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January 25, 2006

HUGE NEWS FOR HONG KONG FILM FANS

If you love Hong Kong movies, you know the pain of not being able to own a decent version of a classic film. I can't watch the DVD of PEKING OPERA BLUES despite how great the picture looks because it's missing the ending, and instead I have to rely on a crummy VCD of the film. DVDs are released with new (and crummy) sound effects, poor subtitles, tinny remixed soundtracks, or a good version of a movie comes out on disc and three months later it's out of print.

Now, Fortune Star has licensed hundreds of their titles to an independent DVD distributor according to this post on the Asian DVD Guide Forum. Fortune Star was the company that handled licensing Star TV's library of films which basically includes every single classic in the Hong Kong heavens: John Woo's films, Jackie Chan's films, most of Tsui Hark, Sammo Hung and Ringo Lam's output. If there's a classic Hong Kong film (pre-94) that you want to see, it will be in this library which has been much abused by previous distributors.

The new, unnamed distributor plans on putting out a line of digitally-remastered titles and non-remastered titles and best of all...apparently the distributor wants to hear what fans want to see on these discs!What kind of remastering? What kind of extras?

For those of us who have been begging for these movies to be released with their original soundtracks, in their original formats then go over to the Asian DVD Guide Forum and let these folks know what you think. And be polite: the future distributor of our collective dreams is reading.

There's this thread for input on the digitally remastered line and this thread for input on the non-remastered line.

And what does the number one source for Jackie Chan news have to say about this? We asked Jones, Jackie's cute puppy about the news, and here's what he had to say:

"I am a Golden Retriever and I live with Jackie and his family in Hong Kong."

Well, that's just because he doesn't want to freak out too early, but just you wait. Those ears are going to be standing up on their own before long.

Jones, Jackie Chan's cute puppy

January 25, 2006 at 10:14 AM in News | Permalink

Comments

Hey guys, this is my first time commenting here. Love the site. You guys wouldn't happen to remember any films that haven't been released or have been out of print for a while that these guys could release, would you?

Posted by: Tory | Jan 25, 2006 12:08:41 PM

Tory - thanks for the kinds words. If you go to the linked discussions on the Asian DVD Guide boards you'll find huge lists of movies that haven't been released and movies that have had cropped, cut and otherwise botched releases. There's a lot out there.

Posted by: Grady Hendrix | Jan 25, 2006 1:45:29 PM

So Grady, my Peking Opera Blues DVD on Mega Star is missing an ending or something? What is it missing?

Ironically I ordered it from Amazon.com way before Miramax cracked down on stuff they had hoarded up in their vaults.

(See, all my comments work their way back to the evils of Miramax!)

My vote is the full cut of The Chinese Feast, my favorite Tsui Hark flick -- there is a Malaysian DVD that supposedly has the full thing, I think.

Posted by: glenn | Jan 25, 2006 2:30:36 PM

Funnily enough, CHINESE FEAST is one of my favorites as well. For years there's been a rumor of an action scene set in the restaurant between Zhao Wen-zhou and a bunch of thugs. Apparently it was in the Taiwanese version, but cut from Hong Kong.

As for PEKING OPERA BLUES, over the shot of the opera character laughing at the end there should be title cards that tell what happened next in the story (and it ain't pretty). To me it was this ironic, fatalistic touch that really made this movie leave orbit and rocket into outer space. If I had to take one movie to a desert island with me it would be PEKING OPERA BLUES. I could watch it forever.

Posted by: Grady Hendrix | Jan 25, 2006 6:30:30 PM

By the way, here's a review I wrote for the movie when Subway screened it as part of our Tsui Hark retro years and years ago:

http://www.subwaycinema.com/frames/archives/tsui2001/pekingopera.htm

Posted by: Grady Hendrix | Jan 25, 2006 6:31:30 PM

Ray Davis has screen caps of the Peking Opera Blues closing title cards here:
http://www.pseudopodium.org/search.cgi?Peking+Opera+Blues

Posted by: eric k | Jan 25, 2006 11:06:24 PM

Fortune Star's great. I just picked up their 3-DVD box, the Sammo Hung Action Collection. Scary Encounters was my first pick of the box. Hopping vampires! Yet to watch are Knockabout and Magnificent Butcher. These are very well done, I think, with even English subs on the extra features.

Posted by: Wise Kwai | Jan 26, 2006 2:32:58 AM

Re the full length THE CHINESE FEAST: Can confirm that it does feature a fight scene between Xiong Xin Xin and Zhou Wen Zhou. OTOH, can't confirm that this is available on a Malaysian DVD. Rather, the copy I have was taped off a Malaysian *laserdisc* for me by a friend.

Posted by: YTSL | Jan 26, 2006 6:30:54 AM

Thanks Grady. Are The Blade and Righting Wrongs owned by Fortune Star? I've always wanted to see them, but there's no DVD to buy.

Posted by: Tory | Jan 26, 2006 9:31:58 AM

Thanks for the Peking Opera Blues tidbit. *Does* change the meaning of the ending in many ways. Great flick.

My main reason for wanting a better DVD of Feast is that the subtitles are atrocious on my HK DVD.

Posted by: glenn | Jan 26, 2006 10:33:51 AM

Right on, Tory! The Blade is an unstable compound composed of equal parts gorgeous lyricism and mad-headed kickassery. I need a DVD of it that looks GOOD.

Posted by: Abe Goldfarb | Jan 26, 2006 10:12:24 PM

is there any legal DVD of the Blade? It's one of the few Tsui Hark things I've still not seen mainly cause I can't find it -- I've seen boots in one place but would rather have the real deal.

Posted by: glenn | Jan 27, 2006 5:46:58 AM

Same here Glenn.

Posted by: Tory | Jan 27, 2006 8:52:42 AM

to further this productive thread and because people actually seem to read it, I got to ask: where are there so few Chinese films in the Criterion DVD selection and yet so many (though worthy all) Japanese films? I don't like paying Criterion's inflated prices but I would pay $50 for a deluxe Chinese Feast. Start a petition?

Posted by: glenn | Jan 27, 2006 9:28:39 AM

Most of the Japanese films in the Criterion catalog are part of the Janus Films collection. Janus was one of the co-founders of Criterion and the two companies maintain a close relationship, so it's logical that Criterion would end up releasing a bunch of Janus titles. But there's very few (if any) Chinese-language films in the Janus collection -- most of their library dates back to the '50s and '60s, when Chinese-language cinema was still an unknown quantity in the West. And while this part is speculation, I'm guessing Criterion has well-established contacts with the major Japanese studios (through Janus) that makes it easier for them to license Japanese films, but they don't seem to have that kind of relationship with any Chinese, Taiwanese or Hong Kong studios -- all of the Chinese-language titles Criterion has released over the years were sublicensed from American companies. That said, you'd think that after 20 years Criterion would have a working relationship with SOME Chinese studios, so there's probably more to it than this.

Posted by: Jean-Michel | Jan 28, 2006 11:55:55 PM

Criterion does have a fantastic IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE 2-disc set, but from what I've heard the folks who steer the Criterion ship aren't much interested in pop cinema and even less interested in Chinese language film, and that's just the way it is, apparently.

However, if Criterion ever did tackle Chinese movies, here's what I'd love to see:

A TOUCH OF ZEN - King Hu's greatest movie. I got a chance to see this in LA on the big screen once and it made an impression on me the way Godzilla occasionally makes an impression on Tokyo.

Any number of Tsui Hark films should be on a Criterion disc, but the obvious contenders for me would be THE BLADE or a PEKING OPERA BLUES/SHANGHAI BLUES set.

I recently re-watched some early Jackie Chan movies and realized that dismissing Jackie as an "action" director really takes away from his accomplishments as a director. All movies are action movies anyways since they're all about filming people in motion, but Jackie's responsible for the movies that come the closest to touching the face of god. PROJECT A II has some of the most beautifully choreographed farce I've ever seen: the long shot at the ball and the hide and seek in the apartment are two of the most breathtaking instances; but there's something to be said for the pirates that are set up in the first reel and don't really pay off for the plot until the last. That's directorial confidence. Despite some unfortunate mugging, MR. CANTON AND LADY ROSE is pretty amazing. I think it was Jackie proving that he's a big time director and he proves it ten times over with some masterfully edited sequences, and some of the freshest 30's gangster schtick I've ever seen. And the action in here is so good that it's almost unbelievable.

Anyways, I don't want to go all-Jackie here, but if Criterion is serious about speaking to world cinema, they need to give King Hu, Tsui Hark and Jackie Chan some props. Sooner rather than later, hopefully.

Posted by: Grady Hendrix | Jan 30, 2006 6:48:35 AM

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