Duel, The | aka Duel of the Iron Fist (1971) Review

"Duel of the Iron Fist" American Theatrical Poster

“Duel of the Iron Fist” American Theatrical Poster

AKA: Duel of the Iron Fists
Director: Chang Cheh
Cast: David Chiang, Ti Lung, Guk Fung (Ku Feng), Lo Wai, Yeung Chi Hing, Cheng Hong Yip, Wong Ching Ho, Wong Ping, Wong Chung, Chuen Yuen, Cheng Lui, Chan Sing, Cliff Lok, Yuen Wo Ping, Yuen Cheung Yan, Fung Hak On, Hsu Hsia, Yen Shi-Kwan, Chen Kuan Tai
Running Time: 105 min.

By Mighty Peking Man

Mr. Shen (Yeung Chi Hing), the head of an organized crime family, was on the verge of retirement when he was killed during a celebration. During the attack, his men – including his tattooed godson, Ren Jie (Ti Lung), and a mysterious new recruit called The Rambler (David Chiang) – still got the best of the enemy. But because the fatal fight broke out at a public restaurant, the remaining head members of Mr. Shen’s organization – mainly his bookkeeper, Mr. Gan (Chuen Yuen), and Ren Jie’s older brother, Ren Lin (Ku Feng) – had to come up with quick a plan to divert police from imprisoning the entire organization.

The plan went something like this: Ren Jie would take the blame for the killings and flee to the south (a la Michael Corleone in the first Godfather film) for a year, then come back when things settled down.

A year passes. As planned, Ren Jie heads back home, only to find things have completely changed. His older brother is now a drunk and no longer part of the gang. Mr. Gan, on the other hand, has pretty much took over Mr. Shen’s operation. On top of it all, random people have been trying to kill Ren Jie.

Ren Jie uncovers a conspiracy surrounding the death of Mr. Shen, which involves Mr. Gan and The Rambler. With the help of his drunken brother and his trusted friend (Cheng Hong Yip), Ren Jie sets out for bloody revenge.

Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers can eat their hearts out! The Duel (aka Duel of the Iron Fist) has a lot more stabbing and slashes than all the Friday The 13th and Halloween flicks combined, not to mention constant blood spurts, which can only be compared to Peter North’s talent, as far as liquid amount is concerned. The violence is tight and creative: at one point, a knife punctures through a wooden stool and onto a guy’s skull, followed by a kick to his head where he falls to the ground. Though the action scenes are swift and fast, keep in mind that they’re more like street fighting, than the usual choreographed martial arts moves.

1971’s The Duel has often been compared to 1972’s The Godfather for its similar themes. Some even say that Francis Ford Coppola stole from it (even though Mario Puzo’s novel came out in 1969, two years before The Duel). Other than the story, which revolves around “gangsters,” and the fact that the lead characters are forced into exile, both movies are a world apart. In my opinion, saying one ripped off the other is absurd.

I dug the soundtrack. In addition to the mellow funky music that breaks in just before a brawl may or may not happen, we get to hear Richard Strauss’ intense “Also sprach Zarathustra,” which is a nice touch, but it’s a little hard not to think about Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey or even an Elvis concert.

The Duel is a well-paced, action packed tale that won’t disappoint. It’s the perfect example of Chang Cheh’s slickness. It’s also one of Ti Lung’s and David Chiang’s coolest roles together.

Mighty Peking Man’s Rating: 8.5/10

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