Dreadnaught (1981) Review

"Dreadnaught" Japanese DVD Cover

"Dreadnaught" Japanese DVD Cover

Director: Yuen Woo Ping
Producer: Raymond Chow
Cast: Yuen Biao, Leung Kar Yan, Kwan Tak Hing, Yuen Shun Yee, Philip Ko Fei, Lily Li Li Li, Tong Jing, Fan Mei Sheng, Fung Hak On, Brandy Yuen, Cheung Chok Chow, Chiu Chung Hing, Fung King Man, Lee Chun Hwa, To Wai Wo, Yuen Qiu
Running Time: 90 min.

By Joe909

Dreadnaught is considered one of the “New Wave” HK movies that upped the bar for martial arts films, and Hong Kong cinema in general. Sure. But what most people don’t tell you is that this is one of those movies that’s loaded with Cantonese humor, tons of slapstick, and precious few martial arts fights.

My friend used to have a documentary on HK movies, and we always thought the Dreadnaught scenes looked the coolest. Of course, the documentary compilers only showed the action scenes from the film, such as Yuen Biao’s final confrontation with the masked killer. This lead us to believe that Dreadnaught would be an action tour-de-force. It was a movie I’d always intended to check out, but never got to until the other month, when I saw it at a local HK rental store.

My wife loved it, and cracked up throughout the comedy scenes. She speaks Cantonese, so she got the jokes, whereas I had to rely on the sub par subtitles (another reason why Cantonese humor just goes over the heads of most Western viewers). Meanwhile, I couldn’t bear the movie. I mean, they had Wong Fei Hong, a masked killer, Yuen Biao, with Yuen Woo-Ping behind the camera, and all they could come up with were a few action scenes and a lot of corny humor.

Even the masked killer doesn’t do much kung-fu. Mostly he just freaks out when he hears Yuen Biao’s bells ring, or he attacks hapless innocents. Biao himself doesn’t know kung-fu, or at least he thinks he doesn’t, until he realizes in the end that the Eagle Claw technique he’s been using to do laundry is more than useful in a fight.

A lot of reviewers like to go on about the fight between Wong Fei Hong and the Demon Tailor, who tries to murder Wong while sizing him for a new outfit. The only thing I took from this mediocre scene was how obviously the elderly WFH actor was doubled throughout the fight.

Film-wise, the movie looks great, and obviously had a large budget. Both the on-screen and off-screen talent are excellent, but the movie as a whole just didn’t do a thing for me. “New wave,” schmoo-wave. You’re telling me this is better than Super Ninjas?!

Joe909’s Rating: 4/10

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