Tuesday, November 30, 2021

The Climber – Arrow Video (Blu-ray/DVD Combo) 

Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1975
Director: Pasquale Squitieri
Writers: Carlo Rivolta, Pasquale Squitieri
Cast: Joe Dallesandro, Stefania Casini, Benito Artesi, Ferdinando Murolo, Raymond Pellegrin

Release Date: May 15th, 2015 (UK), May 16th, 2015 (USA)
Approximate Running Time: 107 Minutes 30 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 15 (UK), NR (USA)
Sound: LPCM Mono Italian, LPCM Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH, English (Italian Language)
Region Coding: Region A,B/Region 1,2 NTSC
Retail Price: £24.99 (UK), $39.95 (USA)

'The Climber follows in the tradition of gangster classics such as The Public Enemy and Scarface as it charts the rise and inevitable fall of small-time smuggler Aldo (Dallesandro). Beaten and abandoned by the local gang boss after he tries to skim off some profits for himself, Aldo forms his own group of misfits in order to exact revenge..." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4.5/5

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, "Brand new 4K restoration of the film from the original negative."

The Climber comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 36.1 GB

Feature: 28.3 GB

There are no issues with compression; colors look accurate, details look crisp and black levels remain strong throughout.

Audio: 4.25/5

This release comes with two audio options: a LPCM mono mix in English and a LPCM mono mix in Italian. Both audio mixes sound clean, clear, balanced, and robust when they need to. Included with this release are two subtitle options: English SDH and English for the Italian language tracks.

Extras:

Extras for this release include an interview with actor Joe Dallesandro titled Little Joe’s Adventures in Europe (28 minutes, 39 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), reversible cover art, and a sixteen-page booklet with cast and crew information, an essay titled "Paradise Lost" written by Roberto Curti, and information about the restoration and transfer.

Included with this release is a DVD that has the same content as the Blu-Ray included as part of this combo.

Summary:

The Climber has many elements that have become synonymous with Italian crime films, most notably car chases. Content wise, The Climber is more about organized crime than a cop’s versus criminal’s scenario.

The Climber’s well-constructed narrative does a good job of chronicling the protagonists' rise and fall. And there are no issues with pacing, as The Climber is a satisfying mix of action set pieces and melodramatic moments.

The Climber's strongest asset is its leading man, Joe Dallesandro (The Gardener, Madness) in the role of Aldo. Other performances of note is Stefania Casini (Suspiria, Bloodstained Shadow) in the role of Aldo’s love interest and Raymond Pellegrin (Beatrice Cenci, Shoot First, Die Later) in the role of Don Enrico, the mafia boss whose betrayal of Aldo has led to an all-out war.

Standout moments include the scene where Aldo is betrayed by the boss of the crime syndicate that he worked for. This is one of many brutal moments in the film, and in this scene, two men beat Aldo to a pulp. Other standout moments include a scene where one of Aldo’s friends is murdered and his dead body is thrown off a balcony. And The Climber’s explosive finale has all the ingredients that one would expect from an Italian crime film.

The Climber gets a first-rate release from Arrow Video that comes with a solid audio/video presentation and an informative interview, highly recommended.








Written by Michael Den Boer

Wake Up And Kill – Arrow Video (Blu-ray/DVD Combo) 

Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1966
Director: Carlo Lizzani
Writers: Carlo Lizzani, Ugo Pirro
Cast: Robert Hoffmann, Gian Maria Volonté, Claudio Camaso, Renato Niccolai, Ottavio Fanfani, Pupo De Luca, Corrado Olmi, Lisa Gastoni

Release Date: November 23rd, 2015 (UK), November 24th, 2015 (USA)
Approximate Running Times: 123 Minutes 51 Seconds (Italian Version), 97 Minutes 38 Seconds (English Version)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (Both Versions)
Rating: 15 (UK), NR (USA)
Sound: LPCM Mono Italian (Italian Version), LPCM Mono English (English Version)
Subtitles: English (Italian Version), English SDH (English Version)
Region Coding: Region A,B/Region 1,2 NTSC
Retail Price: £19.99 (UK), $29.95 (USA)

"During the 1960s Luciano Lutring committed more than one hundred armed robberies in Italy and on the French Riviera. To the media he was the machine gun soloist , a name he d earned as he kept his weapon in a violin case. To the public he was a romantic figure, one who only targeted the wealthy, stealing more than 35 billion lire during his criminal career.

Wake Up and Kill was the logical extension of such fame. It became the first feature to commit Lutring s story to celluloid, shooting having begun mere months after his eventual arrest." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4/5 (Italian Version), 3.75/5 (English Version)

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, "Brand new 2K restoration of the film from the original camera negative."

Wake Up And Kill comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 45.2 GB

Feature: 25 GB (Italian Version), 19.8 GB (English Version)

The source used for the Italian version is in great shape. Color reproduction is solid, the image looks crisp, black levels and shadow detail are consistently strong throughout, and grain looks natural.

The source used for the English language version’s transfer is on par with the longer Italian language version. The only area where they differ is that there is slightly more print debris during the opening moments of the English language version.

Audio: 4.5/5

This release comes with one audio option for each version. 

The Italian version comes with an LPCM mono mix in Italian and removable English subtitles. There are no issues with distortion or background noise, and the dialog is always clear and everything sounds balanced. Also, this audio track exhibits solid range and depth. This film’s score benefits most from this audio mix. 

The English version comes with an LPCM mono mix in English and removable English SDH subtitles. The audio track for the English language version is on par with the longer Italian language version.

Extras:

The extras for this release include an English language trailer for Wake Up and Kill (1 minute 18 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), an English language version of the film under the title Wake Up and Kill, reversible cover art, and a twenty-eight page booklet with cast and crew information, an essay titled The Machine Gun Soloist written by Robert Curti, and information about the transfer.

Included with this release is a DVD that has the same content as the Blu-Ray included as part of this combo release.

Summary:

The plot is based on the real-life exploits of Luciano Lutring, who carried out hundreds of robberies in Italy and France during the 1960’s. He would be finally caught on September 1st, 1965, in Paris, France. Narrative wise, this film follows Luciano Lutring from his humble beginnings as a small-time crook who becomes bolder as he becomes more well-known due to the press coverage of his robberies. The film culminates with his capture in France.

Content wise, there are many elements in Wake Up and Kill that would later become synonymous with the Poliziotteschi, an Italian film genre that rose to prominence in the 1970’s. And besides the usual suspects, it's the cops versus the criminals. When it comes to its criminals, Wake Up and Kill actually breaks things down into two distinctively different fractions: those who are freelancers who steal for themselves and those who are part of a crime family. And nowhere is this more accentuated than in the scene where Luciano, who is now in France and unable to get anyone to buy the jewels he stole, is brought in.

All the main characters are well-defined, and their motivations are never in doubt. And though there is an ample amount of time spent exploring the more dramatic side of Luciano Lutring’s story, When it comes to more action-oriented moments, Wake Up and Kill delivers the goods and then some. One of this film’s strengths is its ability to balance drama and action.

Another strength of Wake Up and Kill is its ability to create tension and sustain it. And not to be overlooked is Wake Up and Kill's solid visuals which greatly add to the story at hand. Also, from a pacing stand point things move along a deliberate pacing that ensures that there are more peaks then valleys.

From a performance stand point the entire cast are all very good in their respective roles. With the standout performances coming Robert Hoffmann (Grand Slam, Spasmo) in the role of Luciano Lutring and Lisa Gastoni (The Maniacs, Seduction) in the role of Yvonne, Luciano’s love interest. These two actors’ have a tremendous amount of chemistry and the scenes where they interact are the one that resonate most. Other notable performances include, Gian Maria Volonté (A Bullet for the General, The Red Circle) in the role of an Italian inspector named Moroni and Volonté’s brother Claudio Camaso (Vengeance) in the role of Franco Magni, Yvonne’s jealous ex-lover. Ultimately, Wake Up And Kill a riveting crime drama that Poliziotteschi fans are sure to thoroughly enjoy.

Wake Up and Kill gets a strong release from Arrow Video that comes with a solid audio/video presentation and two versions of the film, recommended.








Written by Michael Den Boer

Monday, November 29, 2021

Stunt Squad - Raro Video (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1977
Director: Domenico Paolella
Writers: Domenico Paolella and Dardano Sacchetti
Cast: Marcel Bozzuffi, Vittorio Mezzogiorno, Riccardo Salvino

Release Date: September 30th, 2014
Approximate running time: 96 minutes 50 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / VC-1 Video
Rating: NR
Sound: LPCM Mono Italian, LPCM Mono English
Subtitles: English
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $29.95

"Shopkeepers have been terrorized by a protection racket in Bologna, and the racketeers have found sneaky ways of planting explosives in the businesses of those who won't pay. Police Inspector Grifi (Marcel Bozzuffi, THE FRENCH CONNECTION) tries to get information from witnesses and criminal informants, but they're all brutally murdered. Grifi has no choice but to form a special squad -- one not bound by the red tape that restricts other cops -- who chase the racketeers with daredevil stunt driving and fight them with precision gunplay." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 2.5/5

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, "New HD transfer."

Stunt Squad comes on a 25 GB single layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 22.5 GB

Feature: 20.5 GB

Colors look correct, black levels fare well, and details generally look crisp. That said, this transfer has many of the issues that have plagued Raro Video’s Blu-ray releases.

Audio: 3.5/5

This release comes with two audio options: a LPCM Mono mix in Italian and a LPCM Mono mix in English. Both audio mixes sound clear and balanced throughout. Though range-wise, they both tend to sound rather limited. Also included with this release are removable English subtitles.

Extras:

The extras for this release include an introduction to the film with Italian crime cinema expert Mike Malloy (6 minutes 18 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles) and an eight-page booklet with cast and crew information and an essay titled Stunt Squad Occasionally Flies High, More Often Goes Deep written by Mike Malloy.

Summary:

This film’s English-language title, "Stunt Squad," kind of misleads one as to what this film is going to be about. Where the police are defeated, the English translation of this film’s Italian language title, La polizia è sconfitta, leaves no doubt about what is about to unfold in this film.

At the core of this film is a story about a protection racket and its leader, who is terrorizing those that refuse to pay him extortion money. And despite their best efforts, this man always seems to allude the police, which only further infuriates them. When there appear to be no more options, the police then allow one of their own to form what is essentially a vigilante squad to take down these violent criminals.

Though Stunt Squad has all the ingredients that one has come to expect from the Poliziotteschi (Italian police procedurals) film genre, like elaborate car/motorcycle chases and an ample amount of carnage, The characters who populate this film, in the end, prove to be its most enduring asset. Needless to say there is no doubt what everyone’s motivations are?

From a production standpoint, Stunt Squad’s visuals are top-notch throughout, and the pacing never proves to be an issue as things are constantly moving forward rapidly. Also, when it comes to the action set pieces and death sequences, they are all well executed. A few standout moments of carnage include a snitch whose throat is slit while he recovers at a hospital, and all of this happens under the watchful eye of the police who are just outside his door. Another great moment also involves another snitch who, this time around, gets a knife in his manhood and then a firearm is used to put him out of his misery. And not to be overlooked is this film’s finale, which easily ranks as one of the most jaw-dropping to ever come out of this genre.

From a performance stand point the entire are all very good in their respective roles, with this film’s most memorable performance coming from Vittorio Mezzogiorno (Milano violenta) in the role of Valli, who is arguably one of the most sadistic criminals to appear in a Poliziotteschi film. Another performance of note is Marcel Bozzuffi (The French Connection) in the role of the man given the task of capturing Valli. Ultimately, Stunt Squad is a vastly underrated film that has languished for far too long in obscurity.

Stunt Squad gets a lackluster transfer from Raro Video that leaves plenty of room for improvement.









Written by Michael Den Boer

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Meet Him and Die - Raro Video (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1976
Director: Franco Prosperi
Writers: Peter Berling, Antonio Cucca, Claudio Fragasso, Alberto Marras
Cast: Ray Lovelock, Martin Balsam, Elke Sommer, Heinz Domez, Ettore Manni, Peter Berling, Riccardo Cucciolla, Ernesto Colli

Release Date: April 1st, 2014
Approximate running time: 93 minutes 35 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 1.76:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / VC-1 Video
Rating: NR
Sound: LPCM Mono Italian, LPCM Mono English
Subtitles: English
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $29.95

"Things go wrong for a hapless criminal knocking off a jewelry store. He is caught by the store's security system, and then sent to jail. It doesn't take long, however, for him to befriend a big time crime boss inside, and the two execute a successful escape. But do we really know the background of these criminals, and what is motivating them?" - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 2/5

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, "Digitally restored."

Meet Him and Die comes on a 25 GB single layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 21 GB

Feature: 19.3 GB

For this release, Raro has created a new digital restoration that improves upon their previous home video release. Though shot with an intended soft focus look, the image ranges generally look crisp too, a tad too soft. Black and contrast levels are average at best. There are mild issues with compression and DNR throughout to varying degrees. Also, this transfer has that odd ‘grain’ look that has plagued so many Italian films from this era that have been released on Blu-ray.

Audio: 3.5/5 (LPCM Mono Italian), 3/5 (LPCM Mono English)

This release comes with two audio options: a LPCM Mono mix in Italian and a LPCM Mono mix in English. The differences between the two audio mixes are minimal. There are no issues with distortion; the dialog comes through clearly enough to follow and everything sounds balanced. Also, the action sequences and the film’s score sound appropriately robust. Included with this release are removable English subtitles.

Extras:

Extras for this release include an interview with Italian crime cinema expert Mike Malloy (6 minutes 34 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), a slipcover and a twelve-page booklet with cast & crew information, an essay titled Dead Serious and Exemplary: Meet Him and Die written by Mike Malloy, a biography and filmography for director Franco Prosperi. 

Summary:

Content-wise, Meet Him and Die is equal parts Italian crime thriller and revenge-themed film rooted in redemption. The first act does a superb job of setting up who everyone is and what their motivations are. It is also the first act that contains a major plot twist, which is ultimately the backbone of Meet Him and Die's narrative. By the time the second act rolls around, things tend to lean more towards action-oriented moments. Most notably, a pair of shot-out scenes between rival gangs, one of which leads to the first two jaw-dropping chase scenes. And as good as things are leading up to this final act, Meet Him and Die saves its best for last. This includes that aforementioned second chase sequence where the protagonist has just had his cargo hijacked and he steals a motorbike to catch the truck carrying his cargo.

Meet Him and Die’s visuals do a great job of reinforcing the grittiness that surrounds the characters. Pacing is never an issue as things move along at a very brisk pace from one revelation to the next. Besides the aforementioned chase sequences, another standout moment visually is a flashback sequence involving the protagonist. If there was a scene in Meet Him and Die that did not gel that well, that scene would be the love scene between the protagonist and his new boss’s secretary.

The most surprising aspect of Meet Him and Die is the performances of its entire cast, who are very good in their respective roles. With the strongest performance coming from Ray Lovelock (Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man) in the role of the protagonist, a character named Massimo Torlani, He delivers a pitch-perfect performance that makes his character's journey all the more credible. The most memorable performance comes from Martin Balsam (Psycho) in the role of Giulianelli, the crime boss that employs Torlani. His character gets to say the most amusing lines of dialog.

Though Meet Him and Die has all the elements one would expect and want from an Italian crime thriller, the way in which Meet Him and Die employs these staples of the genre is not its strength. Ultimately, Meet Him and Die's most durable asset is its premise, which revolves around a protagonist looking for his redemption through vengeance.

Meet Him and Die gets a mediocre transfer from Raro Video that leaves plenty of room for improvement.









Written by Michael Den Boer

Friday, November 26, 2021

Cinematic Vengeance: Limited Edition Box Set – Eureka Video (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Dates: Taiwan, 1977 (The 7 Grandmasters), Taiwan/Hong Kong, 1982 (The 36 Deadly Styles), Hong Kong, 1979 (The World of Drunken Master, The Old Master), Taiwan, 1974 (Shaolin Kung Fu), Taiwan, 1975 (The Shaolin Kids), Taiwan/Hong Kong, 1976 (18 Bronzemen, Return of the 18 Bronzemen)
Director: Joseph Kuo (All Films)
Cast: Yi-Min Li, Jack Long, Kuan-Wu Lung, Nancy Yen (The 7 Grandmasters), Jang-Lee Hwang, Jeanie Chang, Lik Cheung, Kuan-Wu Lung, Jack Long, Bolo Yeung (The 36 Deadly Styles), Jack Long, Yi-Min Li, Jeanie Chang, Kuan-Wu Lung, Siu-Tin Yuen (The World of Drunken Master), Jim-Yuen Yu, Bill Louie, Siu-nam Ng (The Old Master), Chiang-Lung Wen, Hung Yi, Ping Lu, Shan-shan Yang, Yuan Yi (Shaolin Kung Fu), Polly Ling-Feng Shang-Kuan, Peng Tien, Carter Wong, Cheung Yeh (The Shaolin Kids), Polly Ling-Feng Shang-Kuan, Peng Tien, Carter Wong, Yi Chang, Nan Chiang, Yuan Yi (18 Bronzemen), Carter Wong, Polly Ling-Feng Shang-Kuan, Peng Tien (Return of the 18 Bronzemen)

Release Date: November 22nd, 2021
Approximate Running Times: 88 Minutes 41 Seconds (The 7 Grandmasters), 92 Minutes 17 Seconds (The 36 Deadly Styles), 88 Minutes 11 Seconds (The World of Drunken Master), 88 Minutes 1 Second (The Old Master), 92 Minutes 10 Seconds (Shaolin Kung Fu), 87 Minutes 59 Seconds (The Shaolin Kids), 95 Minutes 3 Seconds (18 Bronzemen), 92 Minutes 6 Seconds (Return of the 18 Bronzemen)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVCC (All Films)
Rating: 15 (UK)
Sound: LPCM Mono Cantonese (The 7 Grandmasters, The World of Drunken Master, The Old Master), LPCM Mono Mandarin (The 7 Grandmasters, The 36 Deadly Styles, The World of Drunken Master, The Old Master, Shaolin Kung Fu, 18 Bronzemen, Return of the 18 Bronzemen), LPCM Mono English (The 7 Grandmasters, The 36 Deadly Styles, The World of Drunken Master, The Old Master, Shaolin Kung Fu, Return of the 18 Bronzemen)
Subtitles: English (All Films)
Region Coding: Region B
Retail Price: £46.99

"Although his name may not be as instantly recognizable as some of his contemporaries, Joseph Kuo was an incredibly successful filmmaker who consistently produced crowd-pleasing spectacles always in line with what audiences at the time wanted to see.

Often handling writing, directing, and producing duties, the success of this multi-hyphenate filmmaker is even more remarkable considering that the majority of his films were produced independently, at a time when the kung-fu genre was dominated by the big Hong Kong studios. Cinematic Vengeance! collects eight of these independent productions, all fully restored and making their worldwide debuts on Blu-ray." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4/5 (The 7 Grandmasters, The 36 Deadly Styles, Shaolin Kung Fu, 18 Bronzemen, Return of the 18 Bronzemen), 3.75/5 (The World of Drunken Master, The Old Master)

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, "fully restored and presented in 1080p HD."

The 7 Grandmasters and The 36 Deadly Styles comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 45.5 GB

Feature: 23 GB (The 7 Grandmasters), 22.4 GB (The 36 Deadly Styles)

The World of Drunken Master and The Old Master comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 45.8 GB

Feature: 22.9 GB (The World of Drunken Master), 22.7 GB (The Old Master)

Shaolin Kung Fu and The Shaolin Kids comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 43.5 GB

Feature: 22.3 GB (Shaolin Kung Fu), 21.1 GB (The Shaolin Kids)

18 Bronzemen and Return of the 18 Bronzemen comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 45.2 GB

Feature: 16 GB (18 Bronzemen), 16.9 GB (Return of the 18 Bronzemen), 12.2 GB (18 Bronzemen - Hong Kong version)

The sources used for these transfers look very good. Colors and flesh tones fare well, and though the image generally looks crisp, in darker scenes the image is not as crisp. Also, compression is very good and there does not appear to be any egregious DNR.

Audio: 4.25/5 (LPCM Mono Mandarin), 4/5 (LPCM Mono Cantonese), 3.75/5 (LPCM Mono English)

All films come with a LPCM mono mix in Mandarin. The 7 Grandmasters, The World of the Drunken Master and The Old Master, also come with a LPCM mono mix in Cantonese. The 7 Grandmasters, The 36 Deadly Styles, The World of Drunken Master, The Old Master, Shaolin Kung Fu and Return of the 18 Bronzemen, also come with a LPCM mono mix in English. All films come with removable English subtitles and a second English subtitle track for Chinese text.

Quality-wise, all of the audio tracks are in good shape. Any sibilance issues are minor. Dialog comes through clearly, ambient sounds are well-represented, and fight scenes sound robust. That said, the Mandarin audio tracks sound superior to their English-language counterparts. Range-wise, the Mandarin audio tracks sound fuller than their English-language counterparts.

Extras:

Extras for this release include an audio commentary with Asian film expert Frank Djeng and martial artist and filmmaker Michael Worth for The 7 Grandmasters, an audio commentary with  action cinema experts Mike Leeder and Arne Venema for The 36 Deadly Styles, an audio commentary with Frank Djeng and Michael Worth for The World of Drunken Master, an audio commentary with Mike Leeder and Arne Venema for The Old Master, an audio commentary with Mike Leeder and Arne Venema for Shaolin Kung Fu, an audio commentary with Mike Leeder and Arne Venema for The Shaolin Kids, an audio commentary with Frank Djeng and film writer John Charles (The Hong Kong Filmography, 1977–1997) for 18 Bronzemen and Return of the 18 Bronzemen and 18 Bronzemen: The Hong Kong Version – a reconstruction of the original theatrical release version of 18 Bronzemen (101 minutes, LPCM mono Mandarin, LPCM mono English, removable English subtitles).

Limited-edition (2000 copies) extras include a set of 8 facsimile lobby cards, a hardbound case and a sixty-page booklet featuring new writing on the films included in the set written by James Oliver, cast & crew information, illustrated with archival imagery and materials and information about the transfers titled Notes on Viewing.

Summary:

The 7 Grandmasters: The plot revolves around an older master whose retirement is delayed when he is confronted by seven masters who challenge him. The narrative is essentially the old master's journey as he takes on seven masters.

Though the premise retreads all too familiar ground, The result is a fun film that works so well because of its fight sequences. Most notably, each master has their own unique fighting style.

Besides the old master versus the seven masters angle, there’s an unwanted student character who eventually becomes the old masters' best student. And though this character is chosen to be the old master's successor, The finale pits a student against his master because of something that happened in the past. Ultimately, The Seven Grandmasters is a well-made martial arts film that fans of classic martial arts cinema should thoroughly enjoy.

The 36 Deadly Styles: The plot revolves around evil henchmen who will do anything, even kill, to get their hands on a book about the 36 deadly styles. 

From its opening moments, it's clear that The 36 Deadly Styles has its shortcomings. Most notably, a haphazard plot that suffers from some tone shifts. But there is a darker tone to most of what unfolds. The use of humor often misses its mark.

That said, the fight sequences are well-executed, and the narrative does a good job of relaying backstory through flashbacks. Bolo Yeung (Chinese Hercules), in a ridiculous wig, does what he does best: flex and look menacing. Also, like so many martial arts films from this era, music from another unrelated film has been appropriated. In this case, that music is from The Pink Panther. Ultimately, The 36 Deadly Styles is a mildly entertaining martial arts film whose cons outweigh its pros.

The World of Drunken Master: Cannibalizing another successful film, or in this case, a fighting style, drunken martial arts, was never a problem for martial arts cinema. That said, when one thinks of drunken martial arts, all films are overshadowed by Jackie Chan’s Drunken Master.

The plot revolves around a drunken master who takes on two pupils. From there, the pupils go through rigorous training. And the finale sees them avenging their master's death.

Though the World of the Drunken Master covers familiar ground, There’s something highly entertaining about drunken martial arts fighting sequences. That said, all the fight sequences deliver and then some. Ultimately, The World of the Drunken Master is a top-tier martial arts film.

The Old Master: An aged master is lured from Hong Kong to help pay for gambling debts by tricking him into fights that they are betting on. After the master discovers he was being used, he then teams up with the only person who did not betray him, and they become this student. 

From its opening moments, it's hard not to shake your head at this absurd premise. It’s also clear that Jim-Yuen Yu, who’s cast in the role of the old master, does not do most of his characters' fighting.

The Old Master is not the type of film that’s going to end up on anyone’s top martial arts film list. The fight scenes are mediocre, there’s disco dancing, and even unintentional humor is not enough to save this film.

Shaolin Kung Fu: The plot revolves around a rickshaw driver who promises his blind wife that he will never fight again. Along the way, he is forced into action when a rival rickshaw company tries to eliminate competition. From there, the death of his wife at the hands of the rival rickshaw company forces him to unleash his deadly fighting skills.

If you feel like you have seen this film before, it is because it borrows many elements from Bruce Lee’s The Big Boss. Fortunately, the result is a film that holds its own beyond the similarities.

The fight sequences are very good, especially the sequence where the rickshaw driver and his wife are being held captive. With the finale serving up the best fight sequence, Ultimately, Shaolin Kung Fu is a solid example of classic martial arts cinema of the 1970’s.

The Shaolin Kids: The plot revolves around a woman who poses as a male guard to gain entrance to a castle where her father is being held hostage. The reason behind her father's being held captive has to do with a royal member of the court's plot to kill the king.

The Shaolin Kids have all the elements that are synonymous with Wuxia martial arts. And though the premise covers familiar ground, The result is a film that does a great job balancing exposition moments and fight sequences.

From the start, the story moves quickly and builds to a climactic conclusion. Though the fight sequences are well-executed, they’re fairly standard for Wuxia martial arts. Ultimately, The Shaolin Kids is a film that fans of Wuxia martial arts will get the most mileage out of.

18 Bronzemen: The son of a Ming dynasty general seeks refuge in a Shaolin temple from those who murdered his father. And while at the Shaolin temple, the son is trained in martial arts that will help him avenge his murdered father.

Though the revenge premise is one of the most used in martial arts cinema. The way it's used in 18 Bronzemen is almost as an afterthought as this film’s main attraction are the 18 Bronzemen. What are the 18 Bronzemen, they’re part of a treacherous course inside of the Shaolin temple where a martial arts fighter tests their skills.

Of course, the sequence involving the 18 Bronzemen is this film’s greatest strength. And though the fight sequences are generally very good. They all pale in comparison to the 18 Bronzemen sequences. Also, the fight sequences are a good mix of hand to hand combat and weapons. Ultimately, 18 Bronzemen is a solid film that fans of classic martial arts cinema should thoroughly enjoy.  

Return of the 18 Bronzemen: Fearing that the Shaolin disciples will challenge them, the Manchurian Emperor enters the Shaolin temple under false pretenses to study martial arts.

There are many parallels that can be drawn between the Return of the 18 Bronzemen and its predecessor, the 18 Bronzemen. Both films revolve around a protagonist that learns martial arts by taking the 18 Bronzemen challenge at the Shaolin temple. And the main attraction of both films is the 18 Bronzemen fight sequences.

That said, despite their similarities, tone-wise, the two films could not be farther apart. Whereas the protagonist in 18 Bronzemen only wanted to avenge his murdered father. The protagonist in Return of the 18 Bronzemen's motives are nefarious; he only wants to learn from the Shaolin monks so he can exploit what he’s learned against them. Ultimately, Return of the 18 Bronzemen is another example of a sequel that fails to equal or exceed its predecessor.

Though some of the films in Cinematic Vengeance are not top-tier martial arts films, Most of the films are good examples of what one considers classic martial arts cinema. That said, Eureka Video has assembled an impressive set that gives eight films strong video presentations that come with multiple audio options, insightful audio commentaries for each film, and an information book, highly recommended.





 



































Written by Michael Den Boer

Giallo Essentials Collection (Yellow Edition) – Arrow Video (Blu-ray) Theatrical Release Dates: Italy, 1973 (Torso), Italy, 1974 (What Have...