Resourceful martial hero
Lu Xiaofeng (Liu Yung, sporting the regulation moustache this time
and bearing an uncanny resemblance to Melvin Wong Kam-sun) finds himself
in the middle of a new conundrum when it is announced that matchless
swordsmen Shimen Chuishiue (Yueh Hua) and Ye Gucheng (Jason Pai Piao)
will fight a duel to the death. Lus attempts to determine the
reasons behind this development are stymied by Ye, who admits that
there is an ulterior motive but refuses to elaborate until after the
fight. In the meantime, Lu has plenty to occupy his time in the form
of booby traps, poisoned beverages, imposters sporting MISSION IMPOSSIBLE-style
peel away faces, scheming llamas, and would-be assassins waiting for
him around seemingly every corner.
Much of THE DUEL OF THE CENTURY will
seem familiar to anyone who has seen THE DUEL (issue
#116), as it was based on the same source (though less faithfully).
Liu does as well playing "The Four Eye-Browed Swordsman"
(a reference to the characters pencil-thin moustache) as he
did in CLAN OF AMAZONS (issue #240),
but this partial adaptation of Gu Longs multi-volume "Luk
Siu Fung" novel is neither as engaging or stylish. Consequently,
one is less inclined to keep up with the seemingly endless machinations
and double-crosses Gus stories thrive on. Even with all of this
scheming and swordplay (though there is still probably not enough
of the latter to keep martial arts fans happy), the story often seems
repetitive, particularly in its reliance on Lus ability to render
enemies powerless using his vice-like "Marvellous Finger".
Never the most animated actor, Jason Pai is more wooden than stoic
and Yueh gets less screen time than expected, given how significant
his character is to the plot. Martial arts mysteries have a built-in
fascinatation, and can be especially satisfying if one is exposed
to an excess number of plotless slug and kick fests, but THE DUEL
OF THE CENTURY is merely marginal in terms of story and execution
and ranks as one of director Chor Yuens lesser works in this
realm. Watch for appearances by Sun Chien (in a non-fighting role
as the blind but brilliant Hua Manlou), Cho Tat-wah, Ching Li (as
Yes frail love), Lau Siu-kwan, and Yeung Ching-ching.