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Daredevils (1979) October 28, 2007

Posted by Cal in : 1970s films, Kung Fu , trackback

Things have been a bit quiet here for a few weeks for a couple of reasons.  I’ve been writing about some non-Hong Kong movies (such things do exist, apparently) and more recent HK releases over at Obsessed With Film.  The other is a self-imposed abstention from Kung Fu films which has lasted a good three months.  Such fasting is necessary sometimes to keep from becoming blasé about the subject, and it has built up my appetite for this particular film, which I’ve been looking forward to ever since seeing Crippled Avengers.  Although I’m looking to get a more varied movie diet in the next few weeks (for example, I’m going to be looking at some more Johnny To films in the near future) I don’t want this blog to die completely and will continue to use it to promote Kung Fu films.  So without further ado, I give you this evening’s feature presentation…

Director: Chang Cheh  Cast: Phillip Kwok, Chiang Sheng, Wong Lik, Sun Chien, Lo Meng, Lu Feng  Territory: Hong Kong  Production Company: Shaw Brothers

There’s a plot in here relating to an evil warlord that kills off one of our heroes’ family, but it’s all very strained and perfunctory.  Actually, a lot of the movie is quite perfunctory and there’s a general half-arsedness (if that’s a real word) to it all.

A case in point is the whole middle section, which is flatter than an unusually flat pancake that’s been gone over by a steamroller.  There’s an attempt at intrigue (I guess this was around the time the Chor Yuen films were popular) involving the sale of a non-existent weapons cache and it just falls on its face.  And it seems to go on for months!

This is from the team behind the now legendary Five Venoms and the new love of my life, Crippled Avengers.  The Venoms themselves are on fine form, and leap about with great aplomb.  But Chang Cheh, as usual, shows he was utterly incapable of consistency.  There’s also a worrying turn towards comedy (again, another film that was doing great box-office around this time was Drunken Master) with some of the routines and the Venoms doing comedy just doesn’t feel right at all.

 

There are high points.  Oh yes, there are high points.  For example, for connoisseurs of the nunchaku this film is a must-see.  We have a couple of blazing scenes involving the weapon, including the best with Lo Meng (who will forever be remembered as the Toad from Five Venoms) who is simply stunning with them.  As well as this, the last fifteen minutes are action packed and very compelling. 

Us two get extra cash 'cos we were in the original Venom movie and you weren't! 

I am not the type of fan who demands action all the way through a film (and often complain when presented with such), but the unevenness of Daredevils is a hurdle that is simply insurmountable.  Were it not for the truly horrid attempt at being a second-rate thriller (and failing) and the lacklustre approach to the story and characterisation (we simply do not know enough about the characters or why they seem to be bonded to each other) there would be much to enjoy.  Sadly, though, Daredevils misfires far too often to be truly enjoyable.

Comments»

1. James Lee - October 29, 2007

I agree. A fun film, spoilt by the same non-existant direction and slap-dash script that hampered many a late Shaw film. The Venoms had great potential squandered by being stuck in passble. Very little of their work is equal to what Golden Harvest was doing at the same time, which is a shame because they’re a talented bunch

2. Cal - October 29, 2007

I was all the more disappointed as I was looking forward to it so much! Oh, well, I’ve got HOUSE OF TRAPS to watch soon so hopefully that’ll be better…

3. James Lee - October 29, 2007

Most of the Shaw’s have been disapointing for me. I think the fan community hypes them too much. Having said that, I own 30 of the bloody things!

My fave venoms films are Crippled Avengers and Masked Avengers.

4. Cal - October 31, 2007

I’ve not seen Masked Avengers. I’ll have to get that soon (noticed that stock has started to dwindle).

As for the Shaw Brothers and the hype thing, I personally think in the 60’s and early to mid 70’s there were some great films made by the studio. Where I think the problem lies is that their style and approach is so different from Golden Harvest, Seasonal, etc and they do take a bit more getting into than their rivals’ films. I found it initially difficult to acclimatise, but now find some early Golden Harvest films almost unwatchably basic.

That said, there are some that ARE doubtlessly over hyped. I may be the only person who thought the original Venom film was “good” rather than the best thing since sliced bread. And although I’m very fond of it, Dirty Ho seems to have attracted an unnecessary amount of praise.

5. James Lee - November 2, 2007

Oh yes, the 60’s and early 70’s Shaw films are mostly excellent. Around 74 they seem to take a dip in quality, and feel less polished. The stock sound effects become weak, the Chinese dubbing lazy (I actually find the silly English dubs sometimes benefit the films of this era) and it’s clear the directors and screenwriters are suffering burnout.

I prefer the feel of the early Golden Harvest pictures to the Shaws. They have a rough feel that I find quite effective, though in both cases it seems to be due to circumstance (GH low budget, shot on the fly/Shaws high quality)

6. Cal - November 4, 2007

Yeah, I have fond memories of my early exposure to GH. Like most foreigners, my first HK films were all Golden Harvest films. But I also watched a lot of Jackie Chan’s Lo Wei films at that point and actually had the view that GH were far superior to everything else from Hong Kong in the 70’s! It wasn’t until quite a few years later that I saw a Shaw Brothers film, and later still that I saw an early 70’s Shaw production (Blood Brothers, to be exact) and was blown away by what they were capable of!

7. Ljerka Balić - November 28, 2007

Hi,

My name is Ljerka. I am from Zagreb, Croatia. I am 40 years old.I did not watched this film, only The Rebel Intruders and Crippled Avengers, but I think that film is super because of The Five Venoms, especially Mr Lu Feng. he is my favourite Venom. He is so cute.
All Venoms are very, very good in martial arts and every their film is good.

Best regards from Zagreb

Ljerka Balić

8. Cal - November 28, 2007

Hi Ljerka!

Yes I like Lu Feng too, but I’m not sure I’d call him cute ;) . You’re right about the Venoms being very good and as you’ve probably seen, I’m a big fan of Crippled Avengers, but I didn’t enjoy this as much as I thought I would.

Croatia looks like a really great place - I hope to visit there some time!

Cal

9. James Lee - April 1, 2008

Lu Feng seems to attract all the ladies who’d dare watch a HK film with me. He’s cool as ice, won best Supporting Actor at the HK Film Awards, seems to play one of the few genuine gay characters in a Chang Cheh film (in Masked Avengers) and now seems to have vanished off the face of the earth!

Cute? Well, if you like scary men with big hair and permantly crossed eyes…

10. Cal - April 2, 2008

Well, you’re damn lucky to find a lady to watch a HK film with, that’s for sure!

MASKED AVENGERS has been on my “to watch” pile for too long, but as I only had it on VCD, I kept putting it off (even though the Celestial VCDs are actually quite watchable). I have, however, now secured it on DVD, so as soon as that comes I’ll finally see it!

11. James Lee - April 6, 2008

Yeah that’s true. I reckon Chang Cheh’s kinky shennigans attact ladies!

12. Ljerka Balić - February 23, 2009

Hi, Cal,

How are you?

I have almost all Venoms films, but they are region 3 and I must buy a new DVD player - region free, because the Europe has region 2.
I am looking forward to see their films.
I know that Lu Feng has 55 years now, but he was cute when he was younger. :) :):). I love them all very much, and Feng is very good in playing villians.
He got a few heroic roles.

P.S.: Croatia is very nice country, especially the seeside and I hope that you come visit us some day :) :):):)

Best regards from Zagreb

Ljerka

13. Cal - February 25, 2009

Yes, Ljerka, a region free DVD is essential for these Shaw films. It’s annoying that most HK DVDs are not region coded but these are!

Mind you, most DVD players can be made region-free with a simple remote control hack if you search on Google under the make and model number of your player.

Good luck ;)

14. Ljerka Balić - March 10, 2009

Hi Cal,

Thank you for advise. VCDs are region free and DVDs are code restrictions
At Amazon com I found one player which is region free and can play region 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 and costs 55 USD without shipping cost.

Maybe I will buy this. My friends at work know much about this and I will ask them - they are boys and they know much more than me about tehnics.
Maybe will be good that I buy some DVD player from China directly, but if it will not be compatibile with my TV….

Bye! :) :) :)

Ljerka


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