• Showdown At The Cotton Mill

    Released by: BCI Eclipse/Rarescope
    Relased on: 2/14/2006
    Director: Wu Ma
    Cast: Chi Kuan-Chun, Tang Hsiao-Wen, Tan Tao-Liang, Tan Tao-Kung
    Year: 1978
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    The Movie:

    When Hu (Chi Kuan-Chun) gets word that his brother has been killed he stops his martial arts training at the Shaolin Temple and heads back home to investigate things for himself. He finds out that his brother was killed by two thugs and so he takes it upon himself to avenge his death and knock off the two murderers in return. What Hu doesn’t realize, until it’s too late, is that the two men he’s just killed were members of the notorious Wu Tang Clan and that they don’t take kindly to Shaolin students offing their brethren.

    The Wu Tang Clan holds a lot of influence in the town and when they go to the cops to get Hu arrested it looks like he’s going to wind up doing some time. Rather than go to jail he decides to run for it but the Wu Tang Clan want him bad so they kidnap his family and hold them hostage. Hu returns to save them – he won’t let another family member die at the hands of the Wu Tang Clan – and he soon gets them to safety but not before the Wu Tang Clan gets their sites on him and decide to teach him a lesson he won’t soon forget.

    Showdown At The Cotton Mill takes a little while to get going and is really little more than a fairly standard revenge story, the kind that are a dime a dozen in the land of kung fu movies. That being said, once it picks up the fight scenes make up for most of the film’s shortcomings – most, that is, but not all. There are some serious issues with the story in that portions of it just aren’t explained very well. Hu is already involved with his opponents when the movie begins and so we don’t really get to know him or his motivations all that well and while it’s admirable to see a different take on the way that the standard revenge movie unfolds, here it just doesn’t seem to be all that well thought out. Kickstarting the film the way they do here is a fine idea and it does set up things well but again, things aren’t fleshed out very well and the ‘raw vengeance’ that Hu should be exuding feels filmsy.

    Thankfully, things do get shaken up a bit towards the end. Just as the continuing attempts on Hu’s life from the Wu Tang Clan start to feel a little old, Hu finds himself squaring off against the Clan’s main man (Tan Tao-Liang) in a fairly dramatic and nicely shot showdown. Getting to this point in the film is a little bit of a chore and the pay off doesn’t completely redeem some of the mistakes made along the way but it does come close and as far as finale’s go, the scrap here is definitely worth watching.


    Though the package states that this disc features an anamorphic transfer, sadly the 2.35.1 widescreen picture is not enhanced for anamorphic sets – it is simply widescreen. The colors are a bit on the faded side here though thankfully the print damage never gets too out of hand even if it is on the screen for pretty much the entire time. The picture is a bit soft at times as well though for the most part everything is perfectly watchable, it’s just not great. As with a lot of older more obscure martial arts movies you have to expect some picture degradation so this is graded on a bit of a curve in that regard but the movie could have looked worse (even if it could have looked a whole lot better).

    The original Mandarin track is the only audio option available on this release and burnt in subtitles are provided in English and Chinese. While the audio track itself is fine for an older, rare martial arts movie the subtitles are, unfortunately, a bit of a problem in that they aren’t always easy to read and they tend to move very quickly in spots.

    While this isn’t a super stacked special edition there are a few supplements here starting with a twelve minute video interview with Chi Kuan-Chun and Chin Kwo-Chung (recorded in 2005) who discuss working within the confines of the Shaw Brothers studio system as well as the independent films that they worked on after they left the studio. The video is fairly fuzzy but it’s an interesting talk. Also included are two three minute martial arts demonstration videos entitled Tae Kwon Do and Five Style Fist. Look for a moderate still gallery and a Rarescope promotional trailer reel to round out the supplements.

    The Final Word:

    While the story is nothing to write home about (at times it just doesn’t make much sense) the action scenes do deliver once they get moving. BCI’s Rarescope release contains a few interesting extras even if the A/V quality isn’t anything to write home about. The price is right on this release and it’s a fairly obscure film which makes this disc worth a look for collectors and die hard kung fu movie fans.