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Young Master

Fox // PG-13 // May 25, 2004
List Price: $9.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by J. Doyle Wallis | posted June 26, 2004 | E-mail the Author
Young Master (1980) was one of Jackie Chan's early directorial/starring efforts. The success of Drunken Master and Snake in the Eagles Shadow afforded Chan the clout to take the reigns and would see him further explore the comedic persona and complex fighting style that would soon define him as a HK action legend.

Lung (Jackie Chan) and his brother, Jing (Wei Pei), are a troublesome pair of orphan students at a martial school. Actually, it is mainly Jing who causes the most scandal, with Lung often taking the fall for his sibling. After Jing takes a bribe and assists a rival school to win the local lion dance competition, the scandal is uncovered, shaming the school, and leading to Jing's dismissal. A deposed Jing turns to a life of crime by aiding the rival school in breaking out their imprisoned leader, Master Kam (Whang Ing-sik- Dragon Lord, A Man Called Stoner). Mistaken identity leads to Lung being fingered in the crime. On the run and out to save his brother, Lung is forced into finding a way to clear his name, try to save his brother, and defeat the deadly master.

Golden Harvest spent the better part of the 70's trying to find their next Bruce Lee, and initially that was where Jackie's talent was steered. Instead of cultivating hits, he never clicked with audiences and starred in a string of underperforming films. It wasn't until he was loaned out to Seasonal Films and paired with director Yuen Woo Ping that he found some real success- all because he strayed from the Lee persona of a confident swaggering hero and into a more comedic, hapless hero who was formidable when it came to the end. Young Master is evidence that Jackie took this to heart and features a more bumbling hero, who musters the courage and might, only just so, when he needs too.

As a debut effort, Jackie does well. While the story has its gaps, thin character flaws, and the comedy gets a little too goofy (for my tastes anyway), overall, the pure exuberance makes it a very entertaining film that is greatly highlighted by co-starring roles for Shek Kin (Enter the Dragon) and Yuen Biao (Dragons Forever, Prodigal Son as the constable and his son.

Really the standout scene in the film, the one thing all viewers take away form the film is the fifteen minute long final fight between Jackie and taekwondo expert Whang Ing-sik. While Kill Bill Vol 1 may have its fabulous twenty minute, massive showdown at the House of Blue Leaves, Young Master features a one-on-one face-off that is just as impressive because it lacks the elaboration. Here it is, just two men, in a field with some mountains in the background, fighting for fifteen minutes. And, the choregraphy is consistenly amazing without indulging in cinematic trickery- just hinging on the physical prowess of the two men. It is a single scene that puts to shame the total careers of the Norris, the Segals, and the Van Dammes of this world.

The DVD: Fox

Picture: Ananmorphic Widescreen. Now, I didn't have any other versions of the film to compare, but thankfully the good folks over at have a comparison between the US Fox, UK Hong Kong Legends, and HK Universe Young Master DVDs. What the comparison reveals is that the Fox disc has a considerably sharper and more detailed image. However, each transfer has a different take on the framing of the film with the Fox, in some instances, choosing to crop some of the top of the image.

The disparaging quality of the transfers shows why it is so hard to pin down a perfect transfer of poorly preserved HK films. The framing difference, while looking horrendous in stills, actually is not that awkward and, on the Fox, is rarely that noticeable since it doesn't hinder the action scenes. Another thing the stills don't show, while possessing the best detail, the Fox disc suffers form some flickering. Color strays towards the warmer hues, which enhances the flesh details but dilutes the environmental surroundings.

So, what is the consensus? Young Master, like so many old school kung fu films, clearly exists in a state where getting perfect transfer elements seems to be damn near impossible. This transfer has both its flaws and its applaudable points. Luckily it is offered at such a low price, fans shouldn't mind the purchase, especially considering it is, arguably, the best option out there.

Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS English or Cantonese audio options. English subtitles/"dubtiltes." The disc features a sticker with "Restored, Remastered with 5.1 audio" proudly stuck on the shrinkwrap, which gave me a good chuckle since this is probalby the films weakest selling point. Now, I'm one not to proclaim that the original HK mono soundtrack is not without its weakness. However, the remastered mix, is nothing more than the original thin mix, the tinny score and dub, with some very obvious and generic action fx slapped onto it.

Extras: Chapter Selections— New and original trailers for Young Master, plus trailers for Operation Scorpio, Royal Warriors, Game of Death 2 and Prodigal Son.

Conclusion: Well, far from absolute perfection- barebones, iffy sound, and compromised image. Still, at under $10, it should be a steal for old school kung fu/Jackie fans looking for a decent, watchable trasnfer of the film.

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