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Hand of Death
Countdown in Kung Fu / Shaolin Men / Strike of Death / Dragon Forever

Hong Kong 1976
produced by
Raymond Chow, Chien Peng for Golden Harvest
directed by John Woo
starring Dorian Tan (= Tan Tao-liang), James Tien, Chang Chung, Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, John Woo, Yuen Wah, Yuen Biao
written by John Woo, action direction by Sammo Hung, music by Joseph Koo

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Mainly thanks to Shih (James Tien), a renegade Shaolin disciple, the Qing Dynasty was able to overthrow the Ming Dynasty & drive the Shaolin monks, loyal to the Mings, into hiding. Years have passed, but a small group of Shaolin monks hasn't forgotten Shih's treachery, & now they send their top disciple Yun Fei (Tan Tao-liang) out to exact revenge on Shih, & to guard scholar Zhang (John Woo), who is supposed to deliver some important attack plans to the Ming rebels, from Shih, who desperately wants him dead.

Yun Fei's first attempt to kill Shih by geting close enough to him by delivering him a (fake) prisoner fails miserably when Shih cold bloodedly kills the prisoner, defeats Yun Fei with ease, then has him tortured by his head of guards Du (Sammo Hung) & at the very end hangs him up by his teeth.

... but thank god there's Tan Feng, a sympathetic woodcutter who also has an account to settle with Shih, & who to that end frees Yun Fei. The 2 soon team up with the mysterious Wanderer (Chang Chung), a master swordsman who lost all interest in martial arts (or life indeed) when made him accidently kill his wife & who has since turned alcoholic. Only Yun Fei's plan to kill Shih gets him away from the bottle, & soon the 3 find themselves in extensive training sessions & manufacturing an array of steel weapons to overcome Shih's sword.

In the end they are also joined by 2 more Shaolin disciples and scholar Zhang, & are finally ready to lure Shih & his bodyguards out of their place. Once in combat, our heroes prove to be valiant fighters, but the fight is not without losses: Tan Feng dies saving scholar Zhang's life, & when the Wanderer has brought Zhang almost 2 safety, he is cowardly stabbed by the 2 disciples they have taken on, & he survives only long enough to kill them as well ... scholar Zhang can get to the Ming rebels though, while Yun Fei in the end gets his rematch against Shih ... & this time he wins & kills the villain ...


Generally overrated mainly for the reason because it was the first (& only) film that united John Woo, Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung & Yuen Biao, Hand of Death is little more than a competently crafted but overall very mediocre Kung Fu flick, with Chan, Hung & Biao merely in supporting roles. It's not that the film is especially bad,  it's just that neither story nor direction would be any different from what was usually produced in Hong Kong in the 1970's, & would betray little of the impact that John Woo made on the action genre just 10 years later with A Better Tomorrow (& a host of other films that would follow).


review © by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD