In late November, five months after KUNG FU INSTRUCTORS (1979) release, Shaw's released Sun Chung's TO KILL A MASTERMIND (1979) to Hong Kong theaters.
The Chi Sha society of killers secretly hunt down and kill the members of the Yang Society, a government backed organization responsible for killing followers of the Chi Sha. However, the seven leaders of the Chi Sha are killed off one at the time after they are branded as spies for the Yang's. During the final battle, one last bit of treachery is revealed culminating in a great final fight sequence.
While the film possesses a good storyline, this is more of a straight up action film from Chung compared to some of his other movies. The choreography is quite fantastic and exciting. Filled with mostly secondary character actors save for main baddie Wang Lung Wei, the film performed dismally in HK. A shame really considering it is probably the only movie where these guys were given a chance to shine on the big screen. They all handle themselves more than capably. Most of the actors here usually played henchmen or hired killers who generally did not have much (if any) dialog. Perhaps that is why this film failed to connect with HK audiences because of its lack of familiar faces. Even though perennial bad guy favorite Wang Lung Wei is on hand he cannot carry the film as there are too many others to keep up with.
Considering that Chang Cheh, Liu Chia Liang, Chu Yuan (as well as Sun Chung himself) were still putting out hits to the masses in light of the drastic change in audience tastes (thanks to Jackie Chan and his comedy kung fu brigade), TO KILL A MASTERMIND's failure speaks nothing about its extremely high entertainment value. Everything from the storyline, the costumes, the weapons, the action choreography and especially Chung's use of slow motion and freeze editing all combine to create an adrenaline charged kung fu extravaganza.
To add insult to injury, TO KILL A MASTERMIND (1979) is currently not on the slate of films to be remastered by Celestial. The reason given is that the film is too badly damaged to be dealt with. Whether this is in fact true, is not known at this time. The film was listed as being available from Celestial on one of the earlier DVD filmographies. For now, all that exists of this action charged movie is a so-so quality dupe with English subs that are below the picture making it near impossible to ascertain what is being said unless you understand mandarin. Hopefully, the film will see some kind of release from either IVL or one of the three US companies handling the releases.