Add a Review

  • THE DRAGON MISSILE (1976) boasts a clever plot, strong cast and lots of action to make for a better-than-average Shaw Bros. martial arts adventure. Lo Lieh stars as Sima Jun, a killer working for a corrupt lord whose orders are followed without question or hesitation. When the lord (Ku Feng) suffers from a life-threatening boil on his back, he is told by the Imperial doctor that an herb called "Longevity Rattan" offers the only cure and is grown in a remote village by an herbalist named Tan. Lo is sent on a mission to get the herb and bring it back before it's too late (seven days). A jealous aide saddles Lo with six other fighters to accompany him, i.e. steal the herb when they get the chance and race back to the capital so the aide will get the credit. Lo doesn't trust the six and none of them trust each other. At one point, one of the six nearly botches the whole mission.

    After a certain amount of bloodshed involving the killing of at least four innocent people, Lo heads back with the herb, but is now pursued by a male-female pair who have each lost a parent and want revenge. This pair even makes an alliance with the one female fighter among the six "accompanying" Lo, who now has eight antagonists to worry about, all while trying to keep the herb safe and block various attempted thefts. And the six fighters are at each other's throats as well. Such escalating tension makes for a steady supply of fights and confrontations, insuring plenty of action and movement throughout the 82-minute film.

    Lo sports an unusual pair of weapons, Dragon Blades, that function like boomerangs which always come back to him after he hurls them. They also function like Flying Guillotines, insofar as they're used most often to behead various victims. (Director Ho Meng-hua has a couple of Flying Guillotine films to his credit.) The other characters sport some interesting weapons as well, including the female fighter, Miss Sha (Terry Liu), who has blades that extend out of her fingernails. There are lots of twists and turns, much pursuit and doubling back, and a journey that takes place mostly outdoors past a backdrop of picturesque locations. At one point, Lo is a wanted man in his own city, scurrying about in back alleys as drawings of him are posted everywhere. It all culminates in a big battle at a fishing village. If I have any complaint, it's that the final action isn't extended or intricate enough and the resolution too weak given the great build-up. Another few minutes and a few more difficult moves could easily have been added to the fight finale.

    Lo is an interesting protagonist because he works for an evil nobleman and kills on his orders even when he absolutely knows it's wrong, making him a bad guy, too. A certain amount of tension is created by the question of when he's going to turn against his boss and start doing the right thing. Is he strong enough to stand on his own or will he just follow orders to the bitter end? Eventually, such decisions are made for him. This whole angle of choice and loyalty and consequences makes the drama a little more compelling than usual for this type of film. The script is by prolific Shaw Bros. house scribe Ni Kuang.

    In addition to Lo Lieh, the other fighters include the always dependable Fan Mei-sheng and Norman Chu and an actress I haven't seen often enough, Terry Liu, who's better known to Hong Kong movie fans as Princess Dragon Mom from the cult classic, SUPER INFRAMAN. The two actual good guys pursuing Lo are Liu Yung (aka Tony Liu), a Shaw Bros. regular (THE CONVICT KILLER), and Nancy Yen, who's better known to kung fu fans for her roles in such Joseph Kuo classics as SEVEN GRANDMASTERS and BORN INVINCIBLE. Veteran performers Ouyang Shafei, Yang Chi-ching, and Hao Li Jen all have good parts as well. The fight choreographers are Tang Chia and Yuen Cheung-Yan.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    THE DRAGON MISSILE is one of the slightly less well-known Shaw Brothers movies and it's certainly one I hadn't heard of prior to watching. However, I'm pleased to report that it's a minor gem of a film, packed to the rafters with the kind of gory violence that Shaw Brothers films are noted for, as well as an intriguing and exciting storyline. It was directed by Ho Meng Hua, previously responsible for the demented OILY MANIAC.

    The underrated Lo Lieh - one of my favourite Hong Kong actors - gets a chance to play the hero for one of the few times in his career, although the term 'antihero' would be more appropriate. He's tasked with getting hold of a healing root for his dying evil lord, with orders to kill anyone who gets in his way. He does this via a pair of bladed boomerangs with which he cuts off a large number of heads in scenes cleared inspired by the flying guillotine sub-genre of films.

    The plot thickens when a group of mercenary fighters are assigned to tail Lieh and get the root themselves by fair means or foul. Meanwhile, various vengeance-seeking characters are also set against him. The plot thickens throughout and twists and turns into unforeseen areas. The climax is inevitable but thoroughly engaging. Lieh isn't one of the greatest screen fighters and is doubled in all of his acrobatic scenes here, but I think he's one of the best actors in the whole of Hong Kong cinema and his presence is second to none. The usual exemplary set designs, effects, and supporting cast help to make this an effortless watch and another winner for Shaw.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I saw this earlier today thanks to the El Rey network, since they have been showing some of the best Shaw Brothers movies for months, but I'd already seen every one they've shown, except for one, The Dragon Missile. The name comes from these 2 dragon-shaped blades that Lo Lieh uses -- when thrown like boomerangs, they easily behead opponents and always come back. The movie felt different from most others in the genre (well, from Shaw) in that Lo Lieh is the main character but also pretty much the main villain. He performs some horrific acts that can't really be forgiven. He shows a little bit of hesitation but ultimately kills anyone his master tells him to because... well, just because it's his job. He never asks forgiveness for doing his job. His master sends out a half dozen other killers to keep an eye on him during a very important mission, and to kill him once he completes it, but ultimately who is the lesser of the evils doesn't matter much since a pair of heroes will enter the story and it becomes about Lo Lieh trying to survive their quest for revenge against him. Revenge which would be quite appropriate.

    As much as I've been enjoying revisiting these Shaw Brothers classics on El Rey, I've seen the big ones and they've mainly been showing the big ones. They recently acquired 200+ more to add to the channel and I can't wait. I know there will be more interesting ones like The Dragon Missile out there that I haven't seen yet.
  • It opens with Lo Lieh demonstrating his fabulous weapons that work like boomerangs. He's a bad guy working for an evil lord and he follows orders. The Lord has a boil on his back. He summons the royal physician and is told he needs an herb and who to get it from. He returns this kindness by ordering Lo to kill him so we see the boomerangs doing a decapitation. These weapons are actually better than and a tad more realistic than the original flying guillotine.

    This movie has a curious plot structure in that there is no hint of a good guy for at least the first 20 minutes. Two possible plots then emerge. One is that another character could rise up to be the hero by defeating Lo Lieh. The other is the coming of age plot in which Lo Lieh would come to see the error of his ways and develop into a good guy. Instead, it's more of a group effort to stop Lo Lieh in the final fight.

    Shaw Brothers made some big additions to their outdoor standing sets. There is a long and large pink wall. The old bridge is still there just in the background. It remains in a simpler version and this could be the time it appears at all. Other new areas include the cottage below the big bridge, the old temple area, and the diagonal walkway over the pond outside the big house.

    Shaw Brothers uses their strengths in movie making - the cast, the action, the sets, and the costumes - to crank out an above average movie for the year and genre.
  • Poor acting dreadful script and hopeless action scenes