If you’re North American and don’t have a region-free Blu-ray player: first, buy one and second, you may not know how Jackie Chan’s filmography has been painstakingly restored by labels Eureka and 88 Films for Europe. region.
So far we Americans have been left behind except for Warner Archive’s beautiful versions of HK cuts from drunk master 2 And Mr Nice Guyand the superb Criterion collection Police Story dual function.
Now here comes Shout! Factory to raise the bar with volume 1 of Jackie Chan collection– 7 remastered films covering approximately half of Jackie’s total output from 1976 to 1982. The films are an eclectic mix of minor masterpieces, roads not taken and transitional films as Jackie made films at a breakneck pace and worked his way to superstar status, and his first American stint.
Be warned though, this set does NOT contain Serpent in the shadow of the eagle, Drunken Master, fearless hyenaOr The young master. So none of the masterpieces that made Jackie Chan an even bigger box office phenomenon than Bruce Lee.
What you get is a collection of Jackie’s pre-Golden Harvest work with Lo Wei Studios, and two offbeat selections from her GH debut. Each film has a brand new commentary from a Hong Kong film expert, and at least one video essay with a gallery of trailers and most of them also have archival interviews.
This is not a technical review, but as someone very familiar with 88 Films transfers for two of these films, Shout! Factory work here doesn’t seem so different. In fact, I wouldn’t be shocked if they had simply allowed these transfers. I noticed a few factual errors in the video essays, but I don’t believe that something like that is decisive for a set like this.
Without further ado, the films collected, and my opinion on them:
Jackie began his career as a leading man working for producer/director Lo Wei (the big boss, The Man Called Tiger), a former matinee idol who had been a successful director at Shaw Brothers, moved to Golden Harvest and was tapped to direct Bruce Lee’s first two films.
These films are classics but Bruce and his director were constantly at throat over the direction of the pictures and Bruce was obviously going to win this battle, so Lo left Golden Harvest after doing a few films with Jimmy Wang Yu and started his own film company. production with the idea of using Jackie, Hong Kong’s top stuntman, as his “new Bruce Lee”.
After their first collaboration, New Fist of Fury box office failure Lo Wei decided to make a safer movie in collaboration with Jimmy Wang Yu (they share credit for a director here), where Jackie is cast as the villain. The film contains flashes of the manic stylized violence and menace that pervades the best of Wang Yu’s directorial work, but it’s a wuxia image where the plot overwhelms that of the character and Jackie is just horribly misinterpreted. Interesting, but not recommended.
** out of *****
Shaolin wooden men
Yeah ! Jackie’s second outing as a star still predates his direct involvement in choreography and he’s still somewhat miscast as a traditional vengeful hero, but this one has curve balls up his sleeve.
Jackie plays a mute Shaolin novice who learns kung fu to avenge his father’s murder by bandits. When he befriends a fugitive who develops a secret style of kung fu, he proves himself worthy of facing off against the titular Wooden Men – 36 deadly dummies who guard the hallway out of Shaolin whom the student must defeat in order to demonstrate that he is ready to join the world. Chen Chi-Hwa directed this one (and it’ll reappear before filming wraps), with a ton of surreal flair and a real sense of gorgeous kung fu choreography.
It is that of a poor man 36th Chamberbut it’s still a great old-school kung fu movie.
*** ½ out of *****
Kill with intrigue
Lo Wei is back in the director’s chair, and this film feels like it was influenced by the work of the greatest wuxia director of all time, King Hu. The film was shot in South Korea, just like that of Hu Mountain duology and characteristics A touch of Zenis Hsu Feng as the lead actress. Of all the Lo Wei/Jackie Chan collabs, this is the one whose stock has risen the most between the kung fu boom and now, as the remaster reveals some great photography and well-locked fights even if the plot is weird and sometimes borders on the absurd. .
Look, your mileage is going to vary, but any time you get a movie that opens with the hero returning the villain’s severed hand to him, you’ve got a movie with at least some redeeming qualities.
** ½ out of *****
Serpent and Crane Arts of Shaolin
This movie is amazing.
Chan plays a super-fighter who has the ultimate martial arts manual, written by the leaders of eight Shaolin clans, and he must defend it against the government, bandits and evil clans who all want to use the book to dominate the world. world of wuxia yaws. This one continues the influence of King Hu, with strong female characters and Jackie playing a more detached, wry, ironic character.
The scene Wu Tang sampled for “Mystery of Chessboxin” remains immortal, and it’s the first movie where Jackie’s fights feel like Jackie put them together, which means it’s Jackie at his physical peak. doing more real kung fu than in any other movie you’ll ever see. Chen Chi Hwa returns as director and infuses this film with a crazy energy that reminds me of Joseph Kuo 7 great masters.
A legitimate kung fu classic that should be seen by everyone.
**** ½ out of *****
Filmed just before Jackie was loaned out to Seasonal and became Asia’s biggest star, but released after he returned to the studio when he was guaranteed to be a hit, dragon fist it feels like it was meant to be a “back to basics” revenge story for Chan that was punctuated with all sorts of intriguing narrative left turns.
Jackie is at her most serious hero, once again out to avenge her father who died at the hands of an evil master, but this film’s second act features a number of surprises about how the villain chose to reform. and the hero begins to fall with a bad mob.
The fight scenes are great and I think this is probably Lo Wei’s finest hour as a director, which is ironic considering all the pressure he’s had to go through as a producer while his business flowed.
**** out of *****
Battle of Battle Creek
The introduction of Jackie Chan to America is a brave, if not entirely successful, effort.
Golden Harvest has the crew that made Enter the dragon together, including director Robert Clouse. The decor of the 30s recalls what was a contemporary hit, The bite and the filmmakers were well aware that the film needed as much humor as it did action. Unfortunately, the fight scenes all feature Jackie against huge types of wrestlers and we get very little of the incredible speed and precision mixed with the humor that Jackie films Jackie movies.
Oddly enough, I don’t think any of Jackie’s later Western movies really improved on the approach shown here, they just made her work funnier people and relied on their star’s natural likability to see them at through.
This one is fun but still feels like a missed opportunity.
*** out of *****
Jackie’s first film for Golden Harvest, The young masterwas a huge hit and so he was tasked with directing a sequel after its US debut.
However, while most stars would continue to go down the drain until audiences let them down, it’s the film that reveals Jackie to be a filmmaker of some ingenuity and vision. Realizing very early on that the choreography of The young master couldn’t be topped, Jackie decided to build the film around a series of massive and elaborate stunt sequences.
The opening sequence involving a bun pyramid held the Guinness World Record for most takes in a single sequence. This is the movie where Jackie first got essentially unlimited resources and time from the studio and to be honest…it’s not a complete hit, but essential viewing for Jackie fans.
*** ½ out of *****
In the final analysis, it’s not the home run that Arrow Shaw sets are in terms of getting so many essential films in one package, but if you’re a Jackie Chan fan, those early films remain under-seen and ripe for re-evaluation and appreciation.
I have seen almost all of Jackie’s movies and was shocked at how Snake and Crane… And dragon fist were, above all.