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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » 10 Magnificent Killers
10 Magnificent Killers
Ground Zero // Unrated // July 16, 2001
List Price: $14.95 [Buy now and save at Hkflix]
Review by J. Doyle Wallis | posted October 21, 2001 | E-mail the Author
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The Film: Twenty years ago, the virtuous Constable, Lee Yu Wei, known as the "Conqueror of Killers', tried to rid the land of Ling Chu's (Bolo Yueng, best known to US audiences as the villain in Bloodsport) gang of killers, but in turn had his family killed and driven into a secretive life. But, over the years Lee Yu Wei has trained a pupil, Chin, who will hopefully be able to restore order. On the other side of the coin, one of the evil Ling Chu's men, Tu Shu has broken off from the crime syndicate and trained a fighter of his own, Shao Lee, though not to restore law and order, but just to collect whatever bounties they can, including the one on his former bosses head. Lee Yu Wei secretly pits the two, Ling Chu and Tu Shu, against each other, so that Ling Chu sends out his top men, the 10 Magnificent Killers to dispose of Tu Shu. Tu Shu and Shao Lee take on five of the killers with such ease, that they dont wait around for the rest to come to them, they actually go out, seeking the remaining men, slowly disposing of them ultimately reach the pinnacle, Ling Chu himself. But, as the pupils of Lee Yu Wei and Tu Shu meet each other for the finale, there are twenty years of bad blood and secrets to be revealed.

And basically, that is it... The film is really quite simple. You have two men, one good, one reprehensible, both of whom want the head of the villain. One man wants the villain gone for law and order (and some revenge); the other wants the bounty on the villains head. Both men have pupils, one man (the good) pits the villain against the other (the reprehensible). And, the bulk of the film, is the reprehensible master-pupil team fighting each killer that comes after them, one by one, eventually, after growing bored with waiting for them, going out ot find the remaining killers. While this is happening, the good master trains his pupil in martial arts, and eventually, when all that is left is the main villain, has his pupil finally enter the fray. Then the two pupils confront each other (and its a great fight by the way),...roll credits,... end of film.

This is what I typically call, a "ground" fighting kung fu film. That is to say, most of the fighting is hand to hand, framed wide, straightforward, 'kick-punch-kick-punch' fighting with not a lot of weapons work (well, a few weapons), wires, trampolines, acrobatics, or in general crazy fx. All the fights/fighters are fine (a special nod to the one fight, that when stuck in a headlock, Shao Lee just reaches behind himself, grabs and pops the guys testicles), the direction is kept pretty simple but, there is nothing really engrossing. For example-The fist five killers all have some kind of neat little characterization, a zombie/ghoul guy, a lazy-eyed, twitchy fortuneteller, a drunken monk, but then the rest of the killers are just kind of plain, no real quirks about them. If this were a Jimmy Wang Yu (Master of the Flying Guillotine, Chinese Professionals) movie, every one of the killers would have some kinky trait to them, whether it be their fighting style, weaponry, or looks, and then the viewer would have something to anticipate, and the fighters would have something unique to overcome each time.

Now, kung fu plots are a dime a dozen and usually pretty simplistic, but you still have to have something interesting, some kind of theme (revenge mainly), some kind of engaging movement in the story, and that is where 10 Magnificent Killers (1977) fails. 10 Magnificent Killers forgets the golden rule- It doesn't matter how much action you have, you also have to have a heart. And, by heart I mean either emotional or physical- give me something to care about, or something exciting enough to break a sweat or spark my imagination. There is no payoff in the plot really, no bits of curiosity, so the fights are just fights, and end up being kind of dry. For instance, Lee Yu Wei is poisoned by a dagger and they say how "Only the Black Dragon pill can save you.", but instead of tracking down the Black Dragon pill, he just ties the wound off and is perfectly fine. So, you wonder why they even mention it at all? It's a shame the fighting is pretty good and frequent (and, once again, I can recommend you see the film just for the end fight alone), but there just isn't a heart to back it up.

The DVD : Ground Zero Presents- another feature packed inexpensive addition to their superior Hidden Chambers Collection. Picture- Fairly good, slightly matted transfer, shows some wear and average amounts of aging and softness for an old kung fu film, but overall a nice picture with strong color, adequate detail, and framed well so you dont miss out on the action. Sound- Clear and relatively strong 2.0 mono, English dub devoid of any glaring defects. Extras- Wow, mediocre film yes, but with OVER 1 HOUR WORTH OF FIGHT FOOTAGE compiled from other films (spotty sources or not), this DVD is worth owning. First the Wu Tang back patting stuff- Wu Tang video (letterboxed Flintstones parody, with an attempt at some kung fu), a three minute interview, Lyrical Swords audio interview soundbite. Also, there is a Ground Zero Previews commercial and weblink, as well as Temple of Knowledge interviews with martial arts instructors (only 1 ½ mins, but neat). Now we get to the good stuff- 18 Fatal Previews, 20 mins of fight samples from 18 different films (including Shaolin Vs Lama, 18 Bronzegirls, Tiger Over a Wall, Shaolin Drunken Monkey, etc.). Cast and Crew Bios, with bonus fight footage for every person- San Kwai (7 mins of footage), Bolo Yueng (6 mins), Fong Yeh (6 ½ mins), Bia Sai Ngai (9 mins), and Cheung Nick (by far the best footage, 9 ½ mins), and if that wasn't enough an additional 30 ½ mins of footage from ten various films. My only real complaint is that on the Cast and Crew and 10 bonus fight footage, there are no titles to the films, which would be nice and save someone from painfully researching (because there are so many incomplete filmographies for kung fu film stars) what film the footage was from. Still, the Hidden Chambers Collection series is a godsend to old school kung fu fans. Lets just hope Ground Zero keeps these releases going with variation on the extras and some decent feature titles.

This is a strange spot for me as a reviewer, as I have to give the actual film itself a "RENT IT" for most people, but based on the DVD extras and low price, a "RECOMMENDED" for die-hard kung fu fans.

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