The Dragon Missile (1976) Blu-ray Review

No, The Dragon Missile (1976) is not the new name for a new secret weapon by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, but the latest of 88 Films releases of genre classics from Hong Kong’s Shaw Brothers studio. Released at the same time as another similar film, Master of the Flying Guillotine, sequel to The Flying Guillotine (1975), this is a good fun martial arts actioner that pits various groups of people against the protagonist, the all in white dressed Sima Jun (Lieh Lo) armed with his twin bladed, dragon decorated boomerangs, that when thrown decapitates its victims as a gang of bandits and the good guys, a couple of gals and a fighting student do batle with Jun.

The story begins with an evil Lord, Chin Kuan (Chih-Chin Yang) who seems to have some festering boils that we learn is a form of skin cancer. From the beginning we are made aware of the superb quality of the restored picture in HD at 1080p with the rich vibrant colours of the Lord and his wife’s satin clothes. Lord Kuan orders Jun (Lo) to a retrieve a restoring piece of root called rattan, a kind of palm mandrake root that the Lord believes will make him better. On his travels Chun soon comes across a  band of assassins and the good guys led by Tieh (Tony Liu) with strong female protagonist, Tan Li (Nancy Yen). Jun kills the blind mother of Tieh and steals the rattan. This of course allows Tieh and Tan Li to bond with the death of each of their parents uniting them as they go after the flying dragon wielding Jun and retrieve the rattan root.

Of course Shaw Brothers was a very prolific studio in the 1960s and 70s and, as genre films they are always entertaining; The Dragon Missile being no exception. Of course, as ever, the action is broad and the choreographed fighting is exceptional. However, this is not the kind of martial arts of say Bruce Lee, which of course was hugely popular in the mid-1970s but in the wuxia tradition with the fighters wielding swords, staffs and the flying missile boomerangs. Our characters seem to have super-hero type of weapons such as the female assassin with dagger fingernails (Ironfingers) or Tieh with his looped rings as a weapon. What this film lacks as art it more than makes up for as fun and entertainment.

The picture quality looks outstanding and, as ever with 88 Films Shaw Brothers releases is beautifully packaged with a reversible sleeve using the original poster for the slip sleeve. There is an option for the film to be seen in both the original Mandarin with subtitles and a dubbed English version, but naturally has the over exaggurated foley sound for the knives whooshing through the air and blows to the body. There are also two informative and engaging commentary tracks by Asian cinema experts, Bey Logan and David West as well as some entertaining booklet notes by Calum Waddell.

Chris Hick

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