Plot: What’s it about?
If people think bad music can hurt your ears, wait until they get a load of the Demonic Strings, a most lethal instrument. This is not your normal lyre by any means, as the notes from its strings are deadly, which means it must be handled with care and never, ever allowed to fall into the wrong hands. In fact, the lyre has been absent from sight since it was used to demolish a lot of lives about sixteen years ago, but now it has resurfaced and as such, action must be taken to prevent another disaster. But in won’t be easy to recover the lyre and return it to the proper hands, as the evil Six Clans have vowed to control it, which means serious trouble, to say the least. The lyre’s true guardian Snow (Brigitte Lin) has no intentions of allowing the Six Clans to claim the lyre however, so she and a young martial artists named Lui Lun (Yuen Biao) join forces to stop them. With a lot on the line and the lyre up for grabs, who will end with this powerful instrument?
This flick has a cool premise and some very cool sequences, but in the end, I feel it falls short of its own potential. Yes, I have fun when I watch it and I do think it is a good movie, but I think Deadful Melody could have been better, if even by a little. I think the main issue is the casting of Yuen Biao, who is a very gifted performer, but the wrong choice for his role. He is underused because of his age and the problems that come with age, which is a real let down. His character is supposed to be young and wild, but Biao is simply too old to make it seem right and as such, the film suffers. If someone else were placed in his role, I think Deadful Melody work better, even though I like Biao and follow his other films, especially his earlier work. Even so, this is still a cool and very fun flick, complete with aerial antics, the super hot Brigitte Lin, and of course, a most lethal musical instrument. A solid premise, good performances, great action, it all adds up to loads of fun, though as it mentioned, I think it could have been more. I highly recommend this release to those interested, as Tai Seng has issued a superb transfer and some new subtitles, which make the flick more fun (and coherent) than ever before. I wish it was anamorphic of course, but in the end, this is still a worthwhile release.
As I mentioned above, I think Yuen Biao was miscast in this movie, but don’t get me wrong, his work is still more than up to standards. I am actually surprised he manages as well as he does, as I had some reservations at first, to be sure. Biao is a very talented worker and though he is often overshadowed by guys like Jackie Chan & Sammo Hung, he can more than hold his own, as evidenced by his plethora of superb performances. I just think in this case, someone younger and with more mobility could have handled this one better, even if Biao is able to bring in a more than solid effort. Biao is terrific here however and in the end, I cannot blame the filmmakers for giving him this important part. You can also see Biao in such films as Once Upon a Time in China, Miracles, Eastern Condors, Project A, and The Young Master. The cast also includes Brigitte Lin (Chungking Express, The Bride with White Hair), Elvis Tsui (The Seventh Curse, A Man Called Hero), and Carina Lau (Flowers of Shanghai, Ashes of Time).
Video: How does it look?
Deadful Melody is presented in a 1.85:1 widescreen transfer, which is not enhanced for widescreen televisions. As is often the case with Hong Kong films, the source materials look much more worn than you’d expect, but is more than watchable. While the print is worn in places and looks washed out at times, this is better than the other version I’ve seen, which was a more expensive import item. The image looks sharper than expected, with more than stable contrast and vivid colors, though some weaker spots do surface. I also think that since Tai Seng has been doing some great new special editions, the time has come to included anamorphic widescreen transfers, which would add another layer of value to the releases.
Audio: How does it sound?
I wasn’t too impressed with the Dolby Digital stereo mixes used here, but I was never too let down either, so I suppose it balances out. The original Cantonese soundtrack is found here, which is good news for fans, to be sure. I found this to be a solid, if unmemorable audio experience, especially since the film seems to have some real potential. But the audio picks it up a little when it needs to and things never seem out of place, so I won’t complain too much. The dialogue is crisp and always at a proper volume also, no problems there. This disc also includes an English language soundtrack, as well as newly retranslated, optional English subtitles.
Supplements: What are the extras?
I was a little let down by the extras here, but while it doesn’t have enough to warrant a special edition label, you will find a few nice extras here. The main draw here is an audio commentary with Ric Myers from Inside Kung Fu Magazine, who is joined by Frank Djeng from Tai Seng, who reworked the subtitles found on this disc. You can also hear these two on the commentary track from The Duel, but both seem more talkative here, especially Djeng. I never tire of Myers and his comments, as he is such a fan of the movies, as opposed to a simple historian who adds background information, but shows little love for the pictures. Djeng also offers a lot of insight, from the translation process to prompting Ric at times, to keep the track on focus and such. I look forward to future sessions with both men and hopefully, Djeng will continue to be as talkative as he is here, as he was rather silent on The Duel. This disc also includes a selection of artwork from the film, as well as some talent files. I found some bonus trailers also, but no trailer for Deadful Melody was included.