Duel To The Death

Duel To The Death (1982)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Cast: Damian Lau, Ching Siu Tung, Tsui Siu Keung
Extras: Trailers

Ching Siu Tung’s ’Duel To The Death’ is once again coming to DVD, this time from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. It is the story of two warriors preparing to fight an annual ritual, a duel to the death between the Shaolin and the Japanese to prove whose martial arts are the superior one. But strange things unfold around them as they prepare for their climactic fight.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment is presenting ’Dual To The Death’ in an anamorphic widescreen transfer on this DVD in the movie’s original 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio. While this is definitely a step up from Tai Seng’s letterboxed import version, I simply don’t understand why Fox has throttled the bitrate to its bare minimum. As a result, the transfer often blurs and loses definition where it could look much richer and truer to the original film elements. Some shots also lead me to believe that this is a transfer that has been upconverted from an non-anamorphic master. Color reproduction is very good with vivid hues and the transfer’s black level is solid throughout. Some speckles and scratches are visible in the presentation. The presentation is mostly free of edge-enhancement making for a good viewing.

The audio on the DVD comes as a 5.1 channel Dolby Digital track in English and Cantonese. The disc defaults to the English dub for unknown reasons, but so be it. DTS versions of these track are also included, but given the film’s limited use of surround in general, and its noticeably limited frequency response, make that track of little real value and it is almost irresponsible of the studio to waste all the storage on dubious audio tracks rather than a decent video presentation.

No extras other than two trailers for the movie as included on the DVD.

At a $9.98 suggested retail price, Fox’s Hong Kong films are certainly a bargain like hardly any other, but to be perfectly honest, I am sure fans of these films would rather spend another $5 and instead get versions of the film with proper, cleaned-up transfers from high definition masters than these washed-out and washed-up presentations.