• Dragon Missile, The



    Released by: 88 Films
    Released on: March 26th, 2018.
    Director: Ho Meng Hua
    Cast: Lieh Lo, Tony Liu, Nancy Yen, Ku Feng
    Year: 1976
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    The Movie:

    Lord Chin Kuan (Ku Feng) has only a few days to live – see, he’s got a giant boil on his back and it’s killing him. His minions recruit Dr. Fu to check him out, but Fu is sworn to only server the Emperor. Eventually, he relents, and checks out the boil and tells Kuan that it is a deadly one named ‘100 Birds Worshiping The Phoenix’ and that it can only be cured by super rare longevity rattan herb. A reclusive herbalist friend of his just happens to have some, but it’ll take four days to get there and back by ‘speedy horse.’ Fu is sent on his and then shortly after decapitated by the Lord’s loyal henchman, Szema Chun (Lo Lieh), and his dragon missile (which is basically a boomerang with really sharp ends that can cut through bricks and trees as easily as it can necks).

    Shortly after, Chun is tasked with making the trip but the Lord’s number two knows that Chun will be rewarded with untold riches should he be successful. As such, he talks a handful of mercenary types to accompany him and then snatch the herb form him before returning, so that he can present it to Kuan and reap the rewards. Obviously, things get complicated from here on out, when the herbalist winds up getting wise to who the medicine is for (he hates the Lord as does pretty much everyone else – he’s a bit of an oppressive dick!), the different mercenary types start turning on one another and Chun’s own family gets involved in the mess. Tieh Erh-Lang (Tony Liu) and Tan Li (Nancy Yen) are also running around trying to stop the bad guys while they still can.

    Before it’s all over, a lot of people get decapitated.

    Briskly paced and reasonably zany, The Dragon Missile is a Hell of a lot of fun, even if it’s plagued by logic gaps and nonsensical character decisions. The film is pretty violent, Lo Lieh’s character cuts off quite a few heads and a couple of limbs too, but it’s cartoonish enough that we never feel like we’re supposed to take it all that seriously. Like a lot of martial arts films, it’s almost as it the characters have super powers, leaping backwards over one another and jumping so high they’re able to make it up to a rooftop or high into a tree while still managing to use their weapons or pull off an impressive kung-fu move.

    Visually the movie is colorful and nicely shot. Much of the film takes place on what are clearly soundstages, so expect the artificiality that comes with that in many of the Shaw films from the period (this look is certainly not without its own charm!) but occasionally the action does take us outside where the camerawork opens up and the film’s scope becomes ‘bigger’ than it was before.

    As to the acting, Lo Lieh owns this one. His character is a man of a few words but he’s super tough and super cool, tossing those ‘Dragon Missiles’ around with remarkably deadly precision. It’s almost uncanny (and frequently unintentionally amusing) how good he is with these things. Even though he’s essentially a villain (he’s killing people to save the life of his boss, who is an evil oppressor), we can’t help but like him (even when he kills an old blind lady).

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    88 Films brings The Dragon Missile to Blu-ray framed in 2.35.1 widescreen in AVC encoded 1080p high definition on a 25GB disc. Colors look quite good here and black levels are fine but some digital noise reduction appears to have been applied, some detail is on the soft side and the image is seemingly free or natural looking grain. There’s virtually no print damage, however, and the transfer is free of obvious compression artifacts and edge enhancement.

    LPCM Mono options are provided in both a Chinese language option with English Subtitles and in an English dubbed track. The Chinese track plays best, it suits the film more and it sounds quite clean with no audible issues. The English track is fun in the goofy sort of way that dubbed tracks tend to be for older Shaw Brothers movies. Unfortunately, there are a few scenes were Chinese language text appears on screen, likely to identify certain characters or character traits, that the optional English subtitles fail to translate.

    Extras start off with an audio commentary from Hong Kong cinema expert Bey Logan. A second commentary from cinema expert, David West is also included. Both tracks cover a LOT of ground and while there is some crossover (how could there not be?) both Logan and West bring their own spin to the movie, offering up thoughts on the film’s relationship to other, similar Shaw films made around the same time, notes on the cast and crew, observations about the fight choreography, sets and lighting, the effects and plenty more.

    Aside from that, there are no other extras on the disc outside of a menu, but the packaging comes with some reversible sleeve art that features the fairly awesome original Hong Kong theatrical poster art on one side and a more modern looking photo-centric option on the reverse. Additionally a booklet of liner notes from Calum Waddell are included that explain how he first discovered the film, its relationship to the similar Flying Guillotine movies and directing Meng Hua Ho’s importance to fans of the quirkier side of the Shaw Brothers’ catalogue.

    The Final Word:

    The Dragon Missile doesn’t worry about things like logic or realism and is instead focused on maximum entertainment value and awesome decapitations. Some will see this as a flaw, others as a selling point. If you’re in the latter category, jump right in – this movie is a blast and a great showcase for Lo Lieh and director Meng Hua Ho.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!








































    Comments 3 Comments
    1. Jason C's Avatar
      Jason C -
      I've told myself that I would not buy any more Shaw Bros wuxia films. I've seen more than a dozen and only enjoyed BELLS OF DEATH. That said, those screenshots look amazing. I might have to try one more.
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      Have you seen Flying Guillotine? This is very similar to that one - if you enjoyed one, you'll probably enjoy the other and likewise, if you didn't like FG you probably won't be so hot on this. But Lo Lieh is awesome in this one and anytime he's taking heads off with the dragon missiles the movie is gold.
    1. SuperDevilDoctor's Avatar
      SuperDevilDoctor -
      I first saw this on the El Rey Network (English-dubbed), then later on Amazon Video (Chinese w/English subs). I love it! One of my all-time favorite "old school" Shaw Bros. flicks... Fast-paced, with lots of action and an interesting, charismatic turn by Lo Lieh. Are there other classic SB films in which the VILLAIN is the main character? I think I actually prefer the dubbed English audio (yes, for the goofiness).

      Really wish this would get a North American Blu-ray release... Hell, I'd settle for a decent DVD.