Saturday, June 12, 2021

The Basher Box Set (The Prodigal Boxer & The Awaken Punch) – VCI Entertainment (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Dates: Taiwan/Hong Kong, 1972 (The Prodigal Boxer), Hong Kong, 1973 (The Awaken Punch)
Directors: Yang-Ming Tsai (The Prodigal Boxer), Lung-Hsiang Fang (The Awaken Punch)
Cast: Fei Meng, Lin-Lin Li, Yasuaki Kurata, Hung Pai, Ching Wong (The Prodigal Boxer), Yung Henry Yu, Pui-San Auyeung, Feng Tien, Li Meng, Nancy Sit (The Awaken Punch)

Release Date: April 13th, 2021
Approximate Running Times: 90 Minutes 3 Seconds (The Prodigal Boxer), 101 Minutes 4 Seconds (The Awaken Punch)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (Both Films)
Rating: R
Sound: LPCM Mono English (Both Films)
Subtitles: English SDH (Both Films)
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $34.98

The Prodigal Boxer:

"an early take on the legend of martial artist Fong Sai-Yuk (later to be portrayed by the likes of Jet Li and Alexander Fu-Sheng), here played by Mang Fei. Once Fong Inadvertently kills a student of the rival school run by Iron Hand Tan (Kurata Yasuaki), this action leads to a series of near death confrontations between the men concluding in a tournament battle of the ages." - synopsis provided by the distributor

The Awaken Punch:

"an altruistic fighter who begins to build a name for himself as he violently cleans up a town from within its more seedier elements. But when he must abide by a promise to his dying father to give up his fighting ways, he will be faced with a new challenge in the arrival of the knife-throwing master Tien Feng (Fist of Fury) and his gang." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 3/5 (The Prodigal Boxer), 2.5/5 (The Awaken Punch)

Here’s the information provided about The Prodigal Boxer's transfer, "NEW 4k Transfer from a 35mm negative".

More info about The Prodigal Boxer's transfer, "This new 4K transfer of "The Prodigal Boxer" was scanned from a 35mm film negative. The color correction and clean up was minimized to present the most accurate depiction of the original film's grain and attributes. Sharpness, grain and clarity can fluctuate based on the surviving elements used. Color hues and tones have been best determined through stock characteristics and original production images to give the Pearl River audience the most accurate experience of the film's original visual presentation."

Here’s the information provided about The Awaken Punch's transfer, "NEW 4k Transfer from a 35mm inter-positive print".

More info about The Awaken Punch's transfer, "This new 4K transfer of The Awaken Punch was scanned from a 35mm IP print. The color correction and clean up was minimized to present the most accurate depiction of the original film's grain and attributes. Sharpness, grain and clarity can fluctuate based on the surviving elements used. Color hues and tones have been best determined through stock characteristics and original production images to give the Pearl River audience the most accurate experience of the film's original visual presentation."

There are disclaimers that play before both films that perfectly explain what to expect with these transfers. That said, The Prodigal Boxer is the stronger of these two transfers.

The Prodigal Boxer comes on a 25 GB single layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 21.9 GB

Feature: 19 GB

The Awaken Punch comes on a 25 GB single layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 21.4 GB

Feature: 21 GB

Audio: 3.5/5 (The Prodigal Boxer), 3/5 (The Awaken Punch)

The Prodigal Boxer and The Awaken Punch each come with one audio option, LPCM mono mix in English and included with this release are removable English SDH subtitles. Though both audio mixes are cleaned up, range wise the audio at times sounds limited. That said dialog comes through clearly and the fight scenes sound robust.

Extras:

Extras for this release include reversible cover art, a trailer for The Prodigal Boxer (3 minutes 11 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), a trailer for The Awaken Punch (6 minutes 3 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), a featurette titled Creative Chaos: The Basher Genre (14 minutes 49 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), an audio commentary with actor/director Michael Worth and Clones Cast/Cinema Bushido host Matthew Whittaker for The Prodigal Boxer and a leaflet with two essays: A Brief History of The Yuen Clan written by JohnKreng and Growing Up Kung Fu: The Prodigal Boxer and The Awaken Punch written by Michael Worth.

Summary:

Though Bruce Lee in the early 1970’s put martial arts cinema on the world stage. Predictably most of the films that follow his lacked the substance he brought to martial arts cinema. With most martial arts films from this era being more concerned with action set pieces, than focusing on strong narratives.

The Prodigal Boxer and The Awaken Punch, the two films that are part of The Basher Box Set, show many of traits that plagued post-Bruce Lee martial arts films. Both films feature revenge themed premises in which the protagonist faces insurmountable odds in their quest for revenge. Along the way the protagonist overcomes a series of obstacles that ultimately prepare them for the final showdown.

From a production standpoint, though both films are clearly working with limited resources. Ultimately both films take full advantage of their resources. And though both films could have benefited from less predictable narratives. This shortcoming will be easy for most fans of martial arts cinema to overlook since the action set pieces are where both of these films shine the brightest.

At its height of popularity martial arts cinema was churning out hundreds of films per year. And though some of the more notable films like Bruce Lee’s films and Shaw Brothers films have turned up in versions that have come from restored sources. Unfortunately, the sources for the bulk of martial arts cinema from the 1970’s appear to have been lost or only inferior sources remain.

That said, The Basher Box Set is a commendable release that provides the best available versions of The Prodigal Boxer and The Awaken Punch, and it comes with a pair of insightful extras, recommended.













Written by Michael Den Boer

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