Duel of Fists (1971)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Upton is an American (non-werewolf) writer/editor in London. She currently works as a freelance ghostwriter of personal memoirs and writes for several blogs on topics as diverse as film history, punk rock, women’s issues, and international politics. For links to her work, please visit https://www.jennuptonwriter.com or send her a Tweet @Jennxldn

In Duel of Fists, a Hong Kong engineer must travel to Thailand to find his long-lost professional boxer brother who is having problems with the mob. David Chiang is Hong Kong engineer cum kung fu expert Fan Ke. His dying father tells Ke that he has an older half-brother in Thailand. He knows nothing of him other than that he is a professional kick-boxer. He departs immediately for Thailand.

Meanwhile, half-brother Wen Lieh (Ti Lung) is being forced to box for some Bangkok gangsters because he needs the money for a life-saving operation for his mother. He must fight Cannon, a boxer notorious for killing men in the ring.

After meeting, and becoming friends, the two charismatic men finally discover they are brothers and band together to fight the evil cookie-cutter gangsters.

Shot mostly on location in Thailand, Duel of Fists is not among Chang Cheh’s best work. The story is predictable and the fights in the ring, although well-choreographed, are long and drawn out but packed with very little drama when compared to other Chang Cheh pairings with David and Ti. Even the showdown between Cannon and Wen Lieh lacks spirit. There is some improvement during the finale when the dynamic duo pair up against the gangsters, owing mostly to the loud ‘70s pimp clothing that David Chiang sports.

Now. Let’s talk about the girlfriends of our heroes. Wen Lieh’s ladylove Yulan (Ching Li) does nothing but stand around and worry for her man’s fate. Fan Ke meets a nice Thai girl named Meidai (Parwarna Liu Lan Ying) who dresses just as goofy as he does and does nothing but look doe-eyed in every scene.

Last, there are entire scenes that serve no purpose other than to promote the fact that they shot Duel of Fists on location in Thailand. There are plenty of glamour shots of Ti Lung riding a motorcycle through the streets of Bangkok and David Chiang’s character even has time to sightsee at some temples while looking for his brother. Viewers who are really into Thai kick boxing may find this film interesting and it’s nice to see Lung and Chiang in a modern setting with modern clothes and haircuts, but for the rest of us, it’s much less than a worthy effort from the team of Cheh, Chiang and Lung who brought us some of the greatest Shaw Bros. epics ever made. Watch those instead!

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