Sunday, September 17, 2023

From Beijing with Love – Eureka Video (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: Hong Kong, 1994
Directors: Stephen Chow, Lee Lik-chi
Writers: Stephen Chow, Roman Cheung, Vincent Kok, Lee Lik-chi
Cast: Stephen Chow, Anita Yuen, Law Kar-ying, Pauline Chan, Lee Lik-chi, Wong Yat-fei, Lee Kin-yan

Release Date: October 23rd, 2023
Approximate running time: 83 Minutes 38 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 15 (UK)
Sound: LPCM Mono Cantonese, LPCM Mono English
Subtitles: English
Region Coding: Region B
Retail Price: £18.99 (UK)

"Martini swilling butcher (and disgraced former spy) Ling Ling Chat is dispatched to recover a stolen dinosaur skull from a golden-gun wielding supervillain. Equipped with the latest gadgets, our hero dons his tuxedo and swaggers into a world of danger, beautiful women, and metal mouthed assassins. Sound familiar?." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4.25/5

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, "a restoration of the original film elements".

From Beijing with Love comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray. 

Disc Size: 42.7 GB

Feature: 24.4 GB

The source used for this transfer is in great shape. Flesh tones look correct, colors are nicely saturated, image clarity and black levels are strong, and compression is solid.

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

This release comes with two audio options, an LPCM mono mix in Cantonese and an LPCM mono mix in English. The differences between these two audio tracks are minimal. Both tracks sound clean, clear, and balanced. Range-wise, both tracks sound very good. Included are removable English subtitles for the Cantonese language track, and a second removable English subtitle track for Cantonese text/song in Cantonese when listening to the English language track.

Extras:

Extras for this release include a theatrical trailer (2 minutes 59 seconds, LPCM mono Cantonese with removable English subtitles), an archival interview with co-director and actor  Lee Lik-chi (24 minutes 57 seconds, LPCM stereo Cantonese with non-removable English subtitles), a career spanning interview with actor Wong Kam Kong titled Wong Kam Kong in conversation (54 minutes 7 seconds, LPCM stereo Cantonese with removable English subtitles), an interview with Wong Kam Kong titled Wong Kam Kong on “From Beijing With Love” (21 minutes 17 seconds, LPCM stereo Cantonese with removable English subtitles), an audio commentary with Frank Djeng (NY Asian Film Festival), reversible cover art, an O-card slipcase (limited to 2,000 copies), and a 20-page booklet (limited to 2,000 copies) with cast & crew information, an essay titled Spy Games Hong Kong, Bond and the Comedy King: From Beijing with Love written by James Oliver, and information about the transfer titled Notes on Viewing.

Summary:

Co-directed by Stephen Chow, whose other notable films are Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle.

The narrative revolves around a man named Ling Ling Chat who is recruited to be a secret agent years after his initial application was rejected.

From Beijing with Love opens with a tongue-and-cheek disclaimer stating that From Beijing with Love has no connection to the James Bond film series. From Beijing with Love’s protagonist exhibits many traits that are synonymous with the James Bond character, and the main villain has a golden gun, another James Bond reference. Also, From Beijing with Love’s score features a music cue that is a slight rework of the James Bond theme, and another music cue is a slight rework of Ennio Morricone’s main theme for The Untouchables.

When it comes to Hong Kong martial arts actors, they blend action and humor into most of their films. Stephen Chow is the only martial arts actor that is comparable to Jackie Chan in this regard. In 1990s Hong Kong cinema, Stephen Chow was the equivalent of Jackie Chan in the 1980s. That said, despite their similarities, it is hard to imagine either actor in the roles that the other was cast in.

The role of Ling Ling Chat is tailored for Stephen Chow; he plays this caricature of James Bond strictly for laughs, and many times his actions are delirious over the top. The name Ling Ling Chat literally translates into "the domestically produced 007". And though James Bond is known for the specific firearm he carries, Ling Ling Chat’s weapon of choice is a meat cleaver.

The rest of the cast are great in their roles, especially Law Kar-ying (Crime Story) in the role of Tat Man Si, a character that is essentially From Beijing with Love’s version of Q. This character only makes inventions that do not turn out right. Other notable cast members are Anita Yuen (Thunderbolt) in the role of a double agent whose mission to kill Ling Ling Chat always ends in mishaps, and Pauline Chan (Escape from Brothel) in the role of an assassin who has a flamethrower bra.

The briskly paced narrative is never dull, and when it comes to humor, From Beijing with Love delivers in spades. The funniest moment is a scene where Ling Ling Chat watches a porn to distract himself from the pain of the bullet being removed from his leg. And though there are a few action set pieces, these are mostly shootouts with minimal hand-to-hand combat. That said, the kills are gory, especially when Ling Ling Chat uses his meat cleaver on a bad guy. Ultimately, From Beijing with Love is a highly entertaining satire that works as well as it does because of Stephen Chow’s phenomenal performance.

From Beijing with Love gets an excellent release from Eureka Video that comes with a strong audio/video presentation and informative extras, highly recommended.








Written by Michael Den Boer

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