Elimination Pursuit (aka. Three Famous Constables) is a 1983 Taiwanese swordplay action film very much in the vein of a Chang Cheh or Chor Yuen flick with a little 80's style ninja action thrown in the mix. While I'm an old school kung fu enthusiast, I'd never claim to be a definitive expert. I think you'll find that even die hard's are spotty with their knowledge when it comes to less widely distributed fare from Mainland and, as in this case, Taiwan. So, despite knowing the stars and director of the film (Cheng Peng-yi- Struggle Through Death) I cannot recall hearing a single thing about Elimination Pursuit.
The basic hinge of the film is a secretive group of bad guys called the Devils Clan are sending out their ninjas to bust up everyone so two constables (Pearl Cheung of the awesome Wolf Devil Woman and Tien Ho) are independently assigned to weed out the clans members and discover their secret hideout. Also in the mix is a third swordsman, the silent, black-cloaked Wolf Fighter (Roc Tien- Legend of the Broken Sword), who is basically cutting down everyone, good and bad, with motivations unknown. The constables try to use an underworld informant to gain entry into the clans inner workings but this proves fruitless until the informant's sulfur dosed dead body gives them a clue in the third act.
The film really doesn't have much of a plot and scenes basically exist to lead to another fight scene or some obligatory twist rather than any kind of character development or intricate mystery. What little plotting the film contains was also a bit hard to grasp thanks to quick, burned in, "Engrish" subtitles that made lines like, "Though you are fast in escape. I am not slower than you're. Might as let you be the judge of that." a bit harder to decipher. There is a lot of Peal Cheung and Tien Ho lurking in shadows, their heads popping up being walls or perched in trees, eavesdropping on the bad guys, meanwhile Wolf Fighter runs around fighting everybody including not one, but two scenes versus a bunch of anonymous but supposedly badass swordsmen that he dispatches with Ogami Itto-like ease.
But, hey, there is a ton of action and ninjas. Yes, a good, more decipherable story and better developed characters would have been great, but at a breezy 70 minutes or so (thats taking out the long opening and closing credit montages), you could hardly call the film boring. The action is decent for this kind of low budget Taiwanese quickie, plenty of ninjas jumping out of the ground, swordsmen flying through the air, and a few priceless lines like, "He doesn't look like a killer. He looks like a merciless king of death."
The DVD: Rarescope.
Picture: Anamorphic Widescreen. Out of the handful of Rarescope releases I've picked up, all of which had middling/weak transfer quality, this is the worst. The print is just,... well, poop. Its in rough shape all around, spotty, dull, flickering, scratched, blemished, and damaged by the ravages of time and unkind care. Unfortunately, unless there is was market that would merit putting forth a hundred thousand or so dollars or more into restoration for this kind of film, this is what you have to expect.
Sound: Mono, Mandarin language with burned in Chinese and English subtitles. While limited, the audio track is actually in pretty good shape with minimal pops, hiss, or distortions.
The subs are a mess, hard to read and poorly translated. My favorite was this little gem, "They must have chicken feet." Its clear the translator got the phrase "cold feet" and being a "chicken" confused and combined the two cowardly definitions into "chicken feet."
Extras: 3 Bonus Fights, each one involving the main stars of Elimination Pursuit. The clips are from Pheonix the Assassin, Chui Chow Guy, and Mark of Blood. -- Rarescope Promo. I swear, despite the subpar quality that gives bootleggers a good name, I love the Rarescope promos/line because they, fittingly, always have a cool kung fu clip or two from a film that I have no idea about and therefore desperately want to see.
Conclusion: Hardcore kung fu/wuxiafans will regard Elimination Pursuit as a C-grade Duel to the Death, Golden Swallow, or Ninja: The Final Duel. Again, be forewarned the quality of the DVD is such that only those fans with shelves full of dime store transfers and HK budget releases will want to pick it up. So, while I enjoyed the film well enough, I realize its probably best to bump it down into the rental category.