Journey of the Doomed DVD Review
Written by Robert Gold
DVD released by Well Go USA
Directed by Chuen-Yee Cha
1985, Region 1, 93 minutes, Not rated
DVD released on September 16th, 2008
Fu Yin-Yu as Shuri Erh
Tung Wei as Knight
Kara Hui as Lin Yuan
Li Tien-lang as Feng Man
Alex Man as Shan Chun
Shuri Erh (Fu Yin-Yu) is a maid at a brothel who discovers that she is the Emperor's illegitimate daughter and must go into hiding when his legitimate heirs learn of her existence. While trying to escape from the assassins sent to kill her she meets a young fisherman named The Knight (Tung Wai), who agrees to protect her.
Journey of the Doomed attempts to reach the widest audience by pleasing everyone at the same time. The film opens in a brothel filled with copious amounts of sleazy nudity (which is awkward coming from the Shaw Brothers). Our hero girl is introduced and soon marked for death and so the action begins. Two female assassins arrive and systematically murder every naked body at the brothel. Unfortunately the film has blown its load with this extended action sequence and never regains the same levels of excitement. Luckily, our Princess hero escapes unharmed and flees into the forest.
Shoddy special effects (including a laughable sequence featuring hypnosis and crude laser animation) pass the time until the film suddenly switches genres. A forced love story pulls the film to a complete stop for nearly a third of the running time. The lesson learned from this subplot is: Relationships can grow tedious…and so can action films when pushed in this direction.
The movie closes with an unsatisfying battle between good and evil. The princess and her protector are dropped into a James Bond finale where the villain has formed a surprisingly complicated plan that may destroy his entire fortress in order to kill one person. The film ends with an unexpectedly shocking last shot, presented with a traditional Shaw Brothers freeze frame.
The only standout performance comes from Kara Hui (My Young Auntie) who plays one of the female assassins. Less interesting are Fu Yin-Yu as the whining Princess, and her protector, Tung Wei (who later found his calling as an action director for Jackie Chan and Jet Li), whose martial arts skills are only briefly displayed.
Directed by Chuen-Yee Cha (In the Line of Duty 5) this is not exactly a bad movie — it just isn't a very good one. Journey of the Doomed is an epic film crammed into a low budget container. It's like something Dino De Laurentiis would produce if asked to replicate a Shaw Brothers film without money. In an attempt to appeal to younger crowds, the soundtrack mixes period music with contemporary '80s rock guitar. The sets and costumes are poorly constructed and the script appears to be missing much of the depth one may expect from a Shaw Brothers production. Martial arts sequences are surprisingly brief and underwhelming, taking a back seat to softcore T & A. The film features ample nudity, but little in the way of action.
Video and Audio:
The film is presented in a non-anamorphic 1:85 widescreen interlaced transfer. Colors are rich and do not bleed, and flesh tones are generally solid. The picture has been nicely restored, but unfortunately the fine team at Well Go USA have chosen to deliver a 4x3 hard matte.
The DVD is equipped with an unfortunate Mandarin 5.1 audio track. The mix appears out of sync at times (perhaps due to a Cantonese source print) and has an artificial and tinny feel. English subtitles are offered for those who can occasionally speed read.
The film's original trailer is presented without restoration.
By the time the 1980s were underway, the Shaw Brothers had become obsolete and lesser productions like Journey of the Doomed were a studio low point. Clumsy filmmaking and lackluster action scenes were wrapped in soft-core T & A in hopes of keeping the audience titillated. Unfortunately the efforts failed and the inclusion of this title from Well Go USA seems premature.