Wuxia damages the audience
The death duel of the tiger's claw
In their heyday, the Shaw Brothers produced so many films that you can spend months looking at them and you will always discover a highlight. The standard for these films was always high, although shooting in a studio was quick and inexpensive. Nevertheless, the audience was offered the usual quality, which is what makes this production company so popular to this day. In Germany the wave of martial arts films also arrived in the 70s, this was mainly due to Bruce Lee, who left us much too early and so many Shaw films also appeared in German cinemas. One was The Tiger's Claw Death Duel. There is no tiger claw in the film, but that didn't matter. Because it is a film adaptation of the book by Lung Ku. In addition, everyone who was standing around somewhere in the Shaw Brothers Studio played, from greats like Ti Lung and David Chiang and then still unknown like Yuen Biao, who has a small role in the film.
The plot revolves around the third master, but he has gone underground and is hiding somewhere. He is wanted. Sword masters want to compete with him. Because he seems to be the best of them all. In the meantime, the young Chi tries to earn some money with a job in a brothel. There he met Hsiao Li, a girl from poor backgrounds. To protect them, Ah Chi drops cover. Because he is the third master. Then Mu-Yung Chiu-Ti appears, a warlord who has already lost 46 men because of Ah Chi. She wants to work with him and take over the land. But Ah Chi refuses to thank, but Mu-Yung cannot accept that easily.
In The Death Duel of the Tiger's Claw, the viewer is offered a very complex story from the wuxia genre. A lot of people appear here and they either work together or against each other, there are twists and turns and you always fight everything. People only talk when necessary.
The sword master who no longer wants to fight in The Death Duel of the Tiger Claw
It is the story of a hero who no longer wants to be, but he supports all the misfortunes he likes. It's a tragic story. It is also very complex, as viewers we are thrown into the action and learn to first get to know the antagonist. Because Yen Shi-San wants to be the best swordsman, but it's not that easy. As he learns from Mu-Yung, there is also the third master who has the divine sword and he must be defeated. It is the starting gun for a game of intrigue, all of which comes from Mu-Yung. She has a great horror against the third champion, but we as spectators don't know why. We are also left in the dark who he is. This becomes clear quickly when we get to know Ah Chi. But it takes a while for the action to take off.
Ah Chi is the perfect hero, he no longer wants to fight and now lives as a poor man who just wants his peace and quiet. But that's easier said than done. Because when he saves Hsiao Li, the enemy also becomes aware of him. That plunges everyone around him into misery. There seems to be no luck admitting in the world of The Tiger's Claw Death Duel. The catharsis that Ah Chi could go through is there, but in the end it is also broken and more unhappy than before. He did find peace then, but at what price?
There are also so many twists and turns that if you just sneeze, a friend could have become an enemy. On his journey, Ah Chi repeatedly meets people who want to help him or want to kill him. That keeps the tension high, but at some point it's too much. Especially the scene with the doctor who is supposed to save him because Ah Chi is allegedly poisoned. It must be because of the template. The Tiger's Claw Death Duel is still a Wuxia film, but there are no heroes here.
As usual, the sword fights in The Death Duel of the Tiger Claw are of a good level, and there are plenty of them. Still, something is missing. It's seen better in other films. Something is missing. As a viewer you have to read the imagery here too, who is fighting against whom and why. These are questions that keep coming up. Problems are always carried out. The only problem, the tension is missing, you can see good wuxia scenes but the pace is missing, especially during the editing. There are a few scenes that stand out, but the film is too slow, especially in the moments that are supposed to be heavy.
In the finale there is the meeting and there is another interruption and another twist. The fight is well done and you can tell how strong both are. Nevertheless, something is missing here too. There is tension here, but as a viewer it is almost clear how it will turn out. Then even the last twist doesn't help. Still, the sword fights are entertaining.
As usual, The Death Duel of the Tiger's Claw is filmed in the Shawscope Fromat. So you get great pictures. The studio sets in particular match the gloomy mood of the film. Everything looks autumnal, with the red leaves and the sun that always seems to be setting. We get to see forests here and also a few towns. Again and again there is a river or a lake. People like to show the hero in these places. That should embody his calmness and the places are then exactly the opposite, always quiet and secluded, but he brings the calamity here.
As already mentioned, the action is typical of the time, with long shots and few cuts, that may work, but at some points you as the viewer want more speed or a different shot. Very often the action happens far back in the picture and we see the set. It's an unusual style, but it goes perfectly with the Peking Opera. Still something is missing. Otherwise it's a typical Shaw movie. There are zooms and tracking shots and pans to save money.
The death duel of the tiger's claw is a dark wuxia film which, with its complex plot, demands the full attention of the viewer. The sword fighting interludes are well done, but they lack a bit of speed and variety. That harms the tension. Nevertheless, one is entertained because the Shaw Brothers production is still of a very good standard when it comes to these martial arts insoles.
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