Hong Kong Cinema

Discuss films and filmmakers of the 20th century (and even a little of the 19th century). Threads may contain spoilers.
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hanshotfirst1138
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#151 Post by hanshotfirst1138 » Sat Nov 28, 2015 12:14 am

Of all of the catalogs of cinema in the world, this might be the worst. Countless stone-cold Classic HK films have been butchered horribly on video, and Fortune Star's death grip on this masters suggests that no changes are likely in the future.

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Michael Kerpan
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#152 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sat Nov 28, 2015 12:23 am

hanshotfirst1138 wrote:Of all of the catalogs of cinema in the world, this might be the worst. Countless stone-cold Classic HK films have been butchered horribly on video, and Fortune Star's death grip on this masters suggests that no changes are likely in the future.
Do you really think the situation for mainland China is better?

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whaleallright
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#153 Post by whaleallright » Sat Nov 28, 2015 12:36 am

yes, mainland Chinese cinema, especially from before the 1990s, is very poorly represented on home video ...much less Indian cinema (especially from language groups other than Hindi and Bengali; and try to find many DVDs, much less good ones, of pre-1948 features)...Philippine cinema...Vietnamese cinema.... compared to those (very productive) industries, HK's has been served pretty damn well by home video, with all the necessary caveats. just the fact that a huge chunk (if not all) of Shaw Bros' features are on DVD with English subtitles (even with the "treated" soundtracks and other indecencies) is a miracle by comparison with those other national cinemas.

Orlac
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#154 Post by Orlac » Sun Nov 29, 2015 1:48 pm

I agree. It's a case of could be better, could be worse.

Fortune Star are awful, it must be said. Celestial is better then they were, shame there aren't many BDs of their HD masters.

hanshotfirst1138
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#155 Post by hanshotfirst1138 » Sun Nov 29, 2015 10:52 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:
hanshotfirst1138 wrote:Of all of the catalogs of cinema in the world, this might be the worst. Countless stone-cold Classic HK films have been butchered horribly on video, and Fortune Star's death grip on this masters suggests that no changes are likely in the future.
Do you really think the situation for mainland China is better?
Well, in terms of availability of pre-1990s product, probably not, but I haven't seen many mainland Chinese films that have gotten such hack jobs-downmixes masquerading as the real mono, wrong aspect ratios, upscales. Almost all of the kept HK action films from the golden era-Once Upon A Time in China I-VI, Police Story I-IV, Tiger Cage I-III, Fist of Legend, The Killer, Hard Boiled, Project A I-II, Drunken Master I-II, A Chinese Ghost Story I-III, Iron Monkey, Yes Madam, In the Line of Duty I-IV, Swordsman I-III and countless others are at very best only available on SD DVD, and often with poorly downmixed remixes pretending to be the original mono, often released multiple times with different sets of errors.
whaleallright wrote:yes, mainland Chinese cinema, especially from before the 1990s, is very poorly represented on home video ...much less Indian cinema (especially from language groups other than Hindi and Bengali; and try to find many DVDs, much less good ones, of pre-1948 features)...Philippine cinema...Vietnamese cinema.... compared to those (very productive) industries, HK's has been served pretty damn well by home video, with all the necessary caveats. just the fact that a huge chunk (if not all) of Shaw Bros' features are on DVD with English subtitles (even with the "treated" soundtracks and other indecencies) is a miracle by comparison with those other national cinemas.
Fair enough. So much popular cinema is frequently not taken seriously. God bless Criterion for releasing so many classic art films, but while there are some populist genres that get represented on video in the US (gialli, tokusatsu, chanbara, spaghetti westerns), so much of the popular cinema of many countries likely got treated the same as HK's, poorly preserved and largely not considered for the future.
Orlac wrote:I agree. It's a case of could be better, could be worse.

Fortune Star are awful, it must be said. Celestial is better then they were, shame there aren't many BDs of their HD masters.
The seem to be concentrating primarily on streaming now, and don't seem to have much interest in home video. Apparently they've put some Shaw stuff on Netflix and Hulu.

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YnEoS
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#156 Post by YnEoS » Sat Mar 26, 2016 6:26 pm

I've been trying to learn more about Cinema City, one of the most important HK film studios of the 1980s for years now, and it seems that the Hong Kong Film Archive is doing a series on them. Seems like they've restored some of the films and are going to publish a book on the studio. After their amazing Golden Harvest publication I've been keeping my fingers crossed waiting for something like this to happen and can't believe its finally here.

Image

Orlac
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#157 Post by Orlac » Sun Apr 10, 2016 9:56 am

88 Films in the UK are starting a Shaw Brothers line, starting with HEX!

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rockysds
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#158 Post by rockysds » Sat Jun 25, 2016 8:11 am

A 4K remastered blu-ray of (presumably) the recent restoration of A Better Tomorrow out in two weeks.

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feihong
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#159 Post by feihong » Sat Jun 25, 2016 8:21 pm

It looks like it's being released by Kam & Ronson, though. They do a lot of upconverts and in the past have done some spectacularly awful grain management on some releases. It will be interesting to see what they do here.

Orlac
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#160 Post by Orlac » Sun Aug 21, 2016 6:06 am

Well, it was yellowy and no original mono!

Ditto the new BD of the 4k remaster of Fist of Fury!

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feihong
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#161 Post by feihong » Sun Aug 21, 2016 4:08 pm

Thanks for sharing, Orlac! How is the grain?

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tenia
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#162 Post by tenia » Sun Aug 21, 2016 4:39 pm

I can make a few screencaps later if you want.
It definitely looks like a 4k resto, most likely from the OCN. Compression isnt optimal though.

Orlac
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#163 Post by Orlac » Fri Sep 02, 2016 2:38 am

Shout Factory is releasing the two titles in December, with original mono.

hanshotfirst1138
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#164 Post by hanshotfirst1138 » Tue Nov 22, 2016 12:30 am

feihong wrote:It looks like it's being released by Kam & Ronson, though. They do a lot of upconverts and in the past have done some spectacularly awful grain management on some releases. It will be interesting to see what they do here.
They also almost always omit the mono. I wish I knew why it was so fucking hard to include the mono. You can practically count off the number of HK films with a proper home video release (original audio track, properly remastered video, good subtitles).
Orlac wrote:Shout Factory is releasing the two titles in December, with original mono.
Several HK releases purporting to have the original mono have been downmixes, so I'm skeptical until the reviews hit.

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dwk
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#165 Post by dwk » Tue Nov 22, 2016 10:59 am

hanshotfirst1138 wrote: Several HK releases purporting to have the original mono have been downmixes, so I'm skeptical until the reviews hit.
Some people at the Blu-ray.com forum have received their copies of the new Shout Select Bruce Lee releases and they are reporting that they have the original mono and that they have color corrected the masters

masterofoneinchpunch
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#166 Post by masterofoneinchpunch » Tue Nov 22, 2016 3:12 pm

"Michael Hui is to Comedy what Bruce Lee is to the Martial Arts: they both reign supreme." -- Law Kar from Michael Hui: A Decade of Sword Grinding in A Study of Hong Kong Cinema in the Seventies (Hong Kong Urban Council)

The Private Eyes (1976: Michael Hui):

Chinese title (半斤八兩): literal translation: "Half a catty eight two" a colloquialism meaning roughly using another colloquialism Tweedledee and Tweedledum.

While American audiences might have seen Michael Hui as a partner to Jackie Chan in The Cannonball Run his name is almost unheard of here. However during the 1970s he was one of the most popular comedians in Asia. His popularity in Hong Kong was so great, especially in films like this, he helped changed the dominant language of the region. While Cantonese was the dialect spoken in Hong Kong the Mandarin movies had been so prevalent that in 1972 no films were made in this dialect and only one film in 1973 (The House of 72 Tenants from the Shaw Brothers with a bit of irony). When former TVB host of The Hui Brothers Show Hui directed Games Gamblers Play in 1974 he helped helm an increase of Cantonese language movies that would eventually dominate the Hong Kong landscape and become the main dialect for the local cinema.

He was a boon to the production studio Golden Harvest and was their biggest star of the studio of the 1970s. But another question had recently popped into my head: what would Golden Harvest been without Michael Hui? Cinema had been dealt a blow with the premature death of Bruce Lee in 1973, but it could have been an inauspicious calamity for the Golden Harvest studio. Hui had already had a popular TV show. He had a hit with the Shaw Brothers in his first film The Warlord (1972). Three more films for the Shaw Brothers then he found a better contract with more freedom, more responsibility such as directing and writing, he could use Cantonese and even his brother Sam was already working for Golden Harvest. It was another coup for the studio over the powerful but rigid Shaw Brothers. Hui was not only instrumental in the rise of Golden Harvest but was a catalyst in the slow decline of the Shaw Brothers studio.

Michael Hui's third directed film The Private Eyes (not to be confused with the Tim Conway and Don Knotts movie) is often considered his best. It is my favorite, though I have liked all the Hui directed films I have seen. It was his most popular being the highest grossing Hong Kong film of all-time until Hui's Security Unlimited in 1981 (possibly Jackie Chans The Young Master in 1980 though I have read conflicting box office records; you also have to take inflation into account). Michael Hui plays Wong Yuk-see (internationally known as Mr. Boo) a former Cheung Chau cop, a miserly cheap detective who is slightly incompetent, always a skinflint and deducts from employee's salaries if they damage anything (this scenario is later used in Fearless Hyena 2 and many more HK comedies). He hires a down-and-out martial artist Lee Kwok-kit (his brother Samuel Hui -- a big pop singer at the time who sings the main song for the film with his band The Lotus) who was fired from his previous job at a bottle plant for goofing off and not correctly taking the straws out of used bottles. Along with a secretary Jacky and one other employee Puffy (another brother Ricky Hui: Mr. Vampire) they work a series of jobs with disastrous consequences.

The episodic nature of the different private eye jobs work quite well. There is a multitude of sight gags (one of the better shoplifting gags I've seen), nonsense humor, midgets, giants, and pretty much everything thrown in. The martial arts scenes with Sammo Hung as the action director are inventive and funny. You get one of the earlier Bruce Lee humor nods, with music from Enter the Dragon, and a scene showing that Five Animal Kung Fu might not be as usual as you think. The influences from this film on Hong Kong comedy are ubiquitous. Stanley Tong used the aerobic chicken sequence in Mr. Magoo. Stephen Chow is the heir apparent to Hui as Hui was influenced by actor Liang Xingbo (Leung Sing-po) who was also a TVB host for Enjoy Yourself Tonight (which is mentioned as an in-joke in the film which I finally understood). They played characters with an overabundance of hubris who gets their comeuppance and then turn it around. That does sound a bit like Don Knotts too.

Hui has his references as well. The knife game scene with Sam Hui beating up a potential mugger is reminiscent of a Terence Hill comedy (like Trinity is Still My Name or My Name is Nobody). Check out the name of the detective agencies: Mannix (TV series from 1967-1975) and Cannon (TV series from 1971-1976). There are also a couple of Columbo references thrown in. His disguises and some of his humor remind me of Peter Sellers in The Pink Panther series. And for those who like their esoteric trivia: the movie that plays in the theater is A Queens Ransom a Golden Harvest film, one of my least favorite film from that studio. Neither the bad guys led by the omnipresent villain Shek Kin nor did the detectives look particularly interested in it.

An underrated aspect of this film is the cinematography by Cheung Yiu-Jo whose majority of work was for Golden Harvest and has done some beautiful work such as Project A. There are so many on location shots that you get a nice feel of Hong Kong in the 1970s. Since Hong Kong has gone through so many charges most of the buildings here are gone or with different facades. I like when films like this and Johnnie To's Sparrow showcases the city. Hui also has a playful use of screen wipes and in-screen shots with a most complicated one with eight different set-ups where it was similar to one in Francis Truffaut's Shoot the Piano Player.

Much of Hui's work has a sociopolitical message and this does (the basic be better to your employees and especially the theme song) though it is less than subsequent work and never didactic, but its primary purpose of making people laugh works quite well. Fans of comedies should see this. Hong Kong aficionados should make this a top priority if they have not already seen this. It is one of my favorite Hong Kong films. Is that not enough of a recommendation?

I saw this on the Fortune Star/Joy Sales R0/NTSC DVD release. It looks quite good and the English subtitles are good as well. It has both Cantonese (5.1 and DTS) and Mandarin (5.1) audios and Chinese (Traditional and Simplified) and English subtitles. You can find remastered Hui Brothers box sets in R0/R3 and BD. I really want one of those. It has the Original Movie Trailer for this film and five new trailers for Hui directed films, including this one, in the R0 box set.

Keywords: A.B.I., Bruce Lee, Cheung Chau, Che Yuen Motel, Christmas, Club Mikado/Club Anan (background), Enter the Dragon (music cue), Falcon Lodge (Perkins Road), Five Animals Kung Fu style, Granville Garden, knife game, Jaws (reference), King Kong (1976; poster in background), George Lazenby, Mountain Cream, nudity (poster pictures), nunchucks (sausage), plunger, Porsche, A Queens Ransom (poster in background; plays in movie theater), Russian roulette, Sing Tao (newspaper), still frames, TV (TVB, RTHK), undercranking, Vitasoy, Volkswagon Beetle, W.A.D., waterbed.

Sources:
Book: Once Upon a Time in China (2003) by Jeff Yang
Book: Historical Dictionary of Hong Kong Cinema (2007) by Lisa Odham Stokes.
Book: Hong Kong Cinema (1997) by Stephen Teo
Book: A Study of Hong Kong Cinema in the Seventies (Hong Kong Urban Council) especially the essay by Law Kar "Michael Hui: A Decade of Sword Grinding." He makes a nice comparison to Liang Xingbo and the similar characters he and Hui played. There is also a short essay dedicated to Hui: "A Portrait of the Comedian as a Schizophrenic" by Ng Ho. Ho on The Private Eyes: "he has lost his humanist touch altogether."
Book: The Cinema of Hong Kong History, Arts, Identity (2000/2002) Edited by Poshek Fu and David Desser: especially the essay "The 1970s: Movement and Transition" by Stephen Teo and Jenny Kwok Wah Lau's "Besides Fist and Blood: Michael Hui and Cantonese Comedy" both of which I recommend. Teo's essay goes over the fall of Mandarin cinema, the rise of TV and, of course Golden Harvest. He makes some good points pointing out simalarites between Bruce Lee and Michael Hui as well as the reasons for Shaw Brothers decline in cinema. Lau mostly discusses Security Unlimited (Modern Security Guards), but has some pertinent history of Hong Kong comedy cinema and Michael Hui though he appears less than you think for being in the title.

Notes/Questions/Links:
The Private Eyes Theme Song by Sam Hui
City on Fire Review: Good thorough review. Definitely some similarities with mine. Nice amount of critic quotes.
Yesasia.com has a couple of R3 Best of Hui Brothers Show available. I am curious on this and hope that one day these get released with English subtitles.
Are there better biographies/essays on Michael Hui? Especially in the English language.
As a trio I would have liked to see more of the three brothers films made. It reminds me of the limited output together of Sammo Hung, Jackie Chan and Yuen Biao.
This is in Golden Horses 100 Greatest Chinese-Language Films done in 2010.
This is rated 13th in Hong Kong Film Awards The Best 100 Chinese Motion Pictures done in 2005.
Interesting (to me) that the English phrase "Son of a Gun" is used.
Funny seeing more of a straight role from Richard Ng.
I know they did the pulling out of hand (or mouth like in this film) from Kung Fu, but I am wondering if this was used beforehand.

hanshotfirst1138
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#167 Post by hanshotfirst1138 » Wed Nov 23, 2016 11:25 pm

dwk wrote:
hanshotfirst1138 wrote: Several HK releases purporting to have the original mono have been downmixes, so I'm skeptical until the reviews hit.
Some people at the Blu-ray.com forum have received their copies of the new Shout Select Bruce Lee releases and they are reporting that they have the original mono and that they have color corrected the masters
I'll remain cautiously optimistic then. Shout did have a big foul-up with their Bruce Lee set that it took a while before they admitted to and then issues a replacement program. And I remember their Police Story releases being massive disappointments too. I think that with Fortune Star's death grip on the masters, pretty much any company that tries to release anything has their hands tied ](*,) . And apparently the chances of anyone else getting said masters is non-existant :cry:.

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andyli
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#168 Post by andyli » Fri Nov 25, 2016 11:54 am

This is not some random old masters we are talking about. All Fortune Star controlled Bruce Lee films have gone through 4K scan and restoration by L'immagine Ritrovata. What's more encouraging is that Shout Factory not only licensed the new transfer, but also fixed the notorious golden tint and added the original mono track. Their edition's A/V quality should be stunning and unique in this case, unless they screw up in unexpected places such as encoding or authoring.

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andyli
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#169 Post by andyli » Sat Jan 28, 2017 10:47 pm

Warner is releasing Comrades: Almost a Love Story, one of the best Hong Kong films in the 90s, on blu-ray disc in both Taiwan and South Korea. The transfer is said to be the restored version that premiered in Venice.

artfilmfan
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#170 Post by artfilmfan » Sun Jan 29, 2017 11:49 am

andyli wrote:Warner is releasing Comrades: Almost a Love Story, one of the best Hong Kong films in the 90s, on blu-ray disc in both Taiwan and South Korea. The transfer is said to be the restored version that premiered in Venice.
Great news! I like this film a lot. But will there be English subtitles on any of these releases?

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rockysds
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#171 Post by rockysds » Sun Jan 29, 2017 12:06 pm

The Korean release will have English subs. Don't know about the Taiwanese.

artfilmfan
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#172 Post by artfilmfan » Sun Jan 29, 2017 12:16 pm

Thanks! Taiwanese releases rarely have English subs. Looking forward to getting the Korean release.

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andyli
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#173 Post by andyli » Sun Jan 29, 2017 9:46 pm

Given that they are both released by Warner and that the Taiwan release will carry Korean subtitle as well, I'd say they are exactly the same disc with different covers a la Lust, Caution.

artfilmfan
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#174 Post by artfilmfan » Mon Jan 30, 2017 8:38 am

That's even better. Will get the cheaper one.

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The Fanciful Norwegian
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#175 Post by The Fanciful Norwegian » Wed Feb 01, 2017 10:58 pm

Also coming in Hong Kong. Both the Taiwanese and Korean editions are going for $25 and I doubt the HK version will be any cheaper. So I guess you just choose based on shipping and whatever etailer is more convenient.

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