If you haven’t seen Duel to the Death, you may find it strangely familiar, as many of its unforgettable scenes were selected for The Best of Martial Arts - a VHS that adorned many enthusiasts' collections in the ‘90s. Eureka presents this must-see classic on Blu-ray for the first time.
Set in a mystical version of 16th century China, every 10 years a Japanese warrior faces the greatest swordsman in China, all for their respective nation’s honour. The enigmatic and steely Hashimoto (Norman Chiu) is chosen as the Japanese representative, pitted against the more romantic and elegant Ching Wan (Damian Lau). Things are complicated further when head ninja Kanji (Eddy Ko) is entrusted by the Shogun to make sure the Japanese win the duel at all costs.
Despite the acting and dialogue being strong, the action is where the film excels, with such memorable scenes as - a giant ninja who splits into many normal sized ones, ninjas on kites and of course a naked female ninja. Director Ching Siu-tung, who made his debut here in 1983, has seemingly unlimited imagination, something he would cultivate further with the wonderful A Chinese Ghost Story Trilogy.
The film has been transferred well, which is especially evident in the crisp daytime colours. We get an interview with scriptwriter Manfred Wong, which is unfortunately dubbed, and good interviews with Norman Chiu and Flora Cheong-Leen, the latter offering an interesting insight into the rigours of the film industry (she discloses how she made six films in a year!). The disc is rounded out by production stills and audio commentary by Frank Djeng. If you have even a passing interest in the genre, this package is for you.