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高手過招 (1980)
Twelve Gates to Hell

Reviewed by: Gaijin84
Date: 02/08/2018
Summary: Dragon Lee and his metal leg...

While on his way to meet his new bride, Lee Wan (Dragon Lee) and his father are abducted by the paranoid lord Kai (Roman Lee) who is convinced that they are part of a plot to overthrow him. He uses their lives as leverage against an old foe, Master Tai, in order to get ahold of a list of names that are part of the scheme. After his father is killed and his leg poisoned and eventually amputated, Lee Wan uses the manual of a famous one-legged fighter in order to train with his new iron leg. Having mastered the art of the 18 kicks, Lee sets off to find Kai and exact revenge for his father’s death.

Twelve Gates of Hell is actually a decent kung fu film with an above average plot (it actually makes sense and holds together) and a few good fights. The gimmick of Dragon Lee’s metal leg is pretty cool and his kicks never fail to entertain. The only drawback is the overall choreography, which is mediocre and fails to use it’s best artists like Eagle Han enough. A good addition to the Dragon Lee filmography though, worth a watch.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 07/06/2011
Summary: The 18 Steel Legged Kicks

Two McGuffins that appear in many kung fu movies are the List and the Book although only one of them serves as a plot point in “Champ vs. Champ”. The List has the names of all the rebels against the central government or of all the members of the White Eagle clan; in any case if it falls into the hands of the enemy the revolt will fail, the White Eagle clan will be crushed or, even simpler, everyone on the list will be killed. It is hard to imagine why such a dangerous document was even created, let alone given to couriers crossing enemy territory and subject to capture. The Book has the secrets of the now dead master’s kung fu; not just stances, conventions and strikes but all the wisdom and cunning that the master learned during his lifetime. It is usually kept in an obvious place—the shrine to the dead master, for example, but those searching for it never bother to look there, leaving it for the hero to stumble across it.

The McGuffin has been around for as long as stories have been told. The Golden Fleece was one, as was the Maltese Falcon and the briefcase in “Pulp Fiction”. Given its current name by Alfred Hitchcock, it is simply an object that is a motivating element in the story—everyone is looking for it—that goes away and isn’t referred to again after it serves its purpose. Hitchcock said that “[It] is the mechanical element that usually crops up in any story. In crook stories it is almost always the necklace and in spy stories it is most always the papers."

The list of northern insurgents is the object that Master Ti must keep safe and also get to their allies in the south while his sworn enemy, Master Kai, will do anything to obtain it. The plot is driven by their attempts to steal the list or protect it; since Master Kai has platoons of very capable and ruthless fighters it doesn’t look good for the revolutionaries. But, purely by chance, they have Dragon Lee on their side and he is more than a match for the various thugs he faces.

“Champ vs. Champ begins with Dragon Lee walking through a rocky countryside. He passes a man who is either asleep or dead next to the trail but then has to defend himself when the man attacks him from behind. He is told that he isn’t welcome here and to go back the way he came, a demand underlined when a few more toughs appear. Dragon doesn’t spend much time or energy while dispatching them. The alarm is raised that he is nearby and Master Kai realizes the interloper must be driven out or killed. Dragon and his father aren’t looking for trouble—they are on their way to arrange Dragon Lee’s marriage to the daughter of Master Ti not knowing that he is locked in a duel to the death with Kai.

A lot happens before the nuptials can be arranged including the prospective bridegroom losing the lower half of his left leg when ambushed by Kai’s men and pierced with a poison dart by Kai himself. The poison would kill a lesser man but Lee manages to get to the home of his fiancé who finds a doctor to amputate his leg. In a flashback we see Lee being berated by his martial arts master who tells him of the legendary fighter who didn’t let the loss of a leg stop him. It turns out that the legend is the grandfather of Lee’s beloved who lived right there in the house where he is staying. He finds the book (here not a McGuffin but an integral and important part of the story) with the plans for fashioning a steel leg plus instructions for the secret 18 kicks.

The newly steel-legged Lee soon proves himself in battle—one kick from his left leg not only disables or kills an opponent but sends him flying or skidding for several yards. It is quite a weapon. While Lee has been forging his new leg and consummating his relationship with his betrothed, his father has been killed, Master Ti has been captured and is being tortured to get the list of names and Master Kai’s men are roaming around terrorizing the countryside also looking for the list. The attentive viewer will know that the list isn’t anywhere in particular by now—it was entrusted to a courier who was killed almost immediately after receiving it but not found by Kai’s people since they don’t bother with things like searching the bodies of dead couriers. He was literally tossed into a corner and forgotten about with the list still in his pocket.

“Champ vs. Champ” now becomes Dragon Lee fighting all of Master Kai’s men and women. He has to deal with the women from the palace that use an invisibility bomb to make themselves transparent—Lee (I think) makes smoke come from his hands in order to locate them by the smoke they displace and leaves them tied to a tree. He has to fight the same group of assailants who beat him so that Kai could try to finish him with the poison dart, this time, of course, defeating them. An excellent touch in the action choreography during these fights: Lee’s opponents aren’t all defeated by kicks from his mighty steel leg but because they are made a bit tentative by it, they are open to other moves.

There must be a final showdown; Lee and Kai face off in a well done fight that takes place in Kai’s underground palace that tumbles down around them. The last killing blow is delivered after they have gotten outside and things are wrapped up as we watch Dragon Lee walk into the sunset.

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: Frank Lakatos
Date: 02/10/2006
Summary: The bionic leg is awesome and Dragon Lee's on top of his game as usual..

A Korean movies dubbed, edited, and ripped off by Gopdfrey Ho and Jospeh Lai's IFD productions. This was one of the first Dragon Lee movies I had ever seen, and remember it being recommended to me by some friends in elementary school. Back then, I thought it was awesome and I still like it now. This movie has magic to it. The feeling is creative and cool. The bionic leg is awesome and Dragon Lee's on top of his game. Even though the villain is a miscasted unskilled slop, this is still a cool movie, full of neat gimmicks and Dragon Lee's colorful kung fu style. Baek Hwang Ki breathes fire, while Han Ying uses an exotic weapon. The comedic scenes with Korea's iron chef Nam Po Dong and Kwon Il Su are hilarious! This movie stars almost all of Korea's best villains. Not worth a serious viewing, only when you have nothing to watch. 3/5

Reviewed by: STSH
Date: 12/15/2005
Summary: Action-packed sockfest

One thing you have to admit about Dragon Lee : his movies deliver. Every Dragon Lee film I've seen contains more than half of its running time fu fighting, and Champ Vs Champ is no exception. The fights are entertaining and fast-paced. The acting is wildly overdone, and the villains are really villainous AND really stupid. What I mean is, they see at close range Dragon polishing off their peers, then happily jump to fighting him, not realizing that he'll eventually see all of them off. Poor villains.

The South Korean countryside is used to good and even picaresque effect, though I found it odd that scenes taking place on the same day at ground level could range from bright sunshine without snow to snowy and dark.

And there are plenty gimmicks. Odd looking and deadly weapons, including party streamers. A quartet of feisty women who sing their opponents to death and can disappear at will. Dragon has a leg amputated and makes a new one, of steel no less, creating some hilarious sound effects. There's a bald guy who breathes fire (perhaps he wants to be called Dragon as well ?).

All in all, fun and fast paced action. Recommended.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 04/22/2003

I've seen worse, most of which are either from Godfrey Ho (the honored director of this one) or Cheung Paang Yik.