Fist of Fury: Platinum Edition DVD Review (Region 2)

Seth Gecko

retired member
<P STYLE='text-align: center'><FONT STYLE='font-size: 18px'><IMG SRC='http://www.avforums.com/dvdreviews/images/FistOfFury/FistOfFuryPER2.jpg' ALT='Fist Of Fury: Platinum Edition DVD cover artwork' ALIGN='RIGHT'>Fist Of Fury: Platinum Edition</FONT><br>Reviewed March 2006 by <A HREF='search.php?do=process&query=Neil Wilson&showposts=1&forumchoice[]=107&forumchoice[]=197' target='_top'>Neil Wilson</A>.</P><div ALIGN='CENTER'>Review Disc Supplied and Shipping NOW from <a href="http://www.cdwow.com" target=”_blank> <img src="http://www.avforums.com/news/images/20051110203304.jpg" Align="absmiddle"></a><br>Please support us by using our review sponsors.</div><P><B>The Movie : 7</B></P><P>Widely considered by enthusiasts to be arguably the definitive example of the cinema of martial artist Bruce Lee, Fist of Fury makes it’s return to DVD in a great new 2-disc special edition courtesy of the ever-reliable Honk Kong Legends label who are earning somewhat of a reputation as the Santa Claus of kung fu flicks. </p> <P> Although undoubtedly one of the most prominent eastern cultural icons of the twentieth century, it wouldn’t be far from the mark to say that the films of Bruce Lee still to this day remain somewhat of a cultish, acquired taste. Despite the fact he is an instantly recognisable figure to 99% of the population, chances are most people will not have ventured any further into his career than his talismanic central performance in Robert Clouse’s Enter the Dragon. That his cinematic legacy is more taken for granted than actually appreciated by all but the more astute cinephiles is a great shame, as Lee’s pre-Dragon Hong Kong career yielded a brief string of hugely enjoyable action romps of which Fist of Fury stands as possibly the finest. </p> <P> Cutting to the chase, nobody watches a Bruce Lee movie for the intricacies of plotline, and that’s just as well as you won’t find any here. The story is as thin as tissue paper, a straightforward revenge actioner that takes us from A to B via the simplest route possible, allowing ample time for Lee to kick Eastern ass in his own distinctive fashion. The basic premise of the movie takes place in turn-of-the-century Shanghai, where Lee plays Chen Zhen, a Chinese martial arts wizard whose mentor dies in suspicious circumstances. Bullied and harassed by the injustices of the Japanese-led society, Chen uncovers a sinister murder plot perpetrated by a rival Japanese Bushido school against his own people, and sets about a one-man revenge mission to avenge the injustice. </p> <P> Whilst a modern-day audience may well find the premise and approach of this characteristic brand of cinema somewhat amateurish and faintly ridiculous, in truth that’s really half the fun of a Lee movie. The movie takes us to an almost cartoonish land, where everything is over the top and outlandish and, as a result, enormously enjoyable. Here for example, is firmly a land where the old adage ‘never trust a man with moustache’ is taken to its literal limit. All the stereotypically evil Japanese sport some degree of villainous facial fluff, from the follicular showboating of an enormous Phileaus Fogg handlebar, through to the dubious charms of the postage stamp variety as championed by Adolf Hitler. </p> <P> The villains are presented in as much of a caricature as their sinister moustachioed appearance would indicate. Every Japanese citizen to a man is portrayed as downright evil, callous and ruthless in their persecution of Chen and his Chinese accomplices, who just want to get along. The baddies even rope in a Russian kung fu expert, an Art Garfunkel look-alike with (you’ve guessed it) a weighty American Chopper moustache whose only purpose is to be established as a villainous hard nut who might give Bruce Lee a kicking. Hence we see him leering on a stripper, getting wrecked on Sake, and then bending a giant iron bar like it were plasticine with the power of his mighty hands. He’s kind of a seventies Ivan Drago, and he’s hysterically brilliant. </p> <P> Of course he has nothing on Chen Zhen who is portrayed here as an almost Herculean example of indestructible toughness. Chen thinks nothing of brutally taking out an entire school of trained martial artists like it’s a walk in the park. His mentor’s star pupil, Chen’s skill is in the ‘fist of fury’ of the title, which is essentially the ability to give someone a right old thump in the bracket so hard they spit a bit of red food colouring out of their mouth and drop stone dead. The effect is somewhat diminished by the fact that Lee, in his prime and shredded to bits, does battle on the whole with a host of rotund middle-aged adversaries who look like they would be out of breath running for the bus never mind mixing it with the mariachi of martial arts himself. Chen also proves to be a master of disguise, infiltrating the Bushido lair with a string of disguises so inept that they would make A-Team’s Faceman blush. We see him cunningly undercover as a rickshaw driver, an old beggar and a phone engineer which fool everyone, despite the fact that it should be apparent to all but Stevie Wonder that it’s blatantly just Bruce Lee in a pair of thick rimmed glasses or a fisherman’s hat. </p> <P> Of course this is all just the aperitif to the real meat which is the martial arts action. Lee, over thirty years on, remains the sultan of this genre, and he certainly doesn’t disappoint here. This is as much down to his distinctive and original mannerisms as it is to any actual combat (albeit impressive). He looks positively psychotic as he unleashes himself throughout the film’s many action sequences, hunched over and shaking with a ferocity that makes you think the little fella is about to explode at any second with the sheer power of kung fu. Accompanying this perfectly are his otherworldly shrieks, which sound somewhere between deadly rage and broken coffee percolator. A crazy blend of the unintentionally hilarious and the amazingly impressive, Lee shows why he is cemented as the most important cultural icon of the martial arts movie. Whether his acting skills are questionable or not, he can’t fail to captivate and entrance the viewer, hooking you into the story however hokey and uninspired it may be. And thank god the BBFC have relaxed their stance on the presence of nunchuks in cinema, as the previously edited scenes of Lee twirling them around like a madman and mercilessly dispatching foes left right and centre are absolutely phenomenal in their intensity. </p> <P> Some may see this film as tame by today’s standards, and the development of new technology and greater budgets may make Fist of Fury films seem to an extent a simplistic and twee look at times gone by. Look beyond this initial culture shock, and what is revealed is an absolute hoot to watch. It may not be Shakespeare, the actors may chew up the scenery and mug like silent film stars, but as a document of it’s time, and an example of an important genre in film history this is one of the best. Martial arts fans will lap this up, but those with a general interest in exploring something that falls outside the conventional barriers of general entertainment really should give this a go as an excellent example of how Bruce Lee’s legacy is so richly deserved. </p> <P><B>Picture : 7</B></P><P> Presented in an Anamorphic 2.35:1 print, and blessed with a brand new hi-definition transfer this really does look the business. Considering its age and status as a low-budget production, the quality and sharpness of the print is amazing to behold. There is print damage of course, but this is limited to the casual wave of minute specks which are only ever really visible on dark backgrounds and never become a serious hindrance. There is no real evidence of any kind of digital compression artefacts or any really major instances of halo’s or edge enhancement that detract from the movie. The only concern that can be voiced is that the colours seem to suffer from an unnaturally high contrast, which gives the film more of a ‘western’ look about it. This isn’t particularly a noticeable or problematic issue due to the consistence and quality of the restoration, but it is debateable whether this picture offers the same kind of colour accuracy as the Fortune Star R3 release. As for the picture quality itself, obviously it isn’t going to be reference sharp given its age, but this is still a sterling job and the movie looks wonderful. There are very slight dropouts occasionally and evidence of the odd millisecond of missing frames, but these are only minor concerns. All in all a great effort. </p> <P STYLE='text-align: center'><IMG SRC='http://www.avforums.com/dvdreviews/images/FistOfFury/FistOfFuryPER2_1.jpg' ALT='Fist Of Fury: Platinum Edition'></P><P><B>Sound : 5</B></P><P> Although presented with two 5.1 tracks, the sound here certainly isn’t too hot. It would be harsh to come down too hard on the audio here, there’s certainly going to be a limit with what you can achieve with a crusty old original mono source, but the tracks here just don’t really convey any convincing sensation of full surround. The rears are pretty much underused for the entire film, only really coming into play to mirror the fronts or to add a touch of depth to the proceedings, and the LFE channel is rarely troubled into anything meaningful. Sound on a whole is pretty ropey and indistinct, lacking any real impressive clarity or distinction, with quite mediocre separation and lucidity, especially where dialogue is concerned. </p> <P> Another bone of contention is that the two 5.1 mixes offered here are both dubs, either the English dub or the Cantonese one. The film’s original Mandarin language track is represented here, but only in the form of a basic 2.0 mono track which sounds pretty awful. I know questionable dubbing is part of the experience, but it’s disappointing that in order to watch the film in its original language you have to sacrifice even more audio quality. After playing about I found the most satisfying (but by no means completely satisfactory) way of watching was probably the Cantonese 5.1, but it’s all personal preference I suppose. </p> <P STYLE='text-align: center'><IMG SRC='http://www.avforums.com/dvdreviews/images/FistOfFury/FistOfFuryPER2_2.jpg' ALT='Fist Of Fury: Platinum Edition'></P><P><B>Extras : 8</B></P><P> Fist of Fury arrives with a remarkably generous selection of supplemental material spread across its two discs. The main focus on disc one is an audio commentary from Hong Kong cinema expert Bey Logan. Such is the sheer volume and regularity of Logan’s involvement in Asian DVD releases, it’s easy to imagine him handcuffed to a radiator in some dingy cellar whilst some unscrupulous suited types force-feed him a steady diet of Eastern cinema Clockwork Orange-style (much the same I suspect, as was imposed on Craig Charles when he managed to perform commentating duties on approximately 300,000 episodes of Takeshi’s Castle). Logan’s commentaries show a true love and affinity for all things Asian, and his tracks arguably contain more information per minute than any other I’ve ever sat through. This can be both a blessing and a curse. For those with a strong love and interest of these marginalised works Logan’s knowledge is a truly phenomenal goldmine. For those tuning in more out of casual curiosity the sheer breadth, volume and intensity of his musings may be a tad daunting to attempt to digest. The man barely pauses for breath while analysing and commentating on the film, which makes this an indispensable guide for those inclined, albeit one that may take a few sittings to work through. Rounding off disc one is a reasonably detailed text biography charting his interesting career moves through the world of Asian cinema. </p> <P> On to disc two, which contains an absolute wealth of supplementary gems for the Bruce Lee fan. The disc is split into three menu’s ‘Reflections on the Master’, ‘Fist of Fury Remembered’ and finally ‘Promotional Archive’. </p> <P> ‘Reflections on the Master’ focuses itself upon the life and career of Bruce Lee, and is made up of four separate interviews with close confidants and acquaintances of Lee, who offer their own reflections and opinions on the man. First up is ‘A Fist Amongst Equals’ which is a mammoth (36:58) interview with martial arts instructor Sifu Dan Inosato. Inosato discuses Lee’s life and work in tremendous detail, providing an interesting and detailed perspective on the pair’s relationship. Following this is a briefer (10:08), but equally engaging interview with Lee’s personal photographer Linda Palmer entitled ‘Tracking the Dragon’, where Palmer shares some great photography of Lee and explains the importance and influence of his iconic image. Next up is ‘Legacy of a Master’ (20:30), an interview with director Jeff Imada which explores the significance and lasting influence of Lee upon HK cinema. Rounding off this section is ‘Friend to the Stars’ (7:38), which offers more personal recollections from one of Lee’s confidante’s Joe Torrenuva. </p> <P> The second section of extras, ‘Fist of Fury Remembered’ is more film-specific and comprises three interviews with those involved in the production of the movie. ‘Master of Bushido’ (12:25) offers Jun Katsumura’s reflections on the making of the movie, ‘The First Lady’ (17:58) is a great little interview with leading actress Nora Miao, and lead villain Riki Hashimoto recounts his experiences of the film in ‘Blade of Fury’ (17:58). Finishing off this section is an interesting and diverting tour of some of the locations of the film, presented again by Bey Logan. </p> <P> Rounding off the extras is the ‘Promotional Archive’ section which comprises the original theatrical trailer, the UK promo trailer, a promo reel for the Platinum Edition release of the film, and the pick of the bunch ‘Magic Lantern’ which is a nicely done photo gallery of rare stills. </p> <P> There is no question this is a splendid and thorough selection of extra’s designed specifically for this release, and the producers of this Platinum Edition should be commended for their efforts in sourcing such a wide ranging scope of interviewees in compiling these supplements. If one was to be picky, perhaps the extras are a touch one-dimensional. They are a bit interview-happy and the repetitive format of the presentation may prove overwhelming for all but the moist avid fan of HK cinema. It perhaps would have been nice to see a documentary or two to break up the sheer volume of single-person interviews we have here. That said, this shouldn’t take away from the fact that we have a very nice and detailed selection here which should keep any fans engrossed for hours. A very good effort indeed. </p> <P STYLE='text-align: center'><IMG SRC='http://www.avforums.com/dvdreviews/images/FistOfFury/FistOfFuryPER2_3.jpg' ALT='Fist Of Fury: Platinum Edition'></P><P><B>Trivia</B><br><P>For user information we use Bitrate 1.4 to scan the disk for the video bitrate, which also calculates the average bitrate. Below is a graph illustrating the bitrate of the disk, including the average bitrate reading. This disk averaged at 6.82 Mbps.</p></P><P STYLE='text-align: center'><IMG SRC='http://www.avforums.com/dvdreviews/images/FistOfFury/FistOfFuryPER2_BR.jpg' ALT='Fist Of Fury: Platinum Edition'></P><P><B>Verdict : 8</B></P><P> An essential purchase for fans of Bruce Lee or the genre in general, the Hong Kong Legends series comes up trumps yet again with a superb release that combines impressive A/V statistics with an exhaustive selection of high-quality supplements. Highly recommended. </p> <div ALIGN='CENTER'>Review Disc Supplied and Shipping NOW from <a href="http://www.cdwow.com" target=”_blank> <img src="http://www.avforums.com/news/images/20051110203304.jpg" Align="absmiddle"></a><br>Please support us by using our review sponsors.</div><TABLE border='0' CELLPADDING='0' CELLSPACING='2' WIDTH='100%'><TR><TD COLSPAN='2'><B>Fist Of Fury (1972)</B><A HREF='http://www.avforums.com/dvdreviews/dvdreviews.php?compare=839' target='_blank'><IMG SRC='http://www.totaldvd.net/images/comparedvds.gif' WIDTH='121' HEIGHT='18' border='0' ALIGN='ABSMIDDLE' ALT='Comparison feature coming soon'></A></TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65' VALIGN='TOP'>Genre</TD><TD><A HREF='http://www.avforums.com/dvdreviews/dvdreviews.php?include=exact&searchfield=genre&search_for=Hong Kong Action' target='_blank'>Hong Kong Action</A></TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65' VALIGN='TOP'>Director</TD><TD><A HREF='http://www.avforums.com/dvdreviews/dvdreviews.php?include=all&searchfield=director&search_for=Lo Wei' target='_blank'>Lo Wei</A></TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65' VALIGN='TOP'>Stars</TD><TD><A HREF='http://www.avforums.com/dvdreviews/dvdreviews.php?include=all&searchfield=stars&search_for=Bruce Lee' target='_blank'>Bruce Lee</A>, <A HREF='http://www.avforums.com/dvdreviews/dvdreviews.php?include=all&searchfield=stars&search_for=Nora Miao' target='_blank'>Nora Miao</A>, <A HREF='http://www.avforums.com/dvdreviews/dvdreviews.php?include=all&searchfield=stars&search_for=James Tien' target='_blank'>James Tien</A>, <A HREF='http://www.avforums.com/dvdreviews/dvdreviews.php?include=all&searchfield=stars&search_for=Robert Baker' target='_blank'>Robert Baker</A></TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65'><B>Region</B></TD><TD><B>2</B> <FONT>(UK)</FONT></TD></TR><TR><TD VALIGN='TOP' WIDTH='65'>Supplier</TD><TD><FONT>Contender Home Entertainment. Released Monday 23rd January 2006</FONT></TD></TR><TR><TD VALIGN='TOP' WIDTH='65'>SRP</TD><TD><FONT>£19.99</FONT></TD></TR><TR><TD VALIGN='TOP' WIDTH='65'>Discs</TD><TD><FONT>2</FONT></TD></TR><TR><TD VALIGN='TOP' WIDTH='65'>Format</TD><TD><FONT>DVD9</FONT></TD></TR><TR><TD VALIGN='TOP' WIDTH='65'>Time</TD><TD><FONT>102 mins.</FONT></TD></TR><TR><TD VALIGN='TOP' WIDTH='65'>Chapters</TD><TD><FONT>26</FONT></TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65' VALIGN='TOP'>Picture</TD><TD>Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1&nbsp;</TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65' VALIGN='TOP'>Sound</TD><TD>English Dolby Digital 5.1<BR>Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1<BR>Mandarin Dolby Digital Dual Mono 2.0</TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65' VALIGN='TOP'>Subtitles</TD><TD>English</TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65' VALIGN='TOP'>Case</TD><TD>Amaray in Slipcase</TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65' VALIGN='TOP'>Extras</TD><TD>Audio Commentary from HK cinema expert Bey Logan<BR>Bey Logan Biography<BR>A Fist Amongst Equals: An Interview with Sifu Dan Inosato<BR>Tracking the Dragon: An Interview with Linda Palmer<BR>Lagacy of a Master: An Interview with Jeff Imada<BR>Friend to the Stars: An Interview with Joe Torrenuva<BR>Master of Bushido: An Interview with Jun Katsumura<BR>The First Lady: An Interview with Nora Miao<BR>Blade of Fury: An Interview with Riki Hashimoto<BR>Fist of Fury Location Guide with Bey Logan<BR>Original Theatrical Trailer<BR>UK Promotional Trailer<BR>Fist of Fury: Platinum Promo<BR>The Magic Lantern: Photo Gallery</TD></TR></TABLE><P STYLE='text-align: center'>If you would like to comment on this review, please reply below.</P>
 

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