A Deadly Secret (1981)

Release Date - Sep 23, 1980 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 98 min.  |   Countries - Hong Kong  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Donald Guarisco

This is one of the more unique martial arts films to emerge from the Shaw Brothers studios during the twilight of their classic era. The script offers a unique fusion of period kung-fu adventure, mystery story, and treasure hunt, cleverly using this bit of genre-blending to explore the theme of greed and its poisonous, destructive nature. The inventive script by Ni Kuang takes the ambition level of the story a step further by shifting the story's chronology around to add suspense and also to give the viewer different perspectives on its characters at different times. A Deadly Secret also benefits from solid performances by a game cast: Wu Yuan-Chun does nice work as the hero, effectively charting his character's transition from total naivete to a sad awareness of man's darker side, and Jason Pai Piao is charismatic and effortlessly convincing as the angry but honorable martial arts master who holds the title secret. There are also notable character turns from Shih Szu as Piao's tragic love interest and Yueh Hua as the cruel government official obsessed with learning the "deadly secret." Most importantly, T.F. Mou directs this complex tale with style and vigor. He handles the many action sequences with kinetic flair: the best is the finale, which sets the unveiling of the secret against the backdrop of a massive fight sequence. However, he also shows a lyrical touch in places, most notably the scenes devoted to the love affair between Szu and Piao. To sum up, A Deadly Secret is a fascinating, ambitious example of the Shaw Brothers film and one of the best examples of its latter-day output.