HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Monday, June 18, 2007

King Boxer and 36th Chamber of Shaolin Dragon Dynasty Reviews.

King Boxer and 36th Chamber of Shaolin DVD Review

King Boxer and 36th Chamber of Shaolin Video: King Boxer and 36th Chamber of Shaolin both boast restored picture quality that has been seen previously on releases on DVD by IVL in Hong Kong. However, there is something with these Region 1 releases from Dragon Dynasty that make them superior to most, if not all, of the other DVD releases of these films. They have been properly converted to NTSC from PAL. Previous releases of the Shaws in Hong Kong and America have often featured blurry pans, ghosting, improper speeds (often appearing too slow or sometimes too fast) in the video transfer. Thankfully, none of these appear on these Dragon Dynasty releases and thus allow those who had previously seen these restored versions to experience these films anew. The color s are vivid and strong on King Boxer. This is also the case for 36th Chamber of Shaolin most of the time. There are brief instances of minor frame instability lasting less than one second in 36th Chamber of Shaolin. This is a result of frames not being cut from 36th Chamber of Shaolin as Celestial would later do to their other films during the restoration process.

King Boxer Audio: King Boxer features both Mandarin and English Mono. Both tracks are actually mono and feature no audio additions. This is important as a number of fans have expressed a dislike for many of the poor 5.1 remixes that Celestial has released to distributors. The audio is clean and clear and sounds as if it has been given an audio restoration to remove any imperfections. The one minor exception to this is a 3-5 second instance during the English dub of King Boxer when the audio momentarily warbles. This is quite short however and most likely due to the elements used. Otherwise the audio is in excellent condition.

36th Chamber of Shaolin Audio: 36th Chamber of Shaolin features Mandarin, Cantonese, and English Mono. The condition is just as good. I think I can state with confidence that I have never heard the English language versions of these films sound this good.

King Boxer Extras: King Boxer comes with some excellent extras. First off, it has interviews with the director Chang-Hwa Jeong, who talks about what separated King Boxer (in his opinion) from other Chinese directors at the time; this interview lasts about five minutes. We also have a nearly twenty-minute interview with Lar-Kar Wing, who served as action director on the film and talks about the process of setting up the fights. There are short interviews with David Chute and Andy Klein about some of the themes in the film. The disc contains (as can be seen in our screenshots) numerous trailers, including an alternate credit sequence which used the title Five Fingers of Death. There is also a commentary track featuring David Chute, Elvis Mitchell, and Quentin Tarantino. This commentary is interesting and talks about the structure and style of the Kung Fu film.

36th Chamber of Shaolin Extras: The disc comes once again with some nice interviews including an around fifteen minute-long interview with the Master Killer himself, Gordon Liu. The disc also contains a very interesting interview with the RZA in which he talks about his first experience with these films (and in a screenshot of the famous 42nd street in New York, you can actually see a marquee advertising Shaolin vs. Manchu). There is also a Celestial-produced feature on Shaolin itself and it is fairly interesting (it is one that has appeared on Celestial products, so some may have seen it before). David Chute and Andy Klein once again appear in an interview segment talking about the film. There are also a bevy of trailers for the film (as seen in our 36th Chamber screenshots which will be up later tonight) and a TV ad for 36th Chamber of Shaolin which uses the Master Killer name. Rounding up the extras is an audio commentary featuring Andy Klein and RZA. The RZA shows his skills commenting on the film’s influence on him, cameos, martial art styles, and the cast and crew. Andy Klein seemingly did not prepare for this commentary as much and at times stating his lack of knowledge about the period of Chinese history covered (which easily could have been researched), missing the first appearance of Lo Lieh, among other things. It just seems that Andy Klein should have prepared a little more for this DVD, especially since the RZA obviously took the time to make sure he knew his stuff. This is a minor complaint though, as these DVD have some really nice extras.

Final Thoughts: These are the versions fans have been asking for and Dragon Dynasty delivers, with versions that are both a treat to look at and listen to, with some excellent extras too. I can easily say that both items are must buys.



Anonymous said...

Why would these have been converted from PAL at all? While the IVL DVDs were prepared from masters prepared for PAL SDTV broadcast, I can't imagine the Weinsteins didn't have the foresight and the loot (these Shaw titles are carryovers from the deep-pocketed Miramax days) to secure rights to the 24 fps HD masters that were created for many of the top-tier Shaw films. I'd imagine that's what these Dragon Dynasty Shaw releases were sourced from, not the PAL broadcast masters inexplicably used to source most of IVL and Image's Shaw Bros. discs.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate the gentle criticism of my goofs. (A few other places, people have been tearing me a new one.) For what it's worth, the worst embarrassment on the track -- my "Say wha?" when RZA identified Lo Lieh -- was a combination of a bunch of things. I was trying to find a fact in my notes and wasn't looking at the screen at that moment, and then started gibbering nervously to cover up, since I was kinda starstruck with RZA and had just been really dumb in his presence. (I swear I can ID Lo Lieh at a thousand paces.) I have to say: I was completely bowled over by the thoroughness of his knowledge of this film. I don't think it's so much a matter of him preparing specifically for this session as that his whole life has been preparation. I'm not sure I've ever met someone who knew a film shot by shot, frame by frame, like RZA knows this one. Plus: he was just a total kick to work with.