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

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

The Righteous – Arrow Video (Blu-ray) Theatrical Release Date: Canada, 2021 Director: Mark O'Brien Writer: Mark O'Brien Cast: Henry...