"SHANGHAI EXPRESS (1986), one of the greatest action comedies of Hong Kong cinema, is better known as MILLIONAIRES' EXPRESS and is finally out in a beautifully mastered DVD edition for U.S. fans under this alternate title (not to be confused with the Marlene Dietrich classic of the same name). Sammo Hung (EASTERN CONDORS) both stars and directs and his frequent partner, Yuen Biao (PRODIGAL SON), co-stars. (Their other frequent partner at the time, Jackie Chan, is nowhere to be found.) The plot involves a trainload of rich passengers forced to stay overnight in a remote Chinese town, all part of a scheme by the town's black sheep, Cheng (Hung), a fugitive from the law, to bring prosperity to the town. Meanwhile, a gang of armed bandits on horseback, having made plans to rob the train, now sets its sights on taking over the town and plundering it. Only Cheng, along with the town's provincial police force and a trio of Japanese martial artists who were on the train, can take the town back in a rousing 20-minute fight finale.
There are multiple characters and numerous plot threads established early on. Classic farce comedy elements abound, including a philandering train passenger who must divide his time between his oversized wife and his mistress, leading to a hilarious scene at the hotel in town where numerous parties, including some bumbling gangsters, converge on the wrong room and keep having to hide under beds and in closets as different characters come in and out. Among the great Hong Kong comic performers on hand are Richard Ng, Lydia Shum, Fan Mei-sheng and Eric Tsang.
The real draw for martial arts fans is the large cast of international stars in the cast: American karate champ Cynthia Rothrock, in only her second film; Australian Richard Norton; Korean Hwang Jang Li (as one of the Japanese); and two Japanese stars who made their names in HK films, Yasuaki Kurata (FIST OF LEGEND) and Yukari Oshima (IRON ANGELS). In addition, there is a dazzling array of old-school kung fu talent on hand, including Jimmy Wang Yu, Phillip Ko, Wang Lung Wei, Lau Kar Wing, Bolo Yeung, Hsiao Hou, Corey Yuen, Dick Wei and Shih Kien (Han from ENTER THE DRAGON), in addition, of course, to two of the greatest, Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao.
The film was shot in Thailand, Canada, and Hong Kong (where the town set was built). If I have any complaint it's that the film is too short. The final action could easily have been extended and we learn from one of the disc's extras that many scenes were shot with numerous other Hong Kong stars but weren't used in the final cut. I'd love to see those.
The disc offers an English dub, as well as the preferred original Cantonese language track with subtitles. It comes with three new and informative interviews with Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao and Cynthia Rothrock, as well as audio commentary by Hong Kong film expert Bey Logan. Also, there are four deleted scenes provided as an extra, one about 5 minutes long and the other three adding up to about a minute and forty seconds total. I have an earlier Hong Kong import disc of the film that includes all four of the "deleted" scenes but in an otherwise shorter (96 minute) version of the film, meaning that the 102-minute cut on this disc has 12 minutes of footage missing from my earlier disc."
Moderately fun, but almost no Cynthia Rothrock!
E. Zimmerman | USA | 06/01/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"SHANGHAI EXPRESS is a moderately fun martial arts comedy "eastern," with Sammo Hung in predictably good form as both director and star. The real interest for me, however, was Cynthia Rothrock, who is so prominently displayed on the DVD cover art, receives third billing on said cover, and yet appears for less than 8 minutes of actual screen time!! Poor Cynthia has very little to do with this film, and poorer me for having shelled out almost twenty bucks for something I would have only rented had I known that Dragon Dynasty is stretching the truth so badly in their marketing here!
3 stars for the movie, but 0 for Dragon Dynasty and their intentionally misleading packaging."
Only for Sammo Hung/Yuen Biao completists
D. Wilson | NY by way of Cali | 09/03/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This is the first Dragon Dynasty release that I can't fully recommend. With all the great Sammo Hung films they could have suped up they pick this mixed bag? More interested in individual comedy scenes and fights than any real character development or plot, the movie is altogether too slow much of the way. Comedy and action are normally two great tastes that taste great together in kung fu movies such as Drunken Master and Magnificient Butcher, but here the jokes and slapstick scenes just aren't very funny and after seeing several in a row you'll be yearning for the fast forward button(if not the stop button). But for those that can make it through the first 53 minutes(53 minutes!?!?) the action as choreagraphed by Hung and Biao is top notch. In fact, the 3 star rating is on the films fight scenes alone, which are such a contrast to the film because they are so brutal, realistic, and bone-crunching, yet surrounded by a film that feels as if it was written as they went(and not well)... more fighting in the first half and some good editing could merit another star(the action is THAT good) but as is, 3 may even be too generous."
Wacky Kung-Fu comedy for serious HK fans only.
Scott Baboyian | Washington, DC | 06/02/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This film is a typically wacky caper, more of interest for hardcore fans of The 3 Dragons: Sammo, Yuen Biao, and Jackie Chan. While it features some exceptional fighting in the last reel, any viewer not thoroughly steeped in HK films will have to work pretty hard to make it through the first 2/3rds of the movie.
This movie tosses in everything but the kitchen sink. Slapstick and broad physical comedy is the main focus. The filmmakers just went crazy with all the characters, situations, and plot elements: a Wild West town in China, Samurai, Wong Fei Hung, Confederate soldiers, bank robbers, train robbers, jail breaks, fat jokes, a Madam her and prostitutes, a Keystone Cops-style fire fighting caper with Jackie-Chan-esque stunts, and an enormous cast featuring at least half the actors in Hong Kong (including Lau Kar Leung, Jimmy Wang Yu and Corey Yuen Kwai to name three out of dozens!)--and none of it makes any sense whatsoever. A lot of the humor is less than childish and will simply fall flat on most western audiences, unless you are really sensitized to this particular genre.
A lot of the humor is lost through the subtitle massacre that is perpetrated here. I'm assuming the producers of the DVD simply re-typed in bolder face the original British-mandated subtitles that every HK movie was required to be released with back when the movie was originally made. You'll have to work really hard to even come close to figuring out what the characters are saying, let alone get the jokes.
The plot is almost non-existent, and it doesn't take a genius to guess where it is all headed: a giant battle in which the huge and unwieldy cast comes together to beat the tar out of each other. There is some pretty impressive fighting, including a good showdown between Sammo and Cynthia Rothrock. Unfortunately, this show-stopping melee is over all too quickly, leaving the viewer with an appetite whetted for better movies featuring these same actors.
Why did I give this movie 4 stars then? For the true HK film lover, this movie shouldn't be missed. Just seeing all these actors jammed into the same picture is a treat. You can spot about 50 of the best known film people in Hong Kong at the time, and they seen to be having a blast working together. The fight between Rothrock and Sammo, Biao and Sammo, Richard Norton vs 3 samurai, the Lucky Stars gang pulling their usual pranks, the scene with a young Wong Fei Hung and his dad, are all treasures of a particular time and place and an era of film making history that will always have a very special spot in the hearts of the fans. The extras are very well done, including an illuminating interview with Cynthia Rothrock, and typically fascinating commentary by Bey Logan, which alone is of interest to the fans.
In short, for the hardcore fans of this era of HK movies, this is a worthwhile and highly amusing artifact. For most normal people, I'd think twice before attempting to make sense of this mess!"
Sammo and yeun
B. SUGGS | milpitas,CA | 08/29/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This movie is truly fun,silly,comical and some really great fighting scenes in it.Cynthia and rich norton in the beginning of their careers. A couple of famous asian actors,one plays the teacher(known as the vill ian in bruce's enter the dragon).Anyways still a classic."