• Killer Constable

    Killer Constable
    Released by: 88 Films
    Released on: March 27th, 2017.
    Director: Chih-Hung Kuei
    Cast: Kuan Tai Chen, Feng Ku, Jason Pai Piao, Hui-fen Huang
    Year: 1980
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    The Movie:

    Also known as Karate Exterminators and Lightning Kung Fu, the 1980 Shaw Brothers production Killer Constable, directed by Chih-Hung Kuei, begins when the Royal Treasury is robbed of a massive reserve of gold. Local constable Leng Tian Ying (Kuan Tai Chen) is tasked with getting the gold back and seeing that justice is served to those who brazen enough to attempt such a feat in the first place! Leng is not a kind man and he takes his job very seriously, taking it upon himself to act as judge, jury and in some cases, executioner. Making matters worse for him is the fact that his commanding officer, Lord Liu (Tat-Wah Cho) is riding him to get all of this dealt with in ten days so that he isn’t subjected to punishment at the hands of Empress Dowager (Hui-fen Huang).

    Leng sets about assembling a group of five of his best men to help him on the mission, each one unfaltering in his loyalty, or so he believes. It’s once the men leave the comforts of the city, however, that the movie really gets interesting. Everything outside the city borders seems dangerous, almost as if these men are travelling through Hell itself and quickly find themselves embattled not only with some deadly human foes, but the elements themselves as harsh weather slows their progress. As Leng and his deputies track down the men responsible for the theft, there are losses on both sides and our titular character finds out who he can really trust.

    Whereas most Shaw Brothers films have very defined ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys,’ this picture deals more specifically in grey areas. Leng is a cop and for that reason we assume him to be the ‘good guy’ of the film but his dedication to his mission is so stalwart that some of his actions in the film are more than questionable. His own brother sees this in him and for that reason, decides to distance himself from Leng for that very reason. At the same time, while he may leave a trail of widowed woman and orphaned children in his wake, before it’s all over and done with we realize he’s just as human as the other characters that populate this world.

    Full marks to leading man Kuan Tai Chen. He’s very convincing in the part of Leng, bringing a stone faced vibe to the character. We never doubt his commitment to the cause. At the same time, he handles himself wonderfully in the action scenes, going at it using various weapons and allowing Chih-Hung Kuei to show off some deft swordplay and fantastic fight choreography.

    The movie also benefits from some excellent visual set pieces, some of which (towards the end of the film in particular), border on the surreal. Each set of enemies that Leng and his team come up against are portrayed in a different setting – be it in a swamp, at nighttime in the darkest night or on top of a giant sundial. The lighting and the use of color in the film accentuates this in a big way, as does the film’s interesting score. This reduces the repetitive nature inherent in some martial arts films in a big way. Couple that with the myriad of fighting styles and weapons used in the picture and it keeps the film feeling fresh, exciting and unpredictable.


    Killer Constable arrives on Region B Blu-ray from 88 Films in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.35.1 widescreen on a 25GB disc that offers a strong upgrade over the old DVD release. The color reproduction is quite strong here, brighter colors really pop (the sequence involving the ring of fire is a good example of this), while black levels stay pretty solid. Detail is advances over DVD quite handily but stops a bit short of reference quality. As it is with a lot of Shaw Brothers titles on Blu-ray, it seems that some mild to moderate noise reduction has been applied (resulting in some slightly waxy looking skin tones and a noticeable lack of grain) and things do look a bit soft for that reason. The image is otherwise pristine, showing virtually no print damage.

    Audio options are provided in LPCM English 2.0 or LPCM Chinese 2.0 with optional subtitles in English only for both tracks. As seems to be the case with a lot of the Show Blu-ray’s that 88 has put out, the Chinese language track sounds a bit more full and a bit more robust than the English dub, so it wins in terms of quality and clarity, but the English dub has its own wonky charm and it’s great to have both tracks included here.

    The main extra on the disc is an audio commentary by Asian Cinema expert, Bey Logan that, like most of Logan’s tracks, covers all the ground that you’d hope it would cover. That means you get loads of information about the cast and crew, some interesting observations about some of the directorial choices and plot details and some insight into what was shot where, the fight choreography employed in the picture and quite a bit more. Logan’s commentaries for this line have, so far, been genuinely excellent and a big addition to 88 Films’ Shaw Brothers releases. This track is no exception.

    Aside from that, look for a trailer for the feature (one of the modern Celestial reissue trailers, not a theatrical trailer), menus and chapter selection. As this is a combo pack release, 88 Films also includes a DVD version of the movie that includes extras identical to those found on the Blu-ray disc. Also included inside the clear Blu-ray case is an insert booklet containing an essay entitled "A Killer Career" by Calum Waddell that offers up a nice overview of the director’s career. Last but not least, we get some reversible cover art with the newly created 88 Films art on one side and some original poster art on the reverse.

    The Final Word:

    Killer Constable has considerably more depth to it than your average martial arts film, and some strong characterizations as well. Add to that lots of style and a final third that really pumps up the visuals and it turns out to be well worth the time of anyone with even a passing interest in vintage martial arts pictures. 88 Films’ Blu-ray release is, as of this writing the best way to see it, offering up a decent transfer and an excellent commentary along with the requisite liners and packaging bonuses.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Mark C.'s Avatar
      Mark C. -
      Nice review Ian, I still have to pick this one up.