|Reviews & Columns|
TV on DVD
Reviews by Studio
Collector Series DVDs
Easter Egg Database
DVD Talk Radio
The M.O.D. Squad
DVD Talk Forum
DVD Price Search|
Customer Service #'s
Moon Warriors (1992) was released at the peak of Hong Kong's new wave swordplay, wire fu, fantasy films. Alongside the likes of Bride with White Hair, Butterfly and Sword and the Swordsman trilogy to name a few, Moon Warriors stands out not only because of its HK superstar cast, its action, its sizable (in HK terms) budget, or its notable director, but because it features a killer whale.
Fei (Andy Lau, Fulltime Killer, Running out of Time, Infernal Affairs) is a simple country boy who stumbles into- actually it stumbles into him- a feud between the reigning princes. It seems that the 13th prince (Kenny Bee, Eagle Shooting Heroes, Savior of the Soul) has been usurped by his crazed militaristic brother the 14th prince, whose minions are now chasing the 13th prince across the countryside. Fei helps defend the 13th prince and gives him refuge near his village. The 13th prince is trying to get to Lord Lanling, the father of the girl he is engaged to, Moon (Anita Mui, Heroic Trio, Rouge, Miracles). Their marriage will give the 13th prince the support to overthrow his brother. Fei goes to get Moon, and as the two make their way to the hiding supplanted prince, eluding assassins, they begin to have affections for one another. Complicating things is the unrequited love bodyguard Mo Shin-Yee (Maggie Chueng, Police Story, In the Mood for Love, ) has for the 13th prince. With the aide of an informant the evil prince converges on his brother and Fei's village, leading to a blood-soaked finale in the mausoleum of the first emperor.
Now, you're probably wondering about the killer whale. The whale in question is Hoiwai, Fei's pet. Really it is only in about three ungainly scenes. Fei has a whole Lassie-like relationship going on with the whale, and if you want to reach for significance, it shows his connection to nature. But the real significance is that the whale was incorporated into the film as a bit of promotion for the Ocean Park water park in Hong Kong. Sort of like the Miami Dolphins in Ace Ventura or Superman tossing Non into the Coke billboard in Superman 2.
For a film of its genre, the plotting is pretty simple and doesn't get into the muddle of a Swordsman 2 or the head scratching Kung Fu Colt Master. Lau is the typical ever charming hero, half innocent bumpkin and half deadly sword fighter. Mui is almost miscast as the young princess (she is a bit old for the role) but does well, especially in some privileged princess vs. rough country boy antics between her and Lau's character. Director/legend Sammo Hung (Pedicab Driver, Dragons Forever, Eastern Condors, Prodigal Son) had a nice budget to work with, and the mausoleum set is great, with rest of the locales serving there purpose like the standard open air courtyard for the nobles and a simple fishing village for Fei's people. The battles are ainly combined to outdoor lactions, bamboo forests, complete with mist and shafts of sunlight King Hu style.
It is the action that really propels the film. While Sammo is one of the greatest action choreographers- ever, you can tell that he let the reigns over to action director Ching Sui Tung, who with films like Duel to the Death, Chinese Ghost Story, Executioners and East is Red is one of the men most responsible for modern HK wirework fantasy action. Fans of the genre will notice his trademark wide angle low to the ground shots, spinning stuntmen, and whirling swordplay. The film erupts into action frequently, with the standout scene being a fight in a thorny thicket between an assassin, Fei, and Moon, and the finale in which everyone's favorite whale lends a hand, I mean- a fin, to help defeat the bad guy.
The DVD: Tai Seng
Picture: Non-anamorphic Widescreen. Well, it were two or three years ago, I would have watched the film and thought the image was pretty good and been happy with it looking better than the grainy video I first saw the film on. However, in this day and age of HK's Celestial, UK's Hong Kong Legends, and even some of Columbia's transfers of HK films, we now see that if some care and time is taken, even the low budget, badly stored, HK films of old can get clean decent DVD transfers.
The transfer here will remind HK fans of all of those budget Universe titles. Colors are a bit muddy. Contrast isn't exactly rich with detail. Overall image definition is pretty weak, though not the worst I've seen and certainly watchable. Some edge enhancement, but it isn't nearly as distracting as the overall subdued image quality. But if you've ever plopped down $5-10 bucks for a Universe or Mega Star import and not cried over the picture, then you wont cry over this one either.
Sound: Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS, Mono, Mandarin, or English DD 5.1 audio options with optional English subtitles. I still wonder why it is they can plop down five language tracks but cannot take the time to make an anamorphic picture? I mainly listened to the Cantonese DD 5.1 track and briefly touched on the other tracks. Pretty nice, though until recently HK audio has never aimed at being particularly impressive. This film is from the days when audio was pretty much an afterthought. I do not think already weak tracks benefit too much from upgrades to things like DTS, and this audio transfer didn't go any further to convince me since mainly everything is centered. But, it gets the job done. Subtitles are good and, other than the already fumbling proverbs the characters lapse into, they are free of any awkward stumbles.
Extras: Chapter Selections--- Trailers for Duel to the Death, Dragon Inn, Master Swordsman, My Schoolmate the Barbarian, andThe Duel--- Alternate Ending (8:27). Actually, to be fair, it is an alternate End Credit Sequence since the films narrative isn't changed at all. What do we get to see? Why more whale of course. This ending has lengthy behind the scenes clips of Andy Lau training with the whale while the credits roll.--- Commentary by "Asian Cult Cinema" columnist Ric Meyers and Tai Seng bigwig Frank Djeng. Typical third person/"expert" commentary. General talk about the style of the film, the actors bios, and some speculation (like the similarity between Lau's character here and one he played in Handsome Siblings).Kinky fetishist Ric Meyers has made a career out of his gift for colorful hyperbole, industry connections, and having written a film guide that he took sole credit for by removing his co-authors names (their sections being the best written and accurate portions of the book). So, you have to take all the info he states with a grain of salt. No scratch that, with a silo full of salt.
Conclusion: It is a solid entry into the new wave fantasy genre, though not one of the peaks. Still, fans of this type of film will be satisfied, a brisk hour and a half with many fights and decent characters. It is probably the only film an HK fan could pop in to amuse whale watchers. The DVD is okay, certainly of a middling quality that HK fans are used to, though in the past few years other companies have proven it is possible to make much better transfers from HK material. The film is good but the transfer isn't stellar, making it a casual purchase at best and not a must-have definitive edition for HK film fans.