Monday, July 18, 2022

Martial Club – 88 Films (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: Hong Kong, 1981
Director: Chia-Liang Liu (Lau Kar-Leung)
Writer: Kuang Ni
Cast: Chia-Hui Liu (Gordon Liu), Kara Wai, Te-Lo Mai, Hou Hsiao, Lung-Wei Wang, Feng Ku

Release Date: July 19th, 2022
Approximate Running Time: 107 Minutes 39 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVCC
Rating: NR
Sound: DTS-HD Mono Cantonese, DTS-HD Mono English
Subtitles: English
Region Coding: Region A,B
Retail Price: $29.95

"A gloriously typical entry from Shaw Brothers, Martial Club starring Kara Wei (THE BRAVE ARCHER 2 and MAD MONKEY KUNG FU) and Gordon Liu (THE 36TH CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN) and directed by Lau Kar-Leung (LEGENDARY WEAPONS OF CHINA), affords us a fast-paced, cleverly choreographed piece of martial arts fun combining many elements that lovers of this kind of cinema will be more than appreciative of. Rival fight schools, an old master and beautifully designed set pieces tumble together in a colourfully kinaesthetic unceasing parade of flying fists and action set pieces." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 3.75/5

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, "HD transfer from the original negative."

Martial Club comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 45.1 GB

Feature: 20.4 GB (Martial Club), 14.7 GB (Instructors of Death)

The source used for this transfer is in great shape. Colors saturation and image clarity are strong throughout, and though black levels look very good, there are few moments where they are not as strong.

Audio: 4/5 (DTS-HD Mono Cantonese), 3.5/5 (DTS-HD Mono English)

This release comes with two audio options, a DTS-HD mono mix in Cantonese and a DTS-HD mono mix in English. The Cantonese language track is in great shape; dialog always comes through clearly, everything sounds balanced, and fight scenes sound robust. The English language track does not fare as well. There are a few moments where the levels fluctuate, and a few other minor audio imperfections. Included with this release are removable English subtitles for the Cantonese language track. It should be noted that there is one sentence in Cantonese when watching the English language track, and the only subtitles are ones for the Cantonese language track.


Extras for this release include a theatrical trailer (3 minutes 27 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Cantonese with burnt-in English subtitles), U.S. theatrical trailer under the title Instructors of Death (1 minute 3 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), an interview with producer Lawrence Wong titled The Right Hand Man (41 minutes 2 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Chinese with removable English subtitles), an interview with stuntman Hung San Nam and Tony Tam titled Disciples of Shaolin (25 minutes 16 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Chinese with removable English subtitles), an interview with actor Johnny Wang titled Born to be Bad (2 minutes 10 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Chinese with removable English subtitles), an interview with actor Robert Mak titled Kung Fu and Dancing (13 minutes 22 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English with non-removable English subtitles), a grindhouse presentation of the U.S. release version titled Instructors of Death (105 minutes 22 seconds, DTS-HD mono English, no subtitles), an audio commentary with Asian cinema expert Frank Djeng and actor/martial artist Michael Worth, a second audio commentary with Frank Djeng, reversible cover art, a double-sided foldout poster, a limited edition slipcover and a twenty-four page booklet with an essay titled From Martial Club to Instructors of Death written by Barry Forshaw.


One of the great things about martial arts cinema is how diverse it is when it comes to genres. Some are wall-to-wall action, others are action/comedy hybrids, and some martial arts films have dabbled in the realm of horror cinema. Another thing that martial arts cinema does really well is shift from the serious to the absurd. That said, though most fans of martial arts cinema gravitate to the more serious martial arts films, there's something magical when a martial arts film finds that balance between action and humor.

The scenario for Martial Club follows familiar territory; rival martial arts schools (clubs) are at odds with each other. One of the martial arts schools (clubs) is willing to coexist, while the other is hellbent on eliminating all competition. There is also a sub-plot where two competitive friends square off in a series of fights to see whose skills are superior. And instead of fighting each other, they select random strangers, who have been paid ahead of time to let them win.

Directed by Chia-Liang Liu (Lau Kar-Leung), whose other notable films include The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, Legendary Weapons of China, The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter, and The Legend of the Drunken Master. Though light on plot, Martial Club more than makes up for it with its wall-to-wall action set pieces. Standout moments include an ambush scene at an opera theater where lights are broken to help even the playing field, and the finale that starts off as an exhibition of fighting skills where characters show off their skills with fabric. From there, bags of rice are thrown into the mix, with the sequence culminating in a lengthy alley that becomes narrower.

The cast are all very good in their roles, especially Chia-Hui Liu (Gordon Liu) in the role of the hero, a character named Huang Fei-Hong. This role does a superb job of showcasing his prowess as a martial artist. Other notable cast members include Kara Wai (My Young Auntie) in the role of Huang Fei-hong’s rival sister, and Lung-Wei Wang (Dirty Ho) in the role of a martial arts master from northern China who’s been brought in to assist the school that’s trying to eliminate its competition. Ultimately, Martial Club is a highly entertaining film that perfectly mixes action and humor.

Martial Club gets a solid release from 88 Films that comes with a strong audio/video presentation and an abundance of informative extras, recommended.

Written by Michael Den Boer

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