The latest wave of Special Collectors Editions from the Dragon Dynasty label put out by Genius/Weinstein Home Entertainment is four Shaw Brothers martial arts classics: "My Young Auntie", "36 Chambers of Shaolin", "King Boxer: Five Fingers of Death" and "The One-Armed Swordsman". "My Young Auntie" stars Kara Hui as Ching Dai-nan, a young woman who travels to find a long-lost relative, Yu Jing-chuen (played by director Chia-Liang Liu) in order to seek help in protecting her late husband's will from his greedy brother.
Gordon Liu stars as Liu Yu-te in the Hong Kong classic, "36 Chambers of Shaolin." Yu-te remains a peaceful soul until General Tien (Lo Lieh) attacks his village. Realizing that he must do something to stop the general, he heads to a nearby temple, where the monks rename him and agree to teach him the increasingly difficult 35 chambers of Shaolin kung-fu. "One-Armed Swordsman" stars
"King Boxer" stars Lo Lieh as Chao Chih-hao, who has been learning the martial arts from his master (Wen Chung Ku) until the master decides that he has taught the young man all he can, and tells him to head to a school to learn from the masters there. While it's difficult to leave his master and the master's beautiful daughter, his master does teach him to master the Iron Fist in time to take on a rival school.
VIDEO: All four films are presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen by Genius Home Entertainment. These are mostly impressive transfers, considering the fact that I've seen quite a few Hong Kong films that look worn or quite worn. "King Boxer" is from 1972 and looks absolutely terrific, appearing sharp and well-defined. Extras or no extras (although it's great that there are extras), these titles are worth it for the presentations alone, as the studio really did a fine job cleaning these films up for these releases. While there are a few specks and minor marks on occasion, the elements otherwise appear in tip-top fighting shape. Colors do not appear faded or otherwise problematic. Count these as four more Dragon Dynasty presentations that I'm impressed with - I have to imagine that these films have not looked this good since they were originally released in theatres.
SOUND: All four films offer Mandarin mono and English dubbed mono. The English dubbed soundtracks are - not surprisingly - rather poorly dubbed. The Canontese soundtracks seemed okay for their age, with flat sound effects and score, but clear dialogue.
EXTRAS: Quentin Tarantino is listed as providing a commentary on two of the films ("King Boxer" and "The One-Armed Swordsman"), but actually only appears on the track for "Boxer", where he provides an animated and quite fascinating discussion of the film with film critics Elvis Mitchell and David Chute. Chute does let the other two do a lot of the chatting, but contributes some good information, as well. Overall, this was an extremely informative track with some great facts about the film's release. The other commentaries may lack the energy of Tarantino, but they also provide a great deal of analysis and insight: rapper/fan The RZA and film critic Andy Klein contribute their thoughts to "The 36th Chamber of Shaolin", while Klein and Mitch chat about "My Young Auntie" and Klein steps in again with Chute for "One-Armed Swordsman".
However, the commentary track on each title is not the end of the features, as all four offer quite a few more great supplements, such as ("One-Armed Swordsman"): Interview with star Jimmy Wang Wu, interview with scholars David Chute and Andy Klein, "The Master Chang Cheh" featurette, stills, trailers and bios for those providing the commentaries. "King Boxer" offers interviews with director Chang Haw-Jeong, action director Lau Kar-Wing and film scholars David Chute and Andy Klein. "Boxer" also offers a stills gallery, trailers and commentator bios. "My Young Auntie" offers slightly less features, boasting interviews with star Kara Hui and film scholars David Chute and Andy Klein, stills, trailers and commentator bios. Finally, "36 Chambers of Shaolin" offers a video for Wu-Tang Clan's "Gravel Pit", an interview with Gordon Liu, interviews with The RZA and film scholars David Chute and Andy Klein, "Shaolin: A Hero Birthplace" featurette, stills, trailers and commentator bios.
Final Thoughts: Hong Kong fans get a treat with these four DVDs, as the Weinstein Company and Genius Home Entertainment have done a wonderful job putting these classics out on DVD with presentations that look fresh and some very enjoyable bonus features. Highly recommended.