Friday, December 30, 2022

Lady Whirlwind & Hapkido – Arrow Video (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Dates: Hong Kong/South Korea, 1972 (Hapkido), Hong Kong, 1972 (Lady Whirlwind)
Director: Feng Huang (Both Films)
Cast: Angela Mao, Carter Wong, Sammo Kam-Bo Hung, Han Jae Ji, Kung-chan, Ying Bai, Nancy Sit (Hapkido), Angela Mao, Chang Yi, Ying Bai, Kyung-Ah Oh, Sammo Kam-Bo Hung (Lady Whirlwind) 

Release Date: January 17th, 2023
Approximate running times: 97 Minutes 29 Seconds (Hapkido), 88 Minutes 57 Seconds (Lady Whirlwind)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (Both Films)
Rating: NR
Sound: DTS-HD Mono Mandarin, DTS-HD Mono English "Vintage Kung Fu Dub", DTS-HD Mono English "Vintage Hapkido Dub", DTS-HD 5.1 English "Revised Dub" (Hapkido), DTS-HD Mono Mandarin, DTS-HD Mono English (Lady Whirlwind)
Subtitles: English (Both Films)
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $39.95

"When director Huang Feng (The Shaolin Plot) jumped ship from Shaw Brothers to their upstart rivals Golden Harvest, he swiftly launched the career of a Taiwanese ingenue barely out of Beijing opera school named Angela Mao, who despite her fresh-faced femininity became one of Hong Kong's toughest action icons of the 1970s. Lady Whirlwind, directed by Huang in 1972, sees Mao dead set on avenging the death of her sister, only to find herself fighting a common enemy alongside the man she wants revenge on. Hapkido, made the same year, sees her once more pitted against a gang of Japanese thugs, alongside fellow soon-to-be kung fu legends Sammo Hung (Knockabout) and Carter Wong (Big Trouble in Little China) as disciples of the titular Korean fighting style, studying under real-life hapkido grandmasters Ji Han-jae (Game of Death) and Hwang In-shik (The Way of the Dragon). Originally released in the US as Deep Thrust and Lady Kung Fu respectively, these two restored martial arts classics show Mao at her mightiest - every bit as formidable as the great Bruce Lee, whose sister she played in Enter the Dragon the following year." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4/5 (Hapkido), 4.25/5 (Lady Whirlwind)

Here’s the information provided about the transfers, "Both films were restored in 2K resolution from original film elements by Fortune Star, who supplied these masters to Arrow Video for this Blu-ray release. Additional audio elements were supplied by Irongod2112 and other collectors, and the 35mm trailer for Deep Thrust (Lady Whirlwind) was kindly provided for scanning by Scott Napier. Additional audio sync work on both features was performed by Þorsteein Gislason."

Hapkido comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 45.3 GB

Feature: 28.6 GB

Lady Whirlwind comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 35.8 GB

Feature: 22.6 GB

The sources used for both transfers are in great shape, and they are on par with the other Fortune Star titles released in North America and the UK on Blu-ray. There are no issues when it comes to color saturation; flesh tones look correct; image clarity and compression are strong. That said, black levels for Lady Whirlwind fare better than they do for Hapkido.

Audio: 4.25/5 (DTS-HD Mono Mandarin, DTS-HD Mono English "Vintage Kung Fu Dub" - Hapkido, DTS-HD Mono English - Lady Whirlwind), 4/5 (DTS-HD Mono English "Vintage Hapkido Dub" - Hapkido, DTS-HD Mono Mandarin - Lady Whirlwind), 3.75/5 (DTS-HD 5.1 English "Revised Dub" - Hapkido)

Hapkido comes with four audio options, a DTS-HD mono mix in Mandarin; a DTS-HD mono mix in English titled Vintage Kung Fu Dub; a DTS-HD mono mix in English titled Vintage Hapkido Dub; and a DTS-HD 5.1 mix in English titled Revised Dub. The weakest of these four audio mixes is the DTS-HD 5.1 track, which pales in every way to the mono tracks. The strongest tracks are the Mandarin track and the English track titled Vintage Kung Fu Dub. The English track titled "Vintage Hapkido Dub" does not sound as robust as the other two mono tracks. Included with this release are two removable subtitle tracks: English for the Mandarin language track and English for Mandarin text/signs for the English language tracks.

Lady Whirlwind comes with two audio options, a DTS-HD mono mix in Mandarin and a DTS-HD mono mix in English. Both tracks are in great shape; dialog comes through clearly, everything sounds balanced, and fight scenes sound robust. That said, the sound effects are more pronounced on the English language track. Included with this release are two removable subtitle tracks: English for the Mandarin language track and English for Mandarin text/signs for the English language track.

Extras:

Extras for Lady Whirlwind include an image gallery (25 images-stills/posters/lobby cards), Hong Kong theatrical trailer (3 minutes 23 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Mandarin with burnt-in English and Cantonese subtitles), U.S. theatrical trailer under the title Deep Thrust (1 minute 55 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), U.S. radio spot under the title Deep Thrust (1 minute 1 second, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), alternate English language credits (1 minute 34 seconds, Dolby Digital mono), an interview with  Angela Mao’s son titled Kung Fu Cooking with Thomas King (31 minutes 49 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an interview with actress Angela Mao tilted Lady Whirlwind Speaks (13 minutes 19 seconds, Dolby Dolby stereo Chinese with removable English subtitles), an audio commentary with Frank Djeng (NY Asian Film Festival) and martial artist/actor Robert “Bobby” Samuels, an audio commentary with Asian film experts Frank Djeng and Michael Worth, and an audio commentary with film journalist and author Samm Deighan.

Extras for Hapkido include an image gallery (66 images-stills/lobby cards/posters/other promotional materials), Hong Kong theatrical trailer #1 (4 minutes 21 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Mandarin with removable English subtitles), Hong Kong theatrical trailer #2 (4 minutes 3 seconds, Dolby Digital mono with English text), U.S. theatrical trailer under the title Lady Kung Fu (1 minute 33 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), U.S. radio spot under the title Lady Kung Fu (58 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), alternate opening credits: textless opening (1 minute 32 seconds, Dolby Digital mono), Hapkido: English (1 minute 44 seconds, Dolby Digital mono), Lady Kung Fu (1 minute 44 seconds, Dolby Digital mono), original vintage featurette (6 minutes 40 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Mandarin with removable English subtitles), an archival interview with Angela Mao (16 minutes 59 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Chinese with removable English subtitles), an archival interview with actor Carter Wong (17 minutes 1 second, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an archival interview with actors Sammo Kam-Bo Hung and Yuen Biao (9 minutes 21 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English and Chinese with non-removable English subtitles for Chinese), an interview with Angela Mao tilted Lady Kung Fu Speaks (18 minutes 1 second, Dolby Dolby stereo Chinese with removable English subtitles), an audio commentary with Frank Djeng and Robert “Bobby” Samuels, and an audio commentary with  Frank Djeng and Michael Worth.

Other extras include reversible cover art, a slipcover (limited to first pressing), and twenty-eight page booklet (limited to first pressing) with cast and crew information, an essay titled Hurricane Angela written by James Oliver and information about the transfers.

Summary:

Hapkido: The thing that becomes clear when you watch enough martial arts films is just how many films recycle themes and or elements from other films. And though there are only so many premises to choose from, it is obvious when a film is trying to cash in on another film. That does not appear to be the case with Hapikdo, whose narrative revolves around a clash between the Chinese and their Japanese occupiers. If this premise sounds familiar, that is because it is most famous because of Bruce Lee’s Fist of Fury (The Chinese Connection).

Another thing that the most memorable martial arts films have in common are solid opening sequences. And in this regard, Hapkido delivers a spectacular opening sequence that perfectly sets the table for what is about to come. The title of the film, Hapkido, refers to a Korean fighting style, which is pitted against the Japanese occupiers' fighting style. And it should not come as a surprise that fight scenes are Hapkido’s greatest strength. Most of the fight scenes feature a character who is greatly outnumbered.

Hapkido features an excellent cast that is headed by Angela Mao (Enter the Dragon) in the role of Kao Yu Ying, Sammo Kam-Bo Hung (The Magnificent Butcher) in the role of Fan Wei, and in one of his first roles, Carter Wong (Big Trouble In Little China) in the role of Kao Chang. This trio of actors portray three martial artists who go to China to open a school that teaches Hapkido. Though Angela Mao, at that point, is the most recognizable name, Hapikdo is truly an ensemble cast where all three leads are given the spotlight to shine.

Hapkido, like so many Hong Kong martial arts films, features music borrowed from other sources, like the main theme, which is the Emerson, Lake and Palmer song Eruption. Another music cue I noticed was from Bernard Herrmann’s score for Psycho. Finding actors who would go on to stardom is another enjoyable aspect of martial arts films. Jackie Chan (Police Story) and Yuen Biao (Knockabout) make very brief appearances in Hapkido. Ultimately, what Hapkido lacks when it comes to narrative is more than made up for by its wall-to-wall action set pieces and the charisma of its three leads.

Lady Whirlwind: Revenge is one of the most used themes in martial arts cinema. And when it comes to revenge, there is nothing worse than someone else taking away your chance to exact revenge. This is the scenario that unfolds in Lady Whirlwind, which revolves around a character named Miss Tien, a woman who is driven by her sister's death and a need to hold the man she believes to be responsible.

The Lady Whirlwind immediately draws you in with its brutal opening sequence, where a mob beats a man within an inch of death. From there, it is revealed who this man was and how he plays into the revenge that Miss Tien seeks. He also has his own plans of revenge, and on a few occasions, he convinces her to let him have his revenge, then they fight. Unfortunately, she is forced to save him multiple times when others once again come close to killing him. Her determination to have her revenge and not let anyone else take that option away is the driving force of the story at hand.

The main attraction of Lady Whirlwind is Angela Mao’s (Deadly China Doll) performance, which carries Lady Whirlwind. She delivers a scene-stealing performance that overshadows anyone who shares a moment with her. That said, the only other performance of note is Ying Bai in the role of the main villain. He delivers a great performance that provides Lady Whirlwind with a formidable foe. Another performance of note is by Sammo Kam-Bo Hung (Iron Fisted Monk) in the role of one of the main villains' henchmen.

Like so many Hong Kong martial arts films, Lady Whirlwind features music borrowed from other sources, like music cues from Diamonds Are Forever, Vertigo, and Marnie. And when it comes to the fight sequences, though they are well-executed, they are not that memorable. Also, Lady Whirlwind, like Hapkido, would feature a scenario where Chinese and Japanese square off with their fighting styles. In this cast, Tai Chi vs Karate. Though Lady Whirlwind is an action-heavy film, it is light when it comes to narrative. The result is a film that fans of classic martial arts should enjoy.

Lady Whirlwind & Hapkido get an exceptional release from Arrow Video that comes with strong audio/video presentations for both films and an abundance of informative extras, highly recommended.


















Written by Michael Den Boer

Labyrinth of Cinema: Limited Edition SteelBook – Crescendo House (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 2019
Director: Nobuhiko Ôbayashi
Writers: Kazuya Konaka, Tadashi Naitô, Nobuhiko Ôbayashi
Cast: Tadanobu Asano, Takuro Atsuki, Mickey Curtis, Tokio Emoto, Yoshihiko Hosoda, Takahito Hosoyamada, Gorô Inagaki, Nenji Kobayashi, Shinnosuke Mitsushima, Takehiro Murata, Riko Narumi, Takashi Sasano, Tôru Shinagawa, Yukihiro Takahashi, Takako Tokiwa, Hiroyuki Watanabe, Hirona Yamazaki, Rei Yoshida, Nobuhiko Ôbayashi

Release Date: November 2nd, 2021
Approximate running time: 2 Hours 59 Minutes 9 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio’s / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: NR
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 Japanese, LPCM Stereo Japanese
Subtitles: English
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $49.99

"Filming in his hometown of Onomichi for the first time in 20 years, director Nobuhiko Ôbayashi’s new film invites us into an intoxicating cinematic world. Against a backdrop that traces the history of Japan’s wars, Labyrinth of Cinema shapeshifts between styles and genres, drawing influences from silent films, talkies, action flicks, musicals, and more – and creates something triumphantly unique in the process.

Ôbayashi, with a boundless optimism, showcases the raw energy within the medium and the power for cinema to enact real change, as three youths are transported through time into the projected world, fated to cross paths with three heroines through disparate timelines and settings within the silver screen.” – Synopsis provided by the Distributor

Video: 5/5

Labyrinth of Cinema comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 44.2 GB

Feature: 43.8 GB

Shot on Canon RAW (4K) (source format) and Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format). That said, the source looks excellent. Colors are nicely saturated and at times vivid; image clarity, black levels, and compression are solid. This is a solid transfer; it is hard to imagine this film looking better than this transfer. Labyrinth of Cinema, like many of Nobuhiko Ôbayashi’s other films, uses multiple aspect ratios. The main aspect ratio is 1.85:1, and other aspect ratios are boxed.

Audio: 5/5 (DTS-HD 5.1 Japanese, LPCM Stereo Japanese)

This release comes with two audio options, a DTS-HD 5.1 mix in Japanese and a LPCM stereo mix in Japanese. Both audio tracks sound excellent. They both sound clear, balanced, and robust when they should. A lot of work has gone into the sound design, and range-wise, both audio tracks do a superb job with ambient sounds and the score. Included with this release are removable English subtitles.

Extras:

The only extra on the Blu-ray disc that includes the main feature are an introduction by Kyôko Ôbayashi wife and daughter Chigumi Ôbayashi (1 minute 37 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Japanese with non-removable English subtitles).

Extras on a second Blu-ray disc include US theatrical trailer (1 minute 40 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Japanese with non-removable English subtitles), Japanese theatrical trailer (55 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Japanese with non-removable English subtitles), festival theatrical trailer (31 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Japanese with non-removable English subtitles), an interview with producer Kyôko Ôbayashi titled A Conversation with Mrs. Ôbayashi (17 minutes 33 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Japanese with non-removable English subtitles), and Notes from the Labyrinth (56 minutes, 33 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Japanese with non-removable English subtitles) a documentary with behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with Nobuhiko Ôbayashi and the cast.

Other extras include steelbook packaging, a plastic o-card slipcover, four postcards, and a thirty-six page booklet with cast & crew credits, an essay titled Dreaming Together in a Cinematic Labyrinth written by Eiko Ikegami, Eight poems by Chuya Nakahara (English version), Eight poems by Chuya Nakahara (Japanese version), director Nobuhiko Ôbayashi biography, and Director’s Statement.

Summary:

To call Nobuhiko Ôbayashi an unconventional filmmaker would be a massive understatement. He created a unique body of work that is unlike anything that has come before or since. And with his swan song, Labyrinth of Cinema, he delivers an exuberant explosion of cinematic language that those who are familiar with his other films will appreciate more than someone who is viewing a Nobuhiko Ôbayashi film for the first time.

Labyrinth of Cinema features a narrative where anything can happen. What starts off as a story about a cinema that is closing down quickly transforms into a celebration of cinema in which characters in the audience become part of the films they’re watching. Labyrinth of Cinema is both a celebration of cinema and a history lesson about Japanese wars. Labyrinth of Cinema, like Nobuhiko Ôbayashi's previous three films, is an anti-war film.

The performances are best described as enthusiastic. There is nothing conventional about the performances. There are many moments where characters acknowledge that they’re characters in a movie. That said, the performances work perfectly with the artificiality of Labyrinth of Cinema.

At just under three hours in length, Labyrinth of Cinema’s narrative moves along at a surprisingly brisk pace that ensures there is never a dull moment. Also, Labyrinth of Cinema is an exquisitely looking film that has a superbly constructed narrative that builds to a very satisfying climax. Finally, Labyrinth of Cinema is the ideal culmination of one of cinema's greatest auteurs.

Labyrinth of Cinema gets an exceptional release from Crescendo House that comes with a solid audio/video presentation and a trio of informative extras, highly recommended.








Written by Michael Den Boer

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Dragons Forever – 88 Films (4k UHD/Blu-ray Combo)

Theatrical Release Date: Hong Kong, 1988
Directors: Sammo Kam-Bo Hung, Corey Yuen
Writers: Gordon Chan, Leung Yiu-Ming , Szeto Cheuk-Hon
Cast: Jackie Chan, Sammo Kam-Bo Hung, Yuen Biao, Pauline Yeung, Deannie Ip, Wah Yuen, Benny Urquidez

Release Date: January 10th, 2023
Approximate Running Times: 94 Minutes 19 Seconds (Hong Kong Cut), 98 Minutes (Japanese Cut), 94 Minutes 11 Seconds (International Cut)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 2160 Progressive / HEVC / H.265 / Dolby Vision HDR10 (All Versions)
Rating: NR
Sound: Dolby Atmos Cantonese, DTS-HD Mono Cantonese, DTS-HD Mono English (Hybrid Dub), DTS-HD 5.1 English (2002 Remix)
Subtitles: English (Hong Kong Cut, Japanese Cut), English SDH (International Cut)
Region Coding: Region Free (4K UHD), Region A,B (Blu-ray)
Retail Price: $44.98

"Hotshot lawyer Jackie Lung (Jackie Chan) is hired to defend the owner of a factory which, unbeknownst to him, is the centre of a clandestine narcotics syndicate. He enlists resourceful acquaintances Wong Fei-Hung (Sammo Hung) and Dung Dak-Biu (Yuen Biao) to assist in the case, but loyalties begin to falter when romance blossoms between both sides." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 5/5 (4K UHD, Blu-Ray)

Here’s the information provided about the transfers, "4K restoration of the original Hong Kong version of Dragons Forever. 4K restoration of the English version of Dragons Forever. 4K restoration of the Japanese version of Dragons Forever."

Dragons Forever comes on a 100 GB triple layer 4K UHD.

Disc Size: 88 GB

Feature: 67.4 GB

88 Films uses the same 4K source that they used for their 2020 Blu-ray release for this 4K UHD release. Flesh tones and color saturation look perfect; image clarity, contrast, black levels, and compression are solid throughout, and the image looks organic. That said, the result is a stunning transfer that is arguably one of the best-looking transfers I have ever seen for a 1980s Hong Kong action film. This release uses seamless branching for the three versions included.

Dragons Forever comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 45.1 GB

Feature: 27.9 GB

The Blu-ray uses the same source that was used for the 4K UHD.

Audio: 5/5 (DTS-HD Mono Cantonese, DTS-HD Mono English 'Hybrid Dub'), 4.75/5 (Dolby Atmos Cantonese, DTS-HD 5.1 English '2002 Remix')

The Hong Kong cut comes with four audio options, a Dolby Atmos mix in Cantonese, a DTS-HD mono mix in Cantonese, a DTS-HD mono mix in English (Hybrid Dub), and a DTS-HD 5.1 mix in English (2002 Remix).

The Japanese cut comes with three audio options: a Dolby Atmos mix in Cantonese, a DTS-HD mono mix in Cantonese, and a DTS-HD mono mix in English (Hybrid Dub).

The International cut comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD mono mix in English (Hybrid Dub).

You really can’t go wrong with any of the audio options included with this release. All four audio tracks are in excellent shape. Dialog always comes through clearly, everything sounds balanced, and fight sequences sound appropriately robust. Having said that, the Dolby Atmos and DTS-HD 5.1 tracks, as well as the two remix tracks, provide very satisfying sound experiences that expand on the original mono sources. The two mono tracks are the strongest and most desirable audio experiences.

There are two English subtitle tracks for the Hong Kong cut and the Japanese cut. That said, none of the subtitle tracks match the English language tracks. Both of these tracks are similar and appear to be for the Cantonese language tracks. The International cut comes with English SDH subtitles. All of the subtitle tracks are removable.

Extras:

Extras for this release include Hong Kong theatrical trailer (3 minutes 13 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Cantonese with removable English subtitles), English theatrical trailer (2 minutes 20 seconds, LPCM mono English, no subtitles), additional Cantonese dialog (40 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Cantonese with removable English subtitles), music video (2 minutes 55 seconds, LPCM mono Cantonese with removable English subtitles and LPCM mono English, no subtitles), outtakes and behind the scenes (12 minutes 58 seconds, music from the film playing in the background), an interview with stuntmen Troy Sandford and Chris Jones, and filmmaker Boyask titled The Legacy of Dragons Forever (2 minutes 33 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an archival interview with actor Billy Chow titled The Breaker (34 minutes 11 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Chinese with non-removable English subtitles), an archival interview with stuntman Andy Cheng titled Kick Fighter (38 minutes 46 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an archival interview with martial arts/background performer Joe Eigo titled Beyond Gravity (13 minutes 2 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an archival interview with stuntman Brad Allen titled Double Jeopardy (26 minutes 36 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an interview with stuntman Jude Poyer titled Working With the Dragons (6 minutes 15 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an interview with Mike Leeder titled Hong Kong Cinema Forever (6 minutes 5 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an interview with film historian David Desser titled Discussing Dragons Forever (7 minutes, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an interview with actor Benny ‘The Jet’ Urquidez titled Benny Forever (24 minutes 36 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an interview with screenwriter Szeto Cheuk-Hon titled Writing for the Dragons (47 minutes 48 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Chinese with removable English subtitles), an interview with actor/stuntman Chin Kar Lok titled Elite Stuntman (34 minutes 17 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Chinese with removable English subtitles), an audio commentary with Frank Djang and Fj DeSanto for the Japanese cut and an audio commentary with Mike Leeder and Arne Venema for the Hong Kong cut. 

The 4K UHD disc and Blu-ray disc contain the same extras.

Other extras include reversible cover art, a large fold-out double sided poster, six replica Hong Kong lobby cards, and a eighty-eight page booklet with an essay titled The ‘Three Brothers’ and Dragons Forever written by Mathew Edwards, an essay titled Three Sisters: The Women of Dragons Forever written by C.J. Lines.

Summary:

Dragons Forever was co-directed by Sammo Kam-Bo Hung (Wheels on Meals) and Corey Yuen (Yes, Madam). And in the former's case, he is also one of Dragons Forever’s three leads. Dragons Forever was one of six films in the 1980s that starred Jackie Chan, Sammo Kam-Bo Hung, and Yuen Biao. The other five films are Winners and Sinners, Project A, Wheels on Meals, My Lucky Stars, and Twinkle, Twinkle, Lucky Stars.

Though Jackie Chan, Sammo Kam-Bo Hung, and Yuen Biao have all done exceptionally well on their own, When they work together as a trio, they create a synergy that their other films do not have. Another strength of their collaboration is that each actor is given equal screentime to shine.

Dragons Forever has a spectacular opening setup that does a fantastic job introducing its three leads: Jackie Lung, a playboy lawyer who bends the rules in the name of justice, an arms dealer named Wong Fei-Hung, and a career criminal named Dung Dak-Biu, who is very good at getting into places unnoticed. From there, the narrative does a superb job building towards an explosive finale in which these three characters have a showdown in a factory where illegal drugs are being made.

Of course the main draw of Dragons Forever is its three leads: Jackie Chan (Police Story), Sammo Kam-Bo Hung (The Magnificent Butcher), and Yuen Biao (On the Run). And though it is their exceptional fighting skills that dominate most of the screen time, It's also refreshing to see these three actors play characters who are diametrically opposed to the types of characters they're known to play.

Not to be overlooked are the performances from the rest of the cast, who are all great, especially Deanie Ip (The Lunatics) in the role of a landowner who is at odds with the criminal organization whose durg factory is polluting her lake and Pauline Yeung in the role of her cousin, who is also her lawyer. Other performances of note are Wah Yuen (Eastern Condors) in the role of a crime boss and Benny Urquidez in the role of henchmen.

From a production standpoint, there is no area where Dragons Forever does not deliver and then some. It is a film where everything is firing on all cylinders, and when it comes to action set pieces, each new sequence somehow tops the previous. Standout action set pieces include a scene where Jackie Lung, who is on a date on a boat, is surrounded by thugs wanting to do him harm, and he uses his surroundings to his advantage. And then there's the finale, which takes place in a factory where the henchmen vastly outnumber the good guys. This scene has some amazing moments, especially those where Yuen Biao gets to showcase his ridiculous agility and flexibility.

For their swan song as a trio, Jackie Chan, Sammo Kam-Bo Hung, and Yuen Biao deliver a highly entertaining film that showcases not only their talents but what Hong Kong action cinema was capable of before its decline in the 1990s.

Dragons Forever gets an exceptional release from 88 Films that comes with a solid audio/video presentation and an abundance of informative extras, highly recommended.

                                                               4K UHD screenshots.












Written by Michael Den Boer

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

The Fury – Arrow Video (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1978
Director: Brian De Palma
Writer: John Farris
Cast: Kirk Douglas, John Cassavetes, Carrie Snodgress, Charles Durning, Amy Irving, Fiona Lewis, Andrew Stevens, Carol Eve Rossen, Rutanya Alda, Joyce Easton, William Finley

Release Date: October 28th, 2013
Approximate Running Time: 117 Minutes 57 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 1.851 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: UK (18)
Sound: DTS-HD 4.0 Stereo English, DTS-HD Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
Region Coding: Region B
Retail Price: £19.99 (UK)

"John Cassavetes gives his most sinister performance since Rosemary's Baby as a man who kidnaps the telepathic son of his colleague (Kirk Douglas), aiming to turn him and similarly gifted individuals into human weapons. Meanwhile, Gillian (Amy Irving), is worried enough about the destructive potential of her own powers to agree to be institutionalised - but is the Paragon Institute all that it's cracked up to be?" - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 5/5

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, "The Fury has been exclusively restored by Arrow Video, Carlotta Films and Shock Entertainment for this release. All work was overseen by James Whale at Deluxe Digital Cinema - EMEA London.

The original 35mm negative was scanned in 2K resolution of a pin-registered Arriscan, and the film was fully graded using the Nucoda Film Master color grading system. Restoration work was carried out using a combination of software tools and techniques. Thousands of instances of dirt, scratches and debirs were carefully removed frame by frame. Damaged frames were repaired, and density and stability issues were significantly improved.

Throughout the restoration process, care was taken to ensure that the film's original texture, details, grain structure and soundtrack remained unaffected by digital processing."

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

Disc Size: 42.8 GB

Feature: 35 GB

This is a solid transfer that is vastly superior to the transfer that Twilight Time used for their Blu-ray release. Flesh tones look correct; color saturation, image clarity, contrast, black levels, and compression are solid; and the image looks organic.

Audio: 5/5 (DTS-HD 4.0 Stereo English, DTS-HD Mono English)

This release comes with two audio options, a DTS-HD 4.0 stereo mix in English and a DTS-HD mono mix in English. Both audio tracks sound great; dialog always comes through clearly, everything sounds balanced, ambient sounds are well-represented, and John Williams' score sounds robust. The main difference between these two audio mixes is that the stereo mix offers a slightly fuller sound experience. Included with this release are removable English SDH subtitles.

Extras:

Extras for this release include an image gallery, a theatrical trailer (3 minutes 2 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), a short film directed by Sam Irvin titled Double Negative (17 minutes 58 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), an archival interview with director Brian De Palma (6 minutes 3 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), an archival interview with producer Frank Yablans (6 minutes 52 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), an archival interview with actress Carrie Snodgrass (5 minutes 5 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), an archival interview with actress Amy Irvin (4 minutes 45 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), an interview with cinematographer Richard H. Kline titled Blood on Lens (27 minutes, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an interview with actress Fiona Lewis titled Spinning Tales (13 minutes 38 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an interview with filmmaker Sam Irvin titled The Fury: a Location Journal (49 minutes 49 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an isolated score track, reversible cover art and a thirty-eight page booklet (first pressing only) with cast & crew credits, an essay titled Who’s Afraid of John Cassavetes? Written by Chris Dumas, an interview with author John Farris by Chris Dumas, an interview titled Brian De Palma Discusses The Fury by Paul Mandell, cast & crew information for Double Negative, and information about the transfer.

Summary:

After the huge success of Carrie, Brian De Palma would be given the chance to direct his first studio picture. To this point in his career, all the films that he had directed had been sold to the major studios after their completion. It's not surprising that the subject matter for The Fury, his first major studio project, bears a striking resemblance to his previous feature film, Carrie. Since Hollywood has an obsession with repeating itself when something is successful.

What starts off as an action-themed film as Kirk Douglas’s character narrowly escapes death from those who are holding his son captive quickly turns into a thriller with supernatural leanings. That said, the emphasis on the supernatural continuing to build to a fever pitch that culminates in a truly unforgettable ending can be summed up as "explosive."

From a narrative standpoint, there are no areas that are lacking. All the characters and their motivations are clearly defined. The Fury is wonderfully paced so that each shocking revelation has just the right amount of time to sink in. The action-oriented moments are rock solid, and the special effects moments are well done, especially considering when The Fury was made.

Being that this is a Brian De Palma film, it should not be surprising that the visuals are first-rate. Time and again, he takes what would be ordinary moments and turns them into something extraordinary. One such moment is a scene with Amy Irvin’s character, who is surveying the room. As she stands in the middle of the shot, the camera gives her a literal 360-degree overview of her surroundings.

Key collaborators on The Fury include cinematographer Richard H. Kline (Body Heat) in his one and only collaboration with Brian De Palma, composer John Williams (Star Wars), and editor Paul Hirsch; The Fury marked his sixth of ten films on which he collaborated with Brian De Palma. And though John Williams has more than one film score that is better known than the one he composed for The Fury, The end result easily ranks amongst his finest work as a composer.

From a casting perspective, The Fury features a remarkable cast that is anchored by rock-solid performances from veteran actors like Kirk Douglas (Spartacus) and John Cassavetes (Rosemary’s Baby). There is also a wide array of recognizable faces in secondary roles, like William Finley (Phantom of the Paradise), Charles Durning (Dog Day Afternoon), and Daryl Hannah (Blade Runner) in her first screen appearance.

If there is any area in this film that does not gel, it would be its two leads, Amy Irvin (Carrie) and Andrew Stevens (The Seduction), who portray two young adults whose psychokinetic powers are being exploited. Of these two performances, Amy Irving is good, with moments where she verges on great, while Andrew Stevens gives a wooden performance that makes his performance all the harder to take seriously. Ultimately, despite its shortcomings, The Fury is a vastly underrated film that should sit firmly next to Brian De Palma’s more highly regarded films.

In terms of audio, video, and extras, there is no better release than this one from Arrow Video, highly recommended.








Written by Michael Den Boer

Face to Face – Kino Lorber (Blu-ray) Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1967 Director: Sergio Sollima Writers: Sergio Sollima, Sergio Donati Ca...