NOTE: Please be aware that this DVD is a British import and while it is coded as Region 0 it will only play on PAL compatible DVD players. In order to view this DVD, you'll have to have either PAL compatible DVD player or a Region Free DVD player. [Recommended Region Free Players] It will not play in standard Region 1 North American DVD players.
Ronnie Yu's original The Bride With White Hair is widely regarded as a classic of the Hong Kong new wave – a sublime blend of supernatural, horror, romance and mystery, it was simply a beautiful film to look at and which told an interesting story at the same time. The film did big box office and proved itself a hit, and so a sequel was rushed into production, once again with the lovely Brigitte Lin and Leslie Chung in the lead roles.
Following the events in the first movie, we find that Lien Ni-Chang (Lin) has become an enraged monster, a white haired witch of great and evil power, because Cho Yi-Hang (Leslie Chung) doubted her after swearing to her that he would never do so. With her anger searing out of control her mission is to completely eliminate all eight of the clans in the area, with a particular emphasis put on eliminating the Wu Tang Clan, as that is the clan that Cho Yi-Hang belongs to. Cho himself has taken off, seeking refuge in a remote mountain area where a mystical flower is said to bloom only once every two decades. He hopes to catch this flower when it does bloom as it has the power to clean Lien's soul from the hatred that burns within her.
Fast forward ten years and Lien has killed off every last member of the Wu Tang clan save for Cho and his nephew Kit (Sunny Chan). As luck would have it, Kit is all set to marry a lovely lady named Lyre (Joey Mann) which means that the clan could be rebuilt if they were to have children. This causes Lien to swing back into action and kidnap Lyre, taking her back to her castle and brainwashing her to become a man hating witch like herself. The clans all team up and send in their finest warriors to help Kit get Lyre back from Lien but Lien proves to be a formidable opponent and soon Kit realizes that the only way to get Lien to relent is to bring his reclusive uncle and Lien former lover, Cho Yi-Hang, back into the picture.
The most obvious difference between this film and its predecessor is that this second time around the emphasis is definitely placed more on the action than on the love story. That's not to say that the romantic aspect that made the first movie so interesting isn't there, it just plays second fiddle to the martial arts. This gives the movie a different feel all together even though the movie works with many of the same characters and ideas that worked so well in the first film.
The politics of the film are stronger than the first movie as well, as pretty much all of the men in the movie are portrayed as either cowards or sleaze balls and with Lien basically creating and lording over a communal group of women who she takes under her wing and develops as her own disciples in a sense, teaching them to kill every man that they see. Whether or not it's a feminist statement or some sort of simply just an interesting plot device is debatable but Lin does a really good job of taking the role and running with it. Yu makes sure that when she enters combat and uses her hair as her weapon, that the camera captures all of the action and from an art direction stand point she's almost put up on a pedestal, portrayed as godlike at times.
Leslie Cheung isn't given as much to do this time around as he was in the first film but he still plays an obviously important part in the story, particularly in its conclusion. He's pretty suave in the part, and it's a shame that he'd commit suicide in 2003 as in this film and in the first film, as well as his work with Wong Kar Wai, he really does prove himself as an actor.
When it's all said and done the movie doesn't work quite as well as the first film does as it is a little more formulaic and less the hybrid that the original was but as an action/martial arts film with some interesting romantic over tones, it works. It's well paced, beautifully shot, and well acted and even if it doesn't hit quite as many notes as its predecessor it is still an interesting and entertaining movie in its own right.
Tartan's transfer is presented 1.85.1 widescreen but sadly is not enhanced for anamorphic sets. Quality of the image isn't bad, though there are some mild compression artifacts noticeable in a few of the darker scenes that take place throughout the movie. Color reproduction is strong, with the blue and red hues used throughout the film looking quite nice, though some of the fine detail does seem to get lost in the lighting effects from time to time. Print damage and grain are never really a problem nor do they ever get out of hand though some slight edge enhancement and aliasing are present in more than a few spots. Overall it's not a perfect transfer but it's perfectly watchable.
You've got the choice of watching the film in one of two Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks, one in English and one in Cantonese, both with optional English subtitles. There aren't any problems with hiss or distortion present here, and while a true 5.1 Surround Sound mix would have made the action scenes a little more fun, the stereo effects here and plentiful and well defined. Dialogue is clean and clear and easy to follow and the subtitles are free of any typographical errors. More bass would have been a plus but as it stands the movie sounds fine on this DVD.
There isn't a whole lot to dig into on this release in terms of extra features though Tartan has included biographies for the key cast and crew members, some production notes, and a trailer reel which includes promo spots for a few other Asian releases they have the rights to. Basic menus and a chapter selection option are also included.
While the lack of extra features and an anamorphic transfer keep this one from scoring too high, Tartan's PAL release of The Bride With White Hair 2 looks and sounds alright and the movie itself holds up well. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.