Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Sick of Myself – Vinegar Syndrome Pictures (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: Norway/Sweden/Denmark/France, 2022
Director: Kristoffer Borgli
Writer: Kristoffer Borgli
Cast: Kristine Kujath Thorp, Eirik Sæther, Fanny Vaager, Sarah Francesca Brænne, Fredrik Stenberg Ditlev-Simonsen, Steinar Klouman Hallert

Release Date: May 26th, 2023
Approximate running time: 97 Minutes 16 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Aspect ratio / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: NR
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 Norwegian, DTS-HD Stereo Norwegian
Subtitles: English
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $42.98

"Signe and Thomas are young lovers in an increasingly competitive, and dangerous, relationship. As Thomas's success as a contemporary artist grows, building sculptures from stolen goods, Signe concocts a plan to get all eyes in Oslo on her instead, only it involves grotesquely altering her appearance and body chemistry in the process." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4.5/5

Here’s the information provided about the transfer, "Originally shot on 35mm."

Sick of Myself comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 45.6 GB

Feature: 29.2 GB

The source used for this transfer looks excellent. Flesh tones and colors look correct, image clarity, black levels and compression are solid.

Audio: 4.5/5 (DTS-HD 5.1 Norwegian, DTS-HD Stereo Norwegian)

This release comes with two audio options, a DTS-HD 5.1 mix in Norwegian and a DTS-HD stereo mix in Norwegian. Both tracks sound clear and balanced. Though this is a dialog-driven film, ambient sounds are well represented. Included are removable English subtitles.

Extras:

Extras for this release include a theatrical trailer (1 minute 55 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Norwegian with non-removable English subtitles), a video essay by Samm Deighan titled Abject Bodies in Transgressive Arthouse Cinema (15 minutes 41 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English with removable English SDH subtitles), a short film directed by Kristoffer Borgli titled Eer (8 minutes 55 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English with removable English SDH subtitles), an interview with prosthetic makeup artist Izzi Galindo titled Living Sculptures (18 minutes 9 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English with removable English SDH subtitles), an interview with actor Eirik Sæther titled A Skewed View (15 minutes 15 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English with removable English SDH subtitles), an interview with actress Kristine Kujath Thorp titled So, So, So Toxic (19 minutes 1 second, Dolby Digital stereo English with removable English SDH subtitles), an interview with director Kristoffer Borgli titled Negative Impulses (22 minutes 18 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English with removable English SDH subtitles), an audio commentary with Kristoffer Borgli, reversible cover art, a deluxe package features a hardbox that holds a slipcover, and a sixteen page booklet with an essay written by Sabina Stent.

Summary:

Sick of Myself is a biting satire that delves into the modern obsession with adoration and how social media has been a driving force behind this phenomenon. It explores the narcissism that drives this phenomenon and the depths one would go to be adored.

The narrative revolves around a couple: an artist named Thomas and his girlfriend Signe. Neither of these characters tolerates not being the focal point of attention, even more so when it comes to Signe, who is tired of being overshadowed by the attention Thomas is getting because of his art. She deliberately takes pills that she knows are harmful; they cause a skin disease.

Sick of Myself is all about its characters, and from its opening moments, it does a superb job letting them shine. And when it comes to the performances, the cast is all very good in their roles. With the two leads, Kristine Kujath Thorp in the role of Signe and Eirik Sther in the role of Thomas, delivering phenomenal performances in which they fully immerse themselves into character.

That said, despite being filled with unlikable characters, this never works against Sick of Myself. And though the premise on its surface sounds crazy, when viewed through the lens of the world we now live in, it's easy to believe that such a premise is utterly tangible. When it comes to Signe’s self-loathing and her self-mutilation, these are two areas where Sick of Myself excels the most. She becomes part of victim culture despite being the perpetrator. Ultimately, Sick of Myself is a brilliant dissection of individuals who crave being the center of attention.

Sick of Myself gets an exceptional release from Vinegar Syndrome Pictures that comes with a solid audio/video presentation and a wealth of insightful extras, highly recommended.

Note: This release is limited to 3,000 units.









 Written by Michael Den Boer

The Hourglass Sanatorium – Yellow Veil Pictures (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: Poland, 1973
Director: Wojciech Has
Writers: Wojciech Has, Bruno Schulz
Cast: Jan Nowicki, Tadeusz Kondrat, Irena Orska, Halina Kowalska, Gustaw Holoubek

Release Date: May 30th, 2023
Approximate running time: 124 Minutes 24 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: NR
Sound: DTS-HD Mono Polish, Dolby Digital Mono Polish
Subtitles: English
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $39.98

"Józef visits his dying father at a remote mental institutions, where time itself doesn’t seem to exist, and the line between dreams and memories become indistinguishable." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4.25/5

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

Disc Size: 33.8 GB

Feature: 23 GB

Though no information is provided about the source used for this transfer, at the end of the film, there is a 2011 copyright, which suggests that this is the same master used for the UK and Polish Blu-ray releases. That said, the source used is in great shape; colors and flesh tones look correct; image clarity and black levels are solid; and compression is very good.

Audio: 5/5 (DTS-HD Mono Polish), 3.5/5 (Dolby Digital Mono Polish)

This release comes with two audio options, a DTS-HD mono mix in Polish and a Dolby Digital mono mix in Polish. The DTS-HD track is a vastly superior audio track. Range- and clarity-wise, the DTS-HD audio track sounds amazing. Sound plays a large role in The Hourglass Sanatorium, and the DTS-HD audio track does an amazing job with the nuances of this film's soundscape. Included are removable English subtitles.

Extras:

Extras for this release include an Introduction Notes on The Hourglass Sanatorium by Annette Insdorf, Film Professor at Columbia University, and author of books including Intimations: The Cinema of Wojciech Has (6 minutes 52 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), Post Screening Notes on The Hourglass Sanatorium by Annette Insdorf (9 minutes 57 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an interview with film critic Sebastian Smoliński who discusses The Hourglass Sanatorium (20 minutes 3 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), reversible cover art, a spot gloss slipcover (limited to 2,000 copies), and a 24-four page booklet with an essay titled Sanatorium: From Bruno Schultz to Wojciech Has written by Annette Insdorf, and an essay titled The Dreamer is Still Asleep: Living Memory in Wojciech Has’s The Hourglass Sanatorium written by Samm Deighan.

Summary:

Though the screenplay for The Hourglass Sanatorium was primarily adapted from Bruno Schulz’s story collection Sanatorium under the Sign of the Hourglass, it is not a literal adaptation, and the film also adapts stories also written by Bruno Schultz into its narrative. Also, there is a clear foreshadowing of the Holocaust throughout Shultz’s literature, and it is in this regard that this film remains the most faithful to its source.

The narrative revolves around a young man visiting his dying father at a sanatorium where time unfolds in unpredictable ways and just around every corner lie memories that have languished far too long in the past.

To say that The Hourglass Sanatorium’s narrative is challenging would be a gross overstatement. In fact, there are so many layers to The Hourglass Sanatorium that trying to understand them all with one viewer would be a futile affair. Needless to say, this is the type of film that takes several viewings to fully appreciate all it has to offer. As mentioned before, the narrative is far from conventional, and it feels as though a series of random moments have been strung together. When examined by themselves, these individual moments lack the same potency they possess when viewed within the parameters of the story at hand.

Through his journey, the protagonist meets a nurse and doctor who run the dilapidated sanatorium where his father is being taken care of. Other characters he meets include a childhood friend whose stamp book ignites long-forgotten memories and a wax museum filled with realistic mannequins located on land in the wilderness. More characters he meets include voluptuous women with great appetites, rabbis who do a song and dance, and several visits from his recently departed father.

When it comes to the look of The Hourglass Sanatorium's visuals and production design, one would be hard pressed to find any flaws in them. The combination of these two elements ensures that there is never a shortage of atmosphere, and not to be overlooked is Jerzy Maksymiuk’s evocative score. And when it comes to the performances, the entire cast is great in their respective roles, especially Jan Nowicki in the role of Józef, the protagonist. His utterly convincing performance does a remarkable job of conveying a wide range of emotions. Ultimately, The Hourglass Sanatorium is an extraordinary piece of filmmaking that connects with you on an emotional level and lingers in your mind long after its final haunting image.

Yellow Veil Pictures gives The Hourglass Sanatorium its best home video release to date, highly recommended.








Written by Michael Den Boer

Ricco the Mean Machine – Dark Sky Films (DVD)

Theatrical Release Date: Spain/Italy, 1973
Director: Tulio Demicheli
Writers: José Gutiérrez Maesso, Santiago Moncada, Mario di Nardo
Cast: Christopher Mitchum, Barbara Bouchet, Malisa Longo, Eduardo Fajardo, Manuel Zarzo, José María Caffarel, Ángel Álvarez, Arthur Kennedy, Paola Senatore, Luis Induni

Release Date: January 29th, 2008
Approximate Running Time: 93 Minutes 33 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: NR
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: OOP

"When Ricco Aversi (Christopher Mitchum, Rio Lobo, American Commandos) returns home after a two-year prison stint, he finds his father murdered and the family business taken over by Don Vito (Arthur Kennedy, Elmer Gantry), a sadistic mob boss with a propensity for turning his enemies into soap. When Ricco tries to save his super-sexy paramour Rosa (Malisa Longo, Black Emanuelle, White Emanuelle) from Don Vito's control, his wheelchair-bound mother and sister are brutally murdered by Don’s minions. Ricco joins forces with Rosa's dangerously-gorgeous cousin, Scilla, (Barbara Bouchet, Don’t Torture a Duckling, Casino Royale) to mete out his bloody vengeance upon Don Vito and his gang." – Synopsis provided by the Distributor

Video: 1.5/5

Ricco the Mean Machine comes of a single layer DVD.

Disc Size: 4.2 GB

Though the source used for this transfer is in very good shape, colors and flesh tones look correct, and details generally look crisp. That said, black levels are mediocre, and there are compression and macroblocking issues that are especially noticeable in dark scenes.

Audio: 3.25/5

This release comes with one option, Dolby Digital mono English, and included with this release are removable English SDH subtitles. There are no issues with background hiss; dialog comes through clearly, and everything sounds balanced.

Extras:

Extras for this release include, a theatrical trailer (3 minutes 25 seconds, letterboxed widescreen, Dolby Digital mono Italian with non-removable English subtitles) and an interview with actor Christopher Mitchum titled Mitchum The Mean Machine (18 minutes 14 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles).

Summary:

Ricco the Mean Machine was directed by Tulio Demicheli, whose other notable films include Espionage in Lisbon, Assignment Terror, Sabata the Killer, and The Two Faces of Fear.

Ricco the Mean Machine is a violent crime film that opens with a shootout that ends with a headshot. The narrative revolves around a reluctant avenger named Ricco who’s looking for a normal life, and everyone around him nudges him towards avenging his murdered father. That said, Ricco the Mean Machine has many elements that have become synonymous with Italian crime cinema. There’s also some spaghetti western influence, most notably when it comes to the Ricco character and his journey.

Ricco the Mean Machine has a solid cast, and the performances are very good. Christopher Mitchum (Murder in a Blue World) more than holds his own in the role of Ricco. Other notable cast members include Arthur Kennedy (The Tough Ones) in the role of Don Vito, Malisa Longo (Salon Kitty) in the role of Rosa, Ricco's ex-girlfriend who’s now Don Vito’s woman, and Barbara Bouchet (Cry of a Prostitute) in the role of Scilla, Rosa’s cousin and Ricco’s new love interest.

From a production standpoint, Ricco the Mean Machine is a down-and-dirty exploitation film that has an ample amount of carnage and T&A. Standout moments include a scene where Scilla performs a striptease in the fog where she straddles a car with two of Don Vito’s men inside and a scene where one of Don Vito’s bodyguards who betrayed him gets his dick and balls cut off, shoved in his mouth, and then thrown into a vat of acid. Ultimately, Ricco the Mean Machine is a perfect mix of action and exploitation.

This release transfer is one of the worst that I have seen from a boutique label. It is the quality that one would expect from a budget DVD label that crams multiple films on one DVD. Ricco the Mean Machine is a solid film that’s begging for a better release.








Written by Michael Den Boer

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Branded to Kill – The Criterion Collection (4k UHD/Blu-ray Combo)

Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 1967
Director: Seijun Suzuki
Writers: Hachiro Guryu, Takeo Kimura, Chusei Sone, Atsushi Yamatoya
Cast: Jo Shishido, Koji Nambara, Annu Mari, Mariko Ogawa, Isao Tamagawa

Release Date: May 9th, 2023
Approximate Running Time: 91 Minutes 54 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 Widescreen / 2160 Progressive / HEVC / H.265
Rating: NR
Sound: LPCM Mono Japanese
Subtitles: English
Region Coding: Region Free (4K UHD), Region A (Blu-ray)
Retail Price: $49.95

"Branded to Kill (Koroshi no rakuin) tells the ecstatically bent story of a yakuza assassin with a fetish for sniffing steamed rice (the chipmunk-cheeked superstar Joe Shishido) who botches a job and ends up a target himself." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 5/5 (4K UHD), 4.5/5 (Blu-ray)

Here’s the information provided about the transfer, "This new 4K restoration was undertaken by Nikkatsu Corporation and the Japan Foundation from the 35mm original camera negative at Imagica Entertainment Media Services, Inc."

Branded to Kill comes on a 66 GB dual layer 4K UHD.

Disc Size: 55.9 GB

Feature: 54.9 GB

The source used for this transfer looks amazing. Though there is no HDR10 or Dolby Vision, image clarity, contrast, and shadow detail look exceptional. Also, compression is solid, and the image always looks organic.

Branded to Kill comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 34.9 GB

Feature: 24.8 GB

This Blu-ray uses the same master that is used for the 4K UHD disc.

Audio: 5/5 (LPCM Mono Japanese)

This release comes with one audio option, a LPCM mono mix in Japanese with removable English subtitles. This is in great shape; there are no issues with distortion or background hiss. Dialog comes through clearly, and everything sounds balanced. Range-wise, this audio track often exceeds expectations; ambient sounds are well  represented, and the score sounds robust.

Extras:

Extras on the Blu-ray disc include a theatrical trailer (3 minutes 10 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Japanese with removable English subtitles), an archival interview with director Seijun Suzuki from 1997 (14 minutes 6 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Japanese with non-removable English subtitles), an archival interview with actor Joe Shishido from 2011 (10 minutes 57 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Japanese with removable English subtitles), and an archival interview with Seijun Suzuki and assistant director Masami Kuzuu from 2011 (12 minutes 10 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Japanese with removable English subtitles).

Other extras include a 12-page booklet with an essay titled Reductio Ad Absurdum: Seijun Suzuki’s Branded to Kill written by Tony Rayns, cast & crew information, and information about the transfer.

Summary:

In 1967, prolific director Seijun Suzuki directed Branded to Kill, a modern-day samurai tale set in a world where everyone is crazy. Just like Jean-Pierre Meville’s masterful Le Samourai, released the same year as Branded to Kill, both films explore surreal landscapes within the crime thriller genre. Though Branded to Kill is the simple story of a Yakuza hitman, in the hands of an auteur like Seijun Suzuki, whose style is so fragmented and whose strange compositions, mixed with his odd editing of scenes, only confused the Nikkatsu studio bosses, After they saw Branded to Kill, they fired director Suzuki for making ‘incomprehensible’ films. In turn, Seijun Suzuki successfully sued Nikkatsu for financial compensation, though his actions resulted in him being blacklisted by the entire film industry.

For many viewers, the first thing about Branded to Kill that immediately grabs them is its nontraditional narrative, which often verges into the surreal. With this being said, it is not as hard to digest the story at hand, especially once you embrace its colorful cast of characters. Also, it is the journey of Branded to Kill’s lead character, Hanada, that resonates the most. Though he is a hitman, his ambitions to be at the top of his field have a universal feel to them that most viewers should identify with. After all, how many people are truly satisfied with their lives? It is human nature to strive for something better than what we have.

And while the outer shell of Branded to Kill’s narrative has many elements that one would associate with the Yakuza film genre, these are nothing more than window dressing that is used to further Seijun Suzuki’s agenda to create something that audiences would find entertaining. In fact, one could easily argue that Branded to Kill is a ‘tongue and cheek’ satire of the Yakuza film genre. There are also moments in which Branded to Kill pokes fun at spy films like the James Bond films, which were also at the height of their popularity at the time Branded to Kill was unleashed on unsuspecting audiences.

From a visual standpoint, Branded to Kill is Seijun Suzuki's tour de force. Some of the choice moments include the scene in which Hanada meets his mistress for the first time on a rainy night (this scene is intercut with a sexual encounter that Hanada has with his wife, which includes sex on a spiral staircase), the scene in which a now wounded Hanada shows up at his mistress place that is covered with wall-to-wall butterflies, and a shootout on a peer, in which Hanada immerges from the water to surprise his assassins.

Performance-wise, none of the cast members disappoint. Branded to Kill is anchored by Jo Shishido (Youth of the Beast) as a hit man who gets aroused when he sniffs rice. Other notable performances include Mariko Ogawa in her one and only film role as Hanada’s wife and Annu Mari (Mini Skirt Lynchers) in the role of Hanada’s mistress.

Ultimately, Branded to Kill is an extraordinary film that was made by a filmmaker who was light years ahead of his contemporaries. And while many have tried to imitate it, none have been able to match its boldness and inventiveness. If ever there was a desert island film, that film would be Branded to Kill.

Branded to Kill gets a definitive release from The Criterion Collection, highly recommended.

Note about the 4K screenshots: It is not possible to make Dolby Vision or HDR10 screenshots that faithfully match the experience of watching a film in motion on a TV. Instead of not having any screenshots, all of the 4K screenshots are m2ts taken with a VLC player and lossless PNGs.












Written by Michael Den Boer

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Tiger Cage I-III: Limited Edition – 88 Films (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Dates: Hong Kong, 1988 (Tiger Cage), Hong Kong, 1990 (Tiger Cage II), Hong Kong, 1991 (Tiger Cage III)
Director: Yuen Woo-ping (All Films)
Cast: Simon Yam, Carol Cheng, Jacky Cheung, Irene Wan, Donnie Yen, Bryan Leung, Ng Man-tat, Wang Lung-wei (Tiger Cage), Donnie Yen, Rosamund Kwan, David Wu, Robin Shou, Garry Chow, Carol Cheng, Cynthia Khan, Lo Lieh (Tiger Cage II), Sharla Cheung Man, Kwok Leung Cheung, Michael Wong, Kam-kong Wong, John Cheung, Fung Woo (Tiger Cage III)

Release Date: August 8th, 2022
Approximate running times: 93 Minutes 34 Seconds (Tiger Cage), 96 Minutes 18 Seconds (Tiger Cage II - Hong Kong Cut), 96 Minutes 36 Seconds (Tiger Cage II - Malaysian Cut), 93 Minutes 38 Seconds (Tiger Cage III)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (All Films)
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: LPCM Mono Cantonese (All Films), LPCM Mono Mandarin (Tiger Cage), LPCM Mono English (All Films) 
Subtitles: English (All Films), English SDH (Tiger Cage III)
Region Coding: Region B
Retail Price: OOP

"Bought to you by legendary martial arts stalwart Woo-Ping Yeun, the original Tiger Cage (1988) was an explosive, fast-paced Hong Kong feature replete with criminal gangs and a dedicated law enforcement team in a battle for the city.

Just as a crack drug unit celebrates a successful operation one of their numbers is killed. This leads them on a mission to expose the killer and the underground operation and more importantly to discover who the mole in the team might be. Fun, furious and rammed with glorious fight choreography, Tiger Cage is the perfect late 80s Kung Fu spectacular.

It was quickly followed by two sequels Tiger Cage 2 (1990) and Tiger Cage 3 (1991) also directed by Woo-Ping Yeun." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4/5 (Tiger Cage, Tiger Cage II, Tiger Cage III)

Here’s the information provided about the transfer, "New 2K Transfer from the Original Negative."

Tiger Cage comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 34.4 GB

Feature: 27.6 GB

Here’s the information provided about the transfer, "New 2K Transfer from the Original Negative."

Tiger Cage II comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 45.6 GB

Feature: 23.7 GB (Hong Kong Cut), 20.8 GB (Malaysian Cut)

Here’s the information provided about the transfer, "New 2K Transfer from the Original Negative."

Tiger Cage III comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 29.1 GB

Feature: 26.3 GB

The sources used for these transfers are in great shape; there is no source-related debris or damage. Quality-wise, all of these transfers are comparable. Colors and flesh tones, and though the image generally looks crisp, there are moments where it looks soft. Also, black levels are strong, and compression is solid.

Audio: 4.25/5 (LPCM Mono Cantonese - Tiger Cage, LPCM Mono Mandarin - Tiger Cage, LPCM Mono Cantonese - Tiger Cage II Both Cuts), 4/5 (LPCM Mono English - Tiger Cage II Both Cuts, LPCM Mono Cantonese - Tiger Cage III, LPCM Mono English - Tiger Cage III), 3.75/5 (LPCM Mono English - Tiger Cage)

Tiger Cage comes with three audio options, a LPCM mono mix in Cantonese, a LPCM mono mix in English, and a LPCM mono mix in Mandarin with an alternate music score. All three audio tracks sound clean, clear, and balanced. Range-wise, the Cantonese and Mandarin language tracks sound more robust than the English language track. Also, there are a few moments where the English language track sounds muffled. Included are removable English subtitles for the Cantonese language track and a second removable English subtitle track for the Mandarin track.

Tiger Cage II, the Hong Kong cut, comes with two audio options, a LPCM mono mix in Cantonese and a LPCM mono mix in English. Tiger Cage II, the Malaysian cut, comes with two audio options, a LPCM mono mix in Cantonese and a LPCM mono mix in English. All of the audio tracks sound clean, clear, and balanced. The main difference is that the Cantonese language track sounds more robust than the English language track. Included are removable English subtitles for the Cantonese language track.

Tiger Cage III comes with two audio options, a LPCM mono mix in Cantonese and a LPCM mono mix in English. Both audio mixes sound clean, clear, balanced, and robust when they should. Included are removable English subtitles and removable English SDH subtitles for the Cantonese language track.

Extras:

Extras for Tiger Cage include reversible cover art, Hong Kong theatrical trailer (3 minutes 23 seconds, LPCM mono Cantonese with removable English subtitles), English theatrical trailer (4 minutes 43 seconds, LPCM mono English, no subtitles), a conversation with actor Vincent Lyn and Frank Djeng titled  Triads (4 minutes 22 seconds, LPCM stereo English, no subtitles), three extras shots from the Taiwanese version (33 seconds, LPCM mono), English language titles (2 minutes 27 seconds, LPCM mono), an archival interview with actor Donnie Yen titled Tiger King (17 minutes 22 seconds, LPCM stereo English, no subtitles), Vincent Lyn’s personal 'behind-the-scenes' footage (6 minutes 14 seconds, LPCM stereo Chinese with removable English subtitles), and an audio commentary with Frank Djeng and Vincent Lyn.

Extras for Tiger Cage II include reversible cover art, Hong Kong theatrical trailer (3 minutes 57 seconds, LPCM mono Cantonese with removable English subtitles), an audio commentary with action specialists Mike Leeder and Arne Venema for the Hong Kong cut, and an audio commentary with Asian cinema expert Frank Djeng.

Extras for Tiger Cage III include reversible cover art, Hong Kong theatrical trailer (3 minutes 49 seconds, LPCM mono Cantonese with removable English subtitles), alternate theatrical trailer (3 minutes 49 seconds, LPCM mono English with removable English subtitles for Cantonese text), English language titles (2 minutes 52 seconds, LPCM mono English, no subtitles), and an audio commentary with Phil Gillon and Kenneth Brorsson of the Podcast on Fire Team.

Other extras include a double sided poster, and a one-hundred page booklet with cast & crew information for each film, an interview with Vincent Lyn conducted by Matthew Edwards, an interview with Stephan Berwick conducted by Matthew Edwards, and an interview with Michael Woods conducted by Matthew Edwards.

Summary:

Directed by Yuen Woo-ping, Tiger Cage and its two similar-themed sequels, Tiger Cage II and Tiger Cage III, are a trio of films that showcase his ability to create inventive action sequences. His other notable films as a director include Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow, Drunken Master, The Magnificent Butcher, Iron Monkey, and Tai Chi Master.

Tiger Cage: The narrative revolves around a criminal who narrowly escapes death in a shootout with law enforcement, who then tracks down and kills the cop who almost killed him. Another subplot revolves around corrupt cops who are working with drug smugglers.

Tiger Cage is cut from the same mold as the violent bullet ballets that were at the height of their popularity in the latter half of the 1980s. And though the premise covers well-traveled ground, the result is a highly entertaining mix of action and carnage that does a great job maintaining the momentum established in its opening setup.

The performances range from adequate to very good. With most of the performances falling into the latter category. The most memorable performance is by Simon Yam (Naked Killer) in the role of police inspector Michael Huang. He delivers a performance that is in line with the types of characters he often portrays. Another performance of note is that of Donnie Yen (In the Line of Duty IV) in the role of a police inspector named Terry. This is an early role where he is not the lead, and his character's tragic fate is Tiger Cage’s most potent moment.

Though there is a predictability to the story at hand, cops vs. criminals, cops often use brutality to get results. This is not a problem since what Tiger Cage lacks in narrative, it more than makes up for with its crazy stunt work and bombastic action set pieces. Ultimately, Tiger Cage is a solid action film that fans of 1980s Hong Kong cops vs. criminal films should thoroughly enjoy.

Tiger Cage II: The narrative revolves around a lawyer, an ex-cop, and a gangster who are forced to work together when they become suspects and are targeted by the actual culprit.

Once again, it is another cop vs. criminal scenario. That said, unlike its predecessor, this time around the premise offers an ample amount of twists and turns. With a case of money that has disappeared being the plot device that drives the narrative.

The cast is very good in their roles, especially Donnie Yen (Ip Man) in the role of an ex-cop named Dragon Yau and Rosamund Kwan (Once Upon a Time in China) in the role of a lawyer named Mandy Chang. Their combative relationship and budding romance give Tiger Cage II a strong backbone. Their interactions provide an ample amount of humor, with Mandy Chang often inadvertently inflicting pain on Dragon Yau.

From a production standpoint, there is no area where Tiger Cage II does not deliver. The premise is well executed, the briskly paced narrative ensures there is never a dull moment, and a sword fight finale provides a perfect coda. Of course, when it comes to stunts and action setpieces, Yuen Woo-ping delivers in spades. Ultimately, Tiger Cage II is a rare example of a sequel that is superior.

Tiger Cage III: The narrative revolves around two cops working in the commercial crime bureau who are trying to get evidence of fraud against a rich businessman. One of the cops' girlfriends works for the businessman, giving them someone on the inside.

Tiger Cage III is a sequel in name only. Though there are no characters trying to put the three Tiger Cage films together, the first two Tiger Cage films have a few areas where they overlap, while Tiger Cage III feels like a different film.

The cast is all very good in their roles, especially Sharla Cheung Man (God of the Gamblers) in the role of Suki, the girlfriend assisting her cop boyfriend. Her character is best described as a femme fatale type that is associated with film noir. Another performance of note is that of Michael Wong (City Hunter) in the role of John, a cop who works for the commercial crime bureau. His characters, like Suki's, are not who they seem to be.

Though Tiger Cage III's story is not as eventful as the other two Tiger Cage films, it has a strong premise, and the narrative does a good job building momentum. There are crazy stunts, and the action set pieces are solid. Also, when it comes to carnage, Tiger Cage III is the most brutal and graphic of the three Tiger Cage films. Ultimately, Tiger Cage III is the weakest of the three Tiger Cage films.

The Tiger Cage trilogy gets an excellent release from 88 Films that comes with strong audio/video presentations and informative extras, recommended.

Note: 88 Films has rereleased Tiger Cage I-III in a standard edition.




























Written by Michael Den Boer

The Body Stealers: Tigon Collection – 88 Films (Blu-ray) Theatrical Release Date: UK, 1969 Director: Gerry Levy Writers: Michael St. Clair,...