There’s much ado on the case’s copy that this was a major inspiration for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and the similarities are hard to miss. Like Ang Lee’s film, this 1966 effort is a lush period piece with gorgeous, rich colours and elaborate wire work. And, as in the later film, the central character is a female warrior, in this case an officer of the law sent to rescue a kidnapped victim from a clan of ruthless (but not always terribly bright) bandits. There’s a male aid here, too, in the form of an apparent drunken bum who is, of course, in reality a martial arts master.
There is a lot of pleasure to be had here, and the film has considerable charm, though some viewers might be put off by the sometimes jarring juxtaposition of silly, knockabout comedy and harsh violence. Modern viewers might also be a bit disappointed in the fight scenes, which don’t have the grace of the later movie, and they can also be very brief. Nonetheless, a good time at the flicks.
Two choices here: original Mandarin mono and 5.1 dubbed English. While the latter is certainly the richer sound, it also features wraparound dialogue, which is all the more disconcerting given how awkward the dubbing inevitably sounds. So the mono is definitely the way to go here, even though it has clearly aged, and is prone to harshness and distortion. No perfect solution, then, but an acceptable choice given the film’s vintage.
The print is in wonderful shape. There is no damage or grain, and if the audio sounds very much like 1966, the picture suggests a film made yesterday. The colours are strong, even brilliant, and the contrasts, and blacks are spectacular. If there is one thing where this film delivers, it’s eye candy, and the transfer is up to the challenge.
Quite the cinephile’s collection here. Lead actress Chen Pei-Pei joins HK film expert Bey Logan for an informative commentary track. She is also the subject of an interview featurette (“Come Speak With Me”), as is lead actor Yueh Hua (“Return of the Drunken Master”), and Logan does double-duty with a retrospective – “A Classic Remembered.” Tsui Hark, meanwhile, waxes nostalgic about the director in “The King and I.” And then there’s the trailer gallery.
A solid set of extras for an influential action film. A nice package.