Man from Hong Kong, The (Blu-ray Review)
Release Date(s)1975 (December 8, 2021)
Studio(s)Golden Harvest/The Movie Company (Umbrella Entertainment – Ozploitation Classics #9)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: A-
[Editor's Note: This is a REGION-FREE disc.]
Action films of the 1970s and 1980s are loaded with excess, many unintentionally hilarious because of it. From over-the-top to performances to jaw-dropping stunts to bigger and better explosions, one of all the time kings of the genre is Brian Trenchard-Smith. His filmmaking career began with documentary work, but in 1974, he was tapped to helm an upcoming co-production between Golden Harvest and The Movie Company. The resulting film, The Man from Hong Kong, was a hotbed of frequent antagonism behind-the-scenes, but bulges with frequent chopsocky action, extended car chases, building scaling, massive explosions, occasional nudity, and totally non-PC dialogue and situations. Trenchard-Smith intended the film as a satire on many of the action films popular at the time, including Bruce Lee films and the James Bond series, though one might argue that the final product surpasses satire and dives head first into unintentional hilarity—and we’re all the richer for it.
Inspector Fang Sing Leng (Jimmy Wang Yu, voiced by Roy Chiao) works for a special branch of the Hong Kong police. His tactics are unorthodox, the ladies love him, and he always gets his man, no matter what the cost. He’s flown to Australia by narcotics bureau officers Inspector Taylor (Roger Ward) and Sergeant Gross (Hugh Keays-Byrne) to assist in extraditing a prisoner, who was caught attempting to deliver drugs. Against orders, Fang goes after the prisoner’s employer, Jack Wilton (George Lazenby), a local businessman who runs a local martial arts school and is the head of the criminal underworld. Along the way, Fang finds female companionship in journalist Caroline Thorne (Rosalind Speirs) and later Angelica Pearson (Rebecca Gilling), the latter of whom Fang falls in love with. Wilton sends his men after Fang, but underestimates him as Fang works his way toward Wilton, fully intent on arresting him.
The Man from Hong Kong was shot by director of photography Russell Boyd on 35 mm film using Panavision cameras and anamorphic lenses, finished photochemically, and presented theatrically in the aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Umbrella Entertainment brings the film to Blu-ray for a second time as part of their Ozploitation Classics line. Their presentation appears to be taken from the same master used for their previous Blu-ray release, which was sourced from a “4K transfer.” The elements that were used aren’t mentioned, but it appears to at least be an interpositive, or an element close to it. Faint frame splices, scratches, and ringing are all on display, but the majority of the presentation is fairly healthy with good stability and high levels of fine detail. The color palette offers a nice array of reds, blues, and greens, as well as many city-bound hues. Blacks range from bright to dark, occasionally appearing crushed, with decent contrast. It’s a fine presentation, but there’s room for improvement.
Audio is included in English 5.1 and 2.0 mono DTS-HD Master Audio with optional English subtitles. The second option is the preferred choice in this instance. The 5.1 is oddly mixed, sounding almost narrow, particularly when it comes to dialogue which runs straight up the middle of the track. It’s off-putting. The two channel option is far better balanced with strong push for the music and sound effects, as well as clear dialogue. There are no dropouts or instances of distortion to speak of either.
In addition to the Blu-ray, Umbrella Entertainment’s release also includes a CD soundtrack featuring twenty-three tracks of Noel Quinlan’s score, as well as Jigsaw’s hit song Sky High, which plays over the opening and closing credits. Extras include the following:
DISC ONE (BD)
- Audio Commentary with Brian Trenchard-Smith, Hugh Keays-Byrne, and Grant Page
- Raw! Real! Quick! (HD – 10:22)
- Extended Interviews from Not Quite Hollywood (HD – 93:14)
- The Stuntmen (Upscaled HD – 51:59)
- Kung Fu Killers (Upscaled HD – 76:17)
- Behind the Scenes Footage (Upscaled SD – 14:31)
- Press Conference and Opening Night Newsreel Footage (HD and Upscaled SD – 2:30)
- Trailers from Hell with Brian Trenchard-Smith (HD – 6:25)
- Alternative Trailer (SD – 1:55)
- Theatrical Trailer (HD – 3:50)
- Brian Trenchard-Smith Trailer Reel (SD and HD – 40:55)
DISC TWO (CD)
- Rock Top Battle (3:09)
- Chopper Chase (4:03)
- Sky High (Opening Credits) (3:58)
- Airport (1:40)
- Foot Chase (2:16)
- Wilton Building (1:02)
- Working Out (2:00)
- Kite Slow (1:09)
- Party (3:38)
- The Incursion (3:54)
- After Fight (:48)
- Escape (1:38)
- Drinking Soup (1:17)
- Maurie`s Theme (2:42)
- A Man Is a Man Is a Man (2:36)
- A Man Is a Man Is a Man (Version Two) (1:30)
- Bomb on Car (1:37)
- Revenge (2:58)
- Kite Fast (2:07)
- Roof Top (3:13)
- The Last Moment of Wilton (6:40)
- Sky High (Closing Credits) (4:25)
- Power (Unused Title Track) (3:44)
The audio commentary with director Brian Trenchard-Smith features Hugh Keays-Byrne and Grant Page, which was recorded for the film’s DVD release in 2001. As always, Trenchard-Smith provides an entertaining and informative commentary, occasionally allowing Keays-Byrne and Page to dip in to make comments by phone. In Raw! Real! Quick! (a new addition), stunt performer and actor Grant Page discusses the film and his experiences on it, as well as the state of action filmmaking at that time in comparison to today. The Extended Interviews from Not Quite Hollywood feature Brian Trenchard-Smith, executive producer David Hannay, actors George Lazenby, Rebecca Gilling, Roger Ward, first assistant director Hal McElroy, director of photography Russell Boyd, and second unit cameraman John Seal. It’s worth noting that the interviews with Boyd and McElroy are newly-added for this release. The Stuntmen and Kung Fu Killers are two TV documentaries directed by Brian-Trenchard Smith prior to making The Man from Hong Kong. The Behind-the-Scenes Footage is made up of random shots during the making of the film set to music since the footage is silent. The Press Conference and Opening Night Footage was shot for Australian Movie Magazine during Jimmy Wang Yu’s arrival in Sydney to shoot the film, and the film’s premiere. Brian Trenchard-Smith also provides another excellent Trailers from Hell commentary on the film’s trailer. In addition, there’s the trailer itself, as well as an alternate (modern) trailer. The Trailer Reel features trailers for The Love Epidemic, The Man from Hong Kong, Death Cheaters, Stunt Rock, Turkey Shoot, BMX Bandits, Frog Dreaming (aka The Quest), Dead End Drive-In, Day of the Panther, Strike of the Panther, Out of the Body, Danger Freaks, Night of the Demons 2, Leprechaun 3, Leprechaun 4: In Space, Britannic, Megiddo: The Omega Code 2, Operation Wolverine (aka Seconds to Spare), Arctic Blast, The Cabin, Chemistry, Absolute Deception, and Drive Hard.
A number of bonus materials from the previous Umbrella Entertainment Blu-ray haven’t carried over, which include The Headman's Daughter book trailer; standard definition presentations of Deathcheaters, Stunt Rock, and Dangerfreaks; audio commentaries on Deathcheaters and Stunt Rock; a Stunt Rock promo reel; and trailers for Stunt Rock and Dangerfreaks. Not included from various overseas DVD releases are a couple of still galleries, a Jimmy Wang Yu trailer gallery, and German and Hong Kong trailers for the film. It’s also worth noting that the Dragon Flies cut of the film is also not included.
Both discs sit inside a clear amaray case with an insert that features the US theatrical artwork showcasing both titles for the film on the front and back, and a piece of unknown artwork for the film on the reverse with a CD track listing. (Judging by the style of the artwork, it possibly comes from a Japanese poster, though that’s an educated guess on my part that I have yet to confirm.) Everything is housed within a slipcover featuring the Italian daybill poster artwork.
The Man from Hong Kong wasn’t a big hit everywhere in the world upon its initial release, but it has become a well-regarded cult film, thanks in no small part to Quentin Tarantino’s open love of it, as well as its inclusion in Mark Hartley’s Not Quite Hollywood documentary. Umbrella Entertainment ups the ante of their previous release by adding even more extras to the package, including the soundtrack, but drops the standard definition films of the old release (which have subsequently come to Blu-ray in higher quality anyway). For fans thinking of double dipping or otherwise, this is currently the best release of the film to own.
- Tim Salmons
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