Director: Ulysses Au Yeung
Starring: Kim Jin Pai, William Shiela, Robert Baker, Lin Chen Chi
This unusual film takes place during Japan's occupation of China during WW2. A downed U.S. fighter pilot (William Shiela) forms an uneasy alliance with a small group of Chinese freedom fighters as they oppose the Japanese soldiers who have been pillaging the countryside along with help from a sadistic Nazi (Robert Baker).
A choppy, uneven, yet fairly entertaining affair, Valley of the Double Dragon marks the directorial debut of one Ulysses Au Yeung. The ubiquitous Ulysses had directed everything from straight kung fu fare (Thou Shall Not Kill... But Once, Ming Patriots) to classic wuxia (Big Land Flying Eagles which may be his masterpiece), to slapsticky fu comedy (Three Shaolin Musketeers) and even dabbled in Brucesploitation (Bruce Lee, We Miss You). VOTDD displays the same energetic, swift paced, rough and ready style of filmmaking that seems to be the director's forte.
Ultimately, the film is probably most notable for it's cast. Star Kim Jin Pai is a real life 10th degree Hap Ki Do black belt who starred in several films during the early '70s, most noteably the hard to find (dubbed in Englsh, at any rate) cult favorite, 'The Mandarin' (aka Godfathers of Hong Kong). Easily the best martial artist in the film, Kim throws a mean screen kick and his battles tend to generate most of the movie's excitment. This I believe is the one and only film appearance by William Shiela. Very unusual to see a black actor in a Chinese production of this vintage. He appears to be a real life martial artist (from what I can tell, anyway) and does a competent enough job in the action scenes. The role also allows (or possibly forces, depending on your point of view) him to be all over the place in the thesping department. Starting off as angry, viscious and distrustful of his soon to be Guerilla allies, he soon enough finds himself in disguise as Guan Yu (!) as the team attempts to infiltrate the Japanese HQ. Robert Baker's claim to fame was playing the Russian 'Petrov' in Bruce Lee's Fist of Fury. This film marks Baker's second and apparently last film role. This bit of casting alone is enough to spark interest for genre fans. Unfortunately, Baker's 'acting' as the ruthless, sadistic Nazi is just as stiff as it was in the Lee film. Not that much was actually required of him for the role; his familiar appearance alone seemed to do the job. This film also marks the debut of the beautiful and talented Lin Chen Chi. An intense actress with a perpetually wild look in her eyes, I first took notice of Lin's work in Tsui Hark's 1980 rage filled masterpiece, 'Dangerous Encounters of the First Kind'. Sadly she's underutilized in this film as her character is relegated mostly to onlooker status (not a fighter, it seems). Still she manages to stand out in every scene she's in.
All in all Valley of the Double Dragon is certainly no Eastern Condors (what is?), but it is a worthwhile low budget 70s style war-fu oddity. I'll admit I went into this one thinking it's sole interest would be it's cast, but I came away enjoying it a bit more than I thought I would. Worth tracking down.
**1/2 / ****