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Golden Needles (Special Edition)
Directed by Robert Clouse and bearing some striking similarities to The Maltese Falcon, 1974's Golden Needles begins with a scene in which we learn of a mysterious golden statue that serves as a guideline for acupuncturists and will show them how to administer their needles in such a way as to give the recipient youthful vigor and powerful boners. If used wrong, the procedure can result in painful death. We see this statue sitting in a Chinese acupuncturist's secret lair where he helps a guy who can't move his hands. But as soon as his work proves successful, dudes in silver flame retardant suits come in with flamethrowers and burn the place down, making off with the statue in the ensuing chaos.
It turns out the dude behind this daring theft was a local Hong Kong based crime lord named Lin Toa (Roy Chiao) who has agreed to sell it to a pretty American woman named Felicity (Elizabeth Ashley), who is in turn supposed to bring it back to America for her boss. When Felicity shows up to get the statue, Lin Tao tells her he wants more money and then ignores her, more interested in painting the dude in his office than talking to her for some reason. Felicity is understandably annoyed so she heads back to talk to Kwan (Tony Lee), the guy who brokered this deal, and he decides that rather than deal with Lin Toa, they should hire an American guy named Dan (Joe Don Baker) who they find losing his money and casually flirting with a fat lady named Finzie (Ann Southern) at a sleazy gambling den. Felicity tries to talk Dan into it, but he's not having any of it… until she begs and offers to give him thirty grand and a romp in the sack for his trouble - and then for some reason he makes her pretend to be his mommy, hug him, and tell her she loves him. What? Given that Joe Don Baker always plays the horniest of the horny, he agrees and later that night sneaks into Lin Toa's poorly guarded base of operations and steals the statue, brawling with some of his hoodlums on the way out and tossing some guys through some windows, narrowly avoiding some deadly snakes on the way out. What? Snakes? Yes!
With the statue safe and sound, Dan gets his crack in bed with the moderately attractive middle aged woman, but not before they're interrupted by room service who have come by to deliver a veritable buffet of delights straight from the ocean! They chow down on seafood and frolic in bed and then the action heads stateside where Dan meets up with his old pal, an expert in antiques named Jeff (Jim Kelly). They decide to check in on the drop off and make sure all has gone well, and it's at this point that Felicity's employer is revealed to be none other than a crazy old man in a bowtie named Winters (Burgess Meredith). He finds out that the statue is fake, much to the dismay of the guy who the technique is tested on, and makes it clear that all those involved had better get him what he paid for or else. Dan and Jeff head to a health spa where they figure the statue must have been accidently delivered to and get into a rad fight, and then, with some help from a pretty Chinese cop named Lotus (Alice Fong), Dan heads back to Hong Kong to sort all this out and give Lin Toa what for, but not before he's falsely accused of being a child murdered and not before he drains Felicity's bathwater while she's in the tub and not before he throws more Chinese guys through more windows than you can shake a stolen gold statue at!
While Golden Needles may not be as mind numbingly awesome as Clouse's best known film, Enter The Dragon, it's still a lot of good, stupid fun. Watching Joe Don Baker make his way through the streets of Hong Kong without looking completely ridiculous is somehow completely entrancing and anytime he has dialogue with Elizabeth Ashley the movie turns into sexually confused gold. Jim Kelly doesn't get nearly enough screen time here and your mom would make a more believable antiques dealer than he does, but he choreographed his own fight scenes in this movie and you'd best believe he kicks a whole lot of ass when his time to shine finally comes. The whole thing comes complete with a pretty solid score courtesy of composer Lalo Schifrin and if it isn't always good, it's always entertaining.
Golden Needles is presented on a 50GB region A disc with the feature taking up 30GBs of space. Presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition and framed at 2.35.1, the transfer looks very nice, offering a pretty solid upgrade over MGM's older MOD-DVD-R release of the film from a few years back. Detail is quite strong here and colors look really nice. We get good black levels and a very natural looking amount of film grain. There's very little noticeable damage outside of some small white specks here and there, and the picture is free of any noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression artifacts.
The English language 16-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono sounds fine. The track is nicely balanced and free of any noticeable distortion. The rock solid score sounds quite good here as well. No problems to note.
Extras start off with a brand new audio commentary by film historians Howard S. Berger and Chris Poggiali who start by talking about how they first came to see the movie. From there, they talk about how the movie pushes its PG rating, the Maltese Falcon-esque qualities of the story, how sex is present in almost every aspect of the movie, the larger than life comic book style characters in the movie, the different actors that appear in the movie (lots of info on Kelly and Baker), the use of phallic substitutes in the film, notes on the script, the use of color (specifically red) in the film, details on Clouse and his work, similarities to The Killer Elite and quite a bit more. It's an interesting talk, these guys know their stuff and are clearly having a good time talking about it.
The disc also includes some radio spots, an image gallery, a theatrical trailer, a TV spot, a few bonus trailers (Mr. Majestyk, Newman's Law, Brannigan, Thunderbolt And Lightfoot, Truck Turner, The Laughing Policeman and Revenge Of The Ninja), menus and chapter selection options. Kino packages this with a slipcover and some reversible cover sleeve art too.
Golden Needles is worth seeing just for the zany conclusion but even before we get to that part it's a fun mix of mystery, suspense, action and just plain nuttiness. It features an interesting cast, some cool locations, and some rock solid fight scenes, and it's got Burgess Meredith in it and a bunch of snakes too! Kino's Blu-ray offers a nice high definition upgrade over the previous DVD-R release and contains some nice extras too. The movie itself is a blast and absolutely worth seeking for the Bakerphiles out there in movie-land. 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.