Issue #228a        HOME          E-mail:        BACK ISSUES          September 6th, 2004

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Odd Couple
(1979; Gar Bo Motion Picture Company)

Cantonese: Bok ming dan dou duet ming cheung
Mandarin: Bo ming dao duo ming qiang
English: Desperate Sabre vs. Fatal Spear

RATING: 8/10


Period kung fu farces do not come much better than this terrific independent production, which serves up lively, infectious humor amid outstanding martial arts. A master of the spear (Lau Kar-wing, who also directed) and a master of the sword (Sammo Hung Kam-po) have a duel every ten years to determine whose technique is superior. Their bouts have all ended in draws and, now that they are getting on in years, the men decide to recruit pupils to carry on the tradition for them. The swordmaster drafts a foul-tempered lad who spends half of his time trying to kill him, while the spearmaster enlists rotund boatman Yao to be his successor. After extensive training, the pair finally have their fight but, midway through, they are kidnapped! The perpetrator is Hsiao Pa-tien (Leung Kar-yan), an old enemy who was disfigured during skirmishes with the two elderly masters and is using their new pupils to lure the men into a trap.

Karl Maka (left), Sammo Hung Lau Kar-wing Mars (left), Sammo Hung

Sammo Hung and Lau Kar-wing are at the top of their form here and have ample opportunities to display their skills because, in a great twist, Hung's pupil in the film is played by Lau and vice versa! The premise simply provides a loose framework for numerous kung fu setpieces as the pupils test their newly acquired skills against every ruffian and buffoon that crosses their path. Hung participates in a showstopping Peking Opera parody and there is even a little anachronistic humor, courtesy of the ever obnoxious Dean Shek Tien as lecherous "Mr. Rocking," whose every appearance is accompanied by a drum solo! Feng Sing/Mars (as Potato, an homage to Master Q’s like-named sidekick), Lee Hoi-sang, Karl Maka, Peter Chan Lung, Chung Fat, Ho Pak-kwong, Lam Ching-ying, and Billy Chan Wui-ngai (who also worked behind the scenes on the action with Lam and Yuen Biao) are among the supporting players.

Lau Kar-wing (left), Sammo Hung Peter Chan (center) Leung Kar-yan


The image is slightly cropped on the sides and speckles can be seen on occasion but this is a very good presentation for an Old School film. Colors and contrasts are generally good and the few flaws in evidence are largely immaterial. A textless print was used, so the credits have been video burned on. Aside from the title, all of the opening credits are missing (there are numerous freeze frames that now seem merely curious) but have been incorporated into a new end crawl (included in the above running time). Both the Cantonese and Mandarin versions are offered in the original mono (passable) and 5.1 re-mixes (awful). That damn Mei Ah Data Bank is the only extra.

This DVD is available at:

Images in this review courtesy of Mei Ah. To read captions, hover mouse over image.

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Copyright © John Charles 2000 - 2004. All Rights Reserved.

DVD Specifications

  • Hong Kong Release
  • NTSC Region 0 Mei
  • Ah Laser Disc Co #DVD 302
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 & 2.1
  • Post-synced Cantonese and Mandarin Language
  • Subtitles (Optional): English, Traditional & Simplified Chinese
  • 9 Chapters
  • 4:3 Letterbox (2.15:1 cropped from 2.35)
  • 97 Minutes

Ratings & Consumer Information

  • Australia: M 15+
  • Great Britain: 12
  • Hong Kong: IIA
  • Ontario: PG
  • Quebec: G
  • Contains moderate violence and mild language


  • 10 A Masterpiece
  • 9 Excellent
  • 8 Highly Recommended
  • 7 Very Good
  • 6 Recommended
  • 5 Marginal Recommendation
  • 4 Not Recommended
  • 3 Poor
  • 2 Definitely Not Recommended
  • 1 Dreadful