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By James Whittington, Tuesday 3rd April 2018
The Dragon Missile
88 Films Asia Collection
The best thing about 88 Films is that they're giving us the chance to view some of the most obscure movies past and present and this cracker from Asia is one I've never heard of never mind seen before.
The Dragon Missile or Fei long zhan as it is known as in Hong Kong is a powerhouse of a picture with a great cast and way above average effects for its time.
It's a brutal and bloody tale of rivalry and skullduggery in ancient China that has more decapitations than the French revolution. The plot concerns the search for an elixir for a corrupt lord and the people who are searching for it; one set are evil, the other is a man by himself but he has a secret weapon, boomerang blades also known as dragon missiles. Who will find it, and will they work together?
Prolific director Meng Hua Ho gives us all the action you could ever want in a Shaw Bros. picture, plus a lot of invention, how many villains have you seen that have knives come out of their fingernails? There's a lot going on here, double-dealing, decapitations, hard-assed baddies, decapitations, outrageous sound effects, decapitations, well, you get the picture. The plot is straight forward and to be honest paper thin and the cast constantly look into middle distance to enhance the drama, but it has a ertain charm that keeps you watching, even if its just for the many fighting sequences.
The camera rarely says still and the blood on show is the reddest I've seen since Hammer's glory days, the set design allows plenty of opportunity for the characters to jump around whilst fighting and the location shots add drama to the many fight scenes such as one near an incoming tide.
The transfer is as sharp as the Dragon Missiles themselves with colours being vibrant without bleeding over the edges and retain some nice detail in the darker moment. The movie comes with its original as well as dubbed soundtrack with the former being the best version to watch with.
The accompanying booklet by Calum Wadell is a personal reflection on his first encounter with the movie as well as a brief history of the film and others connected with it. I'd like to see these pieces extended as they make for a very interesting read. The two audio commentaries are well worth visiting.
This is one of a batch of Asian titles recently released by 88 Films and over the next few days I'll be letting you know which ones to add to your collection.
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