DIFF Hong Kong Kicks Preview |2| Duel to the Death (1983)

Throughout the week we are previewing all the screenings at Hong Kong Kicks – a series of films on the cinema of Hong Kong and martial arts, presented by the Dublin International Film Festival as part of their DIFF PIX programme. Hong Kong Kicks runs from Friday 25th to Sunday 27th of September in the Lighthouse Cinema. Tickets are available here.

We also have tickets to be won to ALL the screenings so click here to be in with a chance.

Duel to the Death  (1983) Dir. Siu-Tung Ching

Duel to the Death Poster - HeadStuff.orgDuel to the Death is a last hurrah for the old-style of’ ’60s and ’70s swordplay films. With grandmaster Chang Cheh‘s retirement from film-making in 1980 and the emergence of Golden Harvest as a strong competitor to Shaw Brothers, a new and fresh style of action cinema was on the horizon in 1980s Hong Kong. Spearheaded by young directors coming up through the major studios, as well as a fresh crop of performers emerging from the Peking Opera School, this new breed of kung-fu film put down the sword and fought with bare knuckles and dual-pistols. Like the opera and wenyi  films in the 1960s the wuxia picture was now being phased out by a new take on action cinema.

Long-time stuntman and choreographer Siu-Tung Ching would play an instrumental role in this new-wave of action cinema but his directorial debut, Duel to the Death, is firmly rooted in the traditions and staples of Cheh’s brand of wuxia films. As the title would suggest, the film’s story concerns a duel to the death that takes place once a decade between the top martial arts students from China and Japan.


The combatants, Ching Wan, a student of Shaolin kung-fu and Hashimoto, a samurai, are essentially the same, they both want to be the best and show off their fighting prowess but they differ in terms of schooling. Ching Wan comes from a peaceful tradition whereas Hashimoto is willing to win no matter the cost. As the film progresses the two form a bond that lends an emotional punch to the climactic cliff side fight sequence.

Duel to the Death sees the wuxia form taken to lofty new heights with talking birds, exploding heads, demons, wire-fu and ninjas, lots and lots of ninjas. There’s sneaky ninjas, hang gliding ninjas, teleporting ninjas, seductive ninjas and even a big ninja that breaks apart into a dozen smaller ninjas. Even Z-Movie ninja master Godfrey Ho would have a hard time keeping track of the ninjas in Duel to the Death!

Siu-Tung Ching’s debut still stands as a landmark in the swordplay genre. It bookends a generation of wuxia pictures representing the most intensified and spectacular rendition of everything there is to love about classic Hong Kong sword-fighting films. As Ching Wan and Hashimoto part ways at the bloody conclusion of the film, the sun sets on a fascinating and enduring genre. Ching had a bright future ahead of him directing the acclaimed Chinese Ghost Story, choreographing John Woo’s smash-hit The Killer and re-establishing the wuxia form through his work on Hero and House of Flying Daggers. Even still, with all those credits under his belt Ching came out swinging with his debut, that remains a masterpiece to this day.


Duel to the Death is on Saturday 26th  -15.00 – Lighthouse 2

For more details and a full schedule check out the Hong Kong Kicks webpage and don’t forget to enter our competition.

DIFF - HeadStuff.org

Hong Kong Kicks is in collaboration with The Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Brussels (HKETO, Brussels)