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Chinese Boxer, The
In The Chinese Boxer Jimmy Wang Yu plays a noble Kung Fu student named Lei Ming. One day, a gang of vicious Japanese Karate punks burst onto the scene and kill everyone at his school except for him. Everyone is dead, even his teacher. This inspires Lei Ming to master the art of the iron palm technique and avenge everybody else's death by taking down the Japanese devils and making them pay. One by one, he tracks them down and squares off against his enemies until it's time for the ultimate showdown.
One of the first big stars of the Shaw Brothers martial arts films, Jimmy Wang Yu has a fantastic screen presence and that sort of cool charm and charisma that always makes for a good leading man. Sure, maybe his martial arts skills were a little below some of his contemporaries and yeah, okay, a lot of his movies relied more on gimmicks than really good fight choreography but Wang Yu had one thing working in his favor that a lot of his other fellow big screen kung fu masters lacked: passion.
Despite the fact that Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan would have almost certainly kicked the snot of him in seconds flat, Wang Yu convinces you that he is the man by really and truly meaning it. When he speaks, you listen and you pay attention because of his enthusiasm for what he's doing up there on your television or local theater screen.
While the plot doesn't really stray into anything resembling new territory (let's face it, the Chinese martial arts students versus the sinister Japanese angle has been played out more than a couple of times), The Chinese Boxer sets itself apart thanks to a great cast consisting of Wang Yu, Lo Lieh (who plays the big bad rapist Japanese bad guy leader), and even a cameo from Yuen Wo-Ping. It also has a very dusty, dirty feel to it and it looks to have been influenced by the Spaghetti Westerns coming out of Italy a few years earlier. Wang Yu is a hero out for revenge and if you changed his clothes and gave him a smoke and some stubble, he wouldn't look out of place with a hat on wandering into a one horse town awaiting a shootout.
While far gorier films would emerge out of Hong Kong (Cheng Cheh's films come immediately to mind), The Chinese Boxer still has an obvious vicious streak running throughout. Wang Yu pulls off an eye gouge or two (similar to one of Sonny Chiba's preferred methods of dealing with his enemies) and puts his fist through a couple of chest cavities during his travels as well. While it isn't as over the top as later Wang Yu directorial efforts like his most famous film, Master Of The Flying Guillotine, it's still got enough crazed kung fu action to make this one very much worth your time.
88 Films brings The Chines Boxer to Blu-ray framed in 2.35.1 widescreen in AVC encoded 1080p high definition taking up 28.3GBs of space on a 50GB disc. Colors look quite good here and black levels are fine but some digital noise reduction appears to have been applied, some detail is on the soft side and the image is seemingly free or natural looking grain. There's virtually no print damage, however, and the transfer is free of obvious compression artifacts and edge enhancement.
LPCM Mono options are provided in both a Chinese language option with English Subtitles and in an English dubbed track. The Chinese track plays best, it suits the film more and it sounds quite clean with no audible issues. The English track is fun in the goofy sort of way that dubbed tracks tend to be for older Shaw Brothers movies. Unfortunately, there are a few scenes were Chinese language text appears on screen, likely to identify certain characters or character traits, that the optional English subtitles fail to translate.
Extra features begin with an audio commentary by critic and author Samm Deighan that notes why the film is a pivotal martial arts film and how it becomes more of a hand to hand combat film than a lot of its predecessors. She goes over a lot of Wang Yu's history, influence and importance, what makes his style unique, some of the themes that the film explores and quite a bit more.
Up next is the fourteen minute Wong Ching At Shaw: And Interview With Wong Ching featurette, where he speaks about his work at the Shaw Brothers studio, having to learn how to do martial arts action scenes early in his career, staging some of the fight sequences, the depiction of different styles in these films and the importance of giving the audience what they want.
Open Hand Combat: David West On The Chinese Boxer is a seventeen minute featurette where West goes over the history of the film, the influence of the wusha movies that came before this picture, the use of empty hand martial arts as opposed to the use of weapons, details on Wang Yu's career, thoughts on Lo Lieh's presence in the movie (and his very obvious wig!) and the importance of influence of this film.
Finishing up the extras are a Hong Kong trailer, a US Hammer of God trailer and TV Spot, an alternate English language trailer, menus and chapter selection options.
This release also comes packaged with a slipcover, some reversible cover sleeve art and, folded up inside the clear Blu-ray keepcase, a nice double-sided replica of two of the film's poster art styles. Also included in the case is an insert booklet containing an essay by Andrew Graves and some nice archival images.
The Chinese Boxer is really solid stuff, a highly entertaining martial arts picture that is rife with action and excitement and which features the iconic Wang Yu at his best. 88 Films' Blu-ray release is a nice one, giving the film strong presentation on a disc with some nice extra features. 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.