Hand of Death, The (1976)

Reviewed by Ken Hashibe
July 28, 2014


Dorian Tan Tao-Liang • James Tien • Jackie Chan • Sammo Hung • John Woo • Wilson Tong • Chu Ching
Countdown in Kung Fu • Strike of Death • Dragon Forever
John Woo
Sammo Hung
Version reviewed was in widescreen format. Mandarin language with English subtitles.
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Dorian Tan plays a Shaolin disciple who is sent to defeat an evil Manchu overlord played by James Tien. By the time Tan gets to Tien’s base to fight him, he learns that his abilities aren’t enough. He plans on forming a group to fight against Tien made up of Tan Feng (Jackie Chan), the Wanderer (Wei Yang), and others (including John Woo himself) who help him defeat this powerful enemy.
thoughts on the movie

John Woo’s 4th directed film is a lot of fun. There’s an inconsistency here and there, but they can be forgiven thanks to the fight scenes choreographed by Sammo Hung, the characters, and that terrific theme song that accompanies one of my favorite kung fu movie openings (well, besides maybe Ninja in the Dragon’s Den and Dirty Ho). Yeah, the story seems extremely simple and generic, but this movie really is a lot of fun and is even kind of epic. It certainly isn’t a movie that will impress audiences with it’s story, but it supplies some cool fight scenes, which is sometimes all the typical viewer could ask for.

was it funny?
Not really but I don’t think it tries to be. Well, Sammo’s teeth are ridiculous and the story is very archetypal which can be amusing, but there doesn’t seem to be any intentional comedy here.
How was the Action?

The fight scenes choreographed by Sammo Hung are fantastic. They may be a bit slow at times, but the impressive kicking of Dorian Tan and the wide variety of styles and weapons are impressive and sometimes fascinating. Some of the highlights include Jackie’s fight against the two fighters who killed his brother for those fans of weapons. Another highlight includes the final fight between Dorian Tan and James Tien.

Standout performance(s)

There’s a reason why Dorian Tan is considered the second greatest kicker (according to AsianMoviePulse.com) and this movie elaborates on it. He’s behind Hwang Jang Lee (of course) but surpasses John Liu and Casanova Wong! One of the many popular villains in Hong Kong cinema, James Tien does a great job too, and a young Jackie Chan deserves some mention as well.

Watch or Pass
6 Reasons Why You Should WATCH or PASS On This Movie
1. WATCH for the terrific theme song/opening.
2. PASS if you would like to see a movie that challenges its audience.
3. WATCH for the wide variety of styles and weapons.
4. PASS if you like comedy with your fu.
5. WATCH for a 22-year-old Jackie Chan.
6. WATCH for Sammo Hung’s teeth.

I have no idea who came up with this but Autumn Moon was NOT played by Polly Shang Kuan. Autumn Moon was portrayed by an actress named Chu Ching who also appeared in the Iron Fisted Monk (not to be confused with Chu Jing from The Brave Archer). Chu Ching is one of the only names that appears in English in the opening credits.