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Bells of Death is a classic Shaw Brothers production that I first saw in the early 90s when it was released on VHS in North America. I remember being amazed when I discovered that it was made in 1968...and now that I have the restored DVD version put out by Celestial I can fully appreciate how fresh it still feels. This might seem counterintuitive considering that the plot revolves around a man who devotes his life to avenging the murder of his family at the hands of bandits...a kung fu cliché if there ever was one. But while the concept was by no means original in 1968, it was also far from being stale. Add to that the creative cinematography, camera work, and set pieces and it becomes apparent why Hollywood is still trying to catch up to Hong Kong action films almost 40 years later. So while some people call this film completely derivative, I wonder why it hasn't been copied more. Maybe just due to its relative obscurity.
With the popularity of Tarantino's Kill Bill, his homage to Asian action cinema (the Shaw Brothers rip-off of the Warner Brothers marquee front and centre, the soundtrack almost directly lifted from films like Bells of Death) it might be instructive and entertaining for more people to watch these old Shaw Brothers' films. The candle fight scene at about the mid- point of Bells of Death is enough to justify hunting the film down. If Hollywood is going to strip mine old films to recycle ideas it could do much worse than recreating such brilliantly executed scenes.
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