Released by: Umbrella Entertainment
Released on: October 26th, 2016.
Director: Brian Trenchard-Smith
Cast: Jimmy Wang Yu, Frank Thring, Bill Hunter, Yu Wang, George Lazenby, Hugh Keays-Byrne
Year: 1975 Purchase From Amazon
The Man From Hong Kong opens with a scene in which a Chinese drug dealer named Win Chan (Sammo Hung) is arrested by Australian police and shipped off to Sydney. When word gets back to the police in Hong Kong, they send Inspector Fang Sing Leng (Jimmy Wang Yu) across to Australia to help Federal Narcotics Bureau officers Bob Taylor (Roger Ward) and Morrise Grosse (Hugh Keyes Byrnes) crack the case in hopes of working their way up the ladder and catching Win Chun’s employer.
Although they can’t prove it yet, Fang and the others figure that prominent and well connected businessman Jack Wilton (George Lazenby) is the one behind the influx of narcotics. The officers do everything that they can within their power to get to him, but Wilton isn’t having any of it and is not afraid to kill anyone that gets in his way. When it’s clear that they’ve run out of options, Fang takes it upon himself to embark on a cross country mission to Wilton’s guilt and take down the Triads that he knows he is connected to – and if he has to take a break now and then to bed a pretty woman, so be it.
Exotic locations, colorful characters, sex and violence collide in this globetrotting mix of parody and action movie clichés. Clearly inspired by the Bond films and the many knock offs that came in their wake, the script (penned by the director) plays out with a knowing sense of humor but doesn’t shortchange viewers looking for thrills or well-choreographed fisticuffs. The producers (the film was co-financed by Golden Harvest) were smart enough to import the One-Armed Swordsman himself, Jimmy Wang Yu, across the pond to play the lead, but throwing a young Sammo Hung into the mix is never a bad thing, particularly when he’s doing double duty and working behind the scenes as the film’s fight choreographer. Sammo and Wang Yu work well together here, as the action scenes come at us at a very steady clip, sometimes (okay, really that should read frequently) at the expense of character development. That doesn’t really matter so much though. The Man From Hong Kong is not deep, it doesn’t set out to change your world view or to inform you of the delicate balance of power that exists between the underworld and the authorities that are out to stop them. Rather, it sets out to entertain you with fairly non-stop ass kicking and on that level, it is a raging success.
The cast are in fine form. Wang Yu isn’t just great to watch in the martial arts sequences, he’s just a lot of fun here in general. He takes on all opponents but has that special way with the ladies that the best action heroes did in the seventies. The guy is suave and charismatic and he’s a good casting choice for the picture. It’s also a kick to see Australian cult film regulars like Roger Ward, Hugh Keyes Byrnes and Grant Page show up with decent sized parts here as well as the lovely Rosalind Spiers and the equally lovely Rebecca Gilling. Then, of course, there’s the mighty George Lazenby. It’s a kick seeing the one time Bond cast here against type as the heavy. He chews through the scenery quite nicely here, and while it’s certainly an atypical role for the actor, he’s really watchable in the part.
The glossy cinematography from Russell Boyd does a great job of capturing the various exotic locations in Hong Kong and Australia that were used for the picture, while the score from Noel Quinlan (who worked on quite a few Hong Kong action films in the late eighties through the early nineties) provides a suitably energetic soundtrack.
Umbrella Entertainment brings The Man From Hong Kong to Blu-ray on a 50GB disc in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.35.1 widescreen from a new 4k remaster that is quite good, if not quite perfect. Some light noise reduction looks to have been applied here and there are some noticeable compression artifacts (no doubt due to the massive amount of extra material crammed onto the disc). On the plus side, this is much better looking than past DVD editions of the film have been, with solid black levels and very nice color reproduction. Skin tones look lifelike and natural and there aren’t any issues with edge enhancement or artificial sharpening. Some mild print damage can be spotted here and there but it’s nothing too distracting.
The audio options for the feature include an English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track and an English language LPCM Mono track, with optional subtitles offered up in English only. The surround mix does some interesting things with the score and the effects but the dialogue sounds a bit thin in spots and there are a couple of quick drop outs. Purists will opt for the mono track and likely be quite pleased with the quality here – good balance, clean audio, easily discernible dialogue. Both tracks are free of any noticeable hiss or distortion.
Extras begin with a commentary track featuring Brian Trenchard-Smith, Hugh Keays Byrne and Grant Page. This is a fun listen, with Trenchard-Smith doing most of the talking but all three participants getting ample opportunity to talk up their part in the production. There’s discussion here about the parody elements that are worked into the script, the locations, what it was like working alongside Lazenby and Wang Yu, the stunts that are a big part the movie’s fun-factor and quite a bit more.
Also included here is eighty-two minutes of ‘uncut’ interviews originally shot for Not Quite Hollywood. In this section you’ll find input from Trenchard-Smith, Lazenby, Rebecca Gilling, and producer David Hannay, and assistant cameraman John Seale. Throughout this lengthy batch of interviews we learn about the casting, shooting the picture, what influenced the film, the picture’s success and other related topics.
The Making Of The Man from Hong Kong if a fourteen minute featurette that is made up of 8mm footage shot on the set of the film while it was being made. Here we get to see a few of the picture’s more memorable scenes being made – the hang glider, the car chase and more. This material was shot silent, so Umbrella has used selections from the film’s score to play over top of the footage.
Aside from that, be on the lookout for a Trailers From Hell piece featuring Trenchard-Smith talking up the film, two different theatrical trailers for the picture, a promo trailer for Trenchard-Smith’s book The Headman’s Daughter, two and a half minutes of newsreel footage and chapter selection.
But wait, there’s more. A LOT more. In the Trenchard-Smith Collection section we’re treated to five additional films from the man’s filmography, all presented in standard definition with English language Dolby Digital Mono audio (no subtitles):
Death Cheaters (1976): The first bonus film follows two stunt men, Steve (Steve Hargreaves) and Rodney (Grant Page), the best there is at what they do and what they do is live life on the edge! These guys, former Vietnam vets are willing to do what others would never consider, be it for TV or film. Their lives change when a certain Mr. Culpepper (Noel Ferrier) requests their assistance. They’re needed to conduct a super-secret mission for the Australian government where they have to break into a heavily fortified base in The Philippines, guarded by guys in white jumpsuits and yellow hats, to steal some super-secret documents that the Australian secret service desperately want to get their hands on. Of course, our heroes agree to take the job. Then there’s a twenty minute stretch where there’s a lot of talking and not much happens, but thankfully by the time we get to the third stretch of the film it’s back on its feet and lots of stuff explodes and lots of people get killed.
Steve Hargreaves and Grant Page are just about the coolest guys to ever walk the face of the earth in this movie. Men want to be them and women want to be with them. They use their military experience and their specialized stunt training to kick any ass unfortunate enough to get in front of them and they look good doing it. This one was shot by John Seale and it looks quite good, and hey, Roger Ward pops up in this one too. Lots of fun to be had with Death Cheaters. Don’t take it too seriously or you’ll hurt yourself but this is pretty awesome stunt-centric entertainment.
Death Cheaters also comes with an audio commentary from Brian Trenchard-Smith, Richard Brennan and Margaret Gerard. It’s a fun talk that covers a lot of ground, such as how the movie was made on such a low budget, how it did quite well theatrically, working with the two leads, locations that were used and, of course, all the bad ass stunts that are such a huge part of this movie.
Stunt Rock (1980): Up next, one of Trenchard-Smith’s finest! We know by this point that the guy loves stunts, but who knew he’d combine stunts with rock to create a cinematic “death wish at 120 decibels?” The movie once again involves Grant Page, basically playing himself. For a change of pace, he’s a stuntman working in Australia. He’s offered a gig in Los Angeles working on a television so and soon enough, he’s landed in the city of angels and is making all sorts of new friends. When he’s not working on the TV show, he’s hanging out with real life rock group Sorcery, basically playing themselves, and helping them out with their intense stage show wherein wizards battle demons and lots of stuff explodes! Along the way he gets romantically involved with a hot female reporter out to tell the story of his exciting life.
The highlights of this one are, hands down, the live footage showing Sorcery (who also worked on the Rocktober Blood soundtrack!) at the peak of their powers. The title track is awesome, as is Sacrifice, and watching the band do their thing while wizards battle bad guys and blow stuff up all around them is nothing short of awesome. In fact, the footage involving Page doing his thing without the band seems kind of tame by comparison. To be fair, Page is awesome and he pulls off some pretty impressive stunts in this picture but the lack of wizards kind of unfairly makes him the less interesting part of the picture. This movie is pretty bonkers and further proof that Grant Page was one of the coolest SOB’s to ever walk the face of the Earth.
Stunt Rock also comes with an audio commentary from Brian Trenchard-Smith, Grant Page and Margaret Gerard. Additionally, look for the twenty-minute Stunt Rock Promo Reel and the film’s original theatrical trailer. Unfortunately the transfer on this one is vertically stretched, making everyone appear taller and thinner than they should be (HOWEVER... Umbrella has said that this has been corrected so current discs should be fine in that regard).
Kung-Fu Killers (1974): This third feature proves that the more time we spend in the world of Brian Trenchard-Smith the more we learn about Grant Page! Once again playing himself, this documentary sees him exploring Australia’s newfound interest in martial arts. As he travels about Sydney checking out the burgeoning kung-fu scene we learn how the films of Bruce Lee, Angela Mao and other popular martial arts stars of the day captured the attention of the nation. At one point we also get to sit down for an interview with George Lazenby on the set of A Man Called Stoner while it was in production.
This isn’t particularly in-depth and it’s not going to teach martial arts film fans much that they don’t already know but it is a pretty interesting time capsule and once again, Grant Page’s undiminishing cool factor and real life tough guy persona make him a great choice to host something like this.
Dangerfreaks (1989): The fourth film is really more of a highlight reel than anything else. Once again hosted by Page, this is basically fifty-minutes of bad ass stunt clips that Page worked on with Trenchard-Smith in the seventies and eighties. Along the way we learn about how some of the cars stuntment use are tricked out, we get interviews with other stuntment aside from Page, and we get a quick history of the business alongside some interesting archival clips used to show off just how damn dangerous a lot of this stuff really was (and still is).
A theatrical trailer for Dangerfreaks is also included.
The Stuntmen (1973): Last but not least come the director’s earliest film, which is not too dissimilar to Dangerfreaks. This is a fifty-one minute look at the lives of various stuntment (including, of course, Grant Page) through filmed interviews with them and clips from the various projects that they’ve worked in over the years. Along the way we learn various tricks and secrets of the stunt industry and get to check out plenty of different stunt-centric set pieces from movies throughout the decades.
The Final Word:
Umbrealla’s release of The Man From Hong Kong sure offers up a lot of bang for your buck. The feature attraction is a blast, a slick action flick that doesn’t take itself too seriously but that still manages to deliver the goods. Through in five – count’em FIVE – bonus films and a host of extras alongside a nice high definition presentation and yeah, this disc is a no-brainer.
Click on the image below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!