighting femme pursuing Yasuaki for conflicting reasons. Also on hand is the always dependable Norman Chu as Master Li. Lo Lieh appears briefly, while Hwang Jang Lee appears even more briefly.
The print of this film in distribution in the U.S. is 83 minutes and seems to be missing some bits. The editing seems awfully choppy at times and the ending is quite abrupt.
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