The master of the Dragon Fist school is the proud owner of the gold plate that denotes his power in the area. Unfortunately his health begins to fail him due to the Dragon Claw blow he received many years ago. With his ailing fitness working against him, the master is then issued a challenge for the plate by his wife’s brother Ling Ko Feng (Hwang Jang-Lee) who has recently returned from Manchuria. Vowing to fight when his rival has regained a measure of health, Ling leaves with his two lackies and prepares for the duel. During the brief reposte, the truth about the master’s wounds come to light: he was actually hit by his now wife as he attempted to attack her and he must now accept the consequences. When the duel is finally fought the master is easily defeated and then expires from his injuries, therefore effectively ending the power of the school. Ling goes away with the plate only to later discover that it is a fake and will hold little or no influence in the martial world. Determined to find it, Ling sends out his fighters to hunt down the missing wife and son of his deceased foe. The son, Lung Hsia (Lau Kar Wing), decides to avenge his father and teams up with an old medicine seller who wanders the streets. After regular training under his new teacher, Lung is ready to win back the leadership of the martial world.
‘Dragon’s Claws’ shows the good and bad of independent kung-fu film-maker Joesph Kuo. The good side of Kuo, and something he often does to his credit, is his ability to take a common storyline and squeeze something different out of it. As he showed with ‘The Blazing Temple’, Kuo creates a multi-layered plot from a very uninspiring starting point. The first twenty minutes of ‘Dragon’s Claws’ presents the viewer with characters who are not as stereotyped as they first seem. The master is certainly not the courageous hero that is often portrayed and his past makes him quite unsympathetic. Supervillain Hwang Jang Lee is also given a villainous character who promises to be a lot less evil than is usually the case. Sadly the bad side of Kuo rears its head as he simply doesn’t have the courage of his convictions. Whereas a greater director such as Chang Cheh, Liu Chia-Liang or Sun Chong would have played with the intriguing ideas, Kuo allows the characters to quickly revert to type. By the half-hour mark, the storyline has turned into the traditional revenge theme and the hope of this being a breath of fresh air disappears. Having said this, Joseph Kuo is still a film-maker who deserves the respect of his audience as he has contributed so much to the genre – while ‘Dragon’s Claws’ isn’t one of these achievements it is at least an entertaining piece. The fight action that will be eagerly awaited by many viewers is not as engaging as it should be though; the choreography has a very pedestrian quality that doesn’t fully use the remarkable Hwang-Jang Lee. Hero Lau Kar-Yung – the youngest of Liu Chia-Liang’s brothers – doesn’t really inspire as the hero either; ‘The Gold Hunters’ is evidence that he is a capable screen fighter, but this is definitely not his best showing.
Overall this is a capable production that is quite enjoyable, but after wasting its potential, is fairly forgettable.