Daggers 8 (1980)

Reviewed by Koray
March 27, 2015


Meng Yuen-Man • Wilson Tong • Alan Chui • Lily Li • Peter Chan Lung
Wilson Tong • Cheung Sam
Wilson Tong
Version reviewed was full-screen, English dubbed.
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In DAGGERS 8, Peking opera school alumni Meng Yuen-Man (HELL’S WINDSTAFF) plays Chi, a mischievous young man that lives with his strict grandfather (Co-director Cheung Sam) who insists that he study classic Chinese literature. But Chi is passionate about kung fu, and decides to run away from home to pursue his dream of becoming a great fighter.

On his travels he comes across various martial arts masters that each teach him a unique style of kung fu. Sadly, every master that Chi studies with is murdered by a mysterious hired killer, played by the film’s director and action choreographer, Wilson Tong. Each time one of his masters is killed Chi finds a new, initially reluctant, teacher. But once the bodies of his different masters start to pile up, Chi realizes he must face the fearsome assassin and his titular “8 Daggers” in a fight to the death. The young student combines all the skills he’s learned, and faces the deadly challenger in an attempt to avenge his masters, and learn the truth about the killer’s intentions.

DAGGERS 8 was only the second film Wilson Tong helmed, and he really establishes himself as both a great director of martial arts films, and as an expert choreographer. Tong knows how to stage and shoot proper action sequences, how to fully utilize the skills of his cast, and is very effective as the villain, exuding both a menacing presence, and looking decidedly dangerous. It’s also an excellent showcase for the talents of lead actor MengYuen-Man, a very capable screen fighter that is both impressively acrobatic, and equally skilled with intricate shapes in the film’s many fight sequences. Though the lead character might be in the “Jackie Chan mold”, similar to those in films like DRUNKEN MASTER andSNAKE IN THE EAGLES SHADOW, Meng Yuen-Man rises to the occasion, easily carrying the film with his physical skills and likeable screen presence. The film features Peter Chan-Lung, an actor best known for his comedic sidekick characters in films like PRODIGAL SON, and FONG SAI-YUK 1 & 2, as the first master- expert of the Tiger Style, giving him a rare chance to show off his fighting skills. Alan Chui (THE REBELLIOUS REIGN) portrays the second master, who teaches back-flips and tumbling techniques (in a training sequence reminiscent of Sammo Hung’s KNOCKABOUT). Lily Li plays the master of the “Soft Fist Style”, a feminine style of kung fu that incorporates some fun training scenes, reminiscent of Kara Hui’s training scenes with Gordon Liu in FIST OF THE WHITE LOTUS, and Yuen Biao’s in DREADNAUGHT.

Fans of old-school kung fu movies might recognize some of the songs on the film’s soundtrack, which were composed by famous actor/composer Frankie Chan (PRODIGAL SON).

Though the sets and cinematography are nothing special, and the training sequences and characterizations mimic superior productions, what DAGGERS 8 lacks in technical achievements, it more than makes up for in this genre’s most important department. When it comes to the kung fu action, it’s packed, and really delivers the quality goods.

Thanks to the film’s interesting spin on the “you killed my (many) master(s)” plotline, viewers are treated to several different styles of kung fu that each come with their own creative displays, first by the master, then in training sequences, and finally followed by a fight with the villain. You might think this would make the film’s plot stale as it follows such a clear pattern, but it’s actually just the opposite. Thanks to this structure, viewers get to see a great variety and high percentage of Wilson Tong’s stunningly directed kung fu action.

Due to its many, well choreographed fight sequences performed by talented players, and a fun spin on an old kung fu movie revenge cliché,  DAGGERS 8 comes highly recommended as a must-see film for any fan of the old-school kung fu genre. Though it may not be as famous, it’s loaded with fight scenes on par with some of the more polished, and most famous films of the same era.