A Favorite Film Gets Even Better
S. VALE | Northern California | 12/17/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have already enjoyed "HEROES OF THE EAST" (aka "SHAOLIN CHALLENGES NINJA") for over 15 years, first having seen it on video tape, then on DVD and now on this excellent Dragon Dynasty edition DVD.
IMHO, this is one of their best yet, if not THE best, releases. The movie is finally restored (thanks to Celestial Pictures), to its ShawScope glory, with both Mandarin and Cantonese soundtracks (as well as that good 'ol, clunky English dub, which I doubt I will ever listen to again!), and a bevy of cool special features.
There are so many reviews of both the film itself and the special features here (and elsewhere), I will only add that this movie is one of the great kung fu movies of all time. It is rare in that there are no deaths and not even any serious injuries (except perhaps to an ego here and there!). It is a movie about sharing culture, about the challenges in any marriage, and especially in a marriage where there is a culture barrier. It is a story about being patient and loving anyway (but that message is covert. This is not a romance, nor a "chick-flick" yet, I do believe that many women will enjoy it, even if they are not big martial art fans, and I also think it is good for kids).
The martial arts in this film, directed and choreographed by the great real and film martial arts master Lau Kar Leung (and he even makes a great cameo as the Drunken Master "Beggar Su", in addition to filling in for his adopted brother, student and lead actor Gordon Liu on some difficult moves, most especially with the weapon, Three Sectional Staff. I always knew that the moves behind the back were NOT Gordon Liu, but I did not know, until the commentary by Bey Logan, that it was Lau Sifu) are some of the best ever. It is mostly pretty realistic (and even the exceptions are still pretty cool to watch) kung fu choreography, with little wire work (almost none, if any), few special effects shots, and believable fights (again Bey Logan's commentary helped me, because the few fights that are not completely believable, I always had a little trouble with, and it is nice to hear confirmation about those. E.g. A Chinese straight sword would not and could not stand up to full contact with a Samurai sword. The Chinese sword would break. Period!). THe exceptions are few and as I say, still fun and work within the context of the story.
And the story is a good one. A truly great martial arts movie or action movie of any kind, should have the action help tell the story. And this one does.
The special features on this disc are generous and quality. I loved Bey Logan's commentary and half hour tribute to Lau Sifu and the movie itself. I really like Bey's commentaries. I could almost see myself getting any and all DD releases just for those, even though I might not love the film. But on this one, not only do I love the film, but it is one of his best commentaries. His obvious love and respect for Lau Sifu and for the film itself, is both evident and enhances my enjoyment of the movie itself.
Gordon Liu's interview is also about a half hour (or at least 25 minutes) and also is very interesting. While he repeats some of what he has said in other interviews on other DD releases, there is plenty specific to this movie that makes it very special and interesting (e.g. how he and the Japanese actress who played his wife were able to "bond" a bit on a date before filming and also how they worked out a little code, so they could know when it was their cue, since neither spoke the other's language!).
And the feature about Japanese and Chinese weapons was also interesting and the woman who was the host for this was kinda cute!
This is my favorite DD release thus far by far. It is tremendously entertaining with lots of repeatability for viewing pleasure and I also continue to learn a lot, both from the movie and from the special features.
"HEROES OF THE EAST" was already one of my favorite kung fu movies of all time (and I admit, I am still missing having seen a few classics, such as "THE PRODIGAL SON", and have never seen all of Jet Li's "FIST OF LEGEND"... not more than a few scenes in a video store in Times Square over 15 years ago! I know, I know: I should be ashamed of myself. It is next on my list!). But I have seen a good deal of the Shaw Brothers 70's and early 80's classics and again, this has already ranked up with my favorites (most notably, "THE 36th CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN", aka "THE MASTER KILLER").
Now, with this DD release, I think "HEROES OF THE EAST" climbs up to tie with anything as number one. For me, now, there may be those that are as good, but none better.
I would definitely rate this one as a must buy (especially at the price! But even for twice the price, I would still get it)."