SHANGHAI 13 is an all-star Hong Kong extravaganza about patriots vs. traitors in 1920s Shanghai. A patriot named Gau has to take an important document to Hong Kong past an army of killers out to stop him. Over a dozen of Hong Kong's top kung fu stars of the 1970s come into play as either traitors trying to kill Mr. Gau or patriots trying to protect him. Curiously, the Shanghai 13 of the title consists of both sides. Danny Lee plays a sniper. Veteran Shaw Bros. stars David Chiang and Ti Lung are good guys in separate scenes. Ti Lung (smoking a pipe!) fights an overweight Chen Sing. Two of the 5 Venoms are on hand: Lu Feng is a bad guy, while Chiang Sheng is a good guy. Chi Kuan Chun plays `the Leopard,' a bad guy. Leung Kar Yan (LEGEND OF A FIGHTER) leaves a bed with four babes to defend his home in one of the best fight scenes. Chen Kuan Tai pops up but doesn't fight. Jimmy Wang Yu is a safecracker wearing glasses and a black fedora in a non-fighting pre-credits sequence. There are lots of other fighting stars, but I don't know their names. One seems to be a young Andy Lau.
There's no real plot development, just a series of fight scenes. The fighting is well-staged, as we would expect from veteran director Chang Cheh, but the overall production is incredibly cheap-looking. This wasn't a Shaw Bros. production so they had to shoot it on location. Even though it takes place in the 1920s, everything is shot in modern hotels, offices and houses in Hong Kong. Their period costumes don't mesh well with the formica-heavy settings. The final two fights, however, occur on the docks and in a large warehouse.
The Ocean Shores tape offers a very good video transfer. The English dubbing, however, is awful. Even worse is the canned music score, with grating pseudo-jazz and pseudo-rock. You're better off turning down the sound and just watching the action.
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